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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Former Afghan king returns to palace
(Left to right) President Karzai, Zahir Shah and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah
The king looked frail and unsteady on his feet
Afghanistan's ex-king, Zahir Shah, has moved back into his former palace in the capital, Kabul, nearly 30 years after being deposed.

He was welcomed back to his quarters in what is now the presidential palace by current the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, at a tea party.

Mr Karzai told the other guests that it was a pleasure for the whole of Afghanistan that the king was back in the place where he was born.

Zahir Shah's return to the palace was part of an agreement reached at the loya jirga, or grand assembly, in June.

He had agreed not to stand against Mr Karzai for the post of Afghan head of state.

"It is like the birds coming back to their nests," the frail 87-year-old former monarch said as he was given a tour of the historic complex by President Karzai.

"It gives me great pleasure to come back, great pleasure."

Lost grandeur

Rebuilt in 1873 after being destroyed by the British, the Arg (citadel) is a collection of palaces added to by subsequent Afghan rulers.


Zahir Shah
Zahir Shah: Back in childhood home
Zahir Shah:
  • 1914: Born in Kabul
  • 1933: Became king after father's assassination
  • 1964: Introduced range of democratic reforms
  • 1973: Deposed in a coup, exiled to Italy


  • Like almost every building in Afghanistan, the heavily-fortified complex bears the scars of years of war.

    It is riddled with bullet and shell-holes, and slabs of concrete lie in piles in its gardens.

    Since his return in April, Zahir Shah has lived in a house a few blocks from the royal compound that was his childhood home.

    He and 12 family members will move into what was once the royal harem.

    President Karzai has his quarters on the other side of the grounds.

    Although the former king fled after being overthrown in 1973, he has remained popular among Afghans - many of whom still call him king.

    "Today we are very happy that he is back and will spend the rest of his life here," President Karzai said.

    "It is also a pleasure for the Afghan people that they will live under the shadow of the father of the nation."


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    30 Jun 02 | South Asia
    16 Jun 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
    11 Jun 02 | South Asia
    18 Apr 02 | South Asia
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