1901 in Afghanistan
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October 3, 1901
The amir Abdor Rahman Khan dies at Kabul. During his reign of twenty years he effectually got rid of all possible rivals or persons likely to give trouble; he transformed his army from a mere rabble into a well-armed and efficient force; religious fanaticism was brought under control; a regular system of judicial and general administration was created; and the industries of the country were greatly developed by the establishment of factories under European supervision at Kabul. As regards his foreign policy, he could hardly be expected to have any real love for England. His ideal would have been a really independent Muslim kingdom, free from the control or influence alike of England and of Russia, and he was much disappointed at the failure of his efforts to be allowed direct representation at the Court of St. James's. Although there was occasional friction between the amir and the government of India, he valued the English alliance and was faithful to it.
His eldest son, Habibullah Khan, succeeds to the throne with an absence of disturbance or even excitement that is almost unexpected. Habibullah has been carefully trained by his father in all branches of the administration. Since 1897 he has had control of the State Treasury and Exchequer, and has been the Supreme Court of Appeal from all courts, ecclesiastical and secular. He acted as regent for his father during his prolonged absence in Turkestan, and distinguished himself by the intelligence and sobriety of his administration. He is said to be popular with the people and with the army; he knows English fairly well and is believed to entertain very friendly sentiments towards the British government. After his accession he raises the pay of the army, and he is said to be going to adopt a much more liberal trade policy than his father and to reduce the poll tax on Hindus. His reception of Muslim gentlemen sent by the government of India in November to condole with him on the death of his father and to congratulate him on his own accession is cordial in the extreme. He also issues a proclamation inviting the return of exiles from India, and many of them are expected to go back.
The immediate prospects of the new amir are decidedly favourable. The possible competitors for the throne are few in number, and none of them are at present dangerous. Habibullah Khan's position has been much strengthened by the marriages his father made for him with the families of the leading chiefs. Nasrullah Khan, the late amir's next son, is his full brother, and is destitute of ability, ambition, or influence. His half-brother, Mohammad Omar, whose mother is of high rank and of much ability and ambition, might give trouble, but he is only a boy of twelve, and his mother's great supporter, the commander-in-chief, Gholam Haidar Khan, has lately died. The nearest collateral heir is Ishak Khan, the son of amir Azim Khan, and consequently the first cousin once removed of the new amir. Much was heard of him in his early days; he was notorious for his debauchery and cruelty, and he was hated in Kabul, where he was regarded as a maniac. The late amir endeavoured to conciliate him, but he rebelled against him, and after showing conspicuous cowardice and incompetency fled to Russian territory. He is now a man of fifty; he is not likely to attempt, or to be allowed to attempt, any movement, and should he do so, he would hardly be dangerous. The two sons of the amir Shir Ali Khan, Yakub Khan, who was allowed to succeed his father, but was deposed for not preventing Louis Cavagnari's murder, and Ayub Khan, who defeated the British at Maiwand, are still political prisoners in India, and are not likely to be let loose.England.