1973 Afghan coup d'état

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1973 Afghan coup d'état
Afghanistan-CIA WFB Map.png
A CIA WFB map of Afghanistan
Date17 July 1973
LocationKabul, Kingdom of Afghanistan
TypeMilitary coup
MotiveRegime change
TargetArg, Kabul
Organised byMohammed Daoud Khan
Abdul Karim Mustaghni
ParticipantsMajor Abdul Qadir Nuristani, Colonel Ghulam Sarwar, Pacha Gul Wafadar, Faiz Mohammed, Abdul Hamid Mohtat, Abdul Qadir Dagarwal, Mohammad Aslam Watanjar, Shir Jan Mazdooryar[1]
OutcomeCoup attempt succeeds virtually bloodless.
Deaths8 (7 police officers, 1 tank commander)
Part of a series on the
History of Afghanistan
"Interior of the palace of Shauh Shujah Ool Moolk, Late King of Cabul"
Related historical names of the region

The 1973 Afghan coup d'etat was the relatively bloodless overthrow of King Mohammed Zahir Shah on 17 July 1973 and the establishment of the Republic of Afghanistan. The non-violent coup[2] was executed by the then-Army commander and royal Prince, Mohammed Daoud Khan who led forces in Kabul along with then-chief of staff General Abdul Karim Mustaghni to overthrow the monarchy while the King was abroad in Ischia, Italy. Daoud Khan was assisted by leftist Army officers and civil servants from the Parcham faction of the PDPA, including Air Force colonel Abdul Qadir. King Zahir Shah decided not to retaliate and he formally abdicated on August 24, remaining in Italy in exile. More than two centuries of royal rule (since the founding of the Durrani Empire in 1747) ended.[3]


Zahir Shah had ruled as King since 1933, and his cousin Prince Daoud Khan had served as Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. Daoud Khan had strained relations with the King[4] and he was also unable to hold political office after the 1964 constitution, which barred members of the Barakzai dynasty.[5] Some believe the King did this on purpose because of Daoud Khan's strong pro-Pashtunistan views, which he deemed too radical and led to political rifts with Pakistan.

Daoud Khan took the opportunity during growing discontent from the public over the failure of reforms by five successive governments since a parliamentary monarchy was formed in 1964, including the King's failure to promulgate the Political Parties Law, Provincial Councils Law, and Municipal Councils Act, all of which were passed by parliament.[6] Another reason was the poor response to the famine in 1971–72 that is believed to have killed thousands in the central and north-western parts of the country, particularly Ghor Province -[7] causing the resignation of Prime Minister Abdul Zahir's government. Circa 1972 people were unhappy with the parliament's ineffectiveness and lack of leadership, leading to growing various political movements at universities.[8] Daoud Khan's internal disputes with the King has also been cited as a possible reason of his decision to launch a coup.[9]

Some scholars and historians have suggested a possible involvement of the Soviet Union in the coup, although this is not particularly evident.[10]

The coup[edit]

King Zahir Shah and several of his accompanies including Sardar Shah Wali Khan left Afghanistan for London, via Rome, on the morning of June 25, 1973 reportedly for hemorrhaging treatment after injuring his eye. After treatment he went back to Italy spending time in the island of Ischia.[11] Mohammed Daoud Khan along with several hundred of his supporters from the Army launched the coup in the morning of July 17;[12] within hours and without any armed resistance,[13] the monarchy ended and Khan announced the new republic through Radio Afghanistan at 7 in the morning. Staff from the United States National Security Council described it as a "well planned and swiftly executed coup."[14]

The only casualties were 7 police officers at a station, who mistook the rebels for a hostile force; and a tank commander who drowned in the Kabul River after swerving off the road trying to avoid colliding with a bus.[15]


Despite being part of the Musahiban Barakzai dynasty, Daoud Khan abolished the monarchy and created a new Republic instead, declaring himself as head of state and head of government, foreign minister and head of the Army. The royal Arg (palace) in Kabul became the official presidential residence.[16] In a radio addressing, he called the coup a "national and progressive revolution", calling the King's rule “corrupt and effete” and vowed to replace it with “genuine democracy”. He pledged to continue Afghanistan's long-standing policy of neutrality.[17] The Soviet Union and India diplomatically recognized the new government on July 19.[18]

The coup was apparently popular among the population, who viewed Daoud Khan as a forceful leader.[19] The positive domestic reception to the republic was also a reason why Zahir Shah decided to abdicate from the throne.[20] Daoud Khan's links to Marxism, and the Parchamite support in his military coup's, led to some suspecting it as being a communist takeover. In order to prevent opposition, he assured continuity of religious and cultural heritage, as demonstrated in the Republican Decrees created in July 1973.[21]

Upon coming to power, Daoud Khan disbanded the parliament and the judiciary, with direct executive rule established. Despite his socialist views, Khan did not bring drastic change to the economic system and maintained connections with the Cold War superpowers.[22] A loya jirga was convened following the Constitutional Assembly election in January 1977, and approved a new constitution creating a presidential one-party state, with strong powers to the head of state.[23] During his time as head of state, Khan's relations with the Soviet Union, Pakistan, and the communists, deteriorated for several reasons. Eventually he was overthrown and killed during the Saur Revolution in 1978, including by several high-ranking civilian and military people who helped him get to power in 1973.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=REwmr2bFYfkC&pg=PA57&lpg=PA57
  2. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=REwmr2bFYfkC&pg=PA55
  3. ^ "Afghanistan - Daoud's Republic, July 1973 - April 1978". countrystudies.us. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  4. ^ Edwards, David (2 April 2002). Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520228610.
  5. ^ Dil, Shaheen F (June 1977). "The Cabal in Kabul: Great-Power Interaction in Afghanistan". American Political Science Review. 71 (2): 468–476. doi:10.1017/S0003055400267397.
  6. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=yvr_AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA753
  7. ^ https://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/old-site-downloads/download-416-Afghanistan-A-Nation-of-Minorities.pdf
  8. ^ https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB59/
  9. ^ https://www.rferl.org/a/1103837.html
  10. ^ https://www.rferl.org/a/1103837.html
  11. ^ https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB59/
  12. ^ https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB59/
  13. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=REwmr2bFYfkC&pg=PA55
  14. ^ https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB59/
  15. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=REwmr2bFYfkC&pg=PA55
  16. ^ Barfield, Thomas (March 25, 2012). Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics). Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691154411.
  17. ^ "Afghan King Overthrown; A Republic Is Proclaimed". The New York Times. July 18, 1973. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  18. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=Kzjj_LSlxO8C&pg=PR45&lpg=PR45
  19. ^ http://countrystudies.us/afghanistan/88.htm
  20. ^ http://afghandata.org:8080/jspui/bitstream/azu/6329/1/azu_acku_serial_ds350_a37_a34_v26_n2_w.pdf
  21. ^ Kamali, Mohammad Hashim (January 1985). Law in Afghanistan: A Study of the Constitutions, Matrimonial Law and the Judiciary. ISBN 9004071288.
  22. ^ https://www.jstor.org/stable/2643235?seq=1
  23. ^ Kamali, Mohammad Hashim (January 1985). Law in Afghanistan: A Study of the Constitutions, Matrimonial Law and the Judiciary. ISBN 9004071288.