Afghanistan (Nations in Transition) by Steven Otfinoski

By Steven Otfinoski

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He became famous after he caught a man who raped a girl and hanged him from a tank barrel. Largely uneducated despite some university training in Pakistan, Omar joined other right-wing Islamic teachers in the mid-1990s to form the Taliban. After the Taliban took Kabul in 1996, they elected him the Leader of the Faithful. Mullah Omar (mullah refers to a religious, educated Muslim leader) was a strong, but elusive leader who has never, to anyone’s knowledge, allowed his photograph to be taken. During the Taliban’s reign, he rarely left his headquarters in Kandahar and let his foreign minister be his public voice.

He was born in Kabul on October 15, 1914, the son of Muhammad Nader Shah. After his father’s assassination in November 1933, 19-year-old Zahir ascended the throne, although real power lay with his three uncles, one of whom became the prime minister. Three decades later Zahir stepped out of the shadows to assert his authority. The 1964 constitution he championed brought some democracy to his troubled country. He even gave up his prerogative as king to give family members public offices. The Afghan people, however, proved more sensitive to economic issues than political ones.

To fund his projects, he collected foreign aid from both the United States and the Soviet Union. He granted more rights to Afghan women and called for the voluntary removal of the veil. Daoud improved roads, and built factories to increase Afghanistan’s modest industrial output. He also built hydroelectric plants to distribute cheap energy to towns and villages. In 1955, Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) and Nikolay Bulganin visited Kabul and offered Daoud a $100 million development loan.

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