The Revival of the Legacy of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Afghanistan’s “Father of the Nation”


By Hanan Habibzai STAFF WRITER

This was the first time ever in my life that I attended a gathering organized to celebrate the birth anniversary of the founder of modern day Afghanistan Ahmad Shah Abdali (also known as Ahmad Shah Durrani and Ahmad Shah Baba).

It was also the first time that I realized that the main reason that today Nation building has become a challenge is due to the fact that Afghans have forgotten the ideological and founding father of their nation.

He left behind a United Afghanistan, however unfortunately that unity is only limited to history today.

Ahmad Shah Abdali’s 278th birth anniversary in London:

Shah Mahmood along with Afghan Students Union took the initiative and reminded Afghans, the founder and ideological father of their nation.

Ahmad Shah Abdali the founder of modern day Afghanistan.

Last week in London, they celebrated the 278th birth anniversary of Ahmad Shah Abdali with deep spirit of patriotism and paid tributes to this great leader and his legacy.

Ahmad Shah ‘Dustokhel’, a human rights activist from the University of Westminster, also attended the event. They not only mentioned about the achievements of Ahmad Shah Abdali but also recited his poems.

During the Birth anniversary celebrations, the current

insecurity and political instability were also discussed.

When a video showed civilian casualties and individuals who have lost their lives due to the ongoing crisis then the hundreds of participants in the event became sad and depressed.

Vacuum of power and the non-existence of strong state institutions were termed as one of the main causes of the current crisis.
The civilian casualties of the current war and a few instances of mass and individual murders were showed to them and all of them were termed as clear human rights violations.

The case of the murder of an Afghan businessman, Mohammad Ashraf ‘Dustokhel’, was highlighted and all the participants termed it as a barbaric act by the enemies of peace and prosperity of Afghanistan.

Mohammad Ashraf was murdered on 1st– Nov, 2008 as his car came under fire in front of the Presidential Palace and Ministry of Defense before the eyes of the police.

The fact that the case remains unsolved after 20 months is symptomatic of deeper problems within the current administration in Kabul.

Ahmad Shah Baba, the father of the Nation:

Afghanistan was once the centre of a great Islamic Empire established by Ahmad Shah Abdali. Not only today’s India but Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, more than half of Iran and certain states of Central Asia were conquered and brought under the control of his empire.

Ahmad Shah Abdali was a charismatic leader and had good understanding of the needs and perceptions of his people. He respected the views of his people and had good understanding of Afghan culture and traditions.

This dynamic quality helped him gather a lot of followers and he became a great conqueror who went on to defeat Delhi.

Ahmad Shah Baba always followed and abided by the unique Afghan culture, customs and traditions. This was the reason that Afghans were always ready to defend his empire.

Ahmad Shah Abdali was a brave leader and a genius administrator. He considered serving his people as his duty and this was the reason that Afghans appointed him as their political and military leader.He won hearts and minds of conservative people in a very short period of time.

Ahmad Shah Abdali became King during tough times:

When Ahmad Shah Abdali became King, the Pashtuns were disintegrated and their national unity was destroyed by conspiracies and invasions by the enemies of the Afghan Nation.

Each tribe lived individually under the leadership of a tribal leader and the sense of national unity among Pashtun tribes did not exist.

Due to the interference of Iran and other neighboring countries in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan, Pashtun tribes were separated. Ahmad Shah Abdali came into power at this sensitive time.

He communicated with all the tribes and created an atmosphere of harmony among these tribes. Pashtuns had been living in this area for centuries but they had never been united under one leadership.Ahmad Shah Abdali united them and established a nation for them.


Just like today, various countries in the region were named after different ethnicities. Each ethnicity lived in the country related to that ethnicity. Persians lived in Iran, Tajiks lived in Tajikistan, Russians live in Russia.

Ahmad Shah Abdali thought that Afghans (Pashtuns) should also have a country related to their name and thus he marked the boundaries of Afghanistan.

Current crisis in Afghanistan:

Two hundred years after the achievements of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the majority of Afghanistan feels that there is a danger to the identity and Afghan character of the state established by Ahmad Shah Abdali and this is one of the reasons that today’s Afghanistan is suffering a division.

During the early 1990s factional fighters committed atrocities against the civilian population and fought proxy battles sponsored by foreign governments.

This led to the rise of the Taliban and they put an end to the bloody civil war. Whenever Afghans remember the civil war especially the street to street factional fighting in Kabul then they become depressed and express their hatred towards the factions involved in the foreign sponsored fighting.

They discuss the foreign interference and the role of their funds and arms in descending Afghanistan into anarchy and widespread bloodshed. The civil war of the 1990s has resulted in a vacuum of trust.

The only solution to restore trust and harmony in Afghanistan is that all Afghans should recognize the founder of modern day Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali as their ideological father.

Two hundred years ago all the ethnicities of Afghanistan had accepted him as their leader, if we want a united and peaceful Afghanistan then this should continue forever.

Apart from this we do not have any other solution to the current crisis because Ahmad Shah Abdali is the only symbol of National Unity. Everyone should condemn those who raise questions about the achievements of Ahmad Shah Abdali and a law should be passed to punish anyone involved in these wrongdoings.

There should be no difference and all citizens of Afghanistan should have a spirit of Afghan nationalism. They must respect the Afghan character of Afghanistan and should have love for Afghanistan.

Look at India, despite the fact that India is a developed democracy and a global economic giant, the Muslim minority of India does not have the right to demand a change in the identity and Indian character of the state.

Similarly, the minorities of Afghanistan should learn how to respect the state established by Ahmad Shah Abdali and should prove that if needed they are ready to sacrifice for the protection of Afghanistan.

In Iran the Sunni Muslims want religious and political autonomy but they can’t seriously raise their voices for this cause. If they do raise their voice for this cause then they are executed by the Iranian government just as they recently executed Malik Regi.

Similarly, do we have to explain what happened to Baluch leader Akbar Bugti in Pakistan? Afghans have always been far more gracious and tolerant with their ethnic minorities, than any other country in the region.

There are a lot of Turks in Iran but they are not allowed to study in Turkish language.Various sources suggest that Iranian leader Ali Khamenei is an Iranian of Arab descent; however he highly respects the identity of the state of Iran.

However, this is not the case in Afghanistan, where Pashtuns are ready to speak in Dari language and has even given it the status of official language along with Pashto. Minorities should feel pride and should be grateful to the majority Pashtuns for their generosity and tolerance.

The ethnic minorities should also speak in Pashto and do so publicly without any hesitation. Their politicians should stop receiving support and sympathizing with foreign countries especially the ones which have ethnic allegiances with them.

Instead they should express their sympathies and love with Afghanistan. They should not consider only Pashtuns as Afghan but should consider themselves as Afghans as well.

Ahmad Shah Abdali should be officially remembered:

Every country around the world not only commemorates the birth and death anniversary of their ideological and founding fathers with official ceremonies but the days are also public holidays.

I have still not seen in Afghanistan that the government officially commemorates that birth and death anniversaries of Ahmad Shah Abdali.

Today in Afghanistan there is no respect for its founding father Ahmad Shah Abdali, this is the reason for the current crisis in Afghanistan.

This lack of respect for him also develops a huge gap of confidence amongst Afghans.The national interests of Afghanistan should be recognized and there should be respect for the principles which formed the basis to establish Afghanistan.

The founding principles of Afghanistan should be strengthened and the objective of the creation of Afghanistan should be part of the strategy and policy of the state.

Today many have forgotten the purpose of the creation of Afghanistan. The birth and death anniversaries of Ahmad Shah Abdali should be official holidays.

The government should consider the ideologies of Ahmad Shah Abdali as part of the state policy. Whether the head of the state is ethnic Tajik or Pashtun does not matter but the President should consider himself as Afghan.

The portraits of Ahmad Shah Abdali should be visible in all government institutions, the Presidential palace and offices of all high ranking officials. The statues of Ahmad Shah Abdali should be present in various parts of the country and this is the only way to have a united Afghanistan.


Today Afghanistan is very fortunate that the whole developed world including the United States of America and the Great Britain is supporting the government of Afghanistan, however it is very unfortunate that it does not have a capable administration to seize this opportunity for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan.

If they learn from the experiences of Ahmad Shah Abdali then the desired peace in the Afghanistan which has become a global dream will soon become a reality.


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Hanan Habibzai, an investigative journalist with more than ten years of experience in global journalism has covered the US invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of the Taliban regime, and post-Taliban developments, including the rise of militancy in the country. MA in global journalism from Coventry University, Hanan writes on the conflict in Afghanistan and the regional politics, his work has been published by the BBC Afghan Stream, Pajhwok Afghan News, Reuter’s news agency, the Washington Post, Veterans Today, several local and the global media agencies, Including contribution in a journalism book Afghanistan War and the Media: Deadline and Frontline (2010), edited by R, Keeble & J, Mair, Hanan’s academic work is published around the world.