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First Afghan President's Remains Reinterred In Kabul

Army officers carry a portrait of former President Mohammad Daud Khan during his funeral in Kabul.
The remains of Mohammad Daud Khan, who overthrew Afghanistan's monarchy and became the country's first president, have been reinterred in a state funeral in Kabul.

Daud became president in 1973 following a bloodless palace coup against his first cousin, Zahir Shah.

But just five years later, Daud's stiff resistance to renegade communist military officers brought on the end of his rule, resulting in his execution and that of 17 members of his extended family on the grounds of the presidential palace.

The bodies of those killed at the start of the 1978 communist coup were later buried in ditches outside Kabul. But one Afghan officer who took part in the Daud's midnight burial remembered the site, and led the Afghan authorities to it last summer.

The president's body was identified by his teeth and by the presence of the golden Koran he always carried.

Many members of Daud's family attended the March 17 service, many traveling to Afghanistan from abroad to do so. They watched as President Hamid Karzai, his cabinet members, and military generals filed past coffins containing the bodies of Daud and his brother, Naim Khan.

Daud's portrait on the hill south of Kabul where his family is buried
Later, their bodies were reinterred on a hilltop south of the capital where the remains of 15 other relatives killed with Daud were buried on March 16. The dead included women and children.

Durkhanai, now 60, is Daud's only surviving daughter and lives in Switzerland.

"I appreciate the Afghan government giving him the respect that befitted a person of his stature," she told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "I am really very grateful to the Afghan government."

Working For Peace

Three decades after his execution at the age of 68, many Afghans remember Daud as an able and kind fatherly figure who was passionate about bringing modernity and development to Afghanistan.

Mumtaz, a middle-aged resident of Kabul, said Daud was the best Afghan leader he had seen in his lifetime.

"He was the best man. He was the best leader our country has had," Mumtaz said. "He helped the poor of his country in reaching a level of prosperity. Alas, he was killed. He would have served this country a lot more."

Daud's daughter Durkhanai hopes that the current and future Afghan leaders will try to realize her father's dreams.

"I hope, like my father did, that all Afghan governments will work toward a prosperous future, peace, development, and progress of Afghanistan and the Afghan nation," she said. "This is what I wish for."

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Hamid Mohmand contributed to this report
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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, the editor of RFE/RL's Gandhara website, is a journalist specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. ​