King Amanullah of Afghanistan provided peerless leadership in addressing the socio-economic challenges of his time through undertaking a wide range of economic, political and social reforms in the country. However, his efforts for the socio-economic transformation of the conservative Afghan society draw serious backlash from his critics and those opposing modernism in Afghanistan.
Researchers and historians believe that King Amanullah tried these reforms at a time that many in the Afghan society were not prepared to digest them and this was the key factor that obstructed his reform policy from success.
Defending King Amanullah’s reforms legacy, his daughter princess Hindia says the vibrant king had laid the foundation of the economic prosperity of the Afghan people which was unique. She regrets that a century has passed but the living condition of Afghans still remains fragile.
“He [King Amanullah] was not considering a difference between man and woman. When my third sister, Maliha, was born, she became the first medical doctor and surgeon among Afghan women,” said Princess Hindia.
Organizing the Constitutional Loya Jirga, declaration of the constitutional monarchy, the abolition of slavery, introducing compulsory education system, the abolition of prohibited jobs, the construction of schools, dispatching the Afghan youths including boys and girls for higher education abroad were among key items of his reform agenda after he completed his six months tour to European countries.
“The main reform which was brought by Amanullah Khan was the code of conduct which later became the constitution and it was an unprecedented move,” political analyst Khalil Roman said. “Also freedom for women and removal of their veil, the abolition of slavery including major land reforms, social, taxation, customs reforms. The controversial reform was the abolition of the veil and sending the girls abroad for education.”
“The mistakes that Amanullah Khan committed I think first to took over the whole power and then distance emerged between him and the constitutional movement and he was isolated,” an MP, Ramazan Bashardost, said.
Easing the veil restrictions of women and providing equality among men and women before the law was also part of his reforms.
One of the unique aspects of King Amanullah’s trip to Europe was that his wife Queen Soraya appeared without a veil in public after their journey and the move somehow encouraged other women to do so.
The women were asked to wear suits outside their homes and this sparked strong retaliation from his critics, especially hardline clergies.
“No doubt, Amanullah Khan had good intentions for his country and his people. I think Amanullah Khan’s important legacy and his biggest pride is the ratification of the first Constitution and some of the provisions reflected in that Constitution is vibrant than the provisions which exist in the French and British constitutions,” Mr. Bashardost said.
Experts say some of King Amanullah’s reform plans at the time were incompatible with the mood of the people and this paved the way for rebellion against his monarchy.