Afghan Biographies

Karzai: Son of Dost Mohammad or Shah Shuja?

Subject Karzai: Son of Dost Mohammad or Shah Shuja?

“Are you a son of Dost Mohammad or Shah Shuja?” asks a common Taliban recruiting slogan. It implies that President Hamid Karzai is today’s Shah Shuja, the puppet leader installed by the British from 1839-1842, and the Taliban’s Mullah Omar is today’s Dost Mohammad, the great 19th-century ruler of Afghanistan whose reign Shah Shuja interrupted during the First Afghan War.

Thus unpacked, the message is clear: That Omar ruled before and will again, just like Mohammad. Indeed, it was Omar who put on the cloak of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in Kandahar in 1996 to profess himself the leader of all Muslims, the Amir Al Mu’minin, no doubt aware that the last person to have done so was Dost Mohammad in 1834, who used it as a rallying call for war against the Sikhs.

Perhaps then it should be no surprise that President Karzai has consistently displayed an anxiety to show himself as an independent ruler, typically expressed in a melodramatic idiom that stresses Afghan sovereignty while expressly blaming foreign forces, and implicitly Pakistan, for Afghanistan’s woes.

Does this explain Karzai’s recent rejection of the loya jirga’s (council of elders) recommendation to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US?

Released 2013-12-03