WASHINGTON CONSIDERS BRINGING BACK FORMER AFGHAN KING ZAHER SHAH
By Safa Haeri
PARIS 23 Sept. (IPS) As the United States is assembling a massive military task force in the Gulf and Indian Ocean for a possible strike on Afghanistan, it was reported Saturday that Washington is seriously considering to install former Afghan King Zaher Shah back into his crown in Kabol "within minutes" after the ruling Talebans are overthrown.
According to Mr. Nosrat Javeed of "The News", highly reliable sources from the diplomatic community of Islamabad have revealed that the plan to restore the 84 years-old King was taken by NATO-related security experts from a European country.
"They have already been working on restoring the former king through the so-called "Rome Process" for several months", the paper said.
"The person and aides of Zaher Shah, who is living in Rome since dethroned by his cousin in 1974, were actively consulted during preparations of the said plan", "The News" further reported, as more US troops and armada are heading for the troubled region, aimed at "getting Osama Ben Laden, the prime suspect in the 11 September attack on New York and Washington.
Iranian experts of Afghanistan and Central Asia said though Zaher Shah had been out of the coutry for almost the last three decades, yet, in the absence of the charismatic Ahmad Shah Mas’ood, he is the only one who could open an umbrella for all Afghan tribes, ethnics and faiths.
Mas’ood was assassinated two days before the horrible crushing of two jetliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., killing and wounding hundreds of people.
Like the US suicide operations, the assassination of the Afghan war veteran was also attributed to Mr. Ben Laden, as he was killed by two Arab suicide terrorists posing as journalists, who detonated a photo camera filled with explosive.
A senior European diplomat told "The News" that while moving into Afghanistan, Washington will do everything to convey it to the mass of Muslim people that it had nothing against them per se. "It will also want to appear as if prudently caring for the people of Afghanistan while taking its revenge," he said.
"Propped up by the Americans", said the same diplomat, "Zaher Shah can always tell his people that he came back to liberate them from the miseries, perpetrated on them first by the misguided communists and later the inexperienced Taleban, who virtually became the hostages of Afghan-Arabs like Osama Ben Laden.
"It's about time that non-Afghans are sorted and sent out so the Afghan people could concentrate on rebuilding their country", the former King said in a statement issued last week from his Roman residence.
He said one must not mistake the peace-loving ad proud Afghan people with the terrorist operations carried against the United States, adding that the Taleban were "imposed" to his country by "foreign powers", implying Pakistan.
"Despite the many sacrifices that the courageous nation of Afghanistan has endured for the noble cause of freedom and human dignity, we must acknowledge with regret that the presence of foreign-imposed terrorists has caused unrest and danger for the stability of our country and peace in the region'', the King said.
In his address to the nation and speaking in Dari language, the former King called for the formation of an Extraordinary Loya Jirga, or a Grand National Assembly of the Elders aimed at electing a Head to the future state of Afghanistan and offering plans and projects for the restoration of peace and order in the war devastated nation.
The king also offered to lead the "Emergency Loya Jirga".
However, he assured that his "ultimate goal" was the "liberation of our homeland and people''.
"I am convinced (that) with your participation and the cooperation of the international community our struggle for the return of peace shall continue until we fulfill our desired goal, which is the liberation of our homeland and people. So help me God''.
A spokesman for Zaher Shah said considering the present situation (where more than ninty per cent of the Afghan territory is under the control of the Taleban) the Loya Jirga could not be held in Afghanistan, adding that the United Nations could play an important role in the eventual convening of Assembly and drum up international support for it and the decisions it may make.
"Under the security blanket of the US forces, they could think of rebuilding their country as Germany and Japan did after the devastation of World War-II", said a European diplomat. The comBened presence of Zaher Shah and the American troops in Afghanistan will also attract the waves of expatriate Afghans of the elite community.
This in the long term, he continued, "will project the USA as a real friend of Afghanistan, rather a reckless and arrogant enemy. And the whole Muslim world will also get some positive message about the sole superpower of these days."
Despite the plethora of often conflicting and confusing news as to how the US would begin fighting "the global war of this century against terrorism," most diplomats in Islamabad do not expect the repeat of attempts to cripple Osama Ben Laden through aerial attacks only, as Clinton tried doing in 1998. "Washington has to commit its ground forces this time around", the European diplomat said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said the US would "act in concert with the rest of the civilised world" to hold to account all those supporting or harbouring terrorists.
Taleban rejected Friday an ultimatum by President George W. Bush to arrest Mr. Ben Laden and hand him over to American justice, saying that the country’s religious Shawra, made of some 1000 senior clerics had decided to call on the Saudi anti-American militant to leave Afghanistan on his own will and at the time he considers opportune.
However, informed sources in Pakistan, known for their close contacts with Taleban confirmed an IPS report that Mr. Ben Laden had left Afghanistan.
"Osama Ben Laden was no longer on the Afghan soil since Monday", the newspaper "The News" said, adding that a reluctant Mullah Omar accepted the request of Osama to leave Afghanistan ahead of the Shawra in Kabol.
While IPS source had speculated that Mr. Ben Laden might have fled Afghanistan to Peshawar, disguised as an Afghan refugee, "The News" said he might have reached safe heavens in Chechnya.
Mr. Powell has said that America has enough evidence to bring Ben Laden, a Saudi-born Islamic militant, to court for crimes against humanity.
President Bush received the strong support of European Union leaders on Friday and the United Arab Emirates, one of the three countries that had recognised the Islamic Emarat of Afghanistan, better known as Taleban, cut Saturday diplomatic relations with the ruling Taleban, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed a second deployment order, meaning that nearly 100 bomber and support airplanes are now being sent to the Persian Gulf.
Only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia still recognise the Taleban. Pakistan said it had no plans to follow the example of the UAE, explaining that it plays a "major role" in contacts between the Taleban and outside world.
Though Islamabad the main military, intelligence and logistic power behind the Taleban, but General Parviz Mosharraf, Pakistan’s strongman bowed to American pressures and said he would open Pakistan’s airspace and military bases to American and international forces gearing up to attack Afghanistan.
A joint EU statement issued late Friday night said each of the European Union's 15 nations would participate in fighting international terrorism according to its means.
The leaders also called for a global anti-terrorism coalition under the auspices of the United Nations and endorsed a Europe-wide action plan to combat terrorism across the continent.
Turkey, a major NATO member, also announced that it would open its airspace to US transport aircraft involved in any military action.
Heavy B-1 and B-52 bombers and "warthog" attack planes, designed for taking out tanks and close air support of ground forces, lumbered into the air from bases in the American heartland on their way to the Gulf and the Indian Ocean in the biggest U.S. military mobilization since the 1991 Gulf War.
Meanwhile, law and order was breaking down in Kabul as Taleban soldiers and poverty-stricken civilians carried out armed daylight robberies and looted houses left empty by people who have fled, Mr. Ahmad Rashid, a respected Pakistani journalist and analyst of Central Asia reported.
"In many areas of the Afghan capital, discipline among the Taleban appeared to be collapsing ahead of an expected American assault, he wrote for the London "Daily Telegraph", adding that armed men are entering people's homes under the guise of checking to see if they have arms, are watching a film or listening to music, both banned activities and then arrest the residents before looting, Kabol residents said. ENDS AFQANESTAN ZAHER SHAH 23901