ZAHER SHAH ONLY AFGHAN WHO CAN BRING PEACE TO AFGHANISTAN
By Ahmad Ra’fat and Safa Haeri
LONDON-ROME 27 Sept. (IPS) UN's special envoy for Afghanistan, Francesco Vendrell, said former Afghan King Zaher Shah could play a "major role" in the political reconciliation of his war-torn nation.
"Zaher Shah has the capacity of attracting large parts of the Afghan civil society as well as the nation’s political forces, including those that had not collaborated with the anti-Taleban forces", Mr. Vendrell told Iran Press Service, stressing that the former King did not want to restore Monarchy in Afghanistan.
The Spanish diplomat compared the role Zaher Shah could play in uniting all Afghan forces to that played by King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia during the Vietnamese occupation, when he became the symbol and leader of all Cambodian nationalist forces combating the invaders.
"Considering that during the years he ruled over Afghanistan, the country enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity rarely seen in this mountainous country, the King’s efforts to get Afghanistan out of the present mess are far more appealing than other choices", Mr. Vendrell pointed out.
He said since Zaher Sah had made it clear that he did not intend to rule, therefore, Afghanistan’s neighbouring nations could well accept his presence in Kabol.
"Zaher Shah can even bring to the anti-Taleban forces of Northern Alliance that dot not want to obey the Taleban leader, Mollah Mohammad Omar", Mr. Vendrell pointed out.
Asked about the role of Pakistan in fighting terrorism, the UN’s Special Envoy said Pakistan would play an instrumental role in the region’s politics and described as "important" the fact that Islamabad has agreed to co-operate with the United States combating terrorism.
However, he warned, the future regime of Afghanistan must be decided by the Afghan people without any interference from outside.
Pointing to complexities and difficulties ahead, Mr. Vendrell said while Pakistan wanted the next Afghan government be led by the Pashtouns, Iran, on the other hand, is against, preferring a regime that is representative of all Afghan tribes, ethnics and religions. "A government formed around the former King and supervised by the United Nations could solve this obstacle", the Spanish diplomat said.
In his view, the recent upheavals opened a window of hope for Afghan people, an occasion that the Afghans must grab in order to end, maybe once for all, to 22 years of wars and destructions, otherwise, Afghanistan might well fall from a hole into a deep well".
Mr. Vendrell described as "irremediable" the loss of Ahmad Shah Mas’oud and attributed his assassination, two days before the 11 September attacks on the USA to Osama Ben Laden and his terrorists.
In another development, Mohammad Zaher Shah said he might not oppose positioning of foreign forces in his war-torn nation provided it is temporary and aimed at restoring peace to Afghanistan.
The 86 years old who lives near Rome was speaking to the BBC after meeting with Mr. William Pope, the US Charge d’affaires in Italy and a delegation of British parliamentarians, assessing with them the situation in Afghanistan.
"Though one can not accept interference from any foreign nation in Afghans internal affairs, but one might accept a foreign presence if it is temporary, provided it is aimed at restoring democracy and security for Afghan people", the King added.
As he was busy receiving dignitaries from Europe and his native Afghanistan, the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance reported new victories over the ruling Taleban, whose moral was reported by international press to be "at the lowest".
Both the Uzbek General Rashid Dostom and General Esma’il Khan, the former Governor of Western province of Heart said they had inflicted heavy losses on the Taleban in various battle fronts.
In the BBC interview, King Zaher Shah reiterated that the future regime of the nation must be decided by an Extraordinary Loya Jirga, or national grand assembly and repeated again that he did not intend to restore kingdom in Afghanistan.
"He (Zaher Shah) has a continuing interest in ending the bloodshed in his country so the charge of our embassy in Rome met with the King to discuss situation in Afghanistan", US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
He added that the meeting was one of many the US has been holding with Afghan opposition groups and individuals since the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September.
The former king told a visiting group of UK Tory members of the European Parliament that he would want to return to Afghanistan if he could be of use.
"I will serve in any capacity, either as head of state or as a mediator in the process towards democracy", he said speaking in Pashtu through an interpreter.
Deposed in 1974 by his cousin, Sardar Mohammad Davoud Khan while in Italy, the ex-king said it should be up to the Loya Jirga to nominate a prime minister and decide on the country’s future regime
During his 40-year rule, King Zahir Shah, now 86, emerged as a cautious moderniser and reformer.
In 1964 he introduced a new constitution providing for an elected parliament, political parties and freedom for the press.
Despite an absence of almost 30 years, he is still widely respected in the country, and much of the Afghan population, exhausted by the years of warfare, would grasp at any chance of a return of peace.
"Afghanistan is my homeland. I have waited years to be able to return to my homeland", he told Turkey's Sabah newspaper. ENDS ZAHER SHAH US EXPLOSIONS 27901