Former Afghan King Zahir Shah is returning to his fatherland after spending almost 30 years in exile, since his cousin dismissed him from power in 1973. A lot of things have happened since that time: Afghanistan became a republic in 1973, a civil war was unleashed in 1978 after a coup, and Soviet troops were deployed in Afghanistan, acting on the side of the central government. Mujahideens overthrew that government in 1992, but the times of peace did not come to Afghanistan. The war continued: feuding groups were first waging war with each other, then with the Taliban, and this movement managed to gain control over the whole of Afghanistan in the end. Then there was the day of September 11, the anti-terrorist operation of the USA and its allies, “the defeat” of Al-Qaida and of the Taliban, the interim government of the country, and the peacemaking contingent.
This is all in the past, but what do we have at present? There is nothing to boast of, basically. The economy is ruined; there is no money for the recreation of the country, as it was promised; and aid from the West is only limited to humanitarian deliveries, which are far from being enough. The recent earthquakes in Afghanistan proved once again that the interim government was more virtual than real.
It would be ridiculous to talk about the normalization of peaceful life in the country, since two-thirds of its territory is the territory of the battlefield with all consequences. There are too many problems for the interim government of Afghanistan at present, and the issue of ethnic separatism is the major one: Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Pashtuns do not like each other, to put it mildly. The political and financial motives of the ethnic hostility make the situation even worse. The interim administration is doing its best in order to win the heads of Afghanistan’s provinces over to its side, but this does not come so easy. Hamid Karzai’s followers are trying to clean up the government. The press sometimes publishes stories that another plot was unveiled, another conspiracy, which was prepared by Burhanuddin Rabbani, or Gulbedin Hikmatyar. Is this really true, or maybe Karzai found another reason for getting rid of his adversaries and strengthen the positions in the hierarchy of power?
This is the picture of the balance in Afghanistan on the threshold of Zahir Shah’s return. The return of the Afghan king was delayed several times due to safety reasons. The Italian government stated that Zahir Shah would fly to Afghanistan from Rome on Wednesday or Thursday.
Karzai said that he was overjoyed to take Zahir Shah back to Afghanistan: “ The new Afghanistan is welcoming its sons, including the former king of Afghanistan, the incarnation of the father of the nation, the symbol of the unity.”
Observers say that several influential figures in the government of Afghanistan, including members of the Northern Alliance, fear that the king will manage to unite their enemies around him. The Afghan Defense Minister, General Fahim (Tajik by nationality) came to the Kabul airport to see Karzai off. This was considered to be a token of Fahim’s support for the return of the king. Zahir Shah says that he is not returning to seek the throne. As is expected, Zahir Shah will open the traditional session of Loya Jigra, which will be in June. Loya Jigra will appoint the new government of Afghanistan, which will reportedly stay in power for a year and a half and will therefore, replace Karzai’s current administration. It was also reported that Zahir Shah is ready to become the head of the country if Jigra asks him. We can only welcome the wish of the former Afghan king to unite the Afghan people, but reality shows that the king will not be able to acomplish this because of his nationality, Pashtun, so he cannot represent the ideas of the entire multi-ethnic country. Moreover, the leaders of the Northern Alliance do not at all like this idea, since the USA would not mind making Zahir Shah the president of the country and put him on the throne. One should not forget about the bloody crimes that the Pashtuns committed during the time when the Taliban was the ruling movement in Afghanistan. Noone has cancelled the principles of vendetta yet. The only thing that we can say for sure now is that Zahir Shah’s arrival will strengthen Hamid Karzai’s position, and this is also important.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov