Thursday, May 8, 2008

Afghan ex-royal sees Taliban role in govt

Mostapha Zahir, a member of the former royal family of Afghanistan, is an alumnus of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. While a student there in the 1980's, Zaher co-founded a charity which brought wounded mujahidin to a Kingston hospital for medical treatment. During the same period, his father was often seen playing the sitar for Montreal subway riders.

Mustapha, reportedly being groomed to succeed his grandfather, went on to be a key player in the politicking of late 2001 which shaped the emerging Afghan government. Interviewed by a Rueters reporter, Zahir goes a step beyond current discussions around negotiations with Afghan insurgents:

Ex-prince wants Taliban brought into Afghan govt
By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL, May 7 (Reuters) - Afghanistan should set-up a transitional government that includes members of the Taliban once President Hamid Karzai's term ends late next year if it is to escape unending crisis, a grandson of the late former king said on Wednesday.

Once a prince, Mostafa Zaher now heads a department overseeing conservation issues in Karzai's government, and while the family royal family lacks a political power base it is often looked on as a symbol of national unity.

Like many Afghans, Zaher despairs that there is no end in sight to the Taliban insurgency, and conflict that has gripped the country since the late 1970s.

"We are in the middle of a crisis at this very second, and the situation is getting worse," the balding former prince told journalists, adding that decisiveness and vision were needed...

His grandfather, the late King Mohammed Zahir Shah, returned to his homeland in 2002, months after U.S.-backed forces drove the Taliban from power.

After returning to Afghanistan, Shah renounced his throne, and in return was accorded the honorary title of "father of the nation". He died last year...

Zaher says the transitional administration he envisages would include members of the current government, along with members of the Taliban and other insurgent groups fighting U.S., NATO and government forces.

"We had enough of the war and fratricide. The Taliban are also the sons of this country," said Zaher, who fears Afghanistan could disintegrate unless the crisis ends.

"You do not make peace with your friends. You make peace with those who are against you. This is an intra-Afghan plan and we hope to bring on board all of dissatisfied people," he said.

The transitional government would summon a Loya Jirga, Afghanistan's traditional grand council of tribal leaders and elders, to determine how to change the system of government from a strong presidential system to one that revolved round parliament, Zaher said... (link)
Zaher's proposal obviously goes much further than recent calls for negotiations with the Taliban.

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