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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Afghan warrior turns diplomat
Anti-Taleban fighters
The former fighter wants to unite anti-Taleban forces
By the BBC's Matthew Grant in Peshawar

"War is easy," the former mujahedin commander explains, once we have switched the minidisc recorder off.

"If you don't like someone, you kill them."

Having just given his first interview since the bombing of Afghanistan began, Abdul Haq is in expansive mood and insists we stay for green tea.

I was from the beginning against this campaign. I told the Americans, the thing to do is keep the pressure but don't use it

Abdul Haq
He gestures around the house where he is holding dawn-to-dusk talks with disparate anti-Taleban groups. "This is more difficult."

"If you disagree with someone, you have to talk to them and try to find a compromise."

Commander Haq knows about battle.

He sustained more than a dozen wounds while leading the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s.

His greatest loss came two years ago, after he joined the campaign to rid his homeland of the Taleban, when gunmen shot dead his wife, their 11-year-old son and a bodyguard outside his home in northern Pakistan.

Support for ex-king

Now he insists he would be ready to take up arms again if he could see no other way forward.

But first he wants to try his hand at diplomacy.

He supports efforts to return the 87-year-old former Afghan king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, to power and hopes to create a coalition large enough to propel the monarch back to Kabul.

Northern Alliance soldier with rocket launcher
Violence is deep rooted in Afghanistan
In person, Commander Haq is a large, friendly man.

At 43, he is going bald and grey. His remaining hair is cut into a short back and sides, leading into a neat beard.

He speaks fluent English slowly.

His war wounds are hidden. Only if you look closely do you notice evidence of his right foot blown off by a landmine.

How serious a politician he can become is hard to assess.

Network includes Taleban

War has brought Commander Haq some rewards.

He is based in a large compound in Peshawar, the last city in Pakistan before the Khyber Pass and the closed border with Afghanistan.

He appears to have dozens of staff. Computers, telephones and other modern office equipment sit on desks.

Former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah
Abdul Haq supports the return of the former king

Two men pull up in a gleaming white jeep, the largest non-military vehicle on the streets.

Commander Haq hates the Taleban but would rather work with them than with the Northern Alliance.

His own network includes moderate Taleban leaders, his former mujahedin fellow commanders and other Afghan strongmen.

It could be characterised as a putative southern alliance, though as yet it has no name.

New system

Commander Haq insists that despite Afghanistan's recent history it can create a political process and bring forth a "new system that would co-operate with the international community".

This would rid the country of the Taleban without permitting the Northern Alliance to slip in through the back door, he says.

Northern Alliance troops move position
Afghans are willing to fight to the death, says Abdul Haq
"And there would be no revenge. You would be part of the system which you had changed and would have a role to play in the future."

When we met Commander Haq, however, the air attacks on Afghanistan had gone on for a week and showed no sign of abating, maybe wrecking his plans.

"I was from the beginning against this campaign," he says.

"I told the Americans the thing to do is keep the pressure but don't use it. The most important thing is, let's work on a political process."

Before the bombing, he says, the Taleban had exhausted almost all sympathy they had in Afghanistan.

The locals were hungry, angry and fed up.

Expectation of violence

But Afghans have a stubborn streak and have rallied around their despotic rulers.

After so many years of fighting, violence is deep rooted in Afghanistan.

For his homeland to turn to democracy or even return to a relatively benign monarchy may well take a long time.

Commander Haq hopes he will be around to see it.

See also:

22 Oct 01 | South Asia
Russia bolsters Northern Alliance
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Opposition buoyed by US strikes
21 Oct 01 | South Asia
What next for Afghanistan?
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