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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 14:35 GMT
Analysis: Deciding Mullah Omar's fate
Two Afghan men in Kabul listen to a radio
There will be mixed feelings if Mullah Omar is punished
Roger Hardy

The whereabouts of the Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar are not known.

But now that his forces in the southern town of Kandahar have surrendered, attention is turning to what ought to happen to him if he is captured.

The Americans do not want him to escape and the interim leader of the country, Hamid Karzai, says he must face international justice.

But what do the Afghans themselves think?

Humiliation

Those who have suffered most under Taleban rule - especially the minority groups in the north of Afghanistan - will be glad to see Mullah Omar punished.

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar
A rare picture of the elusive Mullah Omar
But among the Pashtuns - the ethnic group from which the Taleban drew most of their support - feelings will be more mixed.

Some of the Pashtuns have turned against him - because of the Taleban's repressive rule, and because the country has paid a heavy price for the mullah's association with Osama Bin Laden and his foreign fighters.

But other Pashtuns, both in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan, would feel humiliated if Mullah Omar were tried and punished - particularly if this were carried out by an American military tribunal.

Right to decide

The question of who is entitled to punish the Taliban leader is a sensitive one.

This may explain why Hamid Karzai - the man who has just been made the country's interim leader - initially said the fate of Mullah Omar was a matter for Afghans to decide.

He subsequently backed off from that position, as America's strong feelings on the subject became clear, and he now says the mullah should face international justice.

Some commentators are comparing Afghan views of Mullah Omar with Serbian attitudes towards Slobodan Milosevic - the former president of Yugoslavia currently facing war crimes charges in The Hague.

Even Serbs who acknowledge his crimes resent the idea that foreigners should stand in judgement over him.

See also:

07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Taleban surrender last stronghold
06 Dec 01 | South Asia
New Afghan leader sets out aims
05 Dec 01 | South Asia
Taleban hold firm in Kandahar
04 Dec 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'defectors' in Kandahar appeal
02 Dec 01 | South Asia
Taleban told 'surrender or die'
06 Dec 01 | South Asia
UN concern over Pakistan refugees
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