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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 11:18 GMT
Afghanistan: Should the monarchy be restored?
With the military collapse of the Taleban, international efforts to prepare a viable administration and government in Afghanistan have become even more urgent.

Many are arguing that restoring the leadership of the former Afghan king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, now living in exile in Rome, is vital to ensure stability and the support of the Pashtun tribes for a new post-Taleban settlement.

But the Northern Alliance, now firmly in control of Kabul, says such an idea is a non-starter and would not help to heal the deep ethnic divisions within the country.

Others maintain that the monarchy has had its day and failed to rule Afghanistan with any effectiveness when Mohammed Zahir Shah was on the throne.

Would the restoration of the monarchy in Afghanistan be an important step in rebuilding the country?

Or would it be a regressive step which would hinder the formation of a truly democratic administration in Kabul?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

A democratic system based on a constitutional monarchy is the best option

Dr Ravi Singh, India
I would like to add that democratic systems based on constitutional monarchies have been strikingly successful in Europe, Asia and elsewhere as against the rapacious greed of politicians in the Third World, including Afghanistan. Therefore, a democratic system based on a constitutional monarchy is the best option for stability and progress in Afghanistan.
Dr Ravi Singh, India

While I am no expert on Afghanistan, I find it hard to believe that a king with no loyal army of his own can hold up against all the warlords and keep his country united. Sooner or later, vested interests will take over and things will lapse back to civil war.
P.B. Srinivas, Indian in the US

I think King Zahir Shah should be brought back as a unifying leader and figure-head rather than as king. No one trusts any of the current groups of thugs who are trying to claim Afghanistan for their own narrow minded and short-term self-interest goals. We desperately need a unified and centralised government. A government which has one face and which works for the best interests of the whole nation of Afghanistan.
Fareshta, USA

I think the monarchy is a thing of the past. Zahir Shah needs to understand that and should realise that it was never allowed in Islam whereas democracy is. Free elections would be good for a people like the Afghans.
Iqbal Mulla, India

Zahir Shah is a man of political wisdom among the Afghan nation. Putting him back on the seat of Kabul could restore the devastated political system.
Sami, Pakistan

A broad-based government with ethnic groups fairly represented? What a lovely idea. How about having something like that in the UK?
VR, England

I think Zahir Shah could unite the country

Shamsullah Akberzai, Afghanistan
I think Zahir Shah could unite the country, he could be useful to Afghanistan and he would create conditions which would enable the Afghan people to freely decide on their future.
Shamsullah Akberzai, Afghanistan

Afghans have suffered enough and given their lives and blood for the world to enjoy peace during the Cold War years. I think the UN should make sure this time that Afghanistan remains a war-free country. It needs a leadership that can unite people and lead them towards peace and prosperity. There should also be a Marshal plan for the reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan.
Shafie, California, USA

Zahir Shah will be seen as a ruler imposed by the West. Making him King again will lead to anarchy and rebellion. It would be far better if all factions and ethnic groups agreed to share government on the basis of population.
Imran Siddiqui, Canada

I visited Afghanistan in 1969-70. It was poor then and its major export was natural gas to the USSR (now defunct). Afghanistan suffered, like the Balkans and much of Africa, from colonialists who drew lines on maps with no regard for tribal boundaries. As long as we try to preserve these artificial boundaries the troubles will continue.
Colin, Lincoln, UK

No way. Not as a King and definitely no to the monarchy. Many Afghans support the return of the FORMER King as a figure to bring about peace, but not as a King. He is almost 88-years-old. Has any one done any research on the people inline to be King after him? They are a joke. Let's not forget that Afghanistan is what it is today because of this man's limited vision and greed. Even during his reign, only 5% of the population was educated. He has not said a word for the last 30 years, he never tried to claim the throne that he vowed to protect. Even now, he is not genuine about his return, it's the people around him who think that they can come back, hold the high government positions for themselves and their clan and of course starve the people of Afghanistan - yet again.
Kamran, USA

Quick fix solutions are not what the country needs

Matt Wilson, UK
This is clearly for the Afghan people to decide. Perhaps the only role he could or should play would be as a figurehead. Afghanistan needs sustained help. Quick fix solutions are not what the country needs.
Matt Wilson, UK

The restoration of monarchy is not what this great trading post of Afghanistan needs. Afghanistan needs a secular democracy where all citizens have equal rights irrespective of the ethnicity and gender. The political environment will never be same again, once Afghans have a taste of democracy. Lets work towards that end.
Narinder Dogra, USA

I think the Afghan people should be allowed the space, time and security to decide this. They are a capable, independent people, even when bogged down by war, hardship and starvation. Zahir Shah, at this point, is coming back as a figure of unity, to invite all Afghans to take part in talks. To ask if the monarchy should be restored when there is still war is not an option at this point.
Donaa, USA

This makes me sick. I thought this was a war about freedom. And now the US and their British counterparts are speaking of bringing back a monarchy? Deja Vu, isn't that what you did in Iran? See how much good that did. The West says they want the best for the Afghans but still, all they are looking for is influence in this country. Why don't you guys set up an election? Why don't you let the Afghans decide Afghanistan's future?
Amir Safavi, Canada

Zahir Shah can be crowned King. But it will be a crown of thorns. There will be chaos in Afghanistan no matter who forms the government. It seems that everyone is so obsessed with forming a new government in Afghanistan that the so-called Coalition against Terror has forgotten that its job is to end terrorism, not crown Kings. With failed states like Pakistan forming part of coalition, you don't need to be a Nostradamus to foresee the ultimate failure of the coalition in its current form.
Jvalant S, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

A coalition government should be established in Afghanistan by the United Nations and not the United States. This government should have representatives from all major parties. Once these parties bring peace and organization to Afghanistan, fair elections should be held in order to elect a government by the people of Afghanistan. King Zahir Shah should be allowed to return back to his home country but not as an appointed sovereign leader of Afghanistan by foreign powers. He should earn that appointment by gaining loyalty of his countrymen and by bringing Afghanistan onto the path of economic and social development. All in all, whoever comes to power next in Afghanistan, I wish them "good luck".
Sadiq Mehdi, USA

Restoring the monarchy is an incredibly repressive idea (another Shah of Iran!). True, Afghanistan needs a statesman at present time to bring stability and peace to this battered nation, but people who shed their blood time and again and fought against Soviets and later against tje Taleban should have the right to determine as to how should they be governed.
Ahmad R. Olomi, USA

The whole Afghan people know that the King Zahir Shah's presence in the future of Afghanistan is vital and the majority of Afghan people want and need him badly. He is the only one who is the symbol of unity and the Afghan people trust him. I know the current warlords are unhappy with his presence because they want power. But the Afghan people are tired of the current butcher leaders. This time America, the United Kingdom and the United Nation must assemble the Afghans and help them to work out the peace solution. But of course we need UN peacekeepers to disarm the commanders and warlords, this being the only way to peace.
Fazal Daulatzai, London, England

Zahir Shah and his supporters are waiting to get to the power in Afghanistan and leave the country once their pockets are full of money - they didn't care about the Afghans and Afghanistan in the past and neither they will in the future. They don't have the support of the younger generation in Afghanistan. Let the people who have shed their blood for the country take care of the country.
Aman Amani, US

He is not a long term solution

Robert Parker, UK
He is very old and while he is in good health now- what about the future. He is not a long term solution and even in 5 years time the same people who caused the war while still be around. He was not all powerful when he was king and his cousin Daoud deposed him in the 1970s. It also has to be remembered in parts of Zahir's reign Daoud had more power than he had.
Robert Parker, UK

A constitutional monarchy with a popularly elected Parliament guaranteeing the rights of all ethnic groups with special representation for women and human rights guarantees is the best option for Afghanistan. A lot of those whose arguments rest on the premises that the King is too old must understand that Afghanistan does not have any other symbolic figure other than the King who is non-controversal. Other than his age, he is the only figure who can at this moment bring about a rapproachment between the warring tribes and warlords. Under constitutional monarchy his function is more or less symbolic. This system in Afghanistan can, however, only work if all neighbours of Afghanistan stop interfering in its internal affairs. The United Nations under the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and others must appoint observors/advisors for 5 years at least, and with safeguards for intervention if this is not implemented. Economic aid must be immediately made available to restructure the economy, and primarily for compulsory eduction, hospitals, roads and other infra-structure. Again an all Afghan Army under the aforesaid powers to be trained and maintained for a period of 10 years.
Dr Ravi Singh, India

I think Democracy is the best option only if the elements on the ground permit it to function properly. But when we look at Afghanistan, we see that it has never experienced the true Democracy and so we cannot impose on it a true Democracy overnight. I think the traditional authoritative tribal leader system speaks for itself that in current situation it is best to bring back the King who would act as an authoritative uniting force and will bring all the tribal leaders together. He would be able to convene the traditional Afghan assembly called the Loya Jirga which will decide the Future Afghan Government. This Loya Jirga should form a transitional Broad Based Government with representation from all the ethnic groups and it should have the Former King Zahir Shah as its head. During its rule this transitional Government should then take all the measures to create the conditions and the mindset more receptive to true Democracy in which individuals can choose their leaders and decide their own fate.
Ali A. Rizvi, Texas,U.S.A

The ex-king has not come up to the expectations of the youngsters.

Rustam Khan, Canada
Although the ex-King, Zahir Shah, is highly respected by the older Afghans, he has not come up to the expectations of the youngsters. He is thought to be a person who is enjoying luxuries of West while his countrymen have been butchered by the Soveits (1979-89), followed by militia commanders, killed and displaced by the previous government of Rabbani. Zahir Shah should be courageous enough to land in Afghanistan and see for the mood of people there and then decide what he wnats to contribute for his forgotten country ...much to blame for his policies that Afghnaistan is in ruins today.
Rustam Khan, Canada

Afghanistan is a country which is made up of many minority groups and the biggest groups are Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. No group by itself is big enough to rule the country. Pashtun is the biggest group making up 35-40% of the total population but not big enough to rule over other 60% of the total population - who are united and are known as NA. NA is representing all other groups, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras and they are more united than ever and stronger than ever before, and this unity comes as the common hatred towards pashtun Taliban. The former king, being a pashtun, is not acceptable by the majority of the people of Afghanistan because people don't trust pashtuns and they will not accept thier leadership again. So bringing the ex-king wont solve anything. The only way to solve Afghanistan's problem is to let people decide about thier future and choose thier own leaders without any foriegn interferences or others installing some monarchy or regimes for them.
AJ, nyc, USA

Monarchy can be restored but it does not guarantee peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. I would suggest democracy but I do not think that Afghan people are ready for that. Whatever is decided should ensure that that does not lead to another civil war.
Mahesh, India/Canada

A king is born to rule and would make a better leader than un-trained warlord politicians.

Richard Urban, USA
The Restoration of the Monarchy is an excellent idea. Firstly unlike most politicians the world over a king is born to rule and would make a better leader than un-trained warlord politicians. The restoration of the Afgan Monarchy is fundamental to the future of Afganistan. Only respect for a benign father like figure can help the wartorn suffering country. Age is not an issue. He must have successors, trained to be fathers of their people. Long live Monarchy.
Richard Urban, USA

I don't think the restoration of the monarchy is possible now. Because, first of all the king himself hasn't claimed it and the second thing is that Afghanistan is not the same country it was 30 years ago. Afghans are too politicised now to accept the restoration of an old and corrupt system. They still remember how they were living hungry, uneducated and backward during the last monarchy.
Zarak Khan, Afghanistan

Bringing back the King is the most intelligent thing anyone could do for Afghanistan. True, he is old. However, his rule could be the beginning of a new peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.
George H, Canada

It is for the Afghan people to decide what should happen next

Giri, India
In the extreme situation of present Afghanistan, I think the monarchy is the best quick fix for the country. It is for the Afghan people to decide what should happen next. But the most gratifying part is that the ex-king is willing to take responsibility as a monarch and is also flexible to any other suggestions. I pray to God that the Afghans return to normalcy at the earliest.
Giri, India

There are always dangers involved in tying the fate of a country to any particular individual. In no case is this clearer than in that of Afghanistan. This former and future king is a very old man. Assuming that he is capable of keeping the country together for as long as he lives, what happens when he dies? Who is his successor going to be and what will he/she be like? Granted, alternatives are few. In the medium term, the only viable one is probably the "international protectorate" solution found in such places as Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor.
Peter, Netherlands

I think the monarchy should be restored

A. Ata, USA
I think the monarchy should be restored in Afghanistan for a limited period to revive the economy, to reinforce the law and order and to give people a chance to peaceful breath before undertaking a task like establishing the democracy.
A. Ata, USA

The restoration of the monarchy need not be a regressive step. If it was to be constitutional in nature along the lines of the Spanish monarchy, it could well be a positive step. We in established democracies should avoid attempting to immediately impose our version of "democracy" on a nation with no such tradition.
Gerald Dickens, USA

I think the restoration of the monarchy in Afghanistan is the only way for that country to regain its past glory and propriety. Look at Spain and Cambodia, for example. These countries were in a very poor condition, but after the restoration of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty Spain finally regained her former strength as one solid country. The restoration of the Cambodian monarchy was also a wise idea. That country is now able to begin its journey towards a peaceful future.
Tanaka, Indonesia

Listen now
... to both sides of the debate
See also:

14 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
07 Oct 01 | South Asia
Rally for the return of Afghan king
01 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's king in exile
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