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|Zahir Shah (Pashtun)
Who he is: Mohammad Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan for 40 years, before being deposed by his cousin Daoud during a visit to Europe in 1973. After 28 years in exile, the now frail former monarch will preside over the traditional assembly of elders, the Loya Jirga.
Zahir Shah ruled himself out as a possible head of state after an apparent power struggle between his supporters and ethnic Tajiks from the Northern Alliance ahead of the loya jirga. The alliance holds most of the key roles in the interim administration, and back its current leader, Hamid Karzai, as future head of state.
Mr Karzai - like the King - is an ethnic Pashtun. But some Pashtuns feel that he's compromised by the support being given to him by the Northern Alliance, while the King is regarded as a unifying figure who transcends Afghanistan's ethnic and factional divides.
What he believes: He has called for the creation of a broad-based government of national unity in Kabul.
As a Durrani Pashtun, he has much support in the southern belt of Afghanistan.
Profile: Former King Zahir Shah
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