[Documents menu] Documents menu

From owner-labor-l@YORKU.CA Mon Dec 3 04:00:07 2001
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2001 01:28:17 -0600
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Kim Scipes <sscipe1@ICARUS.CC.UIC.EDU>
Subject: The king of Greater Afghanistan - The Guardian
X-UIDL: PAsvItHkIc1r@wE

The king of Greater Afghanistan; A German dispatch from 1940 shows Zahir Shah's true colours

By Tariq Ali, The Guardian (London), 30 November 2001

The Pandora's box of the American empire is still open, releasing its monsters and fears on a world still not fully under its control. The Northern Alliance is a confederation of monsters. Attaching dissidents to the chains of a tank and crushing them, executing defenceless prisoners, raping men and women, these are all in a day's work for the guardians of the heroin trade. Blemishes of yesteryear? No such luck. We've been spared pictures of many of these atrocities, but Arab TV viewers knew what was going on long before the massacre of Mazar-i-Sharif. The Geneva convention is being violated every single day.

The facts are these: the situation in Afghanistan is inherently unstable. Turf wars have already begun in liberated Kabul, though open clashes have been avoided: the west is watching and money has been promised. But the dam will burst sooner rather than later. Once the marines depart, with or without the head of Bin Laden, the alliance will discover that there is no money for anything except waging war. Schools and hospitals and homes are not going to be sprouting next spring or the one after in Afghanistan or Kosovo. And if the 87-year-old King Zahir Shah is wheeled over from Rome, what then? Nothing much, thinks the west, except to convince the Pashtuns that their interests are being safeguarded. But judging from past form, Zahir Shah might not be satisfied with the status quo.

A document from the German Foreign Office, dated October 3 1940, makes fascinating reading. It is from State Secretary Weizsacker to the German legation in Kabul and is worth quoting in some detail: The Afghan minister called on me on September 30 and conveyed greetings from his minister president, as well as their good wishes for a favourable outcome of the war. He inquired whether German aims in Asia coincided with Afghan hopes; he alluded to the oppression of Arab countries and referred to the 15m Afghans (Pashtuns, mainly in the North West Frontier province) who were forced to suffer on Indian territory.

My statement that Germany's goal was the liberation of the peoples of the region referred to, who were under the British yoke was received with satisfaction by the Afghan minister. He stated that justice for Afghanistan would be created only when the country's frontier had been extended to the Indus; this would also apply if India should secede from Britain. The Afghan remarked that Afghanistan had given proof of her loyal attitude by vigorously resisting English pressure to break off relations with Germany.

The king who had dispatched the minister to Berlin was the 26-year-old Zahir Shah. The minister-president was his uncle Sardar Muhammad Hashim Khan.

What is interesting in the German dispatch is not so much the evidence of the Afghan king's sympathy for the Nazi regime. It is the desire for a Greater Afghanistan via the incorporation of what is now Pakistan's North West Frontier province and its capital Peshawar. Zahir Shah's return is being strongly resisted by Pakistan. They know that the king never accepted the Durand Line, dividing Afghanistan and Pakistan, not even as a temporary border. They are concerned that he might encourage Pashtun nationalism.

Islamabad's decision to hurl the Taliban into battle and take Kabul in 1996 was partially designed to solve the Pashtun question. Religion might transcend ethnic nationalism. Instead the two combined. A proto-Taliban group, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-i-Shariah-e- Mohammed (TNSM) seized a large chunk of the Pakistan tourist resort of Swat during Benazir Bhutto's government and imposed Islamic punishments, including amputations. She was helpless to act, but last week Musharraf imprisoned the TNSM leader, Soofi Mohammed Saeed.

Not all the repercussions of this crude war of revenge are yet to the fore, but the surface calm in Pakistan is deceptive. With armed fundamentalists of the Lashkar-e-Taiba threatening to take on the government if attempts are made to disarm them, the question of how much support they enjoy within the military establishment becomes critical. The inflow of US aid and the lifting of sanctions has persuaded Musharraf's opponents within the army to leave him in place, but for how long?

Add to that the appalling situation in Kashmir with a monthly casualty rate higher than Palestine, where Indian soldiers and Pakistani-infiltrated jihadis confront each other over the corpses of Kashmiri innocents. If Delhi were to use the war against terrorism as a precedent, the subcontinent could implode.