New government for Afghans

Associated Press

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Invoking tradition to resolve a modern dispute, more than 1,000 Afghans meeting in Pakistan on Thursday called on Afghanistan’s former king to help form a multiethnic government.

They also demanded that "those foreigners who add more to our miseries" leave the country — a reference to suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and the mostly Arab members of the al-Qaida terrorist group hiding in Afghanistan.

"They should not exploit any longer the hospitality of Afghans," said a resolution passed after the two-day meeting of the Conference for Peace and National Unity. It was read in the Afghan language of Pashtu and translated later into English.

The all-male conclave endorsed the resolution in a jirga, or traditional meeting, held in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar near the Afghan border.

Their one-page resolution outlined what they called the building blocks for a new government that could help repair Afghanistan.

Among their points:

  • Afghanistan’s former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, in exile in Rome since 1973, should join other eminent Afghan figures to play an "effective role, according to his moderate and balanced policy, to put an end to this crisis."

  • The "warring parties of Afghanistan and USA" should "end their operations as early as possible" — including the "very important" task of disarming Kabul, the capital.

  • Political activity to devise a new government should replace military activity.

  • A loya jirga, a grand council used to make important decisions, should be convened to decide the future of Afghanistan.

    The resolution did not directly advocate the fall of the Taliban regime, though members of the conference have made clear that is a key goal before a new government can be formed.

    In a protest outside the meeting, scores of men sat on the ground, guarded heavily by Pakistani security forces. Some demonstrators held up pictures of bin Laden.

    "We reject the return of former king Zaher Shah to Afghanistan," said one demonstrator, Qari Shah Mohamed. He called the conference "a conspiracy at the behest of America against our people."

    Associated Press

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