Afghanistan: March 22, 2002


A sure sign that peace has returned is the movement of large numbers of refugees back to Afghanistan. Over 80,000 have returned from Pakistan in the last three weeks. The UN expects at least 1.2 million to return to their homes this year (a third from Pakistan, a third from Iran and the rest from refugee camps in the country. There are 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, with another million in camps within Afghanistan. Money, goods and transportation are offered to entice refugees to return. In addition, demining teams are removing dud ammunition and mines from areas where this stuff is present. 

The 87 year old former king of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir, is expected to arrive back in the country by the end of the month. The former king is fondly remembered, if only because things went steadily downhill after he was deposed by a corrupt cousin in 1973. As most Afghans put it, "when the king ruled, there was peace." The main thing the former king is expected to do upon his return is do what only he, by long tradition, has the right to do; call the loya jirga (council of tribal chiefs and elders) to decide what the future government of Afghanistan will be. Many would like to restore the king as head of state (in a constitutional monarchy.) This is not all that unlikely, as the king's family is related to many of the most prominent (mainly Pushtun) families. 


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