Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

The Afghans need their king

Letter to the Daily Telegraph - October 9th 2001

Sir

Two weeks ago in Rome, together with my colleagues Edward McMillan-Scott and the Earl of Stockton, I was received by ex-King Muhammad Zahir Shah of Afghanistan and his son, Prince Mirwais. It was both sad and wonderful to watch the 86-year-old former monarch express his feelings and thoughts on the calamities that have befallen his country since his exile 28 years ago.

He demonstrated a deep sense of patriotism and duty towards his country and made it clear that he would serve Afghanistan in any capacity his people chose through their assembled tribal council or Loya Jirga. He has now received support from the opposition United Front/Northern Alliance forces, as well as the exiled Afghan intellectual elite in Cyprus and Germany. He is the only acceptable Afghan figure who can unite all the warring factions, having demonstrated an ability to rule his country with tolerance and moderation between 1933 and 1973.

I came away with the clear impression that we were about to witness another success story for the great stabilising benefits of monarchy, as evidenced in recent years by King Juan Carlos of Spain and Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk.

It has been suggested in some quarters that the King is too old or infirm to play a useful part. I can confirm that he provided well-crafted answers to searching questions over an hour and a half, and showed no signs of distraction or inability to concentrate. He displayed a good sense of humour and dignity throughout. He has also wisely groomed and able successor his 44-year-old son, Mirwais Zahir.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (Con)
Brussels