- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan The former king moved back into his royal palace yesterday, four months after returning from exile and 29 years after being driven from the throne in a family coup.
Also yesterday, relatives said the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan was being held by the United States in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and President Hamid Karzai's office issued a "serious warning" to a warlord who had defied central government authority in southeastern Afghanistan.
It clearly was a happy homecoming for the 87-year-old ex-monarch.
"It's a great pleasure for everyone," Mohammed Zahir Shah said after arriving on the palace grounds, a leafy refuge in noisy central Kabul. "You even see the birds coming back to their nests."
After returning from Italy in April, Mr. Zahir moved into a two-story home on a residential street a few blocks from the old palace. The new Afghan government wanted to avoid any suggestion the monarchy was being restored.
At a national grand council, or loya jirga, that Mr. Zahir formally convened in June, it was decided that the ex-king would be allowed to reside in his former grand home, as well as award titles and convene the next parliament and constitutional commission.
In exchange, Mr. Zahir took his name out of contention for head of state, and interim leader Hamid Karzai was chosen president.
Mr. Karzai, whose offices are nearby on the palace grounds, welcomed the former monarch back to the Haram Sarai the small residential palace, which has been undergoing renovations.
Mr. Zahir responded that "it is a great pleasure to be back here in the company of my sons," a reference to Mr. Karzai and other top government officials who joined in a welcoming tea in the shade of a great tree in a palace courtyard.
In Chaman, Pakistan, relatives of Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef said they had received a letter disclosing the fate of Mr. Zaeef, who served as the Taliban's international spokesman in the early days of the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan.
"I have been taken away from Afghanistan. You might know where I have been taken. I appeal to all of my friends and relatives to pray for the steadfastness of all prisoners in American jail," the relatives quoted from the letter, which they said was delivered through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
After Taliban rule collapsed in December, Mr. Zaeef asked for political asylum in Pakistan but was arrested in January and transferred to the U.S. detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It was unknown when he was moved to Cuba.
Also yesterday, Mr. Karzai's office advised warlord Bacha Khan Zadran and his "group of bandits" that if they did not cease their activities, the government "will be forced to take any actions deemed necessary to keep the peace and stability."
It was the first time Mr. Karzai's government had threatened to act against any of the armed factions trying to assert power in several Afghan provinces.
Mr. Zadran was appointed in December as governor of Paktia province, 75 miles south of Kabul. But officials in the provincial capital Gardez, backed by their own militia, refused to let him enter the city.


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