“And how long have you been in Australia,” I asked a taxi driver recently. He told me he had been here for over a decade.
He came from Afghanistan, a country he said was in “a terrible mess.”
I could hardly disagree.
He volunteered that the best time for Afghanistan was under the King Zahir Shah.
His reign marked the longest of stability known to Afghanistan, that is between 1933 and 1973.
He had turned Afghanistan into a constitutional monarchy, with democratic elections to a parliament, civil rights, and women’s liberation.
My driver said things were going very well until a failed politician , Mohammed Daoud Khan, staged a coup d'état and declared Afghanistan a republic while the King was in Europe for an operation.
This was the beginning of the disaster, dictatorship, the Soviet invasion and the rule of the Taliban.
After the fall of the Taliban, there were calls for a return to the monarchy.
But when he was back in Afghanistan, the King was prevailed on by the Americans to stand aside to allow their nominee Hamid Karzai to become President.
Under the Constitution the former King was declared to be the “Father of the Nation, “providing a symbol of leadership beyond politics.
As we reported here, “Afghan King farewelled,” 31 July 2007, he died on 23 July, 2007.
….a US view…
My taxi driver’s opinion that the Afghan constitutional monarchy was a golden period was confirmed recently by American diplomat, Peter Tomsen.
He was President George H.W. Bush's special envoy on Afghanistan, with the rank of ambassador from 1989 to 1992.
He later served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as ambassador to Armenia.
In a report by Kevin Howe in the Monterey Herald on 29 August, 2008, he said :
“Afghanistan enjoyed 45 years as a monarchy progressing toward democracy before a failed communist coup in 1978, followed by the Russian invasion in 1979 to bolster the "revolution."
“The invasion and resulting insurgency, destroyed what had been built up over 45 years.”
During the 1999 referendum campaign, I was invited to address an inner city branch of the Liberal Party.
When I said that constitutional monarchies were concentrated among the most advanced countries of the world, a group laughed mockingly.
As I began to list the world’s most advanced countries, they quietened down.
The experience too of several developing countries, such as Afghanistan, indicates that if the aim of government is to provide freedom and democracy, education and a better standard of living, the model form of government is ….constitutional monarchy.
The wisdom of my immigrant taxi driver far exceeded that of the inner city elites whom I had once encountered in our referendum campaign.