The Frontier Post, a Pakistani newspaper, reports that Russia, India, the Central Asian Republics and Turkey have agreed with United States to annihilate the Taliban and establish a new government in Afghanistan.

The question is: Who would head this new government? One possibility is Burhanuddin Rabbani, who now heads the Northern Alliance rebel group. During armed resistance against the Soviet Union, Burhanuddin Rabbani was head of the resistance fighters.

His field commander, Ahmad Shah Masood, who was known as the Lion of Panjsher, recently lost his life in a Taliban bomb attack.

During his short tenure as head of the Afghan government, Rabbani failed in his attempts to compromise with rival factions and the internal bickering of the Mujahideen government gave birth to the Taliban militia, which ultimately forced them out. If Rabbani comes to power again, his old rivals may voice their opposition and another round of bloodshed will begin. Right now, the opposition is made up of small armies, rather than political groups, who won?t hesitate to fight for their beliefs.

A second possible leader is former Afghan King Zahir Shah, who was dethroned by Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan in 1974 and since then has been living in exile in Rome.

Many feel that it would be very easy for the ex-monarch to establish central authority in the war-ravaged country, since he commands great respect among Afghans and has deep roots in Afghan society. Rival political groups might be willing to unite under his leadership. Alhough he belongs to the Pakhtoon family, Zahir Shah will be acceptable to non-Pakhtoon ethnic groups as they have already lived under his rule.

He is also free from religious extremism and fundamentalism. He silently supported the process of modernization started by King Amanullah Khan in the beginning of the 20th Century, which cost him his throne.

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