Afghanistan Mourns King Zahir Shah
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Unidentified Man: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Melancholic recitations of the Koran greeted Afghans on their television this morning. Guest on talk shows wiped their eyes as they recalled their former king.
HAMID KARZAI: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: Inside his hardware store, 25-year-old Adri Sherazai(ph) said he will miss the former king.
ADRI SHERAZAI: (Through translator) He was larger than life, according to our fathers and grandfathers. He worked hard for our nation for four decades.
SARHADDI NELSON: But next door, shopkeeper Moon Shazade(ph), who was 60 and was alive during Zahir Shah's rule, called him ineffective.
MOON SHAZADE: (Through translator) He was like "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." For 40 years, he stole money from the people and built maybe four roads. He did nothing for our nation.
SARHADDI NELSON: Such mixed reviews are not surprising, says Paul Fishstein who heads the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, a think-tank.
PAUL FISHSTEIN: People have different attitudes toward Zahir Shah, but I think generally many Afghans look back at that period very fondly. The expression they use, it was kind of a golden age. I think there was also a sense during the years of Soviet occupation and the civil war, and then beyond that, there was - at least in some quarters of society, there was an anticipation that he would really come back and exert some kind of leadership role and help the country pull out of its problems.
SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.
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