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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Afghan warrior turned diplomat
Commander Abdul Haq, seen here as commander of police under the interim Afghan Government, in Kabul
Haq insisted that a working political system was possible in Afghanistan
The BBC's Matthew Grant met Abdul Haq, the former mujahedin commander who has been executed by the Taleban, just a few days ago in Peshawar, Pakistan.

"War is easy," the former mujahedin commander explained, once we had switched the minidisc recorder off.

"If you don't like someone, you kill them."

Having just given his first interview since the bombing of Afghanistan began, Abdul Haq was in expansive mood and insisted we stayed for green tea.

I was from the beginning against this campaign. I told the Americans, the thing to do is keep the pressure but don't use it

Abdul Haq
He gestured around the house where he had been holding dawn-to-dusk talks with disparate anti-Taleban groups. "This is more difficult."

"If you disagree with someone, you have to talk to them and try to find a compromise."

Commander Haq knew about battle.

He sustained more than a dozen wounds while leading the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s.

His greatest loss came two years ago, after he joined the campaign to rid his homeland of the Taleban, when gunmen shot dead his wife, their 11-year-old son and a bodyguard outside his home in northern Pakistan.

Support for ex-king

During the interview, he insisted he would be ready to take up arms again if he could see no other way forward.

But first he wanted to try his hand at diplomacy.

He supported efforts to return the 87-year-old former Afghan king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, to power and hoped to create a coalition large enough to propel the monarch back to Kabul.

Former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah
Abdul Haq supported the return of the former king
In person, Commander Haq was a large, friendly man.

At 43, he was going bald and grey. His remaining hair was cut into a short back and sides, leading into a neat beard.

He spoke fluent English slowly.

His war wounds were hidden. Only if you looked closely did you notice evidence of his right foot blown off by a landmine.

How serious a politician he could have become is hard to assess.

Network includes Taleban

War brought Commander Haq some rewards.

He was based in a large compound in Peshawar, the last city in Pakistan before the Khyber Pass and the closed border with Afghanistan.

He appeared to have dozens of staff. Computers, telephones and other modern office equipment sat on desks.

Two men pulled up in a gleaming white jeep, the largest non-military vehicle on the streets.

Commander Haq hated the Taleban but would have rather worked with them than with the Northern Alliance.

His own network included moderate Taleban leaders, his former mujahedin fellow commanders and other Afghan strongmen.

It could be characterised as a putative southern alliance, though it had no name.

New system

Commander Haq insisted that despite Afghanistan's recent history it could create a political process and bring forth a "new system that would co-operate with the international community".

This would rid the country of the Taleban without permitting the Northern Alliance to slip in through the back door, he said.

Northern Alliance troops move position
Afghans are willing to fight to the death, said Abdul Haq
"And there would be no revenge. You would be part of the system which you had changed and would have a role to play in the future."

When we met Commander Haq, however, the air attacks on Afghanistan had gone on for a week and showed no sign of abating, maybe wrecking his plans.

"I was from the beginning against this campaign," he said.

"I told the Americans the thing to do is keep the pressure but don't use it. The most important thing is, let's work on a political process."

Before the bombing, he said, the Taleban had exhausted almost all sympathy they had in Afghanistan.

The locals were hungry, angry and fed up.

Expectation of violence

But Afghans have a stubborn streak and have rallied around their despotic rulers.

After so many years of fighting, violence is deep rooted in Afghanistan.

For his homeland to turn to democracy or even return to a relatively benign monarchy may well take a long time.

Commander Haq had hoped he would be around to see it.

Abdul Haq
speaking to the BBC's Lyse Doucet before the US began its raids on Afghanistan
See also:

22 Oct 01 | South Asia
Russia bolsters Northern Alliance
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Opposition buoyed by US strikes
21 Oct 01 | South Asia
What next for Afghanistan?
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