Welcome to L'Olgiata, welcome to the village which is home to the deposed King of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah. The terrorist attacks of September 11 in the US has prodded L'Olgiata out of its slumber. It is no longer the village you passed through; here the representatives of the European Union and the United Nations come calling. It is the port of call for Italian government officials, for Afghan refugees and representatives of the Islamic Conference, for all those who feel and hope that Zahir Shah could defy all of his 86 years to emerge as a consensus alternative to the excesses of the Taliban.
But Zahir Shah is a reticent man. His responses are measured and cautious. To all those newshounds who ply him with queries about the role the monarchy could play in the Afghan crisis, his answer is ambiguous. "We are at the beginning of an important event and we need to prepare for it. Next month, we are convening the Loya Jirga, or an assembly of tribal chiefs. It is possible that from this institution a new Afghanistan could emerge."