Karzai pledges transparent elections in Afghanistan

Kabul, March 15: Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday assured the people of a free and fair presidential election on April 5, saying the security forces were entirely ready for the polls.

“The government will use all its power to ensure the coming presidential and provincial council elections are free, fair and transparent. The Afghan National Security Forces will also provide a secure environment for Afghans to take part in the process,” Xinhua quoted Karzai as saying in his speech at a joint session of Afghanistan’s parliament while inaugurating its the fourth year.

The remarks came days after the Taliban insurgent group termed the election as a US trick to continue the occupation of Afghanistan and vowed to disrupt the process.

The third presidential and provincial council elections are slated for April 5. Political campaign by presidential candidates officially started Feb 2 and will close April 2 or 48 hours before election day.

Up to 10 contenders registered their names to compete for the country’s top post. One contender, Qaium Karzai, an older brother of the president, has withdrawn in favor of Zulmai Rassoul, a former foreign minister.

The last presidential election held in 2009 was hit by allegations of fraud and irregularities.

The outgoing president noted that the electoral bodies are independent and free of government influence, saying “the independence of the Afghan Independent Election Commission and Independent Electoral Complaint Commission is a vital issue for the future of stability of Afghanistan”.

Defending his government’s achievements over the past decade, the Afghan leader noted that the country’s economy has been stabilised and the country has a strong security force.

Karzai also reiterated Afghanistan’s stance about security and the defence pact with the US, saying the start of peace talks with the Taliban remains as a precondition to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US.

“We want the BSA, but peace is fundamental for Afghanistan,” he noted.

In part of his address, Karzai said that Afghanistan hoped all foreign combat troops would withdraw from the country as agreed with the US and NATO, adding the central Asian state will be responsible for its security by the end of the year.

Karzai thanked all foreign counties, including the US, for their assistance in Afghanistan over the past 13 years.

IANS