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    Opp promises consensus presidential candidate (Video)

    MAZAR-I-SHARIF (PAN): Seasoned politicians in northern Balkh province on Sunday accused the President Hamid Karzai-led government of failing to take measures to ensure a fair presidential ballot in 2014.

    The accusation was levelled at a press conference in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital, by opposition leaders including Ahmad Zia Massoud, Rashid Dostum, Mohammad Mohaqiq, former spymaster Amrullah Saleh and Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor.

    The political heavyweights said the central government was yet to initiate efforts at conducting the election in a manner that could meet internationally recognised standards and respecting people's voting right.

    Massoud remarked the Afghans wanted an end to 'monarchy' in their country -- a reference to President Hamid Karzai's 11 years in office and the power wielded by his family. He said there had been romours that power was being passed in inheritance to a single family.

    Massoud warned against such attempts, saying the masses would take to the streets and would go flat-out to prevent the system from being converted into a "constitutional monarchy".

    The Afghanistan National Front, a coalition of several anti-Karzai political groups, would field a consensus presidential candidate soon, vowed Massoud, who represents the Jabha-i-Milli Party in the alliance.

    "It is the responsibility of the government to pave the ground for free and fair elections and a satisfactory voter turnout," Massoud said, claiming the administration had failed to take a signal step towards that end.

    Governor Atta Mohammad Noor, who is not a member of Massoud's party, said he was supportive of his views. On his own candidacy, Noor said he would consider jumping into teh race once his seniors advised him to do so.

    Saleh slammed the authorities for dishing out a litany of excuses that might hinder a transparent vote. He insisted on distribution of new voter cards ahead of the election to ensure its credibility.

    "Some government officials blame a dearth of funds for their failure to distribute new voter cards. It is just an excuse to fool the masses," the former NDS chief alleged.

    Mohaqiq called the ballot crucial to deciding the country's fate. The politicians issued a joint declaration, calling for new voter cards and accusing the government of a smear campaign Dostum, Noor and Mohaqiq.

    The declaration also asked the government to consider the opposition's views in making peace with the rebels. by Obaidullah Hussam and Habibullah Akbari



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