UK wants Taliban to contest polls
“The election is open to everyone. If the Taliban take the path of honour and wish to nominate a candidate, that is their right,” the British ambassador to Afghanistan said on Sunday.
But the Taliban’s boycott of the polls would prove they were afraid of the verdict of the Afghan people, Sir Richard Stagg said in his message on the International Day of Democracy. Following is the text of the message:
“Across the world, people are celebrating a basic human right: the right to choose their leaders and how they are governed. For many years, Afghans were deprived of this right. They had dictatorship, violence and fanaticism imposed on them.
“But, in the last ten years, that has changed. On 5 April, the Afghan people will vote to decide who they want to lead them for the next five years. Every Afghan, man or woman, from every province and tribe, will have the right to choose. Every person’s vote will count the same as everyone else’s. I hope that as many people as possible will take part, in all areas of the country.
“I congratulate all those who have been involved in the election preparations. The work is on track. More than one million new voters have registered to vote in recent weeks. Parliament has debated and passed new election laws, which the President has signed. And new members of the Independent Election Commission have been appointed.
“Many people ask me what role Britain will play. The answer is simple. This is Afghanistan’s election. We fully respect the sovereign right of the Afghan people to pick their next leader. We have no preferred candidate. We will not interfere. Afghans know far better than anyone else who is the right person to lead them.
“We will, though, support the Afghan authorities, if they ask for our help, so that it is an orderly election. We will work with the Independent Election Commission to help them fight fraud and cheating. We will do all we can to encourage a high turnout in all areas of the country. And we will work with the Afghan security forces and our ISAF partners to allow as many Afghans as possible to vote safely.
“The election is open to everyone. If the Taliban take the path of honour and wish to nominate a candidate, that is their right. If they win, we will respect the result. But, if they choose not to stand, then it will be clear that they are afraid of the verdict of the Afghan people.
“Afghanistan’s next President will have a great responsibility. The country needs a leader who can build on President Karzai’s legacy. Afghanistan today looks very different to how it looked in 2001, after more than two decades of conflict and civil war.
“One lesson from the last decade is that stability and economic growth can be achieved if the Government draws on a wide variety of talents and reflects the country’s rich regional and political diversity. Afghanistan is strongest when all Afghans can ‘see their face’ in the Government.
“Britain and other countries have made a huge, long term commitment to support Afghanistan. We want to build on this close co-operation in the years to come: the more Afghanistan’s next President wants to deepen this partnership, the more we will be able to do to support Afghanistan.
“Next April, Afghanistan will show its own people and the outside world how much has been achieved here in the last decade. This will be the first constitutional transfer of political authority from one Afghan leader to another in recent memory, a truly historic achievement.
“On this International Day of Democracy, I congratulate the Afghan people for everything they have achieved in the last decade, and offer my best wishes for the important year to come.”
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