Politicians call for early approval of BSA
KABUL (PAN): Calling for greater focus on Afghanistan’s sovereign rights under the new security agreement with the US, political parties on Saturday urged President Hamid Karzai to sign the pact soon after it was approved by the Parliament.
The 26-article document was debated, clause by clause, for a third day today by the consultative Loya Jirga, a 2,500-member council of elders that has the right to revise or reject any part of the draft agreement.
Inaugurating the traditional gathering on Thursday, President Hamid Karzai told delegates if they and the parliament approved the agreement, it should be signed after next spring's elections, an abrupt decision that surprised Washington.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday warned President Karzai all American soldiers will be withdrawn from Afghanistan next year if the bilateral security agreement (BSA) is not signed by the end of 2013.
The unexpected call from President Karzai to delay the security pact was unacceptable, the secretary said, asking Afghanistan to approve the deal or risk the withdrawal of all US forces at the end of 2014.
Karzai stressed raids on civilian houses must stop and the US should hold out guarantees of sincere cooperation with his administration in conducting the April 2014 polls before the accord was signed.
In his letter to Karzai, US President Barack Obama wrote on Wednesday, "We look forward to completing this agreement promptly."
Obama said the US will continue to respect "Afghan sovereignty" under the security agreement and US military will not conduct raids on Afghan homes except under "extraordinary circumstances" involving urgent risks to US nationals.
The agreement would give the US a legal basis for having forces in Afghanistan after 2014, and also allow it to use bases across the country.
“In view of Afghanistan’s current circumstances, there is a great need for having such agreements and interactions with many countries, especially world powers,” said Fazlur Rahman Orya, a spokesman for the Afghanistan National Coalition, led by Abdullah Abdullah.
However, he said the party would accept the deal only if it served national interest and was in no conflict with Afghan laws and traditions. He further said any decision from the Loya Jirga on the security deal would be illegal in the presence of Parliament.
Government officials say the gathering had been called only to advise the government whether or not to sign the security deal and the document would be sent to the Parliament for approval.
To a question about Karzai’s decision of signing the deal after the April elections, Orya said the president wanted the US to support a candidate of his choice in the elections in return for signing the agreement, otherwise he would not sign it.
Afghanistan National Islamic Peace Partly leader Shah Mehmood Popal said his party supported the security agreement because it was in Afghanistan’s larger interest. He said Afghanistan’s sovereignty, interest and interdependence should be in focus under the deal.
About a possible delay in signing the pact from Karzai, Popal said the president wanted to pressurise the US into accepting his personal demands.
He said it would be childish if President Karzai did not sign the deal soon after passed by the Loya Jirga and ratified by the Parliament. He said Karzai should sign the deal after holding the expensive jirga.
Afghan Millat Party chief Stana Gul Sherzad said his party backed the security agreement, but there had been no need for convening the Loya Jirga.
He said the deal should be signed because Afghan forces needed continued training and equipping until they became able to defend the country’s frontiers and respond effectively to foreign aggression without outside assistance.
“The president is making the elections as an excuse to pave the way for a candidate of his choice,” Sherzad said, insisting the agreement should be signed soon after it was approved by the Parliament.
The ongoing Loya Jirga is expected to deliver a decision on the deal and present its recommendations to the government tomorrow.
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