Karzai sticks to his guns on security pact signing
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai on Sunday said he would consult with Loya Jirga and US leaders on amendments to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) before signing the vital security pact. However, he gave no clear timeframe.
“We want the US to be sincere in implementing this important deal,” the president told the concluding session of the tribal assembly in Kabul, identifying peace and transparent elections as the main objectives behind the accord.
“Can we achieve this (goal) in a month’s time? If I sign this agreement and peace continues to elude the country, who will be held responsible?” Karzai asked after most of the 50 committees supported inking of the BSA before the April elections.
In line with jirga recommendations, foreign troops could no longer raid and search civilian houses, the president said. “If they do, we will terminate the pact,” he warned.
Thousands of people had been massacred in the name of the war on Taliban and Al-Qaeda, he regretted, stressing the trail of murder and mayhem must end permanently.
While clinging to his standpoint, Karzai told the elders: “You have asked me to sign it within a month. Do you think peace will come within a month? If I sign it today and tomorrow we don't have peace, who would be blamed by history? That is why I am seeking guarantees.”
If peace did not come about, the BSA would spell misfortune for Afghans, he observed, hoping the Americans would heed their recommendations for changes to the agreement to prevent a repeat of past mistakes.
“We have won wars, but lost politically,” remarked the president, who tended to favour delay and caution in signing the agreement. However, he hastened to affirm his desire for friendly relations and cooperation with the global fraternity.
Karzai believed the security situation in Afghanistan continued to offer cause for concern. To substantiate the point, he pointed to a bomb blast in Jalalabad earlier in the day, killing two schoolchildren.
Giving the Americans military bases was a hard decision that was inconsistent with Afghanistan’s pride, he acknowledged, “but we had to take it because of compulsions.”
Three days ahead of the grand tribal assembly in the capital began, the president recalled, he had spoken to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Ambassador James B. Cunningham and ISAF Commander Joseph Dunford.
“I asked the (US) ambassador why you are in a hurry. Why can’t the BSA be signed after 5 months? He hinted at the 2014 presidential polls going to a second round, reminding me of the previous polls,” Karzai told the delegates.
He vehemently opposed a run-off vote, calling it a drag on Afghanistan’s war-tattered economy. Insisting on an end to foreign meddling, the president was confident that a transparent election would throw up a clear winner in the first round.
But Loya Jirga Chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi supported the early signing of the deal, accusing Karzai of refusing to heed his advice. If the president had acted on his suggestions, the situation would have been different today, he added.
Mujaddedi said the presidential stance on many issues had been reasonable and the Americans should not ignore his views that were in the interest of both countries.
The Afghans being a living nation would harshly react if the Americans violated the agreement after signing it, said the ex-president. But he opined the US -- the world’s sole superpower -- would not back out of its commitments and Karzai should promise signing the BSA by the end of the year.
“If the president doesn’t sign it, I’ll quit my job and leave the country. I’ll tell my hosts I’m here because of the Afghan government’s flawed policies,” he threatened.
While Mujaddedi was speaking, Karzai took the microphone and said: “I restate my position that the US can no longer raid our houses or kill our people, who must feel safe in their homes.”
As US soldiers stayed safe inside their bases, the continuation of war in Afghanistan was unacceptable, the president declared. “I don’t accept this. My decision remains unchanged.”
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