Karzai's terms for BSA signing impractical: Abdullah
KABUL (PAN): Key opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has termed President Hamid Karzai’s new conditions for signing a vitally important security deal with the US until after next year’s elections as impractical and personal.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, the presidential candidate expressed his views in a broader spectrum about his future strategies if he wins the crucial presidential elections slated for April 5.
He touched upon the current situation of the country from various angles, especially speaking in detail about the bilateral security agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the US.
Criticising President Karzai’s 12-years long style of governance, the National Coalition of Afghanistan (NCA) leader noted Afghanistan had excellent opportunities to achieve tangible development and arrest peace but nothing extraordinary could be achieved during his rule.
The presidential candidate outlined his future strategies concerning governance, security, economic development, expansion in education opportunities and his policies toward neighbouring, regional countries and the international community.
About his decision to contest the presidential ballot for a second time, Abdullah said it was the insistence of his supporters to jump into the electoral fray once again.
The former foreign minister said he had represented Afghanistan on many occasions at international level. He participated in the 2001 Bonn Conference and had long been engaged with national and international partners to serve the country’s interests. Abdullah said he was enthusiastic to serve his country after winning the presidential elections.
Referring to the presidential slot, he said the position was of immense importance and a difficult job to be done in the prevailing situation of Afghanistan.
“The next president will inherit a host of problems because of the current situation of the country. However, demonstrating honesty and commitment to the people of Afghanistan are pre-requisites for the post. There should be clear targets for the next president so he can strive to achieve them in the larger interest of the people and the country,” he said.
“Given the current situation in Afghanistan, I believe it is a gigantic responsibility to be a president,” he said.
He went on to say the next president should explore all possible ways to clean the current mess and put the country on the path to durable peace, progress and prosperity. Honesty and dedication to the country and its people would make the job easy, he said.
The country has been in grip of many problems and challenges, but a dedicated president with a team of committed individuals would be able to tackle issues diligently, he added.
An unflinching support from the masses would be direly needed to resolve the current challenges, he noted.
On tackling security, corruption and the delivery of swift justice to the masses, Abdullah expressed his optimism by saying that he would explore avenues to address all problems keeping in view the Constitution and upholding Islamic values.
He said the next president should be a man of principles and straightforward and put his all force in nation building, which would help resolve most of the problems.
Here in Afghanistan, institutions had not been built and law had also not been fully institutionalized as were expected by the people, he said, adding they were in the first phase of state and nation building.
He said a competent leader should not resort to tactics in a move only to extend his rule but the leader should meet the challenges boldly.
“Lack of will, a weak merit policy in recruitment on government jobs and unwilling to tackle corruption are among issues that need to be tackled effectively,” he noted.
The country has no clear direction and there is no genuine approach to resolving issues, he said, adding friends and foes could not be defined in the country.
Pointing to law and order and security issues, he said security was on the top his priorities’ list, adding the law and order and security would be bolstered with in cooperation from the people and security agencies.
“Dispensing speedy justice, building morale of security agencies, a clear definition of national interests, differentiation among friends and foes, establishing the culture of reward and punishment, strict merit policy and tightening of security are some of major problems which need immediate attention to be tackled,” he said.
Some people thought security as a technical matter, believing the increase in police strength could ensure security. “But I think that Afghanistan should have an active diplomacy while dealing with neighbouring states.”
He said there was a dire need to cease the opportunity provided by the global community to strengthen national institutions and better equip and educate the country’s national army.
Referring to the BSA, he said the key pact with the US would ensure some sort of security but solution to all problems could not be found in the agreement.
“Growing terrorism and narcotics issues are among main factors contributing to insecurity and the BSA is not a total solution to all these problems. We need non-stop international community support until we are able stand on our own feet,” he remarked.
On how to improve literacy rate in the country, he said it could be enhanced by facilitating teaching staff, improving the quality of education and establishing more vocational training centres.
“Improvement of higher education institutions, overcoming discrimination in educational institutions and monitoring of private and state-run universities are among our priorities to improve the education sector,” he noted.
He the private sector’s role was imperative in achieving progress and prosperity, saying he would encourage education for the sake of a rapid progress.
Result-oriented measures would be taken to create job opportunities for the educated class and advanced technology would be introduced in all educational institutions, the politician said.
Though some progress had been made in the education sector, he acknowledged, yet the key sector continued to face formidable challenges such as learning in shifts in schools and universities for students and teachers.
“Such kind of education system leaves a negative impact on learning skill of students and equally affect teaching staff as well,” he added.
He alleged due attention could not be paid to enhancing the quality of education and some districts, where parents were willing to educate their kids, completely lacked schools.
On the provision of health facilities, Abdullah said the fundamental sector had been completely ignored, but vaccination efforts had helped achieved some desired results.
“The performance of state and privately run hospitals has really been disappointing in terms offering health services. Both sectors have miserably failed to provide cheap and effective health services to the poverty-stricken masses, he added.
“Our health strategy is to develop hospitals and provide the people even in remote areas with cheap and quality health services,” he promised.
On his policy to stabilise the country’s weak economy, he said Afghanistan was an agricultural country, where most people were associated with farming, livestock and horticulture.
“We will utilise all the available resources to put the decades-old agriculture and livestock on modern lines and explore opportunities to bolster export which will bring about stability to the teetering economy,” he added.
He said attention would be given to upgrade and revive small manufacturing industries and to utilise the country’s natural resources for the welfare of people.
On his foreign policy, the former foreign minister excellent and friendly relations would be promoted with all neighbouring, Islamic and international countries.
“Our ties with the world will be based by keeping Afghanistan’s interests supreme,” he added.
Referring to upcoming presidential polls and the possible outcome, he said an agreement had been reached with the Hizb-i-Islam Afganistan, which believed in political process.
“Every political party has its influence over a particular area. The Hizb-i-Islami has also a considerable influence. Gulbadin Hikmatyar has his own position and stand,” he noted.
Most members of the electoral alliance, he said, were from Jamiat-i-Islami, National Coalition of Afghanistan, a coalition of several parties, and Hizb-e-Wahdat Islami of Afghanistan led by Ustad Mohaqiq. Most of them have supported his electoral campaign.
“We remain committed and our team is not only limited to the three figures but includes a cross-ethnic team,” he remarked.
Referring to Ahmad Zia Massoud and Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, he said decision of personalities and individuals was of paramount importance to him and they remained loyal throughout.
Referring to peace process, he said the lack of a clear strategy, the poor governance and law were throwing roadblocks to ensuring peace and widening the gap between the people and the incumbent administration.
On the BSA and its impacts on Afghanistan, he said the agreement was not a panacea for peace in Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai’s way of handling the agreement with the USA was irrational and impractical.
“The signing of the BSA should guarantee long-term peace and security in the country. We need military and security cooperation from the USA and need sustained international support,” he remarked.
“Going for contesting the elections for the second time, I took the decision in larger national interest and not under any foreign pressure,” he said.
He said the US had its own objectives under the BSA but it was imperative for the Afghans how to make a better use of the vital security agreement to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan.
He said if terrorism was a threat to Afghanistan then it equally posed a threat to the US, adding “we should make the better use of the security pact with the US.”
“I think the question of early signing of the BSA arises because the US needs working out a plan for most of its troops withdrawal next year,” he concluded.
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