Afghanistan to be made economic hub: Qayyum
KABUL (Pajhwok): Presidential contender Abdul Qayyum Karzai has pledged to make Afghanistan an economic hub of the region, build close trade ties with neighbouring countries if he is elected in the April vote.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, he discussed a wide range of issues such as economic development, Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and the slow-moving peace process.
War alone could not ensure peace and stability, he said, adding his government would be dominated by competent individuals from different ethnic groups.
“If I am elected as president, I will leave no stone unturned to take forward the development projects launched by my brother and the incumbent president,” he vowed.
He would appoint a team of dedicated individuals to work for durable peace, the candidate said, supporting the early inking of the vital security pact with the US. He believed the BSA, endorsed by the Loya Jirga, should be signed without further delay.
The Loya Jirga has long played a key role in the Afghan culture and almost 99 percent of its participants favoured early signing of the security pact -- a decision that should be respected, he added.
The runner said President Hamid Karzai’s conditions for signing the accord should have been made part of the draft, already approved by the jirga.
Asked what prompted him to contest the elections, Qayyum Karzai replied he had no political inclination but jumped into the race, considering the role his family has played in Afghan politics.
Political instability, a weak economy and growing insecurity are among the factors behind his decision to contest the elections. He urged Afghans, including religious scholars, elders, businessmen, politicians and youth to demonstrate respect for the constitution and law.
“I believe the current political system is better than any other form of government for Afghanistan,” he believed. Lasting peace in the country would be among his top priorities.
“Let me tell you one thing: peace cannot be imposed and at the same time war will lead us nowhere. We need to create the right environment. And lasting stability is key to political and economic development of the war-battered country,” he remarked.
A strong democratic system would give people their right to talk openly and criticise the government, he added.
The coup d'état against Sardar Dawood Khan’s regime put the country on the road to war and instability, he recalled, saying peace needed time. The nation should join hands for the cause.
“My government will appoint a strong team to take the peace process to a logical end. If elected, his government will explore every avenue to end the war in the country,” he reiterated.
Referring to Taliban’s conditions for peace talks after the withdrawal of foreign forces, he said an impartial team would be appointed to persuade militants to shun violence.
“High Peace Council (HPC) members are best known to him and they are men of principles. The team, no doubt, had made sincere efforts but since they hold government positions and other political activities, the process cannot be taken forward,” he observed.
On better equipping Afghan security forces, he hoped all-out support by the nation would make the country’s defence impregnable. Police and army would be made more professional and separate universities and colleges built for the purpose.
Lauding the sacrifices rendered by the security forces to defend the country, he promised perks and privileges for the armed forces. The nation was proud of its security forces for protecting their motherland amid multiple challenges, he continued.
“Permanent peace will play a highly significant role in conducting free, fair and transparent elections in the country. So, steps should be taken to maintain security during the polls,” he suggested.
About the recent presidential remarks that the BSA was dangerous to the future of Afghanistan, he said: “I have already staked out my position on the agreement with the US.”
On rampant administrative corruption, he said the menace haunting almost all government institutions was a matter of concern. Every possible step would be taken to eliminate corruption, he said, pledging a pay raise for government officials.
Active role by judicial and security organs would help combat corruption, he added. “The nation needs awareness about the scourge. People need to be informed about the negative impact of bribes in light of Islamic teachings.”
Efforts would be made to ensure protection of citizens and defend the country from internal and external threats, he said, promising steps to improve the quality of education and create job opportunities.
He said competent, qualified and experienced people would be given government jobs. Once competent people come forward, corruption in government offices can be controlled.
“Developed countries have improved their education, health and security because of their strong economy. An economically strong Afghanistan will also see progress and prosperity,” the presidential hopeful maintained.
In order to bolster the economy, long-term infrastructure projects including construction of dams will be launched to meet growing energy requirements. He will work out a strategy to connect Afghanistan with Central Asian States.
When asked how he would generate resources for economic prosperity, he said there were multinational companies, lending banks and other institutions to provide loans for economic development.
In addition, Afghanistan is bestowed with immense natural wealth and other resources, where foreign investment could be attracted.
“Unfortunately, the mines of Afghanistan are being extracted illegally and unprofessionally before being smuggled abroad. My government will introduce stringent measures to legalise the mining sector,” he said.
The practice of illegal extraction of mines without government authorisation would be stopped, he said, promising the sector would be developed on modern lines.
Economic prosperity would dominate his government’s policy, he said, noting the geographical location of Afghanistan was a plus-point for the economic stability of the country.
“Afghanistan is a gateway to the Central Asian states and everyone in the region wants to improve their economy through trade. We will provide facilities to investment companies, specifically from Pakistan and India.”
He said it was high time to say goodbye to outdated politics and work for the well-being and of Afghans. “Our past grievances are too many to be forgotten easily. The best available option is to forget the past and march toward a bright future,” he suggested.
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