No support if Hilal quits race for presidency: HIA
KABUL (Pajhwok): A senior member of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) on Monday warned of withdrawing support to presidential runner Qutbuddin Hilal if he pulled out of the race in favour of another candidate.
Eng. Mohammad Amin Karim, a France-based HIA member, made clear the party had extended conditional support for Hilal’s candidacy.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, he said many candidates had tried to gain the party’s support, but the talks collapsed as they regretted to accept the party terms.
He claimed Hilal had promised HIA leadership not to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with America, expel foreign troops from Afghanistan and not to withdraw from the presidential race -- at least in the first round.
“After other candidates expressed their inability to accept our terms, the only runner with a proud history of jihad and knowledge of Islam and contemporary sciences, the Gulbadin Hekmatyar-led HIA declared its support to Hilal," he added.
In a recent interview with Pajhwok, Hilal had pledged, if elected as president, he would respect the decision of the Loya Jirga on the security pact with the US. The jirga’s verdict was in in the national interest, he had said: "2,500 people don’t assemble for fun. We should accept their decision based on the constitution and Islamic principles.”
Following days of deliberations, the delegates including tribal elders, politicians and religious scholars offered several suggestions to the government and urged it to sign the proposed deal as soon as possible.
Karim said several presidential hopefuls including Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul had sought HIA’s the party for their election bids. But they declined the party’s conditions, such as the withdrawal of foreign troops and rejection of BSA.
At the end of intra-party talks spanning over a year and a half, the HIA decided against fielding its candidate for the presidential vote. It agreed to support a like-minded runner, he explained.
Earlier, the HIA had urged its supporters to participate in upcoming polls to prevent a US-backed candidate coming to power.
Karim, who recently visited Kabul along with other members of the HIA Political Council, said: “We are days away from the polls and want, convey our stance to the people and affirm support to Hilal.”
After the Taliban, HIA is considered the second largest group engaged in an armed struggle against the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.
In response to a query about the HIA decision to participate in the elections, he said his party was exploring various options to end foreign occupation, whether military or political.
He called a drawdown of foreign forces a step toward national sovereignty, saying: “Militarily, foreign occupation has been defeated ...”
He said if Hilal succeeded, HIA would be able to achieve its goal of foreign troops’ withdrawal. “Along with the military struggle, participation in polls is one way of stepping up pressure on the enemy; at least it will block the election victory of a pro-US candidate.”
Having no member in the electoral bodies, the HIA seeks to inform people of America’s intervention in the process, according to Karim, who believed Hilal would win a landslide if the elections were free and fair.
However, he thought holding an election free of US meddling would be impossible.
On Saturday, President Hamid Karzai warned against foreign interference in the April 5 elections, saying Afghanistan would never bow to the whims of outsiders.
In his final address to the joint session of parliament, the president reaffirmed his resolve to conduct transparent and free presidential and provincial elections.
“The elections could be transparent only if foreigners avoid meddling in the process. I once again remind foreigners that any interference in the polls would have bad consequences,” the president said.
While his government would never allow meddling in election affairs, the two poll panels would remain neutral, he said, asking media outlets to be fully impartial. He pledged support to a president elected by the people.
In response to a query about divisions in the party, Karim said the HIA remained fully united under Gulbadin Hekmatyar’s leadership. Every member of HIA could not claim party leadership, he argued, asking members to toe the party line on different issues.
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