Afghan chief ex­ec­u­tive crit­i­cises pres­i­dent’s ‘wish list’ peace plan

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD -

Afghanista­n’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Dr Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah yes­ter­day dis­missed a new peace pro­posal by his elec­tion ri­val Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani as an un­re­al­is­tic “wish list”, and ques­tioned the va­lid­ity of thou­sands of votes from re­cent polls.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Septem­ber ended year-long talks with the Tal­iban amid in­sur­gent vi­o­lence, leav­ing Afghans won­der­ing what comes next in the grind­ing con­flict.

Mr Ghani’s team last month re­leased a seven-point pro­posal to build on those talks and end Afghanista­n’s 18-year-old war with the Tal­iban.

While some ob­servers praised as­pects of the de­tailed pro­posal for its scope, they ques­tion whether cer­tain el­e­ments – in­clud­ing a call for a month-long Tal­iban cease­fire be­fore talks re­sume – are fea­si­ble.

“To be hon­est, no­body has taken that seven-point plan as a plan … it’s rather a wish list,” Dr Ab­dul­lah said.

The US ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban cen­tred on the Pen­tagon with­draw­ing troops in re­turn for Tal­iban se­cu­rity guar­an­tees, but drew scorn from Mr Ghani’s gov­ern­ment, which was kept out of the talks be­cause the mil­i­tants do not recog­nise the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Any ne­go­ti­at­ing team “has to be in­clu­sive – gov­ern­ment has to be a part of that”, said Mr Ab­dul­lah, 59, in his of­fi­cial com­pound next to the pres­i­den­tial palace in the cen­tre of Kabul. Dr Ab­dul­lah and Mr Ghani squared off in a first-round vote on Septem­ber 28 and elec­tion of­fi­cials have de­layed an­nounc­ing ini­tial re­sults, cit­ing tech­ni­cal prob­lems.

In 2014, Mr Ghani and Dr Ab­dul­lah fought a close and an­gry race that sparked al­le­ga­tions of fraud and cul­mi­nated with the US step­ping in to bro­ker an awk­ward power-shar­ing agree­ment be­tween the ri­vals un­der a unity gov­ern­ment.

Dr Ab­dul­lah’s po­si­tion, not men­tioned in the con­sti­tu­tion, was cre­ated to end dis­putes that threat­ened po­lit­i­cal col­lapse. There are signs this year’s elec­tion risks a re­peat of 2014, with Mr Ghani’s and Dr Ab­dul­lah’s camps al­leg­ing fraud.

But Dr Ab­dul­lah, who has pre­vi­ously said he be­lieves he se­cured the most votes, said he would “ab­so­lutely” re­spect the re­sult of re­cent polls – if the process is fair and trans­par­ent.

On Mon­day, his team said prob­lems re­mained with about 300,000 of the 1.8 mil­lion votes that the In­de­pen­dent Elec­tion Com­mis­sion said are valid.

The IEC failed to com­mu­ni­cate to the pub­lic what is hap­pen­ing in the count­ing process, Dr Ab­dul­lah said, and “they have not ex­plained it trans­par­ently to our rep­re­sen­ta­tives … more trans­parency is needed”.

This year’s vote is sup­posed to be the clean­est yet in Afghanista­n, with a Ger­man com­pany sup­ply­ing bio­met­ric ma­chines meant to stop peo­ple from vot­ing more than once.

But Dr Ab­dul­lah said prob­lems re­main even with these high-tech sys­tems, claim­ing that pho­tos at­tached to some bal­lots had been taken from fake iden­tity cards, and not ac­tual vot­ers.

Al­ready, nearly a mil­lion of the ini­tial votes cast have been purged ow­ing to ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, mean­ing the re­cent elec­tion had by far the low­est turnout of any Afghan poll.

With Afghanista­n’s war the over­ar­ch­ing con­cern, pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates’ pol­icy po­si­tions were often drowned out by US-Tal­iban talks.

When asked how he dif­fers from Mr Ghani, Dr Ab­dul­lah said the pres­i­dent had proven him­self to be a di­vi­sive fig­ure who failed to live up to his prom­ises.

Mr Ghani’s of­fice did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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