New Delhi: The Afghanistan government has decided to go ahead with the country’s Presidential elections on 28 September despite threats of attacks by the Taliban, which is against the poll process.
The government has also decided to approach the Taliban for peace talks after the polls, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull his country out of the process in the wake of the Taliban claiming responsibility for a bomb blast in Kabul last week that also killed an American soldier.
“Afghanistan is committed to holding the elections on 28 September. That is the only democratic process,” Tahir Qadiry, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Afghanistan, told ThePrint. “But at the same time, the Afghan government welcomes a peace process that is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.”
The Afghan presidential elections have already been postponed twice so far — in April and March. It was last delayed in March as the country was undergoing a reformation of its voting process for which the Independent Election Commission had sought more time.
The March postponement had come as a blessing in disguise for the US as it was keen to wind up its peace dialogue with the Taliban before the elections kicked in.
The Afghan government was virtually pushed to a corner as the Trump administration had been rampaging ahead in the last 10 months to secure a peace deal with the Taliban through its negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation.
That only stopped Sunday when Trump tweeted and shocked the world, admitting that he had invited the Taliban and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to Camp David near Washington before calling off the talks.
Ghani government hopeful of 2nd term, to approach Taliban later
According to sources, the Ghani government is hopeful of securing a second term in the upcoming presidential elections. It plans to then begin an intra-Afghan dialogue with the Taliban, which has consistently called the present government America’s puppet.
The Ghani government has created a 15-member delegation, which is ready to hold talks with the Taliban, which the insurgent group has so far refused.
“The Afghan government is keen on holding the elections on 28 September as per original schedule. However, many candidates had put their campaigns on hold expecting some outcome from the peace talks,” said Amar Sinha, a former secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs, who also served as India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan. “The Taliban has made its opposition known and issued a public threat.”
Sinha said it is also essential that the voter turnout during the election is “good and is not boycotted ab initio by political forces”.
“Elections should bestow legitimacy on the next leadership that will have the task of engaging in the peace talks,” he added. “These are considerations that will make part of an internal assessment by Afghan Govt in whatever decision they take.”
India closely monitoring the situation
India is, meanwhile, closely monitoring the situation and is keen that the presidential elections go ahead. New Delhi is also rooting for a comeback by the Ghani government as it shares a robust friendly relationship with the present Afghan regime, according to sources.
India continues to be the biggest aid donator within the South Asian region for the development of the war-torn country.
Vivek Katju, the former Indian envoy to Kabul, said India should not just support any elected government that comes to power in Kabul but it should also reach out to the Taliban.
“The Afghan election raises many imponderable issues relating to credibility and effectiveness,” Katju said. “Nevertheless, India should maintain excellent ties with the elected Afghan government and also reach out to all sections of Afghan people, including the Taliban.”
In 2014, when the Ghani government came to power there was widespread accusation on mismanagement of the voting process and rigging of the ballot.
Similarly, in October last year when the Parliamentary elections took place there, people complained of delays, lack of verification of voters’ list and a dearth of skilled manpower to handle the biometric system.
With the Taliban’s threat of attack looming large, President Ghani has now resorted to “virtual rallies” across the country via video-chats while some of his opponents have chosen to stay indoors.