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Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani announces he will stand for re-election

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed on Sunday that he will run for office during next year’s presidential polls, insisting that it was essential to hold the elections despite rising violence in the country.

“My allies are the nation of Afghanistan; three major strata of (Afghan society): Young people, women and the poor. My goal has not been power, but to serve, and my goal (will continue to be) to serve,” he told a news conference in Kabul.

Ghani, who has been leading the National Unity Government (NUG) in a power-sharing deal with his arch political rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, said making alliances was normal and he will go for it.

He did not reveal whether he intended to keep the position of Chief Executive given to Abdullah in a deal brokered by the US following the fraudulent elections of 2014.

He added that despite security challenges and rising violence, holding polls was essential for Afghanistan, locked in decades of conflict.

The president rejected speculation that there were plans to convene a grand traditional assembly, instead of elections, due to those challenges.

He said that there had been discussions about the return of first vice president, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has been exiled in Turkey for over a year amid allegations of ordering his body guards to arrest and sexually assault a political rival.

Ghani also said he had ordered launch of an investigation of images and videos showing government troops had tortured and maltreated body guards of a commander for Dostum, who the government arrested early this month.

The footage showed government commando forces kicking handcuffed guards of the commander, one standing on the head of one detainee and another on couple of others’ stomachs. One was shown turning over body of a man who had just been shot dead.

The images sparked anger and criticism among some who accuse Ghani’s government of violating the rule of law.

“For me as the commander in-chief of the armed forces, any behavior of security and defense forces which are in contradiction with the enforced principles and laws, is by no means acceptable,” Ghani said.

The arrest of the commander loyal to Dostum has angered ethnic Uzbeks, who have closed down three border crossings and various elections offices in the north of the country during nearly two weeks of protests.

Ghani did not say if his government was doing any thing to reopen the border crossings. Closures have severely hampered flow of imports and exports in the past few days. Nor did he mention when election offices would reopen.

The protests, ordered by Dostum, show the amount of support he has among his fellow ethnic Uzbeks. Dostum has said he will return to Afghanistan after the release of his commander, who has been detained by Kabul.

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