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First peace, then elections: Ahadi

‘If election is held, peace will be postponed for at least four years’

‘If Ghani retakes power, peace will be hampered’

AT News Report

KABUL: Anwarul Haq Ahadi, a notable politician who has worked in different government posts, prefers peace to the presidential elections slated to be held on September 28. Ahadi believes that holding elections would cause an at least four-year postponement for peace.

In an interview with the Afghanistan Times, Ahadi accused President Ashraf Ghani of hampering the peace efforts if retaking the power.

Ahadi is now leading a political party and is supporting Abdullah Abdullah in the elections.

He said that peace is vital for Afghans, so it should be given priority than elections, but said if the peace efforts take long time, then elections should be held. The former commerce minister, said that a “very good opportunity” has been provided for peace, calling on the national unity government and the United States to not lose this opportunity.

“For me, peace is more important than the elections. But if the peace is not reached soon, then we have to go for elections,” Ahadi said in response to a question.

He warned that if elections are held, peace efforts would make troubles for peace. “One reason is that if one person is elected as president, it will be very difficult that he will be convinced to give up in favor of peace.”

Ahadi added that it is clear that life without peace is impossible, economy will not promote, education will not develop and the country will not be built. “Therefore, I prefer peace very much. What is the problem if peace is reached within a couple of months? The elections were postponed many times, what will happen if it is postponed for a short time again?”

He warned that if elections are held, the peace process would fail and it would be postponed for at least another four years and it would take more time to restart the process and then several years would be spent because of “some selfishness”.

Ahadi emphasized that it is a very good time for peace now because President Ghani’s tenure is over and he is running the country more than his legal period of time. “If we reach peace at this time, an interim administration will be formed which will be in the benefit of people and Dr. Ghani will not have to give any special sacrifice.”

Ahadi added that election time would get closer as long as peace was postponed and holding elections would affect peace efforts. “I hope that Taliban, the US and other people realize to finalize this matter in two or three weeks. It should not focus only on the US drawdown, but a comprehensive peace is needed to be finalized and then we will know whether to hold elections or not. It will not affect if Taliban want peace, but their warnings to people to avoid attending the polls, will affect peace,” said Ahadi.

Ghani’s opposition to peace process

Regarding President Ghani’s opposition to the peace efforts, Ahadi said: “If the peace process leads to victory, then an interim administration is needed to be formed and Ghani is over when it is formed. He (Ghani) knows that his tenure is up, but desperately tries to win the election and doesn’t matter for him even through fraud and cheating of people. But this will make another problem. He will be again the president while peace will not be reached. Situation in the country will be deteriorated. His role will be strong in any likely peace deal. This is why he tries to first win the elections and then pay attention to the peace results.”

Successes and failures in Qatar process

Ahadi said: There are two parts here, the first part is deal between the Taliban and the United States that Afghanistan will not be a threat to the US and its allies’ security and Washington will pull its troops out of Afghanistan. The second part, he said is intra-Afghan dialogues that he called “very controversial”. “Taliban have some discordance over the system and constitution. There are demands for an interim government and details about it. This is a very controversial issue. I wish the elections be stopped and these four issues would be written in a comprehensive agreement so that we could understand. What is the US commitment on Afghanistan? Though the US has accepted to continue its financial commitments despite pulling its soldiers, which is good news. But this is important that Afghans are informed about an interim government or the continuation of this government as an interim administration. This will make problems if one part be dealt and the second part (ceasefire and intra-Afghan talks) remain unsolved. Therefore, we are in a dark situation that affects people’s opinions.”

American honesty over peace

“Americans had said before that they were negotiating four issues with the Taliban. They said nothing would be agreed if all these four issues are not agreed. But it seems now that Americans want to agree to deal to two first issues, and leave the two other points to Afghans. This violates their previous instance,” Ahadi said.

He warned that it would be dangerous if the US plans to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan and take a guarantee from Taliban, but leave all other things. “The US tries to solve Afghanistan issues by using its influence on Pakistan.

Lining Afghanistan and Kashmir issues

Ahadi reacted to statements by Pakistani officials regarding a connection between Afghanistan and Kashmir. Ahadi rejected any links with Kashmir. “Afghanistan and Kashmir have no links and are two separate issues.”

Ahadi said that every regional and trans-regional country is somehow involved in the Afghan peace process. He added that developments are shared with India, but as Iran and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, Iran is not directly informed. “Iran and India are not kept away, Khalilzad visits New Delhi whenever there is a development, India is a great power with a capacity of making contacts, it held relations with the government of Mujahideen. But the US withdrawal from Afghanistan makes Iran, Russia and some other states happy, so I think they would not make troubles.

Peace cost

Ahadi said that the peace has a cost which does not affect Afghans, despite some restrictions that would be imposed and Taliban would share the power. “As far as I know, they (Taliban) are not urging that they be at the top of the government. They want a reliable person come and hold the power, one with ability of good governance. What’s the problem if such a thing happens? We have lots of coalition governments. Ghani cannot fire everybody from government posts or appoint arbitrarily. This is a political fact and need that all Afghans see themselves in the power. I don’t think it would cost much.”

He added that it would very dangerous if Taliban say that Afghans do not have the right of electing their leader.

Elections and transparency

Regarding the transparency of the elections, Ahadi said all the past elections were full of fraud, but emphasized that fraud in the 2014 presidential elections and last year’s parliamentary votes was as much as it brought the election transparency under question. “No election was transparent in the past years in Afghanistan, but at first the level of fraud was low and it jumped later especially in the 2014 presidential and 2018 parliamentary polls,” he said.

Ahadi was it is disgusting to run presidential election campaigns and peace process at the same time. “It is ridiculous if we reach peace agreement and cancel elections,” said Ahadi, adding that if the candidates promise to give up campaigns when peace process succeeds, then there would be no problem.

Post-election crises

“I will not support a government that steals people’s votes, and then people prefer a bad government than no government or the war continuation,” he said.

Ahadi went on to accuse the electoral commissions of dependence, saying the government interferes in their jobs and the commission cannot dare to keep independence.

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