Afghanistan’s election on Saturday threatens the war-torn nation’s best chance of achieving peace with the Taliban and it should be scrapped, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said.
Holding the vote now “is like asking a heart patient to run a marathon” as it could ignite Taliban attacks that will seriously destabilise the country, Karzai told the Associated Press news agency on Tuesday.
The former president, still considered one of the most important people in Afghan politics, has pressed for a resumption of United States-Taliban talks, which collapsed earlier this month after US President Donald Trump said a deal that seemed imminent was “dead“.
“This is no time for elections,” he said. “We cannot conduct elections in a country that is going through a foreign-imposed conflict. We are in a war of foreign objectives and interests. It isn’t our conflict – we are only dying in it.”
Karzai, who governed Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014, said the best path forward was a resumption of peace negotiations, and if talks between the US and Taliban are not happening then Afghans, including the Taliban, should have those discussions among themselves.
Afghans must plot their own course out of the bloody 18-year war, he said.
Afghanistan is going to hold its fourth presidential election since the US-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001.
Orchestrating the vote is a gamble with some pundits warning a messy election marred by violence and fraud allegations could trigger a political crisis and further disrupt chances of getting back to talks on peace.
Security has many worried. The Taliban is opposed to the vote and has threatened Afghans who go to the polls. Many supporters of candidates are also heavily armed, adding to fears a deeply contested election could result in violence.
Previous elections were deeply flawed with Washington cobbling together a government after the 2014 presidential polls were mired by massive fraud.
Following the election debacle, the US decided a winner would not be declared and instead divided power between current President Ashraf Ghani and his leading rival, Abdullah Abdullah, to form a unity government.
Subsequently, the Taliban refused to negotiate with the outgoing government calling it “a US puppet”.
In the run-up to Saturday’s vote, candidates have alleged Ghani, a frontrunner, is abusing his power by using government resources to help his election campaign.
In total, 16 candidates will run for the presidency, including the two main candidates Ghani and Abdullah.
However, the majority are not campaigning and although none has officially withdrawn, some have thrown their support behind other candidates.