Karzai hails Taliban’s call for halt to executions

KABUL: President Hamid Karzai, lauding Talibans aversion to executions in Afghanistan as a welcome move, asked the insurgent movement on Monday to show mercy to their compatriots. A day earlier, the Taliban Leadership Council called for the United Nations, the global fraternity and rights watchdogs to prevent the Afghan leader approving the execution of around 100 prisoners – mostly rebels – sentenced to death by the Supreme Court. “I’m pleased to note Taliban’s demand for a halt to executions”. “We pray to God they also show compassion for humans,” the president told a news conference he jointly addressed with European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

While referring to a recent suicide bombing that killed 27 people in the Nimroz capital Zaranj, he slammed perpetrators of such acts as hell inmates, who did not balk at martyring children, worshippers and civilians. It will be pertinent to recall that the apex court recently announced awarding death penalties to a hundred people charged with murder, abductions and other heinous crimes. The orders have been sent to the president for approval.

Asked by Pajhwok Afghan News to spell out his stance on executions, Karzai replied, in principle, his government was opposed to the capital punishment. And that position was reflected in only 15 executions carried out over the last six years, he argued. The president explained he gave the go-ahead to putting the convicts to death in line with court verdicts and recommendations from religious scholars – but not before two years of investigations.

He went on to point out that executions were a routine affair during the oppressive Taliban regime, ousted in 2001 as a result of a relentless US-led bombing campaign. Karzai said he would never forget the shooting to death of a woman by the Taliban at the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul. Islamic injunctions on killings and kidnappings were crystal clear, he observed, reasoning those orders were in the interest of society and security of the people. However, he voiced strong opposition to executions carried out on political grounds.

At the outset of the joint media appearance, Karzai shook hands with Solana and characterised him as a great friend of Afghanistan. Reciprocating the gesture, the visiting dignitary said the European Union was united on long-term support to the war-torn country. Despite the progress made in education and health sectors, the EU official believed, much remained to be done in Afghanistan. The two leaders are scheduled to discuss the countrys achievements and problems later in the day.

In response to a query, the EU foreign policy chief identified security and governance as central to Afghanistans lasting progress. “When we discuss challenges, we have to talk about difficulties that prevent everything that is done. One is security and that is important for the development of the country. He added: The second thing is governance. The ownership of the process belongs to the country … but together with ownership comes accountability, responsibility and good governance.”

Solana told a questioner a donor conference on Afghanistan, pencilled in for June in Paris, would focus on security and governance — issues he discussed with Karzai. The moot will confer on the need for assistance to the impoverished country in meeting the challenges facing it.-SANA

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Rubab Saleem

Rubab Saleem is Editor of Pakistan Times

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