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Karzai Eyes another Term

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KABUL: President Hamid Karzai has said he will contest the coming election to fulfill his agenda for the betterment and development of his impoverished country, hit by decades of strife and continuing Taliban-linked violence. “Yes, I have a job to get done. I have to complete what I have started. I have to bring the Afghan people what I have promised,” the president said in an interview published in a prestigious Indian daily.

Karzai told The Times of India that some of the promises had already been met while others were yet to be honored. He said presidential and provincial council elections would be held at the end of 2009 summer – a year ahead of parliamentary polls. The Indian-educated Afghan leader, who had a weekend of talks with South Asian leaders in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo followed by negotiations with the Indian leadership, urged the world to eradicate the sources of terrorists in Pakistan.

He mentioned the threats posed by the scourge to the South Asian region as the focus of the meetings which dealt at length with the challenges from terrorism. “Then we talked about the development of Afghanistan and what we can do there.” Asked about the motive behind the attack on the Indian mission in Kabul, the ethnic Pashtun from Kandahar replied: “I don’t understand why they did it. It didn’t and it doesn’t serve any purpose. So it amazes me, the very fact of so much violence against people amazes me.”

Karzai reiterated the global fraternity had no option but to battle terrorism decidedly and in an explicit manner. “The war on terrorism was not a willy-nilly, wishy-washy affair,” he observed, saying it was a distinct struggle between those desiring peace and the people intent upon destruction and violence. On the sidelines of the two-day SAARC summit, he took up the issue with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani whom he praised as a good man. “He has our vision. I wish him success,” the president said.

In response to the query if Gilani could rein in the ISI, blamed for the suicide bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, he said: “Well we have to try in all our countries, especially in Pakistan. “Those who perpetrate such atrocities must be brought under control. There is no alternative We have to stop them from killing us, destroying our lives, killing our children, depriving mothers of their babies and babies of their mothers.”

Karzai renewed his call for determined action to destroy terrorist sanctuaries, eliminate financial sources of militants and shut their training centers. He also acknowledged Pakistan itself was hard hit by the menace. “In Swat alone, there are 80,000 girls deprived of schools. “And in the rest of Pakistan – look at what happened to Benazir Bhutto; look at the bombs in Islamabad. Pakistan is suffering itself. The question is why we should be allowing anyone in Pakistan or in Afghanistan or India or anywhere in the world to kill us. That has to be stopped.”

He went on to warn that Afghanistan would pursue into Pakistan the guerrillas staging cross-border incursions into his country. “If someone is coming from across the border into Afghanistan, destroying our roads, bridges, our lives, we have no option but to go and stop them. I am even more resolved today than I was before.”

Under his leadership, Karzai claimed Afghanistan had made a lot of progress with the help of the world including India during the last seven years. He cited construction of roads and schools, rural development, a reduction in infant and child mortality rates, the return of five million Afghans to their homeland and Afghanistan’s membership of international groupings like SAARC as major achievements.

However, he conceded Afghanistan continued to face serious problems in terms of narcotics, human capacity, an able administration to run the country and provision of services. “Production of opium is a long-standing issue. It’s not just an economic problem; it’s a problem that has affected Afghanistan because of the desperation of its past decades.”-SANA

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