Four Presidential Candidates Take Part in Second TV Debate
 
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Four of the 11 Presidential candidates participated in the second televised TOLOnews debate on Tuesday night, exchanging views on the country's security and domestic politics ahead of the April vote.

The candidates went head-to-head into heated exchanges during the debate, which touched on security, corruption, women's rights. The candidates answered questions for nearly two hours from moderator Mujahid Kakar.

Daoud Sultanzoy, former member of Parliament; Mohammad Nader Naeem, nephew of President Daoud Khan; Hedayat Amin Arsala, former Minister of Finance; and Qotbuddin Helal, formerly a leader of Heszb-i-Islami, participated in the second debate.

Five other candidates participated in the first debate and two others did not participated in either. 

Regarding security, Hedayat Amin Arsala said that "cooperation between different security forces - Defense and Interior Ministries and the National Directorate of Security - should exist." 

"Motivation has been one of the main problems of the security forces.....Threats force 30,000 troops to leave every year," Daoud Sultanzoy said. 

"Government needs to decrease gap and insecurity between people and government by providing services," Mohammad Nader Naeem said. 

On peace talks with the Taliban, the candidates had largely differing views. 

"There are different groups that operate within the Taliban," Naeem said. "There are groups that take advantage of the insecurity of Afghanistan and there are two groups within the Taliban, one that wants peace and the other doesn't." 

"The Taliban can issue fatwas that we aren't Muslims, but the Taliban was a tool to serve local and international intelligence services only turning to ideology later on," Sultanzoy said. "The people of Afghanistan need to move towards a national goal, so that the Taliban are driven to the margins." 

"The killings of innocents is not permissible," Helal said. "The Taliban is divided into many categories: those who joined due to poverty - these are Taliban who are willing to join normal life - and the other groups who are agents of intelligence agencies -  we can convince them war is not in favor of anyone in the region." 

"If they try to get into Afghan politics through peaceful ways, we might give them a chair in the cabinet," Arsala said. 

Other topics discussed included the economy and combating corruption.

"Poverty results from corruption, we will increase pensions and salaries through savings from corruption," Sultanzoy said. 

"Afghans' pride has been stepped on with this corruption....government administration overall must be reformed," Arsala said. 

Transparency International ranked the Afghan judiciary as the most corrupt in the world in 2013, and many donor countries have expressed reservations about continuing to aid Afghanistan as long as corruption is so rampant. 

"Anyone involved in corruption must be identified and should be put on trial," Helal said. "Identification of corrupt individuals can be done by the lands occupied, contracts achieved and wealth gathered and we will start a digitized record system in government offices," Helal said. 

"Ending corruption starts from the top, President and his VPs must be clean, not involved in corruption," Naeem said. "Bureaucracy is one of the main sources of corruption in Afghanistan; corruption has increased like cancer over the past 12 years." 

The upcoming elections have been portrayed as a pivotal litmus test for Afghan democracy and the future direction of the country. For women's advocates, with the NATO coalition withdrawing by December, the most important progress to protect, and build upon, is that of women's rights.

On women's rights, Helal said that women must be educated and must be involved in society, but "...it should be within the limits of Sharia."

Naeem said that the "Afghan constitution has been formed within the framework of Islam, so our democracy is not in conflict with Islam."

"The people of Afghanistan have given sacrifices for democracy, every person will have equal rights under the law," Sultanzoy said.

"We want an independent, developed and Muslim Afghanistan," Arsala said. 

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