President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday officially entered the race for July 20 presidential elections, setting up a rematch following 2014 presidential elections marred by allegations of systematic frauds and massive irregularities by the two leading candidates -- Ghani and Abdullah.
The irregularities in the 2014 elections led to the formation of the national unity government after three months of political stalemate. Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing agreement brokered by the then US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Ghani’s running mates are Amarullah Saleh, a stanch anti-Pakistan veteran and former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency who led the body from 2004 until his resignation in 2010. Incumbent Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish who is also a prominent law expert is running as Ghani’s second vice president.
"We will work for peace on behalf of a dignified and a painful nation, but we will not beg for peace from anyone,” Ghani said in a brief speech after completing the nomination process. He vowed to work for equal distribution of the wealth among Afghans.
“Governance is a responsibility rather than a prize. Wealth is not something brought by the wind to distribute it among the specific people,” he said.
President Ghani seeks re-election at a time that US President Donald Trump’s administration over the past few months has accelerated efforts aimed at bringing the Taliban to the peace negotiation table in order to end the 17-year conflict in the country which has cost the US over $1 trillion and thousands of US troops being killed while fighting the Taliban on the battlefields.
Previously the Taliban and some of Ghani’s political critics had proposed the establishment of an interim administration in Afghanistan as part of efforts to find a negotiated settlement to war in the country, but Afghan government officials have persistently rejected the prospect of creating such an administration as they believe that the idea of an interim government will not suit Afghanistan’s national interests.
“If someone is thinking about such a 'foolish' idea and some former officials who do not deserve to be my student and now they are offering the plan for interim government, they should think again,” said Ghani.
Last week, Abdullah also rejected the prospects for the creation of an interim government in Afghanistan and said that the idea was not supporting the interests of the country.
Ghani reiterated the call on the Taliban to engage into intra-Afghan dialogue rather than talking on behalf of Pakistan.
“The Taliban have got two options to choose; either they want Pakistan and other countries to speak out on behalf of them or they want to talk as Afghans and represent their own. If they (Taliban) want to represent Pakistan, we will talk with Pakistan, but if they come as Afghans, then they (Taliban) should come to their home with dignity,” Ghani said.
Ghani also said that he holding discussions with Afghanistan’s mainstream political parties, the political elites and members of civil society institutions to bring about fundamental reforms in electoral management bodies of the country which have been under growing pressure by Afghans in general over its poor management of October 20 parliamentary elections that saw some of the worst irregularities.
“I will raise my voice together with Afghanistan’s political class including election observers and also it is the demand of the public that serious and expanded elections reforms must be put in place. So reforms are necessary and they will come,” said Ghani.
The Afghans prepare to vote in the presidential elections amid a deteriorating security situations that has gripped the nation since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001. Afghan civilians and members of security forces have been dying in record numbers in the face of a resurgent Taliban in the country.
On Sunday, a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a convoy of provincial officials in the eastern Logar province, wounding at least seven security guards.
On January 03, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) officially started the registration process for presidential elections. The candidates who have entered the election race are former member of Afghanistan’s parliament Abdul Latif Pedram, Incumbent president Ashraf Ghani, incumbent Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar, former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, former minister of interior Noorul-haq-Ulomi, former Afghan ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Sayed Noorullah Jalili, Enayatullah Hafiz, leader of Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmad Wali Massoud, Noor Rahman Laiwal and former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil, Mohammad Hakim Torsan and Ex-director general of the Center for Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Faramarz Tamanna are among the powerful candidates who have so far registered to run in the elections.