Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Ghulam Farooq Nijrabi: Nijrabi Aims to Build Bridges
Ghulam Farooq Nijrabi, one of 18 candidates running for president on Saturday, is running on a platform of national unity. As a longtime activist with the Hezb-e-Istiqlal party, he said he can even build bridges with the Taleban.
"If I win the elections, I will strive to build an independent and united Afghanistan," he said.
However, Nijrabi, a lecturer in the medical college at the Kabul University, said he has been unable to campaign in the provinces, in part because of security concerns.
"I didn't travel to the provinces, but activists of Hezb-e-Istiqlal campaigned for me in the northern provinces of Takhar, Kunduz and Faryab, the central provinces of Kapisa, Parwan, Bamian, Ghazni and Wardak, [the] southern province of Lugar and the eastern province of Nangarhar," he said.
Nijrabi conceded in an interview with IWPR that incumbent president Hamed Karzai enjoys a strong advantage. While he did not provide specifics, he said Karzai was using his governmental powers for political campaigning.
Still, Nijrabi said he had a chance to win because his qualifications match international standards: he has a medical degree, political prominence and a good social reputation. And, he added, he doesn't have criminal background, didn't commit any political blunders and wasn't involved in civil war.
Born in 1954 in the village of Sherwani in Kapisa province, north of Kabul, Nijrabi studied medicine at Kabul University and Jalalabad medical college. His medical background, he said, gave him an understanding of women's rights. As a physician, he said, he has always given priority to treating women.
"In accordance with human rights and social equality, women ought to be given the rights they deserve," he said.
Nijrabi is funding his campaign in part from the money he makes running a private medical practice.
"I pay my campaign costs from the money I make in my private clinic and the dues of Hezb-e-Isteqlal members," he said.
If elected, Nijrabi said he would reach out to all parties, factions and local commanders, inviting them all to take part in governing the country. As part of his national unity campaign, he said he has been working with all parts of Afghan society, and has found common ground with even the Taleban.
That, he said, proves that he can reach accord with all national groups.
Nijrabi has 40 years of experience working with the Hezb-e-Istiqlal, independence party, and said he would promote good relations with other countries, follow UN conventions, implement new human-rights conventions and not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
His domestic platform includes national unity, economic self-sufficiency and elimination of regional and ethnic discrimination. His economic plan calls for improvement of agriculture, opening new mines, construction of dams, as well as strengthening counter-narcotics efforts.
For the time being, Nijrabi said, the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is necessary until security is ensured. But he stressed that members of the international community must respect Afghans' sensibilities.
"Afghanistan is member of the United Nations family," he said. "If members of the international community are considerate of Afghan customs and respect the independence of Afghanistan, then I agree with the presence of international forces in Afghanistan."
Mohammad Karim is a freelance IWPR contributor in Kabul.
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