Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Karzai Sets Out His Stall
Afghanistan's president-elect Hamed Karzai, basking in his resounding
victory on Thursday night, has said he would demand that international
donors stuck to their pledges now and get Afghanistan back on its feet.
Speaking at a news conference at the presidential palace in the centre of
the city, Karzai spoke of the Loya Jirga process which has elected him head of state for the next 18 months; the possibility of trials for the many atrocities Afghanistan has witnessed over the past two decades; the structure of his government; and his hopes for the future economy of the country.
But having given five speeches in as many days to his domestic constituency
at the grand assembly, it was towards the international community of donors that
his comments were strongest.
"I will go in a very strong (with) donors who have pledged
their money. Especially I want to rebuild this country's highways. I will
not accept any excuses on that," he said. "The level of aid received is
minimal in comparison to the level of aid promised."
Observers say international donors have delivered perhaps a quarter of the
4 billion US dollars or so in assistance promised at a conference in Tokyo. The UN body the International Organisation of Migration recently scaled back a project to help
repatriate Afghans refugees in Pakistan, saying donors had not provided
Karzai said projects to rebuild the large country's decrepit road network
would both help fuse the country together again after 23 years of war, and
provide much needed jobs for poor Afghans.
Karzai won the vote for the head of state with 1295 votes. His closest rival, Masouda Jalal, got 171. The field was essentially clear after ex-king Zahir Shah and former president Burhannudin Rabbani both announced they would not stand, leaving no nationally known figures to challenge him.
Wearing his now customary Pashtun headdress, the man who this time last
year was living an ordinary life in exile in Pakistan, breezily parried questions from
foreign journalists, laden with undertones of pessimism.
To one question on how he would rebuild a shattered sense of Afghan
nationhood, he replied, " The common Afghan man sees himself as an Afghan. Do you think Afghanistan would still be around if it was not the case? "
On the question of resolving tensions between the different ethnic groups, he said,
"I don't think we have a problem with reconciliation. The problems were
caused by foreigners and terrorists."
Karzai, who has previously toyed with the idea of war crimes trials, was still clearly undecided on the issue." Can we have justice and peace at the same time, or do we have to build peace, slowly and surely, and then turn to the justice which the Afghan
needs? If we can it would be great. Can we do it? Let's see," he said.
The president-elect said he was happy with the Loya Jirga process, adding that although
there had been some problems, the interim administration had been determined
not to intervene at any stage in the process.
"I'm glad the vote (for head of state) was taken in secret although it would
have been easier for all of us if there were a show of hands," he said. "I
was always confident of the maturity of the Afghan people."
He refused to say who he was considering proposing for key posts in the
transitional government. Allocation of cabinet seats, particularly the three
"power ministries" of defence, interior and foreign affairs, is the most
pressing political question in the remainder of the Loya Jirga.
But Karzai, whom detractors have criticised as lacking real power in the
interim administration, seemed determined to make his mark on the
transitional authority, which under the Bonn process will govern Afghanistan
until elections in 18 months time.
"There is no prime minister. If you're telling me I have a prime minister it
is news to me," he responded to one question about the makeup of the
government. "There is one head of state and one head of the executive."
An aide afterwards made clear Karzai meant that he would personally fulfill
But the new head of state, who has governed for the past six months as
chairman of an interim administration which has included controversial
leaders of warring factions from the country's past, was vague in response
to several questions about how he meant to deal with the still powerful warlords.
"The objective, Kate, is to take Afghanistan to a better life out of the
quagmire of warlordism, and terror. The people very much want dignity," he
said, answering a question from BBC correspondent Kate Clark.
Sounding confident and relaxed, Karzai cracked several jokes with reporters
before announcing the end of the press conference, "I think that's enough. I
have to pray and have lunch!"
This report was compiled by IWPR trainees Mir EnyatullahSaada, Hafizullah Gardesh, Samander Khan, Daneesh Kerokhil and Abdel Wali.
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