Hamid Karzai seeks Fazl’s help for peaceful elections
By Amir Rana
LAHORE: President Hamid Karzai has asked Pakistani religious leaders to use their influence over the Taliban to ensure elections in Afghanistan on October 9 are peaceful, sources told Daily Times on Saturday.
“The Afghan president had requested Pakistan to send religious leaders to Afghanistan to convince the Taliban not to disturb the elections and the government’s response was positive,” the sources said.
The government is considering sending Maulana Fazlur-Rehman, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) general secretary and chief of his own Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) faction, to convince the Taliban, an official from Islamabad told Daily Times.
Afghanistan last year denied Mr Rehman permission to visit, but Mr Karzai faces a stubborn Taliban insurgency that threatens the elections in October and has forced him to change the decision. More than 30 election workers and civilians have been killed during months of voter registration, and more attacks are feared during campaigning for the nation’s first free vote.
Taliban insurgents operating mainly in the ethnic Pashtun belt in south and southeastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border have attacked election offices, killed electoral workers and vowed to disrupt the polls. President Karzai, a Pushtoon, is depending on these areas for votes.
President Karzai is also trying to negotiate with Taliban leaders and he has admitted that he is in touch with a senior Taliban official, former foreign minister Wakeel Ahmed Mutawakil. “But he thinks that majority of the Taliban leaders were educated in Pakistani seminaries and Pakistani religious scholars have more influence over them,” the sources said.
According to the sources, Mr Rehman is keen on flexing his diplomatic skills and influence over the Taliban. JUI-F leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmad said although Mr Rehman had not received a formal invitation to visit Afghanistan to negotiate with the Taliban, “we will take this decision after consulting with the MMA leadership and we will also take other opposition parties into confidence. It is still not clear what would be the agenda of the talks,” he said.