Afghan president asks Taliban to take part in elections

Ghani makes another overture to Taliban despite fact that the armed group is yet to respond to his previous peace offer

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Saturday called upon the Taliban to take part in the forthcoming district and parliamentary elections in the war-ravaged country.

Launching the voters’ registration process for the long-due polls, Ghani told the media at the presidential palace in capital Kabul that this was the right moment for the Taliban to commence political activities.

“If they [Taliban] believe they have roots among the people in Afghanistan then elections is a chance,” he said, adding Afghans could decide about the fate of the Taliban as a political party.

He did not explain how this could be even possible given that the Taliban do not believe in democracy or an election process.

Ghani’s overture was a renewal of his earlier more comprehensive offer at the Kabul Process conference in February in which he offered to approve the Taliban as a political group, release their prisoners and lift sanctions in return for acknowledgment of the country’s Constitution and shunning ties with terrorist groups. The Taliban have so far not responded to the offer.

Meanwhile, Ghani’s top political Adviser, Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, claimed Saturday the Taliban were busy in serious and high-level consultations on the peace offer.

“Based on our information, the Taliban are busy in serious consultations, there might be some troubles but we are optimistic that the growing pressure on them and international, regional and internal efforts for peace would lead to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process,” Khpalwak told the Wolesi Jirga -- the lower house of the parliament.

The long-due district and parliamentary elections are scheduled for Oct. 20 this year. Over 7,000 polling centers have been established across the country, however, nearly 1,000 of these centers are located in areas out of government’s control.

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