Karzai registers for Afghan vote

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai formally registered on Monday to stand for re-election in August but sparked international dismay by picking a controversial warlord as one of his two running mates.

Karzai signed up for the August 20 poll at the offices of the Independent Election Commission, along with Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a key figure from the 1990s civil war, and current Vice-President Karim Khalili. Karzai, who first took office in late 2001 after the US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime and won the country’s first presidential vote in 2004, said his leadership experience made him a good candidate for another term.

“We will be making mistakes again, like in the past, but our aim is to serve the Afghan nation,” he said in a brief address to journalists.

He was running on a ticket with Fahim and Khalili for the “welfare and prosperity of the Afghan people,” he added. But his choice of Fahim as one of his two would-be vice presidents was a surprise considering allegations of rights abuses against the beefy commander.

UN officials, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, expressed “dismay” at Fahim’s inclusion.

Prominent parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai said it gave out an impression of Afghanistan as being unable to break from its past of warlordism.

Fahim is a Tajik, the second-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and Khalili a Hazara. Karzai hails from an influential tribe in the Pashtun community, the largest ethnic group. Khalili, who has been Karzai’s deputy for nearly seven years, is also a former warlord from the Wahdat Islami (Islamic Unity) faction of Hazaras that was accused of murder, torture and other abuses during the civil war. He cooperated with a post-Taliban disarmament process and dissolved his militias.

Fahim is also said to have disarmed, but has been accused of stockpiling weapons in the

Panjshir Valley, the former base of the Northern Alliance’s anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban resistance, north of Kabul.

Fahim was briefly Karzai’s defence minister but was dismissed under international pressure, which also led Karzai to drop him as his running mate in the October 2004 election.