US Secretary of State John Kerry, who wrapped his two-day visit to Kabul on Friday, his second in a month, has succeeded in brokering another deal on the formation of a government between the two presidential candidates and called for speeding up the process.
Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Dr Abdullah Abdullah announced at a joint press conference in the presence of Kerry that they have agreed on the formation of a national unity government for the “sake of Afghanistan’s political and security stability.”
The two rivals did not reveal details of the proposed government’s contours, but said both teams are working on it.
Afghan journalists say despite Friday’s new agreement, differences persist as Abdullah’s team insists that the deal is about the unity government whereas, Ghani’s team argues it is more about agreeing on a framework to accelerate the audit process.
However, Afghans are not on the same page as Kerry, and consider foreign-brokered deals as a show of disregard to their votes.
Abdullah, who was behind Ghani in the second round of the June 14 elections and had rejected the preliminary results, said on Friday that both teams would form a unity government and they are committed to the completion of the process.
“We have taken another step forward in strengthening the national unity of the country and bringing hope for the future of Afghanistan,” Dr Abdullah said at the news conference with Ghani and Kerry by his side.
Ghani said the audit should not be prolonged and the process will hopefully finish by the end of August. “Political consensus is a must for lasting stability as we don’t want to face the fate of Iraq or Syria,” he added.
At the news conference, Kerry said the agreement is a critical opportunity for both candidates to move beyond the campaign atmosphere. “I am here to support them in their initiative and work through some of these difficult situations. But this is really an Afghan solution for an Afghan problem,” he said at the presser aired live by several TV channels.
The development comes at a time when the people and government of Afghanistan and the international community are waiting for the end of the audit process and announcement of the results. Despite intervention by the US and the United Nations, the audit process is painfully slow and at one stage, representatives of the two candidates reportedly got into a physical fight at the election office.
Hours before the two candidates reached the agreement, Kerry also met President Hamid Karzai and both discussed the audit process and agreed that it should be completed as soon as possible, Karzai’s palace said in a statement.
“The president reiterated that the Afghan people have been waiting for months for the results and want to see their country have a new president,” the presidential palace said in a statement posted on its website.
Karzai had earlier set August 2 for the transfer of power but the date was later postponed.
As the delay in announcement is pushing the country towards uncertainty, Afghan civil society members called upon the Independent Election Commission to speed up the vote audit process and ensure impartiality.
Speaking at a joint press conference, a number of civil society members from various organisations termed the suspension of vote audit hazardous for the country.
They said it will deprive the country to participate in many international sessions that are important for its future.
Washington has genuine concerns in the country as it eagerly awaits the signing of a controversial security pact that would give legal cover to US forces to stay in Afghanistan post-2014. Karzai had refused to ink the Bilateral Security Agreement, however, Ghani and Abdullah both have indicated to sign the pact.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2014.