KABUL (Pajhwok): Presidential contender Mohammad Shafiq Gul Agha Sherzai has warned if the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is not signed and foreign troops leave, Afghanistan will once again emerge as a terrorist sanctuary.

“Afghanistan will turn into a terrorist safe haven again if foreign forces leave the country,” Sherzai said, insisting that the security pact with the US was in the supreme national interest.

In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, he said: “Let me tell America Afghans want your presence here. I view the international community’s presence in the country as a source of peace, stability and development.”

An ex-governor expressed optimism the incumbent government headed by President Hamid Karzai would sign the vital pact. “Mr. President (Karzai), the entire nation feels the BSA is in Afghanistan’s interest; the consultative Loya Jirga favours the deal and intellectuals and politicians want it signed promptly.”

If the BSA was not signed and, terrorism would swarm back to Afghanistan -- a spectre forcing foreigners to return and eradicate their sanctuaries, he argued. He also delved into issues including women’s rights, freedom of expression, talks with Taliban, fighting corruption, governance, etc.

Underlining the need for lasting security, he identified peace as his foremost task. “If I am elected as president, I will form a jirga of impartial and dedicated people, including leading religious scholars and politicians, to explore measures for talks with Taliban.”

He promised good governance and delivery of better services to the war-weary masses, hoping development would play a significant role in reviving stability. “I will appoint people on merit from all ethnic communities. I will not compromise on merit. We have spent 12 years striking one compromise after another. We need to build a strong system.”

Sherzai suggested administrative corruption c

BSA to keep terrorists at bay: Sherzai

ould be banished by establishing a strong anti-graft unit and rule of law. While serving as governor of eastern Nangarhar, people insisted on him to contest presidential polls -- a sign of recognition of his services.

“I have jumped into the presidential race only to serve the Afghans and ensure peace and stability in the country. I believe the people of Afghanistan will support me in the elections,” he hoped.  

To a question that what characteristics should have the next president, he said the upcoming president should have the abilities to ensure good governance, man of principles, maintaining unity among various ethnicities, enhance relations with neighbours, regional countries, Islamic world and international community as well.

Rule of law is vital for good governance, he said, adding establishment of peace and stability would be his top priority if he won elections.

Referring to his peace plan, he has an inclusive plan for peace which would address concerns of all stakeholder and broader talks would be held with neighbouring and Islamic states to bring eternal peace to the country.

Coming down hard on incumbent government, he lamented the current regime did not play active role for peace and security in the war-battered country.

On his plan to hold negotiations with Taliban, he said President Karzai had been asking militants to lay down arms as it he was inviting them for talks, which would not yield any tangible results.

“If I am succeeded I will move forward the peace process with Taliban successfully. I will improve ties with my neighbouring states on the first preference. I have the ability to tackle internal problems with the help of my people,” he noted.

For revival of peace, it needs Jirga and some other rules, he said, adding he had a comprehensive program for durable peace in the country.

“I am a neutral person and I have no personal enmity with anyone. I took part in Jihad to discharge my religious duty and I am not involved to shed blood of others,” he added.

Taliban were a force but the government denied to accept the fact which hampered the peace process to be taken forward, he said, lamenting the fragile peace process received severe setback because the government was undecided whether or not to accept Taliban as a force.

He underlined the need to hold result-oriented talks with Taliban to put country on path to eternal peace, progress and development.

To yet another question what if Taliban ruled out to hold talks with his government, Sherzai said: “First of all the security of Afghans is of paramount importance to me. We will form a Jirga under the constitution of Afghanistan to seek negotiated settlement to Taliban saga. I am sure we will reach an agreement acceptable to all and sundry.

Afghanistan should have its Islamic constitution and every citizen should respect the country’s constitution, which would help strengthen peace and security in the short as well as long-run, he noted.

For talks with Taliban, he said the militants should own the peace process and foreigners were leaving the country then Taliban would no excuse to deny peace talks.

The country had now democratic system. War and mayhem did not resolve problems and neither the Taliban succeeded nor the government in fighting to one another. Wars had left behind nothing but devastation, he added.

He acknowledged obstacles in talks between government and Taliban, saying that the government of Afghanistan and Pakistan did not trust one another.

Trust deficit was needed to be bridged. If such a president elected who was acceptable to neighbours, Islamic countries and the world states then he was sure peace and prosperity would return to Afghanistan.

He said good ties were of immense importance with neighbours and wrong policies should be replaced.

He complained the neighbouring countries did not deal with Afghanistan with genuine approach which prompted the incumbent Afghan president to deal with them in the same manner.

“We want national unity. We want strengthening our Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National police (ANP) and our entire security forces but unfortunately we did not achieve our objectives. I assure you that national unity will bring peace and security to the country,” he remarked.

He wanted a person from Mazar-e-Sharif should be deputed in Jalalabad and again an official from Kandahar should discharge his duties in Herat which would strengthen national unity.

The government was committed to ensure strong defense line of the country, he said, adding that the US and EU had promised to equip the ANA including the air force with advance technology.

He said zero option for foreign troop presence in the country would be catastrophic for the future of Afghanistan, saying the country would turn into safe heavens of terrorists if BSA was not signed.

BSA would bring stability not only to 

Afghanistan but to the entire region which would help remove the menace of terrorism, he believed.

The territorial integrity and dignity of the people of Afghanistan should not be under estimated in any agreement, he said, adding US President Barack Obama had assured Karzai to restrain foreign troops from entering the civilian homes.

Foreign troops came to Afghanistan to protect the country and ensure lasting peace and leave behind a strong democratic government, he noted.

“My government will hunt talent for right positions and respect the rights of all ethnicities living in Afghanistan, he added.

He assured transparency would be kept supreme in every sector once he was elected as president and incompetent people would not be made part of his government.

He said to introduce strict measures for implementations of rules and regulations and put an end to the 12 years rule of compromises and compensations.

The war lords and influential would withdraw themselves once good governance was ensured after April 5 polls, he said, adding his government would take stern action against corrupt practices and officials.

Corrupt and incompetent officials would 

be forced out of government departments and strict accountability process would be unleashed, he promised.

Strict rule of law would help curb the saga of growing corruption in the country, he said, adding check and balance system would be introduced in all government institutions in a move to curb corruption.

He castigated the government for what he alleged its weak performance which forced people to join Taliban’s ranks for seeking speedy justice.

There was dire need to overhaul the judicial system as speedy dispensation of justice could go a long way to address grievances of masses, he added.

He underlined to chalk out strategy for tangible economic reforms to navigate the country on path to progress and prosperity.

Peace and stability were key to economic development, he said, adding measures would be introduced to woo foreign investment, which would multiply job opportunities locally.

Referring to the development of tou

rism in the country, he expressed hope Afghanistan could be converted into a hub like Dubai because of its attractive weather conditions.

He criticized the government improper policies terms of carrying out rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the war-torn country during in the last 12 years.

International community did not invest in energy sector in the country. Big dams did not constructed during the last decade despite several pledges, he complained.

“We need to form a clear policy for the demining process and work to remove obstacles that interrupted the demining process such as in Aynak mine. Our government will strive hard to provide employment opportunities to the masses and to help start none functional factories in the country,” he added.

Highlighting his policies with regard of education and health facilities, he said that the development of both sectors would bring immense progress and prosperity to the country.

He regretted almost one million youth of the country left illiterate which was not a good sign for the bright future of the country.

Administrative corruption was the primary problem hampering development activities in the country, he added.

He said the government was needed to alloc

BSA to keep terrorists at bay: Sherzai

ate fair share of foreign aid for the construction of the entire infrastructure in the country which would generate enough revenue.

Afghanistan had large scale resources of energy which could be utilized for speedy progress of the country and even exported to the regional countries as well, he noted.

Referring to freedom of expression, he viewed constructive criticism was essential for good governance, however, character assassination would never be allowed once he was elected as president of Afghanistan.

He vowed to defend women rights under the teachings of Islam and constitution of Afghanistan, saying that women were part of the society and their role was vital in country and nation building process.

He promised to strive hard for the repatriation of large number refugees living in Iran and Pakistan, adding that peace in the country would encourage them to come back and his government would provide them every possible facility.

On his government foreign policy, he said to build brotherly relations with neighbour countries and international community and would try his best to maintain cordial relations with the US.

Responding a question regarding trial of criminals, he said special court would be established where individuals could file their petitions against criminals.

Samiullah, the resident of southern Helmand province, asked Sherzai why he would vote in favour of Sherzai?

Sherzai responded said he had been serving the people of Afghanistan and his performance was as clear as the sun.

The people of Kandahar, Kabul, and eastern Nangarhar provinces were satisfied of his performance when he discharged duties in those troubled parts of the country, he said, asking Samiullah to better ask those people about his services.

Addressing Samiullah, Sherzai says: “I am known for carrying out record reconstruction and rehabilitation in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai awarded me with the Medal of Wazir Mohammad Akbar Khan and title of “Bulldozer” for my services to the country and Samiullah should cast his vote in my favour for those reasons.”