Former Afghan president asks Taliban to seek internal legitimacy first; snubs Pakistan

The Taliban government needs to seek internal legitimacy first for it to gain international recognition, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said, advising the guerilla group, which seized power militarily two months back, to respect the "will of the people" and to "hold Loya Jirga", a traditional grand assembly of village elders

Oct 18, 2021
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Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai

The Taliban government needs to seek internal legitimacy first for it to gain international recognition, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said, advising the guerilla group, which seized power militarily two months back, to respect the "will of the people" and to "hold Loya Jirga", a traditional grand assembly of village elders. He also advised Pakistan not to try to represent Afghanistan.  

The remark came in an interview with Voice of America, where Karzai said the Taliban government needed to first derive legitimacy from “the will of Afghan people”, which could only be achieved either in the form of elections or holding the Loya Jirga. 

Significantly, after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, it was the same Loya Jirga process through which Karzai became the President of the country. Three years later, in 2004, he won the first presidential election. 

The Taliban returned to power after a gap of almost two decades on 15 August once the US-backed government collapsed amid the Taliban’s countrywide lightning offensive. Karzai, however, chose to stay in Kabul. 

Afghanistan, Karzai said, is at a “critical juncture in its history” and Afghans have a responsibility to “unite” and create a government premised on “the expression of the will of the Afghan people.”

“Legitimacy within our own country for this government [Taliban] or for any other government is the foundation of recognition by countries and the international community,” Karzai told VOA.

“How to bring about legitimacy within the country is of course premised on either an election or, in the case of Afghanistan, especially under the current circumstances, the expression of the will of the Afghan people through the Loya Jirga and the introduction of a constitution and so on,” he added.

Pakistan, which had covertly backed the insurgent Taliban in the past, appears to have taken a central role in the Afghan crisis, with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi asking the world not only to recognize the government but also to “strengthen” them. 

In what appears a stern rebuke to Islamabad, Karzai advised Pakistan not to “represent” Afghanistan. 

“My message to Pakistan, our brotherly country, is that they should not try to represent Afghanistan. On the contrary, the country should try to establish a civil relationship with our country,” Karzai told VOA. The former Afghan president has always been critical of the role Pakistan played in his country. 

Speaking on the challenge posed by the ISKP, he said the group posed the threat not only to Afghanistan but also to the wider region. Regional countries, he hoped, will help Afghanistan in its fight against the ISKP. 

On the issue of women’s rights, he said, “The rights of Afghan women to work and to be present in all walks of life in our country is primarily the demand of the Afghan people,” he said. “So, even if the international community doesn’t ask for it, it is our demand, the Afghan demand, and our need.”

(SAM)