Karzai will be on trial during Afghan presidential polls: Expert

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Washington, Aug.6 (ANI): This year's presidential campaign in Afghanistan has put Hamid Karzai's style of politics on trial, claims Elizabeth Rubin, the Edward R. Murrow fellow at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

In an article for the New York Times, Rubin says there are 41 candidates running in Afghanistan's second-ever presidential elections, which take place on August 20, and Karzai's main competitors are two of his former ministers - Ashraf Ghani, who was finance minister from 2002 to 2004 and an adviser to the World Bank for 10 years; and Abdullah Abdullah, an ophthalmologist who was foreign minister and a close adviser to mujahedin commander Ahmed Shah Massoud before his assassination in 2001.

Both rivals, according to Rubin, have labeled Karzai as the head of a mafia family and a man encouraging drug lords to win this year's elections at all costs.

She quotes Abdullah as saying: "Seriously, you lose your legitimacy if the perception is that your (Karzai's) brother is doing it (drugs) and benefiting from millions of dollars."

Ghani, on his Web site, has branded the Karzais a mafia family, "Karzai Incorporated."

"The largest threat to Afghanistan now is this government. Just take one figure: last fiscal year from March 2007 to 2008, the Ministry of Finance collected 40 billion Afghanis, which is equivalent to around 800 million dollars. The same ministry declares that the real revenue should have been 120 billion Afghanis. They are acknowledging that, due to corruption, 80 billion is being lost," Rubin quotes Ghani, as saying.

"We go beg the entire world: 'Please give us budget support; we need to pay our poor teachers and civil servants.' If the revenue was collected we wouldn't have needed a cent from the international community for the budget," he adds.

President Hamid Karzai met with the Afghan Labor Union at the presidential palace in Kabul.

Most leaders in Afghanistan, according to Rubin, are of the view that the 2009 presidential elections will have the stamp of fraud and drugs written all over it.

Karzai, however, applauds himself for his big-tent, forgive-and-forget approach. But his opponents are thrashing him for it.

"If the goal is to consolidate a group of drug dealers as the government of Afghanistan so that you have relative peace, then what is the vision?" asks Ashraf Ghani. (ANI)

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