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Afghan Presidential Candidate: The U.S. Occupation Must End

The past 8 years have done more harm than good to women's rights in Afghanistan -- the U.S. is waging a war, not winning a peace.

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Interview with Ramazan Bashardost

Introduction: Despite his unpopularity, Afghanistan’s incumbent President Hamid Karzai faces few challenges to re-election on August 20th. But one of his most vocal critics and rivals commands the respect of a large number of Afghans looking for a change in the summer Presidential elections.

Dr. Ramazan Bashardost is a former member of Karzai’s own cabinet and currently a popular Member of Parliament. Armed with a plethora of degrees in political science from Pakistan and France, Bashardost resigned in disgust as Planning Minister in protest of the vast amounts of corruption he witnessed at the highest levels of government.

In 2006, he won a seat in Parliament as a representative of Kabul with one of the highest number of votes of any candidate in the country. Today, he operates his presidential campaign from a large yellow tent near the Parliament – it is a symbol of protest called the Tent of Nations – his testament to the inaccessibility of government. Bashardost is eager to speak with anyone who will listen about his disdain for the warlords, fundamentalists, and US puppets that have overrun the nation. Unlike the other candidates, the eccentric candidate shuns security guards, fancy cars, and runs his campaign on small donations from his supporters. But many Afghans take him seriously because he is proudly independent of all parties and tribes, and echoes an agenda supported by the country’s silenced majority.

His 52-point program spells out ideas for change in Afghanistan, from embracing ethnic and national unity and women’s equality, to economic and political independence from the West, and a war crimes tribunal for Mujahadeen and Taliban leaders. Bashardost is also openly opposed to the US war.

Sonali Kolhatkar, host of Uprising Radio, recently interviewed Ramazan Bashardost about his candidacy and the US war.

Kolhatkar: What sets you apart from the other candidates running?

Bashardost: First, I am the only candidate of all 41 candidates to have a higher education: I have a PhD in political science from France. Second, I am the only candidate who (when I was the Minister of Planning in 2004) fought corruption. Third, I am the only candidate to believe in new values in the Afghan political system: I chose my colleagues as my deputy ministers from among those Afghan people with high education and good experiences with the consideration of ethnic, religious, political party. I give equal opportunities to women and men in Afghanistan: one deputy minister is a man and the other is a woman. And fourth, Afghan people from all ethnic groups trust me and believe in what I say because I am a man of action.

Kolhatkar: What do you think of the job that President Karzai has done over the past seven years?

Bashardost: I visited about 12 provinces in Afghanistan and I started my campaign in the Pashtun provinces. The large majority of ordinary Afghan people hate Mr Karzai because they say he is not a man of state because he has a tribal vision. He works for his own family. And they say Mr Karzai gave a new chance to war criminals, to murderers, and to serial killers when he chose Mr. Fahim as his Vice President [NOTE: Fahim is a known warlord and one-time leader of the Northern Alliance]. So the corruption, the insecurity, and the poverty in Afghanistan, are the three disasters that Afghan people say Mr. Karzai is responsible for.

Kolhatkar: You mentioned General Fahim - who are some of the other men in government that are responsible for corruption and some of the other problems?

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