Afghan Presidential Candidate: The U.S. Occupation Must End
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Kolhatkar: So what advice would you give the US and NATO? As an Afghan, what would you tell them to do? Should they just all leave Afghanistan?
Bashardost: Our problem is not a problem of American troops in Afghanistan. Our problem is that the analysis of the American state about the Afghan situation is wrong. Our problem is that America's high authorities such as the President or Minister of Foreign Affairs [Secretary of State], receive wrong information about Afghanistan. I don't want the American people's tax money to be used by a narco-state in Afghanistan. So it is time to change the information about Afghanistan. It is time to change the analysis about Afghanistan. It is time to change the system of decisions in Afghanistan. We cannot build a new system with old women or old men. We cannot build a system of democracy with war criminals. It is time to change this kind of analysis, this kind of information, this kind of decision.
Kolhatkar: Going back to the election, you have said that you appeal to all the different ethnicities in Afghanistan. But you are from a minority group called the Hazara group. And traditionally in Afghanistan, the president has always been Pashtun. Do you think that enough Afghans could look beyond these sorts of ethnic divisions to support someone like you?
Bashardost: First of all, a year ago if we said to American people that you will have a black president it would not have been seen as credible - it was like a joke for the American people and for the world. I am absolutely sure that each society changes. When I was a candidate in the parliamentary elections four years ago in Kabul, people told me 'Mr. Bashardost you could never win in Kabul. Your fellow ethnic Hazaras would vote for Mr. Mohaqiq [a major Hazara warlord] so you cannot be an MP representing Kabul - It is not possible for you.' So I was in a tough position [Mr. Bashardost went on to win his seat in Parliament with the third highest vote count of all the candidates.]
I am the only politician that Afghans from all ethnic groups, all religions, and all polticial parties support. And today I am the only candidate who received popular financing from each ethnic group. So the Pashtun ethnic group supports me in this campaign more than the Hazara or other ethnicities in Afghanistan [Pashtuns comprise the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan]. My only chance is that I am seen not as Hazara or Pashtun or Uzbek or Tajik - I am an Afghan. Even the Afghan Hindus support me as their best candidate for this election.
Kolhatkar: How legitimate do you think this election will be given that most of the resources for candidates are going to Mr. Karzai and people like him? Some of the other major candidates running have a lot more money, power, and security and are able to travel around the country. Do you think it's going to be a fair election?
Bashardost: First of all, the fact that Mr. Karzai and other candidates use a lot of money ends up with negative results. For example, Mr. Karzai, Mr. Abdullah, and Mr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai [the top three candidates in the running for President], have very big posters and photographs. The Afghan people say: 'this election is not an exam of fashion. It is time that the candidates arrive among the people and explain what he or she wants. Instead they just send us their big posters.'