President Hamid Karzai on Saturday called on the nation, especially women, to actively participate in the landmark elections due on April 5 to prove the value of their vote.
Addressing a gathering marking International Women’s Day in Kabul, the president said: “You hear on the world’s media about the upcoming elections that it is uncertain what’s going to happen --- good or bad elections. But I say there will be good elections and all people will exercise their right to vote.”
Fresh from his three-day visit to Sari Lanka, the outgoing president urged all Afghans to participate in the elections with enthusiasm and elect their future leader.
“Women voted for me in the 2009 elections and it was vital because foreigners at the time wanted to defeat me,” he said.
Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his book ‘Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War’ has said US officials interfered in the 2009 Afghan presidential elections.
Karzai told the gathering he believed the future government would be able to serve the nation in a better manner because the country’s situation had improved as compared to the past.
“Overall, the political, economic and social situation of Afghan women has improved over the past 13 years, however some problems remain, but such problems are there in other countries as well,” he said.
He recalled his government’s achievements made over the past decade, saying paving the ground for female education, their participation in politics and economic development and access to health services were worth mentioning.
Karzai also thanked the international community for its support in realizing the mentioned achievements, which he called insufficient, wishing further improvement in the lives of Afghans.
The president acknowledged Afghan women continued to be subjected to violence and asked men to stop intimidating their women. “Falling in a dispute with women does not show a man’s power, it shows his weakness,” he said.
He also appealed to religious scholars and tribal elders to encourage people into respecting women, saying parents should allow their daughters to attend school and university because education was the only way to develop the country.
About his newborn baby girl, Karzai said she would vote in elections on reaching the age 18 years.
Women’s Affairs Minister Husn Banu Ghazanfar on the occasion said women had great achievements during the past 12 years. She said 22 percent government servants were women.
She said currently 40 percent students in schools were girls and nearly 700 organizations were managed by women.
She cited the Elimination of Violence against Women Law, woman support centers, regulations on economic support for women, elimination of violence against juvenile female and woman prisoners law as big achievements made by her ministry.
A message from Karzai’s wife, Zinat Karzai, was also read out at the gathering marking the International Women’s Day.
In her message, Zinat Karzai urged religious scholars to create awareness among the masses about women’s rights.
She said marking the International Women’s Day was aimed at giving the gender respect.