Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Transcript of the speech delivered by President Hamid Karzai in the Traditional Loya Jirga


بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

الحمدلله ربّ العالمین والصّلوة والسّلام علی خاتم النبیّین.

Distinguished members of the traditional Loya Jirga! Assalum o Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatu! You are most welcome!

It is such an honor and great pleasure to be with our elders, clerics,  dignitaries, brothers and sisters and with our distinguished members of the parliament. At the outset, let me thank our highly respected leader of Jihad, Hazrat Sahib (Professor Mujadeddi) and Jirga commission members for doing a great job of organizing the Jirga at such a short notice. I also thank Mr. Mudabir, the head of the Office of Administrative Affairs and his colleagues for their hard work in building this beautiful hall in less than eight months and at less cost. We are pleased to have the capacity today to do things ourselves.

Distinguished and honorable representatives of people!

We have gathered here at a time when some of our respected elders, clerics, sons, sisters and mothers are not among us. It is time again to remember our martyrs in particular the late Jihad Leader, the former president and chief of our peace efforts, Professor Rabbani, who devoted his life to peace, and who I saw did everything humanly possible for peace,  to the extent that he lost his life for this cause.

He is not among us today, his place remains empty. But we are happy though to have his son with us, Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, a talented, capable and educated young man that we hope would follow his father’s footsteps and fill the void with our help.

I pray to Allah, the Almighty to bless this soil with stability, peace and prosperity.

Distinguished elders, members of the Jirga! as you are all aware, Jirgas represent the historic and desirable traditions of Afghanistan, inherited from and passed through generations. It is also worth noting that many books have been written on the Jirgas. The one that I read in my youth and found interesting. is a book by Mohammad Alam Khan Faizad, who represented Takhar province in the Lower House of Parliament during King Zahir Shah’s reign. The book’s title is National Jirgas of Afghanistan. Those interested can read the book. I read it and I would like you to read it too.

Today’s Jirga, today’s assembly of people, today’s gathering of elders, of our sisters and brothers has two main purposes, both of which are vital and critical matters of national interest that can change our destiny: one is Afghanistan’s way forward to 2014, when Afghanistan will have retaken complete responsibility for its security and protection of its people and country, and when the duty to provide security would be carried out by its own youth and government institutions.

The work began seven months ago in a few provinces where responsibility for security was handed over to the government with its second phase to soon begin in the next coming days in a number of provinces,  districts, and areas. This all means that in three years, Afghanistan will have to determine its own way and its own approach to ensure security, stability, peace and prosperity. We are currently in talks with different countries. . With the US as one of the biggest countries, we are in talks on a strategic partnership agreement where we have our demands and America has its own.  We are having similar discussions with UK and France, EU and Australia. Fortunately, the proposal for such agreements was first made by them. As you may recall during my recent visit to India, a month or two ago, we signed a strategic cooperation agreement.

The second matter of national interest, ladies and gentlemen , is the peace process specially after the martyrdom of the honorable Professor (Rabbani) and the public disillusionment that followed his assassination and our need for peace, a national need and necessity of peace and a brotherly life in our country. We have things here to talk about.

In  both the national and international media and press there have been various speculations as to the objectives for calling this jirga. These are all erroneous speculations.  . This is jirga of the people of Afghanistan is solely to consult on issues related to the future of our relations with major countries, our strategic relations with these countries especially the US and on the peace process. There is no other issue for this jirga. I hope no other matters are raised here as these two only constitute the agenda for this jirga. We have gathered here to make an assessment and evaluate where we began, where we are and where we are heading. ! And on how we got here and what we passed through and where is our destination. We will make an assessment of our past ten years, look to our future,  consult and decide. .

Your  Excellency Professor Mujadeddi, Jihadi leaders, distinguished elders of the Jirga, Ladies and gentlemen!

Our journey of the past ten years was one full of gains. Afghanistan was a country that started from scratch,  from isolation, miseries and desperation to be a country today where millions of children going to school; thousands are going to universities, thousand of others are studying abroad. Our public health, hospitals, clinics are hundred times better today;  our wealth has increased, there is more money today. On my short helicopter ride from my office, I saw some of the city of Kabul from the air. It has improved tremendously.  Its face has changed, and so have many other towns and cities in the country. The same improvement applies to roads, water, and electricity.  Our foreign reserve has jumped from a scant of about $ 180 million in 2002 to almost six billion today in gold and cash – mostly Dollars and Euros. Afghanistan’s relations with countries have been restored, a country with no foreign embassy, only three during the Taliban, to a country today with diplomatic representations from more than sixty countries. Afghanistan has more resources today. Afghanistan’s flag is flying all over the world. Countries are everyday approaching us for diplomatic relations.. There is no conference, no event, and no discussion where Afghanistan is not represented or is present at its own capacity. Whether it is in the heart of the Indian Ocean, in Africa, US or Europe or Asia, Afghanistan is represented.

More importantly, for us Afghans, Afghanistan is the home of all Afghans again. Each and every afghan with any ideology and inclination has a place in their country. Our parliament best symbolizes this.  Mujahids sitnext to our sisters and brothers from Khalq and Parcham. They are sitting next to our jihadi leaders, clerics and religious figures and next to  technocrats with suits and  ties. Our sisters are sitting by their brothers. There is no one to deny the other the right to live here.

Individualism and self-preferences are over now. We are all one and we all own this land.  Thisis our biggest achievement. I was criticized for calling Taliban “brothers” and for inviting them back home. There are those who have returned and live in Kabul, Mazar, Kandahar and enjoy the protection of the government.

They appear on TV talk shows and condemn us, claiming freedom of expression. You might have heard of Mullah Zayeef Akhund, who renounces us on TVs. He sits calmly in Kabul, travels abroad and meets whoever foreigner he wishes. We tell him, “see! You are free,  and we have the strength and attraction.

Those of our political opposition to our Government are welcome. They  a enjoy every freedom, which is good and in our interest.

It was just to name a few of our many achievements. However, ladies and gentlemen, we have immense challenges and problems. We are still not out of the darkness, not yet safe against threats, not yet on a paved and concrete path, but on a course full of rocks and hurdles. We have yet not achieved our best desire which is security. We have achieved stability though. We have yet not achieved our desire of full security and individual safety for our citizens. The war on terror has not been won as per the desire of the people. The international community could not deliver on the purpose it came to take Afghanistan to its destination. In some areas its succeed and in some areas it did not. However, in our successes, they are part of it, for which we thank them. We thank everyone, from US to Europe to Japan to Asia to our neighbors and the Islamic World and to our brotherly and friendly Arab world for every penny and billions of dollars they have given us in aid.

Every one of them has assisted us in their capacity and has been crucial in these achievements. However, the desirable security that our people in their homes and our children on the streets would want is not yet achieved. The war on terrorism has not succeeded as it was supposed to.

Afghanistan has paid a high price and will continue to do so. Afghanistan believes that this war on terror can not be pursued in the homes and villages of Afghanistan, but rather in its sanctuaries and safe havens.

Corruption is widespread. Public harassment by the government still exists. People’s suffering and fear that their doors would be knocked at nights and that they would be intimidated and harassed, their  property seized and their sons kidnapped is generally gone, but  the people still do not feel safe.

Today, the Afghan State institutions and foreigners can still knock at people’s doors and have their children harassed and annoyed. These are our problems.

Now the question is how, in view of these problems and achievements, can we determine our future ourselves? What measures and steps can take Afghanistan to its destination?

There are two critical elements: internal or national and the external or foreign.

In regards to the  external element, Afghanistan, ladies and gentlemen, has never been this clear and transparent in its contacts and relations with its friends in the region,  its neighbors, and others

Iran and America are unfortunately opposed to each other. However, Afghanistan has maintained its relations with the US, which has a military presence. We have been very clear with America that Iran is our brother with whom we share the same religion and language. It is our neighbor. We will continue to maintain an independent relation with Iran in the interest of Afghanistan and of our sisters and brothers in Iran and we have and will maintain that at all costs. Both countries have been reasonable , and Iran has been more understanding of our needs. With Pakistan, we have the best of relations and maintained it independently. We have done our utmost to improve the relations so that any strains and misunderstandings between us can be addressed for the sake of peace, which is the only way forward for all of us. We built relations with China and Russia, and keep the best of relations with India. We strengthened relations with our brotherly neighbors Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

These were the measures that Afghanistan took . We established the best relationship with Turkey, the dearest old friend of Afghanistan; ensured the best relationship with His Majesty King Abdullah, the custodian of the two holy mosques, who is a friend of Afghanistan and provides our people with his fatherly and conciliatory advices, for which we are deeply grateful. Similarly, we built relations with the Islamic World including the Arab countries. In this regard, Afghanistan has acted independently. Likewise,  we established ties with the West and those countries that are affiliated with the West, who came to Afghanistan with the help of the U.S. and the western world. .

Internally, the national unity of Afghanistan is one of the most important elements of  stability and for achievement of our goals. However, for an instant, t we have to look back to see why we were ruined and destroyed?, why our people fled from their land?, why security did not return?, why tranquility was not restored?, why our country was trampled down by any outsider who wished to do so?  The Jihad of the Afghan nation, the Jihad of our people   was righteous.  The United States, the Muslim World, the West and our neighbors all came to help Mujahedeen. Iran and Pakistan in particular gave us refuge, sharing their food and water with us, which we will never forget.  We appreciate and are grateful for their goodness. We never forget someone with whom we have broken bread. Our history is testimony to the fact that we are a proud nation and we will stand by those who have stood with us..   The Jehad of Afghanistan and its achievements benefited the entire world, but not the Afghan people, on the contrary, became poor and desperate. The former Soviet Union was defeated in its rivalry with the United States of America, and left. Making the United States the only superpower in the world, riding its horse unhindered and unstopped. Our neighbors and our Muslim brothers in the Central Asia were liberated; the people of Germany, close friends of Afghanistan, were fortunately united and once again became unified as one nation.. It was all due to the  Afghan Jehad that  Pakistan became a nuclear power and progressed, the United States and its Intelligence Agency came in and armed Pakistan with weapons, supplied Pakistan with all facilities and equipments, providing this country with power, industries and capacity.

Everywhere was built whilst Afghanistan was stepped upon. The day that we entered Kabul as Mujahedeen, the United States, the West and other countries closed down their embassies and left, since their interests were no longer served. However, those, who had interests, negative interest remained and destroyed us. Similarly, we ourselves not farsighted; our homeland was devastated, our people were martyred, we became homeless and miserable. This all worsened by the arrival of the Taliban, our isolation deepened, our educational institutions were closed, and our history came under attack..

After 9/11 -2001, the West returned to Afghanistan since their interest was threatened.  This time they admit to having made a mistake in abandoning Afghanistan, and won’t  repeat it . We will see whether they will repeat it or not.  United States of America says that it once made a mistake, but won’t repeat it, and says we are here to help you.  They have indeed helped us,  for which we thank them.  The U.S. also says that it will not leave us again as this would be catastrophic again.

Well, if we are convinced that they won’t abandon us again, then what will be the arrangement between them and us, this is the major point:

Will  the arrangement between you and us, namely between the West and Afghanistan, the US and  Afghanistan and its allies, guide Afghanistan towards more stability, more reconstruction, prosperity and full national sovereignty or to a life of survival? We are not content with a life of survival. As other nations of the world, we too have the right to live in honor, dignity, prosperity with sovereignty.

This was a brief description of reasons for our destruction.

Now, I come to what lies ahead of us. I talked about our successes and achievements and the challenges that remain. By the end of 2014, the transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces will have been completed, and the foreign troops will be leaving, which is good and in the interest of Afghanistan.  They will be leaving.  The US, Germany, UK, France and the UAE will be leaving this country, 48 or 45 countries present today, will all be leaving Afghanistan.  In three years time, it will be us and our land.  This is the destiny we face. The question is,  once they have left , will Afghanistan have  the stability, and  the assistance it needs or will their departure mean forgetting us again, leaving us at the mercy of a new form  of interferences and to be trampled again.  This is very important point for us to think on what we will do after 2014. Can we, ourselves, protect this land? We certainly can. Can we, ourselves defend this country? Undoubtedly we can!  How can we do this?  It is only through national unity.  It is our duty to provide for a better life and security for future generations, and the question is with what means can we achieve this?  With our own means? Surely, with our own means.  Will we need more assistance? Absolutely!  The  question is under what conditions?

While we remain grateful to our neighbors, we should also note that it was their negative interferences that caused them and us devastation..

So what should we do to stop these interferences and get back on our feet and build things ourselves? In my view, the national interests, future stability and prosperity for our children and security for this land all lies in just what I have outlined for you, in order that we can have a safe post-2014 future.

Afghanistan must do everything possible to build its own capacity.  We must educate thousands of youth, which we have already begun. We must  educate our own engineers, doctors, teachers, diplomats, soldiers, police, nurses, computer operators, gardeners and in any other field that human capacity is required. Higher education remains a key need.

A strong foundation can be laid in Afghanistan only when we have the capacity to educate and train our manpower in own country, in a way that guarantees a safer future.

Furthermore, our relations with the world need to be harnessed in away that guarantee an overall stability, not an individual or internal one, but rather stability for the wider region and the world. We, therefore, bearing this need in mind, are pleased to enter into strategic pacts with the UK, France, EU and the NATO.

However, our arrangement with America is different.  It is a bit more powerful than others. The difference is that the US will remain and will enter into a strategic arrangement.   In this arrangement, Afghanistan would benefit hugely. Though they are powerful, we will try to strike a balance. They will remain here with strength, which we should fully understand.  They will use our military installations. Ladies and Gentlemen,

They (United States) won’t remain without reason. They too have their interests, and nobody will stay here for our sake alone. Now that they are seeking to maintain relations with us, it is not for our sake. They have their own interests, which is reasonable. Every single human being and every society seeks its own interests. They have their own interests and we have ours.  We are trying to look for our own interests in their interests. Wherever our interests do not meet theirs, we stop and tell them “it is enough; there are limits we cannot pass.”

The Americans wants from us military facilities to stay in. It is a highly important issue. It has impact on us and on the region. However, we can utilize these facilities used by the United States to the best interests of Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s interests are important, and I will come to this point on what we should do..

We consider these facilities in the interest of Afghanistan. But we have our conditions. Our conditions are that the US and NATO should stop searching Afghan homes. We cannot accept this.  We can not tolerate night raids of our homes, definitely not; and we do not want foreign parallel structures to run alongside the Afghan government institutions. Afghanistan knows how to handle its own governance and affairs.

We do not want any activity that has created parallel structures to the Afghan government. We want our national sovereignty recognized by all means and from today! I repeat, we want our national sovereignty recognized by all mean and from today.

Our relationship with the United States should be the relationship between two sovereign states, definitely as two independent and sovereign countries.

Well, the United States is richer, more powerful, more populated than we are, it is larger than our country, but we are lions!

Even if old, sick and feeble, a lion is still a lion!  Other animals in the jungle are afraid of even a sick lion and stay away from him. We are lions, the United States should treat us as lions, and we want nothing less than that. We therefore are prepared to enter into a strategic agreement between a lion and America.

A lion hates a stranger entering his home; a lion dislikes a stranger trespassing its space, a lion does not want his off-springs taken away at night. The lion (Afghanistan) does not allow parallel structures to operate, the lion is the king of his territory and he governs his own territory, The lion has nothing to do with others in the jungle.

On our territory,  Afghanistan’s status as lion should be recognized. Only then we are prepared to sign the strategic agreement with America. We will provide them military installation.  However, Afghanistan’s vision and interests have to be clearly recognized. What are they?

I explained the internal concerns: non-interference in our home and internal affairs; our traditions, religion, customs, marriages, joys and sorrows and the like are our own affairs, and it does not concern them. They may take care of their own affairs wherever they are. Similarly, Afghanistan will pursue it national interests.

The other important concern is our external relations. Afghanistan understands that it needs to have good relations with its neighbors. As we sign agreements with the US and the West and befriend them, we will also maintain a friendship with China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, our two neighbors , close and hearted friends, with whom  we will maintain friendship at any costs. We reassure them that we will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against them or anybody else.

These are the conditions of Afghanistan.  Afghanistan is ready to sign strategic agreement with the United States, which is to our benefit.  They   bring us money; train our soldiers and police, and provide security for the home of the lion.  The lion does not have leisure time to do all these things. They should protect his surroundings but should not touch the lion’s home.  They should protect the four boundaries of the jungle.  They should train our police, America’s assistances will be beneficial to Afghanistan, as will be of the West and other countries.

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, with clear mind and with clear demands in the national interests of Afghanistan which I briefly described, we are ready to enter into strategic arrangement with the United States, and with other countries and  consider these to the benefit of Afghanistan.

With all displeasures that we carry in our hearts today, we should not allow them to jeopardize our future interests. Our children of today should have better lives than ours, our lives were miserable, weren’t they?  Our children should live better. They should have a  more comfortable life.  Our children through their education and their own hands should serve their homeland in their own environment, homes, and schools.   For the  future that we envisage,  we need to have relations  with the world, and this relationship is our right.  .

We have the best relations with Iran and our other neighbors in its way, and with the West and the US in their way.  Till now, with the grace of Almighty Allah,  we have maintained these relationships as such.

Dear brothers and sisters!

My vision on the strategic agreements with the world is just what I have shared with you. Our conditions include respect of our national sovereignty, stop searching houses, and stop detaining Afghans – in Afghanistan; they have no right to detain Afghans. Who are they to do so?.  They have no right to operate prisons. This is our land. It is up to the ministries of Justice and Interior to manage the prisons.

They want military facilities, we will give them.  It is in our benefit. It brings money and service. Our soldiers are trained. So, with this clarity we are prepared.

Now we come to the peace process. , Our honorable professor (Late President Rabbani) was martyred for peace and on the path to peace. The person who came in the name of peace was a suicide bomber. The late Professor Rabbani met with a suicide bomber in the hope for peace.  This merciless person claiming to have come with a message of peace, met with an elderly religious scholar and a mujahid, blew himself up, martyring the Professor. We suffered a great loss.  By this act of terrorism we lost a deeply respected personality and suffered a major blow to our trust and our quest for peace.  However, our nation’s desire for peace and the need for peace remain and are not lost. .

Afghans  want peace. Undoubtedly, they want it throughout the country.  The question is how to achieve this peace?  In what manner do we proceed?  With whom do we make peace?  Should we talk to the Taliban or to our brotherly neighbor, Pakistan or to whom? This is the issue that you as the representatives of the Afghan people can advise on. .  Indeed, it is in your authority to guide the Afghan government and leaders on how to proceed with the peace process. We need once again to review this process and decide how to move forward. Whatever be your advice and recommendation, we will take actions accordingly.

With God’s will, over  the four or five days that you meet and consult, Afghanistan’s mission for peace and its efforts for peace will continue. We will be in talking with our neighbors and the international community. We will continue these efforts.  Turkey has helped us a lot in this process; we have to appreciate their help. Also, His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two holy mosques, has helped us greatly for which we are grateful..  We will continue to need their contribution and support to the Peace Process.  Of the foreign support that we have received in this regard, the best has come through these two countries.  With respect to  efforts by the U.S and others for peace to return to Afghanistan, we hope that they help us with more transparency and clarity so that the people of Afghanistan can see what efforts these are. However, central to these efforts is our own national endeavors. Moreover, the support and cooperation of our neighbors and friends is essential.

Distinguished elders, scholars, influential figures, youth, brothers and sisters!

I think that I have addressed  the fundamental issues and those that are of our national interests.  I have tried to be explicit and frank with you. Now it falls upon you to express your views and provide advice in the light of our national interest so that, as per your recommendations, we will take such necessary measures with the world that would yield the desired results.   Hopefully, the National Assembly will endorse this.  Once passed through the legal procedures, it is, of course, the constitutional authority and the right of National Assembly to either approve or reject. This is their duty. You and I, and the Afghan people, have gathered here just for the purpose of consultation.  We are here to obtain your advice, and in light of it to determine our strategy for our talks with the world, consistent with our national interest.

Once again, I reaffirm, if our sovereignty and the independence of our country are recognized and respected, we are prepared to forge strategic partnerships with the U.S and others.  These are the two conditions that if met we are ready for such partnerships to the benefit of Afghanistan future stability, well-being, and prosperity.

You are most welcome, may Almighty Allah reward you for your good intentions to gather here. If anything is left unsaid in my speech, excuse me for that, since there are many things to say in one’s heart.  Inshallah  when your sessions end and we will meet again. We will share some other issues with you including the future status of our national army, Afghanistan’s future governance,  and its status.   To have a strong national army, an army equipped with planes, an air force, these are all these issues that we are working on within the Government. Inshallah, we will discuss and consult on these issues with you.  After the completion of your sessions, we will meet again and take your advice.  You are welcome again. I wish you success.

With Allah’s grace, your consultation would be that of the Afghan nation. You can represent the people better than we can.  We welcome your recommendations on what needs to be done.

Thank you very much