Abdullah Ghani race to realise Kabul dream

New Delhi: One is the paragon of refinement and intellectual élan, while the other a suave, smooth-talking politician, and former mujahedeen. On Saturday, the people of Afghanistan chose their destiny, electing one of the two Presidential finalists.  

Taliban militants, who had threatened to disrupt the vote, launched low-level attacks in which at least 46 people were killed across the country. More than seven million people turned out to vote, election officials said.

The first democratic power-transfer will see a new President after 13 years of Hamid Karzai’s rule.

Afghanistan’s run-off elections is between a former finance minister and ophthalmologist Abdullah Abdullah and World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani.

The first democratic power-transfer will see a new President after 13 years of Hamid Karzai’s rule.

Abdullah secured 45% of the first-round vote, with Ghani on 31.6% after investigations into multiple fraud claims for both sides.

It is a crucial poll which hopes to usher in the dawn of peace, leaving behind the time of fighting Islamic insurgents and suppression of normalcy.

The day is also important to the US and other Western countries, where military planners are hoping to determine their actions after the UN mandate for NATO- led forces expires at the end of 2014.  

Both candidates have said they will sign the bilateral security agreement and allow the continued presence of American troops. Karzai, has refused to sign it before he leaves office, leaving the matter to his successor.

Let’s take a look at the two frontrunners in the race to becoming President.

Abdullah Abdullah– the former Foreign Minister to Karzai’s transitional administration, he joined the National Liberation Movement against the Soviet Army in 1985, later becoming a close associate and advisor to Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

He called his time with the mujahedeen, as the most difficult period of his life, enduring near-daily bombardments in the Panjshir valley.

Following the capture of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996 he joined the United Islamic Front (Northern Alliance) as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Abdullah took on Karzai in 2009’s election but dropped out after the first round in protest to what he saw as large-scale voter fraud. His campaign this time around has been wracked with violence but he stands unmoved, determined to fight the race to the finish.

Part Tajik and part Pashtun, Abdullah is considered a relative outsider in Afghanistan. He is generally associated with his Tajik side, giving him a possible advantage to reach the non-Pashtun voters.

Ashraf Ghani– A former US citizen, he was working at the World Bank in Washington D C during the September 11 attacks. He came back to his home country, months after the event, giving up his passport to run for the Afghan presidency in 2009.

Ghani is a former academic who has taught at Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University in the US. And is perceived as a Pashtun academic with no Jihadist history; he usually says, “my right hand is clean from blood and left from corruption.”

Ghani is seen as the favourite by a large majority of the Pashtuns. However, his many years in the US –-especially while his countrymen were suffering, first under the yoke of Soviet imperialism and later the attacks of the Taliban –may hinder him as he is seen as an outsider with strong ties to the US.


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