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PublishDate: Sunday, February 16, 2014 19:37

Taliban Rivals to Take Part in Afghan Election

While the Hizb-e-Islami faction fought alongside the Taliban against coalition forces, it had been a rival to the Taliban while it was in power.

A key Afghan group fighting alongside the Taliban against NATO forces has announced it will formally participate in the upcoming presidential election.

The Hizb-e-Islami faction of fugitive former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is the second largest insurgent group after the Taliban. It has until now stayed away from presidential elections, citing presence of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

While the Hizb-e-Islami faction fought alongside the Taliban against coalition forces, it had been a rival to the Taliban while it was in power.

A spokesman for the group, Ghairat Baheer, says the central leadership has instructed supporters across the country “to actively take part in the election campaign and vote for (presidential candidate) Qutbuddin Hilal.”

Hilal had fielded himself as an independent candidate for April ۵ presidential polls. He is known to have previously served as head of Hizb-e-Islami’s political commission.

Baheer says that the Central Executive Committee of the group has also asked its supporters to participate in provincial councils’ elections and “support those candidates who are either related to the party or have a positive view about it”.

Presidential and provincial elections in Afghanistan will be held on April ۵. The polls are being described as crucial for future stability in the country and it will be the first time in the troubled Afghan history that power will be transferred through a democratic process. There are 11 candidates in the race for the country’s top post to replace President Hamid Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from running for a third time.

There is no immediate reaction from the Taliban that has condemned the elections as a “US-staged drama and waste of time”. It has also warned Afghans against taking part in the polls. The insurgent group insists “free and fair” elections are not possible as long as Afghanistan “remains under the occupation of foreign invading forces”.

There have been reports of rifts within the Taliban ranks in recent weeks. Critics believe Hizb-e-Islami’s decision to take part in the polls is likely to cause more problems for the insurgency and it is expected to increase legitimacy of the Afghan presidential elections.

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