Taliban leader dismisses Afghan elections as a ‘waste of time’

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Taliban leader Mullah Omar dismissed upcoming Afghan elections as a “waste of time” on Tuesday, highlighting the need for international effort to ensure a credible poll.

The participation of the Pashtun ethnic group -- from whom the Taliban get most of their support -- is seen as essential to the success of the presidential election which is scheduled for April 5, 2014.

The United States and other foreign donors say the poll is crucial for the country's future and is an important step in the country’s development after NATO-led combat troops withdraw next year.

In previous elections, the Taliban called on Afghans to boycott voting and sent fighters to block roads to polling stations and targeted candidates and activists.

The elections due in 2014 are the target of negative commentary by Mullah Omar.

"As to the deceiving drama under the name of elections 2014, our pious people will not tire themselves out, nor will they participate in it," Omar said.

"Selection, de facto, takes place in Washington... participation in such elections is only a waste of time, nothing more."

Pashtuns often complain they are unable to vote due to poor security and Taliban threats, pointing to Pashtun-majority

However, Omar offered glimmers of hope for peace after 12 years of fighting, saying that the Taliban -- who sheltered Al-Qaeda during their harsh rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001 -- did not seek a return to absolute power.

"(The Taliban) does not think of monopolising power," he said. "Rather we believe in reaching understanding with the Afghans regarding an Afghan-inclusive government based on Islamic principles."

During their rule, the Taliban was infamous for implementing strict rules and regulations. They banned girls from going to school, outlawed television, music and the cinema, and forced women wear the all-covering burka.

Nearly 70,000 U.S. troops and 30,000 soldiers from other countries are still deployed in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban and training up the national army and police to take on the insurgents.

All foreign combat troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, with many Afghans fearing they face a new era of turmoil after decades of war since the Soviet occupation in 1979.

The U.S. is considering leaving a residual military force in the country to aid stability, target Al-Qaeda fighters and further strengthen the security forces.

U.S. special envoy James Dobbins said in Kabul on Thursday that the elections to succeed Karzai were "the most important event that is going to shape Afghanistan's future.

"If the election goes well and produces a result that is widely accepted in the country, most other of Afghanistan's challenges are going to be satisfactorily met."

(With AFP)

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