, KABUL, Jun 27 – President Hamid Karzai called on Afghanistan’s insurgent Taliban on Saturday to vote in landmark August elections and to not attack the polls.
At a press conference, Karzai said all eligible Afghans should register for voting cards and cast their ballots in the August 20 presidential and provincial council elections.
"It is also my wish that our Taliban brothers and all other Afghans who are not in Afghanistan for various reasons and are standing in opposition… I request them again and again to renounce violence not only on the election day but forever," he said.
"It is also my request that they should come to their land, take cards, register and take part in the elections," he said.
Karzai was likely referring to insurgents based in Pakistan where many Taliban — including the group’s fugitive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar — are said to have fled after the 2001 US-led invasion that drove the extremists from power.
Karzai is standing for a second term in the elections, the second-ever presidential ballot in a country that has a history of oppressive governments and has been ruined by decades of war.
With a Taliban-led insurgency peaking this year, there are concerns that the militants will attack the polls or intimidate Afghans into not voting especially in the most intense battlefields in the south.
The United States and Afghanistan’s other international allies have pledged thousands of extra soldiers to protect the polling day and are also bankrolling the vote, which is expected to cost around 220 million dollars.
Afghan and international security forces have for weeks been carrying out sweeping operations to clear insurgent hotspots ahead of the poll.
Karzai urged the militants to "stop sacrificing the Afghan people and to join hands with their nation and provide the ground for the elections in this country."
"We can lead this country towards further stability through elections. We can try for peace through elections, and though elections we can bring development to this country," he said.