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Liechtenstein Institue on Self-Determination: Afghanistan: Her Elections and Future
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad


Princeton University
10/21/2004

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank Dr. Wolfgang Danspeckgruber and the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination for organizing this event, and for their continued support for Afghanistan.

I am honored to be back among friends here at Princeton University, and join a panel of distinguished gentlemen at tonight’s discussion, my friend, Ambassador Robert Finn, Ambassador Michael Schmunk and Ambassador Mufid Ozdes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Afghanistan’s first presidential election was an historic achievement with phenomenal scenes that Afghans will cherish for years to come. Let me share some snapshots of these great moments of our modern history.

An 80-year old woman, blind and frail, arriving at a polling station in Kabul with her grandson said, “I did not sleep a wink last night. Several times I woke up my grandson, worrying about the break of daylight and missing the chance to vote.”

A bride, in her wedding gown, got out of a vehicle and stood in a long line of women waiting to cast their vote.

In many villages, people showed up at polling stations, in their finest clothes, as if they were participating in a religious or a national festival.

In Kunar, a rocket landed two hundred yards away from a long line of women waiting to vote. No one ran way. They insisted they would remain in line. One woman said, “If we run away from the terrorists, the rockets will continue to come. We want to stay here and vote because this is the only way to stop these terrorists’ attacks forever.”

A 50-year old Afghan told a worker at a polling station in Kandahar: “Twenty five years of misery have broken my back. Today I feel like I am reborn.”

This was Afghanistan on Election Day, barely three years after defeating the Taliban. Afghans proved that 30 years of misery have strengthened their determination to build a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.

The election was free of violence, fair and credible. The threat of a large scale terrorist attack, the fear of intimidation by warlords, and the speculation of “deal-making” by the President never materialized.

While Afghans and 26,000 international forces were ready to counter major attacks by terrorists, the biggest challenge came down to a technical mix-up of using the wrong markers in a few polling stations, which is being fully investigated on by an independent commission.

The 15,000 troops of the Afghan National Army, the 20,000 Afghan police force, trained by the United States and Germany, and the 26,000 coalition and ISAF forces deserve special recognition for providing a secure environment for the election. In the weeks leading to Election Day, they seized 60 bombs and explosive devices and arrested 12 terrorists.

But the real credit goes to the Afghan people who cast their votes despite the threats. This process would not have been successful without their participation and vigilance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When 8.4 million Muslims, Afghan men and women, proudly and patiently lined up to vote, they not only demonstrated their courage, competence, and commitment to democracy, but also their determination to stand on their own feet as soon as possible.

The election proved that the partnership of the international community with Afghanistan yielded significant results for democracy and global security.

This is a shared achievement by Afghans, the United States and over 45 countries contributing troops, funds and resources to help stabilize and rebuild our country. We are grateful to every one of them.

Afghans and our partners in the international community have much to be proud of on that day for taking Afghanistan a long way forward in three short years.

The successful partnership with the international community enabled us to introduce a new currency, adopt a very progressive constitution, draft new investment and banking laws, attract foreign banks and foreign direct investment, revive the private sector, provide education for more then 5.6 million boys and girls, remove political censorship from the media, and connect the country by building roads and telecommunication systems.

Commerce and trade through Afghanistan have increased, enhancing movement of goods along the historic Silk Road in Asia. Over the past three years, most Afghans have experienced a significant improvement in their living conditions. 86% of Afghans think that they are better off today. Last year, we reached an economic growth rate of 29%, and continuing at 20% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

With about 62.2 % of the vote counted so far, preliminary results show that nationally, 41% of voters were women. In just three years since the fall of the Taliban, the women of Afghanistan, from being the most oppressed women in the world, are emerging as a very important force for security, peace and democracy in Afghanistan.

Success in Afghanistan is helping the world become a safer place. Afghanistan’s transition and successful advance on the path to democracy and state-building will impact the expectations and the aspirations of the people all over the world. Every vote cast in Afghanistan was a vote against terror and in favor of democracy and global security.

Originally, success in Afghanistan was measured in the context of preventing negative results from a failed state. Today, with the achievement of the landmark national elections, Afghanistan is emerging as an exemplary model of success of international partnership.

As of today, 62.2% of the votes have been counted with President Karzai leading by 56.2%. He will most likely be the winner. But in this election, there are no losers except for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The Afghan people have won this election.

The new elected government will enjoy more robust support of the people, but it also will be burdened with meeting their expectations. The new government must deliver. Afghans are very optimistic and have high expectations for the future. They voted to elect a president who is committed to improve security, enhance the rule of law, fight narcotics and corruption, and dissolve private militias. They want schools and education. A widow said, “Our children are deaf from the sound of rocket explosions, I am voting for a President who will build schools for us and give us peace. I cannot read, but I do not want my children to be illiterate.”

Afghans are asking for good governance, transparency, and accountability. In the words of Saleha, a woman at Haidar Khan High School in Kabul, “Our expectation from the future president is to give us peace and security, collect all the weapons from militias, and gives women the rights and respect they deserve.”

The new president must live up to the fair expectations of the people. In six months, Afghans are going to the polls to choose their parliament. By then, Afghans must feel the tangible results of their first investment in democracy. There are many warlords and drug lords dying to make their way into our future parliament. The Afghan people demand a parliament that expedites the process of building a civil society in Afghanistan. During his short campaign, President Karzai promised the Afghan people he would build on the successes of the partnership with the international community.

The Afghan people have put their trust in the benefits of democracy and international partnership. Now it is up to the new government and the international community to deliver and prove that this trust is properly placed.

Thank you.