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The Washington Foreign Law Society: Afghanistan: Her Elections and Future
Remakes by Ambassador Said T. Jawad

The Cosmos Club, Washington, DC

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Washington Foreign Law Society for organizing this event.

Afghanistan’s first presidential election was a 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.”

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.”

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. It was 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. 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, they also sent a strong message to terrorists and extremists.

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.

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 each and 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.

On January 4, 2004, President Karzai signed our new constitution into law. A constitution that is visionary and balanced, and guarantees equal rights and full participation of women in all spheres of life. The new constitution is the most liberal charter in the region.

Afghanistan is emerging as an exemplary model of success of international partnership. President Karzai won the election. But in this election, there are no losers except for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The Afghan people have won this election.

The newly 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.”

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.

We have a challenging road ahead of us. We face the enormous task of building a State and providing for good governance, after complete destruction of all national institutions and a severe shortage of resources and human capital.

To overcome these challenges we must reform, strengthen and rebuild our government institutions to make them accountable, capable, and more professional. We must also improve local and district level governance, and enhance government capacity to deliver services to every corner of the country, especially areas prone to terrorist infiltration.

All Afghans have not yet benefited from the peace dividends. We must eliminate corruption, nepotism and abuse of power that undermine our recovery process.

We continue to confront security challenges posed by the terrorists and other elements. To overcome security challenges we are working to expedite the process of building our national army and professional police force, dissolve private militias, and implementing the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants.

Narcotics pose a serious challenge for all of us. Cultivation and trafficking of narcotics go hand in hand with terrorism and warlordism. It is to our best national interest to fight them all. We are committed to mobilizing all our resources in the fight against narcotics.

We know heroin, which sells on the retail market for one hundred times the farm gate price in Afghanistan, is one of the sources of the illegal money that funds international terrorism and crime across the region. It also finances the destabilizing activities of warlords and criminals in Afghanistan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now that the Afghan people have participated very enthusiastically in the national election, 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.

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.