New leader prioritises peace, end to meddling

KABUL (Pajhwok): President Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai on Monday promised the government of national unity would take concrete steps to introduce political and institutional reforms.
Addressing participants of his oath-taking ceremony, he pledged sincere efforts at bringing peace, national unity, social justice, clean governance and economic development to Afghanistan.
In a markedly determined and assertive tone, the ex-finance minister assured the nation that all parallel structures would be dismantled with the inauguration of the new administration.
Good ties to neighbours and continued interaction with the world at large would be the cornerstone of his foreign policy. “Instability in Afghanistan is bound to affect its neighbours,” he observed.
In the same breath, however, he asked foreigners to avoid interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. He also spoke of plans to sign cooperation pacts with certain countries for the sake of regional stability.
He characterised lasting peace as a key popular aspiration, saying that security was central to economic growth and progress in other areas. He called for the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan to come to the negotiating table and seek a political settlement of their problems.
Also a former World Bank economist, he paid glowing tribute to his predecessor Hamid Karzai for leading Afghanistan in a democratic and patriotic way. He would seek guidance from his predecessor.
While unveiling a heavy reform agenda, Ahmadzai asked the judiciary to ensure easy dispensation of justice. The judicial reforms would be based on an effective system of rewards and punishments.
He urged parliamentarians, representing the masses and responsible for legislation, to eschew interfering in appointments and influencing the recruitment process. Their neutrality was must for putting an end to nepotism and promoting merit, he argued.
The new president also prioritised efforts at good governance, service to the people, eradication of graft, encouragement of the private sector, attraction of foreign and domestic investments.
His agenda would remain incomplete without the return of half a million Afghan refugees to their homeland, according to Ahmadzai, who also assured the early rehabilitation of the displaced people.
A soft spoken Pakhtun from central Logar province, he offered women and youth an effective role in his administration. Their rights would be protected at all costs, he reiterated, stressing the need for people’s participation in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.
Ahmadzai would also accord priority to human resource development to enable the country to produce skilled individuals, who could contribute to strengthening the economy and serve the nation with ability. 
He went on to acknowledge the sacrifice of the Afghan army, police and intelligence service. While promising to further strengthen and equip them, he ordered the security forces to win people’s hearts and minds and avoid coercive actions.
He remarked the nation had successfully come out of a great test -- the prolonged election process. He was appreciative of the role played by religious scholars, civil society and the people.
The welcome tradition of a peaceful power transfer would continue in the future, he said, hinting at meaningful electoral reforms to ensure respect for the vote of each Afghan.
“I will abide by the constitution and other laws and protect their implementation,” Ghani said in an oath administered by the chief justice.
Ghani succeeds President Hamid Karzai after a bitter three-month standoff over disputed election results that fuelled the insurgency and worsened Afghanistan's dire economic outlook.
Both Ghani and his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed to have won the fraud-tainted June 14 election, plunging Afghanistan into a crisis that threatened to trigger nationwide unrest.
Under heavy pressure from the US and UN, the two candidates eventually agreed to form a “national unity government”, and Ghani was declared president after an audit of nearly eight million ballot papers.
“The political transition was a success and all those who predicted it was not possible have been proven wrong. We are one people, one country, and there should not be any doubts about our national unity."
The president also announced Ahmad Zia Massoud’s appointment as senior advisor on reforms and good governance.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari, the Iranian VP, EU representative, John Podesta, counselor to President Barack Obama and the US ambassador attended the ceremony. Also in attendance were representatives of Britain, France and China.
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