'Taliban candidate eligible to run for president'
Kabul: The Taliban and other insurgent leaders could stand as candidates in Afghanistan's next Presidential Election which is scheduled to be held in April 2014, the country's top poll official has said.
President Hamid Karzai, who is serving his second term as leader of the war-torn nation, is constitutionally barred from running in the election and no clear candidate to succeed him has yet emerged. The vote is seen as crucial to Afghan stability after the withdrawal of NATO troops.
"We are even prepared to pave the ground for the armed opposition, be it the Taliban or Hezb-i-Islami, to participate in the election, either as voters or candidates. There will be no discrimination," The Express Tribune quoted Fazil Ahmad Manawi, the head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) as saying.
He insisted his body would act impartially. Hezb-i-Islami is the faction of former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar which waged an insurgency along with the Taliban against Karzai's Western-backed government.
The Taliban, whose hardline regime was overthrown in 2001 by a US-led invasion for harbouring Osama bin Laden, did not take part in the 2009 election, instead attacking polling stations. The International Crisis Group think-tank warned this month that the Kabul government could fall apart after NATO troops pull out, particularly if the Presidential Elections are plagued by fraud. Under the Afghan system, voters elect the president as an individual rather than as a representative of a party, and candidates must submit their nominations by October 06, 2013. The IEC will then rule on their admissibility and publish a final list of candidates on November 16.