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"We feel responsible to bring peace to our country," Afghan President Karzai said

Chief Justice and Members of the Judiciary,
Members of the parliament, Cabinet Members, Representatives of the International Community, Media Members, Ladies and Gentlemen! Five years ago, with the blessing of the Almighty, I inaugurated the first parliament at this hall.

The opening of the first parliament five years ago carried with it the hopes of our people for peace, prosperity and security, for which we are still struggling. As a matter of fact, these past five years have been full of hopes, problems, adversities and challenges. However, we strongly believe in our people’s 2 unwavering determination that gives us the hope for optimism for a better tomorrow. Our people are giving sacrifices on daily basis to preserve and protect their freedom and independence and this sacrifice will continue to remain a credible instrument for the existence of this land.

I would like to congratulate the people of Afghanistan on their second parliamentary elections. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Afghan security agencies and the international forces for providing security for the elections.

I wish you the representatives of the people success in your duties to serve your people and hope that in the light of the Constitution and in line with the needs of the people, you as one of the three pillars of the state would work in harmony towards a stable Afghanistan based on rule of law.

Distinguished Representatives!
Ten years ago when we began this difficult journey, we had inherited a destroyed country with no state institutions of national economy and education. Our strong army had been completely dismantled on orders by outsiders and their associates; thousands martyred and millions escaped to take refuge outside their homeland; our educated were either killed or forced out of their country; our country was turned into a ground for rivalries by our enemies and a land of mourning and grieving.

However, despite all the hardships, the Afghans strived strenuously to take their destiny in their own hands and to re-build their state institutions: The adoption of the Constitution and twice convening of Presidential and Parliamentary elections in a country that had been a battle ground for thirty years is not easy. We understand it is a long way to travel a journey for a desirable democracy. We experienced serious problems in organizing the elections, protecting the votes of the people, preventing from and resisting against manipulations and foreign 3 interferences.

Attempts were made to portray the last presidential elections as illegitimate, leading to the cancellation of the run-off. Similarly, the recent parliamentary elections were tainted by questions of legitimacy and obscurities as well as interferences that followed widespread public concern. The question is what forces are there that are trying to impasse our young democracy into crisis of legitimacy and push the three pillars of the State to confront each other.

We need to deal with these questions with absolute sensitivity and not to allow the horrific dreams others have seen for us to come true. Taking over the responsibilities and acting with patriotism must be a response to the enemies of this soil. For this, it is therefore imperative to begin to Afghanize all the state processes including holding elections. The elections, if held by Afghans, would certainly be more transparent, less costly, and for the good of a sustainable democracy in our country. The recent parliamentary elections, as put by the UN has cost USD 140 million, making one of the poorest countries to hold one of the costliest elections in the world. There are many questions we should answer on that and that we should put an end to the foreign interferences and obscurities.

Promoting and institutionalizing democracy into a culture and a political belief would undoubtedly require a lot of endeavors on our part. Many of today’s strong democracies have gone through very critical stages. While being attentive of the people’s aspirations, Afghanistan too needs to learn and integrate democracy as a reality. By going to the polls despite all the threats and intimidations, Afghans, both men and women have demonstrated their desire for democracy. We must respect the sacrifices of the people and protect their votes and struggle to realize their aspirations.

Distinguished representatives!
Ten years after the fall of the Taliban, our people still are burning in the flames of fire and conflict. In the past one year alone, about 10 thousand people were killed. Men and women, scholars, tribal elders, intelligentsia, civilians, soldiers and officers of our security forces and many more lost their lives protecting their country. I once again offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and pray for a rapid recovery of those with injuries.

Distinguished Senators and members of the lower house!
Ten years into our efforts, I believe we have reached a turning point.
Afghanistan’s agreement with the international community in Kabul and Lisbon Conferences on the transition of all responsibilities to Afghans presents a historical opportunity, to which we are fully committed. Within the next four years, we should be able to take over the charge for our own security and would expedite the process of ending the parallel structures. It is the duty of the Afghan government to provide security for its own public. Afghanistan is decisively committed to putting an end to security privatization and to the function of the private security firms. The presence of the PRT’s and some unnecessary international institutions in our country constitute major barriers against our efforts for state building.

Steadily, but surely, we will end these parallel structures. Everything has to be led by Afghans and our socio-economic life needs to turn to normal based on rule of law. Afghanistan must unconditionally become the owner of its national sovereignty.

Sovereignty has its meaning only when we, ourselves are capable of defending our territorial integrity against terrorist threats and ensure rule of law by our own legal forces. We should make every effort possible to take over the duty of providing for our own security, governance and development projects within the next four years. No excuse can be justified. Distinguished Members of the Upper and Lower Houses!

5. No social or economic development and a just and democratic system can be possible without ensuring peace and reaching to peace is impossible with military means alone.

The process to re-integrate members of the armed opposition (Peace Strengthening Commission) led by honorable Professor Mojadeddi has had considerable achievements. His endeavors for an intensified peace and reconciliation process are of great value and compliment.

The Consultative Peace Jirgah recommended that we should reach an understanding for holding peace talks with the armed opposition and to seek every possible way to put an end to the current adversities and conflict. As per the recommendations, the High Council for Peace was established and is ably led by a highly respected personality, Professor Burhanuddin Rabani.

I once again from this hall, call on all those Afghans who have picked up guns against their country to give up fighting and join the peace process. The government of Afghanistan feels obliged to consolidate all its efforts for peace as a most urgent need.

We feel responsible to bring peace to our country and finish this conflict as soon as we can. The war on terror must focus on its roots and its havens. This war is not and can not succeed in our villages.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Twenty first century has a special meaning for us, the Afghans. For many certain reasons, our country in today’s contemporary world is turned into a center for geo-political tensions and competitions. Our and other countries in the region are facing threats. This can also provide a great historic opportunity for us to cooperate. An effective use of this historic opportunity is in line with our national will which is to see Afghanistan have a strong presence in the region. This strong

6. presence can not be possible without national sovereignty and our capability to secure and defend our independence.

Maintaining close relations with the countries in the region is of strategic importance to us. That is for this reason that Afghanistan has had an active participation in regional bodies including SAARC and ECO organizations. We have an observer status in the Shanghai Organization for Regional Cooperation (SCO).

Countries like ours whose independence and security are seriously threatened can have two ways to protect their independence and their territorial integrity:
(1) through building their capabilities to deal with the threats and
(2) that they must take the threats seriously through entering into defense agreements and associations.
It is for this reason that Afghanistan is working with the US to develop a longterm defense policy.

Our interaction and discussions with the US are on the basis of the realities, our national sovereignty and interests and the realities in the region and in the world.

Only by this, the two countries can have a determining role in ensuring stability and security in the region. This strategic partnership on defense, security and economic areas should be long term and binding, which must guarantee
Afghanistan’s interests and defense force.

Determining the NATO and US Force Status is among our main objectives that, if God willing, be decided by the completion of this legislative term.

In Lisbon, we reached with NATO an agreement on long-term cooperation.

Within the framework of these agreements, NATO will continue to help us during and after the transition process completes.

7. Our relation with the Muslim World is like a member of the same family. Our religion, culture and civilization are an inseparable part of the Islamic world.

Afghanistan is one of the heartlands of the Islamic civilization. Islam shapes Afghans’ material and spiritual existence and will remain so.

Our relations with Saudi Arabia is based on a special respect and guided by H.M, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Saudi Arabia is a place where the House of Allah to which Muslims direct their prayers, and where the Shrine of the Great Prophet of Islam are located. We in Afghanistan are extremely grateful to H.M the King’s efforts for peace in our country and very much hope that his endeavors continue.

Turkey is our brother and a historic friend. Turkey has always helped our people and our country throughout our history. We are grateful for Turkey’s civilian and military contributions to our economy and development.

The bilateral relations between the two countries first began during a brotherly relationship between King Amanullah Khan and Mustafa Kamal Ataturk when both the leaders were fighting for their independence. This friendship expands on daily basis. We thank Turkey for its efforts to bring the region closer in ensuring peace.

Honorable Senators and Representatives!
A house can be peaceful only if it has a good relationship with the neighbor. Iran is our brotherly neighbor with which we have many religious and cultural commonalities. These shared historical and cultural values have brought us even closer. Iran has helped the Afghans over the past thirty years.

8. Over the past ten years, Iran has taken part in reconstruction and building infrastructure for which we are grateful. Afghanistan has always been supportive of Iran’s position in the international events and has defended its interests.

Our relations with Iran is based on a policy of mutual respect. Our common borders are the borders of peace and hope it remains so. Iran’s security will never be threatened from Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been a host for our refugees since Jihad’s period. Our two nations are bonded by the same religion, tribal connections, common language and history.

No peace can be achievable without security in either of the two countries. Just like us, Pakistan too is suffering from the menace of terrorism. The bilateral and trilateral meetings have helped boost the spirit of cooperation.

The recent Pak-Afghan transit and trade agreement is considered a major step in bolstering the level of cooperation between the two countries and the whole region. Afghanistan believes that without cooperation between the two countries, the threat of terrorism can not be eliminated. We, therefore, seek stronger and deeper ties to enhance bilateral cooperation.

The recent visit to Pakistan by the High Peace Council delegation led by Ustad Rabbani and their meetings with government and non-government figures demonstrates a new call on Pakistan to support Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation so stability can be strengthened in the region.

Afghanistan wants to have enhanced economic, cultural and political cooperation with Pakistan and I hope the two nations do not fall behind the region’s economic growth and development caravan. Unfortunately, the two countries are behind and the development caravan is ahead. I would like to assure my brotherly

9. neighbor, Pakistan that Afghanistan would never be turned into a field against the security, stability and the independence of Pakistan and I want the nation of Pakistan to take this as assurance from their Afghan brothers. This assurance is in line with our national interests. This has a direct bearing on our lives and I want my Pakistani brothers to have no doubt about it.

Afghanistan enjoys and is committed to a long, lasting and multi-faceted friendship with its historic and old friend India. This friendship is in the best interest of both the countries and contributes to the regional economic development and a stronger regional cooperation.

Every year, 1350 of our youth through Indian scholarships go to India to obtain higher education. India has generously given Afghanistan USD 1.3 billion. Our friendship with India is of great importance and value to us and we want it further expanded.

China is our friendly neighbor with which we have had good relations throughout history. We seek an even more expanded economic and political as well as cultural cooperation with China. We cherish our relations with China and happy to see it rise economically.

Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are our good neighbors. Our northern borders are the borders of peace, friendship, economic exchanges and cooperation. Our friendship is based on mutual respect and want this further consolidated.

With Russia, we have long and historic relations. In our relations, we are looking for future. The recent meeting between the leaders of the two countries has opened a new chapter of cooperation and relationship based on mutual respect.

10. Russian Federation is willing to help us in areas of energy, road building and education and would like to invest in Afghanistan. Our country is deeply eager to enhance the relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen!
I would like to briefly remind you of Afghanistan’s achievement over the past years.
Economic policy!
It goes without saying that much has been achieved over the past ten years.
However, employment and poverty remained yet as two striking challenges.
Afghanistan is committed to a free market economy as a system proven successful around the world. One must also note that free market economy does not mean there are no rules or principles to govern it. In every part of the world, governments consistent to the needs of their national interests and security and for the sake of avoiding socio economic crisis, intervene in the market economy within the limits of the law. Afghanistan has the responsibility to coordinate with the free market economy its national interests of the society. Based on this, we support private as well as promote public-private investment.

When we first began in 2002, Afghanistan foreign reserve was less than USD 200 million, while today as we speak right now, it stands at USD 4.992 million, which means 8 millions to USD 5 billion. This is the biggest achievement. Ten years ago, when we first began, our per capita was USD 180, while today it has increased to over USD 500. Ten years ago, our GDP was around USD 4 billion, while today it is around USD 17 billion.

11. But, is this enough? Not at all, does everyone in this country have employment? No. There is still much ahead. We still have a lot to do. Education and Higher Studies!

Afghanistan has made sizable progress in areas of providing access to education, economic development, infrastructure building, shoring up state institutions, delivering health services, providing ground for freedom of press and many others. Presently, about 7.7 million children are going to 13,700 schools around the country. However, very sadly, there is still some 40 percent of our school age children that are deprived of access to education. We are committed and will do every effort to provide an environment for 10.6 million children within the next four years.

We will resolutely be struggling to fight illiteracy and increase the literacy rate among our people from the present 26 percent to 48 % within the next four years.

Our system of high education requires a serious review. We must expedite all our efforts for an improved system of higher studies. Currently, about 67 thousand youth are busy learning in the institutes of higher studies and we are trying to increase that within the next four years to 115 thousand.

Our higher education must respond to our today’s needs. Medicine and Engineering professions must specially be upgraded to respond to our growing needs of today.

My countrymen and women, elders and representatives!
As I am speaking with you now, around 30 thousand of our people are in India for medical treatment. They have gone to India for very basic ailments that can be treated in any country. Our well-to-do opt for countries like Turkey and Europe,

12. which is a separate issue. We can save our country from this hardship only through putting into practice strong measures. Our people, the elderly, young, women and men are both spending money and have trouble heading around in foreign countries seeking cure to an ailment that should be treatable in their own home country. The solution to this problem lies in building the capacities of our medical universities and faculties. Please allow me to take any necessary action to respond to this immediate need of our country.

We are in talks with Turkey and others and want our medical and our engineering lessons to be taught in languages in which research and learning can be extensive and easy, so the capacity of our students can be enhanced.

Strong efforts are underway to improve health sector including our hospitals and their capacity. The Minister of Health will explain the measures to you sometime.

Previously, the mortality rate among our children was one in every five under the age of five, today it has reduced to one in every six children. Thanks God and with the help of better health services, the life of one child is now saved.
Access to health services has increased form 60 to 65%, which shows our progress on the sector of health as well.

Mining!
Surveys conducted of just thirty percent of our country shows that Afghanistan has deposits worth of one to three trillion dollars, and this is just from the areas surveyed. Therefore, when you are with foreigners, speak with pride and honor.

We are not poor, we are wealthy. Our wealth lies underground. We should bring it out for the development and progress of our country but on the condition that this extraction and exploitation be carried out professionally and that its proceeds should go to the government and the people of Afghanistan. This has the potential for huge investment in economic and infrastructure development.

13. We are working on it on daily basis. Professional staff and experts are working on it, but your cooperation and of the people is imperative. We are striving to build our technical and professional capacities. We are working to see how this sector can help us from now to the next six years and how will this create wealth and provide for investment. The details are with our ministers. The other good news is that we signed an important agreement last month in Turkmenistan, for which we are grateful to its government. This important and vital agreement is about a gas pipeline that travels through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.

Because countries and private companies are tremendously interested in it, much attention has been given to this project and if God willing, success will soon come on its implementation. This is one of the big success stories of this year.
Agriculture and Irrigation!
Afghanistan is an agriculture country with over seventy percent of its population in villages and rural areas engaged with agriculture and livestock. Afghan government recognizes agriculture and livestock as its priorities to work on.

Agriculture development strategy that guarantees national economic growth and food security has been developed. The strategy has three main principles: water resource management; promoting productivity and restoring agriculture economy. The strategy has several other key components including protection and expansion of forests, agricultural lands and pastures. Modernizing agriculture sector in line with environmental needs and promoting natural products without affecting the quality of the products and fruits of Afghanistan are the others areas of focus in the strategy. We all remember that Afghanistan fruits were world famous. The more we go back, the tastier our fruits. Alongside the war and conflicts, one of the other main reasons why our fruits lost its quality is the use of bad fertilizers. I plead and call from this important hall on our farmers and agriculture officials to avoid the use of low quality chemical fertilizers that destroy and badly affect the taste of our products. Human fertilizer is proven to

14. be the most effective fertilizer. Countries are turning back into using human fertilizer as an effective way of generating productivity. Researches are being conducted and our ministry is working on it.

I would also take the opportunity to mention to you another important point here.
Food prices are on the rise around the world, caused by unpredicted climate changes. Heavy rains and snow disrupts life in one part of the world, while drought disrupts life in the other part. All these natural disasters have pushed up the prices again, as it once did a few years ago. I hope our farmers and officials in the Ministry are watchful of this so our country does not head into that trouble.

Thanks God, we have no problem so far and have acted as necessary.
Energy and Electricity!
Ensuring sufficient electricity to meet our internal needs in concert with the need for industry development is yet another important issue that we are trying to handle. Afghanistan has ample water resources which have unfortunately been utilized little for our irrigation and electricity needs. To build the country’s capacity, plans are being worked on to make an investment of USD 4.6 billion within the next five years to survey, design, establish, repair and expand the capacities of the power plants and other electricity generating plants.

Roads and Railways!
The extension of roads and railways from the country’s north to the south and from east to west will restore Afghanistan’s historic position as an indispensable land bridge to link Central Asia to South Asia and countries in the region. We, therefore, want to extend the railroad project of east to west besides the one from north to the south and would lengthen the roads to some 3000 km across the country with a cost of some USD 1.792 billion within the next four years.

15.
Respected Representatives of the People!
I want to draw your attention to two vital issues as follows: As mentioned above, Afghanistan is determined to take over the responsibilities for its own security, governance and social and economic development by the end of 2014. Our defense and security forces are, thanks God, in better shape now in terms of quality and quantity. We therefore, must try harder to further strengthen our defense forces within the next four years so we can remove the need to rely on others in conducting operations. We are decisive in taking over the complete charge for our defense and protection. Security transition is both as per the aspirations of our people and will, with our gratitude, allow our allies to return home safe and successful. Let me emphasize that the transition will be inevitable and irreversible and Afghans will, if God willing, complete the transition process. However, for the transition to succeed, our defense and security forces based on the agreements reached, must get the necessary trainings and equipments. On our part, we are strongly determined to fulfill our commitments and would like our allies and partners too to fulfill their commitments in providing needed enablers to Afghan security forces. Taking over the charge requires our devotion and a sense of self-reliance. I therefore, call on brave soldiers and officers of our armed forces that, “ you are the sons of those courageous and brave men who protected and defended this land for thousands of yours. Every day is a day of taking over security for this sacred soil. Don’t forget that we will be defending this land anytime and in any situation, there is no yesterday, today or tomorrow. Be prepared to protect the territorial integrity and independence of your dear country with devotion and sacrifice.”

Fighting Corruption!
We can not be the owner of our own destiny without a responsible government, determined to fight corruption. People of Afghanistan are deeply troubled by

16.
corruption, lawlessness, and illicit economy and drug smuggling. Fighting and rooting out corruption is one of the prime duties of our government. We have to be decisive to stamp out this menace. Corruption whether in government or in unclear system of foreign contracting and the unclear spending of the aid to Afghanistan is a major hurdle against good governance and sustainable development in our country. Afghanistan is ready to take responsibility and be accountable for the money we were involved and answer for every penny to both the people of Afghanistan and the donor community. However, Afghanistan can not and should not be held accountable for the money it has no idea of how and where it went. We can not take the responsibility for this money. The government of Afghanistan is ready to account for the money spent through its system and explain on its spending to the people of the countries who earned the money so hard and aided Afghanistan. But, we can not and are not responsible for the money spent in our absence and against our will.

Distinguished members of the parliament, ladies and gentlemen!
We can get back on our feet only when we are capable as a united, proud and a dignified nation to protect our national values and our land. There is no doubt that we are at a highly critical moment of our history today and we have to use this historic opportunity for the good of a strong and prosperous country.

This land is the home of all the tribes who are living in it. We can have our differences of opinions and compete on seeking better ways of public prosperity.

However, we must stand united as one when it comes to national interests and defending the independence and our territorial integrity. Today once again, our three-color flag hoists around the world. From the mountains in Badakhshan to the deserts in Nimroz, from north to the south and from east to the west, the people and our soldiers and guards are sacrificing their lives in protecting their land. This sacrifice and devotion and share of pleasure and pain require that we further unite and set aside our differences.

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Ladies and Gentlemen!
You do not represent one tribe or one province. You are representing the whole Afghanistan. You represent your entire nation. A prosperous and successful tomorrow of Afghanistan lies in your hands. Over the past several months during the presidential and parliamentary elections, we all saw the competitions and contesting which is natural during such democratic exercises. However, anywhere in the world, once the competitions are over, national unity begins.

Once competitions end, cooperation takes over and service starts to deliver. I therefore, hope that in the face of the threats our country faces and the opportunities available today for a brighter tomorrow, we all have to join hands to move this country to a place where every citizen, elderly and young desire. We have come a long way, but still need to journey the most difficult and restless part of it. This journey requires hard work and strenuous efforts. Those who are devoting their lives for the protection of this land and those young who are working to build this country expect service from us. Nothing less than that can satisfy them. I am reminded here of those lovely words by President Kennedy of the United States, you all have heard his name, who once during one of his addresses to his nation said, “ask not what America can do for you - ask what you can do for America.”

My question today is whether we ask ourselves what can Afghanistan do to us or are we at the service of Afghanistan?, if we are at the service of our Afghanistan, this country can build itself or else the blame will reside on us as the responsible and the politicians of today.

Honorable representatives and senators!
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Over the past ten years, many men and women from different countries have served here under the International Security Assistance Force for which we are grateful. Their officers and ambassadors are sitting here with us. Let me express my gratitude for the money, whether one or a hundred penny, and for the services and efforts their military and civilians have made to our country. They have helped us at the cost of their blood. We thank them for the hard earned money they give us. You [foreign guests] might now and then hear us complain over civilian casualties, on why you cut off our trees and bomb our houses.

Please don’t mind when we complain because it is our legitimate right. We have to convey to you the voice of the people. We both are trying to avoid any harm to civilians during our fight against terrorism. Afghans too, just like any other nation has the right to live in peace; the right to be happy. Have you seen a nation doomed to mourn and grieve for good? no, no where in the world. Our hope is that you with this understanding march together with us towards future, so you can succeed and your victory is possible only and again only through winning people’s consent and satisfaction.

Despite all this, we thank them for their efforts and for their contributions and their services in Afghanistan. I would also like them to understand that Afghans are a bit obstinate and quickly enraged and want them to bear with us and not to propagandize against us [laughter].

My countrymen and women!
As I mentioned earlier and I repeat, Afghanistan can only be built with your hands. Foreign assistance is welcome, we are grateful, but this land, the streets and roads and districts and orchards of this country can only be built by the hands of the people of Afghanistan; can be built only with our hard work and there is no other way.

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I wish you the members of the House success in your duties. I pray to Allah, the Almighty to guide our country out of the disasters, killings and destruction and to bless us with peace and prosperity. Let the name, Afghanistan be a word on every man and woman’s tongue; let the sacred name be engraved in our hearts and let the name be written on the mountains so our children can play on the streets of a happy tomorrow and wish a perpetual Afghanistan.

Thank you

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