Karzai: Taliban must have rep for peace talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the Taliban need a representative with the authority to negotiate.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the Taliban need a representative with the authority to negotiate.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • September's assassination showed "we were actually talking to nobody," Karzai says
  • A Taliban messenger "turned out to be a suicide bomber" in that case, he says
  • Pakistan must be involved in "a meaningful peace process," he says

Kabul (CNN) -- Afghanistan's government can't hold peace talks with its Taliban insurgents until the Islamic militia identifies a representative with the authority to negotiate, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview that aired Sunday.

Karzai told CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" in an exclusive interview that Afghanistan also needs the help of neighboring Pakistan for any talks to succeed.

Karzai said the September assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had attempted to meet with Taliban representatives, showed that "we were actually talking to nobody."

"A man who came in the name of a messenger for peace turned out to be a suicide bomber," Karzai said. "Therefore, we have now clearly said that we will welcome a Taliban address, but that address must have the clarity that this representative is authorized and is representing the Taliban movement as we see it."

Meanwhile, Pakistan's involvement is important "because we all know that the Taliban have their places there," Karzai said. "They operate from there. And a meaningful peace process cannot go well or end in satisfactory results without Pakistan's participation and help."

NATO forces led by the United States have been battling the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies in Afghanistan for a decade, since al Qaeda's 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. A U.S. invasion swiftly deposed the Taliban, which had ruled most of Afghanistan before the attacks, but the fundamentalist Islamic movement regrouped as a guerrilla movement battling allied troops and Karzai's government.

Already-strained ties among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States were aggravated by a November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops at border posts along the Afghan frontier. Karzai has chafed at American raids that have killed Afghan civilians, while his critics accuse him of overseeing a corrupt administration and a 2010 election that international observers said was riddled with fraud.

International troops are scheduled to be withdrawn in 2014. Karzai said the allied force has been able to provide political stability for Afghanistan over the past 10 years, but security for individual Afghans "is yet to come."

In an excerpt released Friday, Karzai said a rape victim freed from prison after he intervened on her behalf has the right to make her own choice about whether to marry her attacker.

The woman, identified only as Gulnaz for her own protection, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after she reported that her cousin's husband had raped her. The 21-year-old was freed this week following the president's intervention, and is now staying at a women's shelter in Kabul with the daughter she conceived in the attack and gave birth to in prison.

Afghan law fails to clearly distinguish between rape and adultery, which is a crime under Sharia, or Islamic law. But Karzai said he convened a judicial meeting when he became aware of her case.

"The issue was discussed in detail, and the right inquiries made," he said. "We, on advice from the chief justice and the minister of justice, decided that this was a case, perhaps, of misjudgment and that it has to be resolved, and resolved by giving her a pardon immediately. That's what I did."

The woman's plight attracted international attention when it came out that she had agreed to marry her attacker to gain her freedom and legitimize her daughter.

After the attack two years ago, Gulnaz hid what happened as long as she could because she was afraid of reprisals. But then she began showing signs of pregnancy and at age 19, was found guilty of adultery and sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Despite the pardon, Gulnaz's future remains unclear in a conservative society where her ordeal is considered to have brought shame on her family. She told CNN from prison last month that she was willing to marry her attacker in order to end her incarceration, though she did not want that option.

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