Afghan leaders jockey to replace Hamid Karzai | world | Hindustan Times
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Afghan leaders jockey to replace Hamid Karzai

world Updated: Jul 19, 2013 01:49 IST

For the devout, the Islamic holy month of Ramzan is a time of prayer and introspection, but this year, for Afghanistan's warlords and powerbrokers, it is time to decide on a successor to President Hamid Karzai.

Gunmen-escorted convoys of armoured cars race around Kabul toward the end of the day as politicians and other leaders gather for the ritual breaking of the fast at dusk - and also to set aside rivalries and form alliances which they hope can take them to power in the divided and war-torn nation.

This week, Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, a former Islamist warlord reputed to have invited Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to Afghanistan, was being spoken of as a consensus presidential candidate of an opposition alliance. Underscoring confusion, he was also being talked of as Karzai's preferred candidate, but neither rumour could be confirmed.

"Kabul is a cauldron of suspicion and rumour at the moment, which we expect will last throughout the elections period," said a top international community official in the Afghan capital, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of his position.

Elections are to be held on April 5 next year to replace Karzai, who came to power in 2001 after US-led forces toppled the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban government. Karzai is not eligible to stand for a third term and his replacement will have to negotiate an end to the insurgency as Western troops leave after a 12-year war with the Islamic radicals.

Dismissing fears that the Taliban could sweep the nation after the withdrawal of foreign troops, many Afghans say the elections will be an essential part of bringing in peace. With Washington seen as keen to push peace talks with the Islamist insurgents, any government in Kabul may have to reach a settlement with them or continue the war.

Other prominent names being talked of as potential presidential candidates also hark back to the anti-Soviet mujahideen era, including Atta Mohammad Noor, who commanded 20,000 Northern Alliance fighters.