Karzai rules out sacking corrupt Afghan ministers

President promises to tackle criminality during second term – as he takes office flanked by drug-trafficking and war crimes suspects

Hamid Karzai began his new presidency yesterday with a pledge to reach out to opponents and tackle the corrosive corruption which has deeply tainted his government and led to widespread international condemnation. But he appeared to rule out sacking ministers and officials accused of corruption and did not say how he would tackle the systemic malpractice and criminality which has undermined governance during his tenure.

The US and other Western countries are demanding root and branch reforms and a major drive against corruption in return for additional troops and vast amounts of money.

Mr Karzai, making his victory speech, was flanked by his two running mates, Marshal Muhammed Qasim, accused of drug trafficking by American officials, and Karim Khalili, who was accused in a recent human rights report of war crimes.

Asked whether he was prepared to boot out public figures who have abused the law Mr Karzai responded: "These problems cannot be solved by changing high-ranking officials." He acknowledged, however, that Afghanistan has a "bad name" for corruption and pledged: "We will do our best through all possible means to eliminate that dark stain from our clothes."

Mr Karzai was anointed President on Monday afternoon by an election commission he had appointed which also cancelled a second round of voting due next weekend. The run-off, with rival Abdullah Abdullah, was ordered after Mr Karzai was stripped of a million of his votes from the first round for massive ballot stuffing.

Dr Abdullah, who dropped out of the run-off at the weekend, was last night said to be considering whether to challenge Mr Karzai's reappointment in the supreme court. His supporters had been pressing for an interim government with new elections to be held in the spring.

There is little chance of the court overturning the decision and there is no appetite for the electoral process to continue either among the majority of Afghans or the international community. The US and its allies will thus have to keep propping up a ruler they have repeatedly and publicly criticised.

Barack Obama, who is deciding whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, phoned Mr Karzai to congratulate him on retaining power, but stressed that he must take a tougher stance against corruption and promote better government. In response to reassurances from Mr Karzai, the US President responded that the "proof is not going to be in words. It's going to be in deeds".

President Obama said he wanted the Afghan President "to move boldly and forcefully forward and take advantage of the international community's interest in his country to initiate reforms internally. That has to be one of our highest priorities." Gordon Brown meanwhile said: "What we want to see is a corruption-free government, an inclusive government."

Mr Karzai pledged to work for all Afghans. "No one will see themselves distanced in this process. All of us will be included as part of Afghanistan's government." He also urged insurgent fighters to re-enter civic society, saying: "We call on our Taliban brothers to come home and embrace their land."

But the Taliban issued a statement mocking the outcome and claiming their own victory in stopping the second round of voting. "What is astonishing is two weeks ago they were arguing that the puppet president Hamid Karzai was involved in electoral fraud... but now he is elected as President based on those same fraudulent votes, Washington and London immediately send their congratulations."

In the streets of Kabul, many people said they wanted to leave the past behind. "If the corrupt officials who have been sucking our blood for long years are dismissed and punished publicly, we will hope for a better future, otherwise the next five years will go in vain," said a shopkeeper, Ghafoor Ahmadi.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions