By Abdul Haleem
KABUL, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Residents in the Afghan capital cast doubt on their promises after the western-style televised debate on Saturday among the top three candidates for the April 5 presidential election.
Aired on 1TV, a private channel, the three candidates -- former foreign minister and top challenger to President Hamid Karzai in 2009 presidential elections Abdullah Abdullah, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and Abdul Qayum Karzai, the elder brother of incumbent President Karzai -- expounded their views on current issues during the three-hour debate.
Watched by millions of war-weary Afghans, the three front- runners promised in general to bring about viable peace, encourage foreign investment, support the private sector, revive the country' s ailing economy, create job opportunities, and expand friendly relations with countries in the region and the world.
"This is what the people want to know about the presidential hopefuls and their programs for the next five years. Presenting the programs by the candidates through live broadcast enables the citizens to vote for the best one, for those who have comprehensive programs to bring peace, stability, economic development and prosperity," Mohammad Azim, 51, a taxi driver, told Xinhua.
Azim, however, cautioned the people not to believe everything the politicians are saying and that people should examine the record of the candidates and whether they can deliver on their promises. "Action and not empty slogans is what we need," he said.
According to Azim, in the 2009 election, several candidates, including Karzai, made a lot of promises but did little to alleviate people's misery.
Azim said that Afghanistan is still perceived by many as a corrupt nation, the poorest among the poor, a top poppy producing nation and the most insecure place.
"The next president should be able to remove this stigma," he said.
Virtually, all the 11 Afghan presidential candidates have promised to work for peace and stability, revitalize the economy and ensure social justice for the Afghan people if elected.
"The presidential contesters in the past, including Karzai, had also promised to bring about peace, attract foreign investment, provide job opportunities, eradicate poppy and fight corruption but these promises have been unfulfilled five years later, the unemployment rate is higher than the past, poverty has increased, and Afghanistan remains the most corrupt and the top poppy producing nation in the world."Agha Gul told Xinhua.
Gul, who serves as guard for a foreign agency, questioned the ability of the presidential candidates to convince the Taliban to give up fighting, saying President Karzai has strived hard to bring the Taliban into political mainstream but failed. "Will the next president be able to achieve what Karzai has failed?" Gul asked.
"In the post-Taliban Afghanistan, the televised debate among presidential runners is a new phenomenon and the people appreciate it. But the most important thing for a candidate to win public support is to have clear-cut agenda for the next five years," Gul said.