KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai had a suggestion Thursday for Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive leader of the Taliban movement: Run for president if you want.
The Afghan leader, speaking at a news conference, urged the Taliban chief to embark on negotiations with his government and take part in the political process. He said Omar and his “comrades” could set up a political party and that Omar himself could become a candidate for office if he wished.
“If people vote for him, he can take the leadership,” Karzai declared. Afghanistan’s next presidential elections are scheduled in 2014.
Karzai also said that Omar could visit Afghanistan “anywhere he wants,” but added,“He should put the gun down.” Renouncing violence is a condition for Taliban who wish to join government “reintegration” programs intended to draw fighters away from the battlefield.
In inviting Omar to run for office, it was not clear whether the Afghan president was speaking rhetorically -- as he once did when he threatened to join the Taliban.
Who says he was speaking rhetorically then?