ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has said that it will work with the winner of the Afghanistan presidential elections without any bias.

Senior government officials said yesterday that Pakistan had contacted Afghanistan and assured it that there was “no favourite” in the war-torn country. “We will work with the winner who forms the government. We have wished them all well,” one official told The Nation.

Another official said that Pakistan had played no role to give advantage to any party in the Afghanistan presidential polls. “We believe the Afghan people have to decide who should form the government. Pakistan wants to work with Afghanistan not a party,” he said, adding the message had been conveyed clearly to Afghanistan.

Earlier, Pakistan congratulated the people and government of Afghanistan on successful holding of the fourth presidential elections. “The people of Afghanistan particularly deserve appreciation for their clear decision to continue with the democratic course despite serious hurdles and challenges,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Tells Kabul Islamabad will work with winner of presidential poll

It added:” “We sincerely hope that the new government elected through a free, fair and transparent voting process will enjoy the full mandate to take the stalled peace process forward.”

Pakistan said that the election was important for ending the 18-year-old conflict through an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned negotiated political settlement. “Pakistan will continue to facilitate the new Afghan government towards this end,” the statement added.

Ahead of the election, Pakistan had closed all crossing points along the Afghan border. Later, however, Pakistan reopened the points on the request of the Afghan government.

The people of Afghanistan cast votes on September 28 to pick their next president, even as the threat of violence and concerns over electoral fraud could lead many to stay home.

The vote, the fourth since the Taliban’s removal from power by a United States-led coalition in 2001, came as heavy fighting between the armed group and government forces led to a spike in the number of civilians killed.

The two front-runners, incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, have shared power since the 2014 presidential elections in a compromise negotiated by former US Secretary of State John Kerry.

In that race, Abdullah had accused Ghani of rigging the election, citing an alleged million fraudulent votes, and again warned of a possible illegitimate Ghani victory in the latest election.

Preliminary results are expected on October 17 and final results on November 7. With 18 candidates on the ballot, there is a chance that no one candidate will receive a majority of votes, which will force a second ballot between the top two candidates.

Another prominent candidate and former warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, warned that “if the vote wasn’t fair and transparent” he would call on his thousands of supporters across the country to perhaps go “back to the battlefield.” Hekmatyar is running on behalf of his Hezb-e-Islami party, a former militia that signed a peace deal with the Ghani administration in 2016.