Kabul (IP): Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghan, in his swearing-in ceremony, talked of the formation of a negotiating team with the Taliban, saying soon an order to free Taliban detainees will be issued.

Iran Presscommentary: Speaking at his swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, and about to begin his second term in office, Ashraf Ghani said "Everyone should know that an attacking on a group of Afghans with a particular religion is considered an attack on the entire Afghan people.

At the same time that Ghani was being sworn into office a second oath-of-office ceremony was being held at the same presidential palace in Kabul. Ashraf Ghani's main rival in the elections and political opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, also held a swearing-in ceremony and introduced himself as the new Afghan president.

Rival presidents sworn in Afghanistan

Abdullah Abdullah has refused to recognise the inauguration of Ghani, and instead held his own swearing-in ceremony, and landed the country in a new political crisis.

Earlier on Monday, Abdullah agreed to suspend his swearing-in event on the condition that Ghani follow suit. But Ghani, who was declared the winner of September's election, decided to go ahead with his inauguration.

The two men issued invitations last week to parallel swearing-in ceremonies on Monday, after Abdullah disputed the February 18 decision by the electoral commission and proclaimed himself the winner.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has said the political standoff between the top leaders is "not a good sign for prospects of peace in the country".

Ashraf Ghani's announcement that Taliban prisoners "will be released soon" seems to indicate that he is acting in haste and he is in a real hurry to reach an agreement with the Taliban.

According to the results announced by Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, Ashraf Ghani is the winner of last September's presidential election. However, his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, considers himself the winner if only  "clean votes are counted".

According to  Abdullah, there was extensive vote-rigging in the presidential election, and 300000 votes are either "fake or not valid". Abdullah argues that if these 300000 votes are discounted then he is the real winner of the elections.

When Abdullah refused to compromise and insisted on forming "a parallel government", Ashraf Ghani sensed real danger and decided to strengthen and solidify his own shaky position. It is worth noting that previously when the Americans had talked of releasing Taliban prisoners in their peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Ashraf Ghani had criticised the Americans and said the issue of release of Taliban prisoners must be decided upon in the intra-Afghan talks which are yet to be held.

Pre. Ashraf Ghani declared as the winner of Afghanistan’s presidential vote

According to analysts, the change in the stance of Ashraf Ghani regarding Taliban prisoners, is an attempt to gain the backing of the Americans, giving himself the upper hand against his old political rival Abdullah Abdullah, and also provide an extra incentive for the Taliban to take part in the intra-Afghan talks and Afghanistan's nascent peace process. This is why Ghani has promised to release Taliban prisoners before the intra-Afghan talks even begin.

Ashraf Ghani’s remarks go against national demands in Afghanistan over the need for a political consensus in the country on the quality and manner of talks with the Taliban following the signing of a Taliban-US peace deal. Ghani has effectively bypassed and ignored the role of the Afghan parliament and senate in the decision to release Taliban militants from prison.

Writer: Mohammad Reza Asgari

Translator: Mehran Derakhshandeh

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Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, and the Taliban