WASHINGTON: Afghan girls must be allowed to go to schools when they reopen in March, said former Afghan President Hamid Karzai as he reiterated his resolute stand on the key issue of girls and women's education.
"There can not be an excuse and there must not be an excuse. No excuse is understandable or accepted. The girls of the country must return to the school," Karzai said in an interview with American news network CNN.
"Women should return to work. Our religion allows it. Period...No compromise on the principles or rights. Or running the country better," he added.
This comes as talks are underway in the capital city of Norway over wide-ranging issues concerning the fate of Afghanistan.
A Taliban delegation, led by Acting Afghanistan foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, met with envoys of western nations in Oslo on Monday. Prior to that, the Taliban delegation also met with members of the civil society.
Karzai backed these meetings, which experts believe could play a vital role in solving the problems in the country.
"We have happy about the meetings that have taken place in Norway among Afghans between the Taliban government representatives and members of the civil society. We had some very constructive talks. Notes were changed," the former Afghan President said.
For the good of Afghanistan, Karzai said a parallel track of two activities must happen at the same time.
"We...must begin to work out a stable and peaceful Afghanistan by incorporating the opinion and aspiration of all other Afghans, by enacting a constitution, by moving forward with opening schools for girls this March," he said.
While supporting the issue of girls' education, the former president said, "we all sit among ourselves and understand each other and work with one another, despite the differences we have."
Afghanistan is contending with drought, a pandemic, an economic collapse and the effects of years of conflict. Some 24 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity. Reports indicate that one million children could die of starvation.
According to UN estimates, more than half of the population will be facing famine this winter, and 97 per cent of the population could fall below the poverty line this year.