‘Price of democracy’: Afghans risking their lives to vote

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A policeman is on guard as volunteers carry an injured person to a hospital, following an attack that targeted a parliamentary election rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar, in Jalalabad on October 2. (AFP)
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‘I want the new parliament to bring fundamental changes to the economy, education and security so that our children can live in peace,’ 45-year-old potter Shirin Agha says. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018
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‘Price of democracy’: Afghans risking their lives to vote

  • Nearly nine million people have registered to vote, but far fewer are expected to turn out on polling day
  • ‘If my vote can bring these changes I will take any risk. I will either die or vote’

KABUL: From a university student to a middle-aged housewife, Afghans planning to vote in the October 20 parliamentary election say they are willing to risk their lives for democracy.
Nearly nine million people have registered to vote, but far fewer are expected to turn out on polling day due to threats of violence and expectations for massive fraud.
Six people across the war-torn country explain why their vote matters.
Out with the old and in with the new is Omaid Sharifi’s hope for the legislative election.
The 32-year-old artist, who is voting for the first time, wants to see a new generation of politicians take their seats in the next parliament.
Sharifi, co-founder of Kabul-based street art collective ArtLords, was inspired to vote by the large cohort of young, educated candidates among the more than 2,500 contesting the ballot.
“I am concerned (about security) but I think this is the price of democracy we have to pay,” he said.
First-time voter Fatima Sadeqi wants to stop criminals, thieves and corrupt people from entering the next parliament.
The 55-year-old housewife and her eight family members plan to support the same candidate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“We are tired of poverty and insecurity,” she said.
“I hope the new parliament is a better place, full of good people.”
Shirin Agha wants his 10 children to grow up in a peaceful Afghanistan — and he is willing to die to help make that happen.
The 45-year-old potter in the eastern city of Jalalabad is a first-time voter and plans to back “a good Muslim and an honest person.”
“I want the new parliament to bring fundamental changes to the economy, education and security so that our children can live in peace,” Agha said.
“If my vote can bring these changes I will take any risk. I will either die or vote.”
A sense of “duty and responsibility” is pushing English literature student Zahra Faramarz to vote — but she admits being “anxious” about security.
Faramarz’s polling station is located in a heavily Shiite neighborhood of Kabul where the Daesh group has carried out devastating attacks in recent months.
But the 21-year-old said it was important to vote to ensure her community has a voice in the lower house.
“If we don’t, someone else will select the candidates ... that is not good for us,” she said.
After disappointing results in the previous two elections, Ghulam Farooq Adil hopes it will be third time lucky on October 20.
The 29-year-old public servant from the western city of Herat plans to vote for an “honest” candidate who can help bring peace to Afghanistan.
“I want the new parliament to come up with a solid plan to end the war,” Adil said.
“I need to see changes, at least for the future of my son.”
Abdul Karim believes voting is a religious obligation for Muslim men and women.
“They must vote,” said the 85-year-old retiree in Kabul, who is voting for only the second time in his life.
But in return, the next parliament should “serve our nation, serve our land and provide” job opportunities for the poor, he said.
“We vote for Afghanistan and we expect our incoming MPs to make solid decisions for our nation’s well-being.”


Taliban kill 30 policemen in west Afghan province

Updated 4 min 42 sec ago
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Taliban kill 30 policemen in west Afghan province

  • It is the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults on the military and police forces
  • The attacks have been so relentless that authorities no longer regularly provide casualty figures

KABUL: A blistering overnight attack by the Taliban on an Afghan police outpost in western Farah province killed 30 policemen, Afghan officials said Thursday.
It was the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults on the military and police forces, government and other installations throughout the country. The resurgent Taliban, who in recent years have taken over nearly half of Afghanistan, did not comment on the attack in Farah.
The attacks have been so relentless that authorities no longer regularly provide casualty figures, but unofficial estimates say that about 45 Afghan policemen or soldiers are killed or wounded on a daily basis.
According to provincial council member Dadullah Qani, the overnight onslaught on the outpost in Farah’s district of Khaki Safed began late on Wednesday and continued for more than four hours.
In Kabul, lawmaker Samiullah Samim told The Associated Press that the Taliban killed all 30 policemen — members of both the national and local police force — who were deployed at the outpost, including the district police commander, Abdul Jabhar.
Retaliatory airstrikes killed 17 Taliban fighters but the insurgents still managed to get away with a large amount of weapons and ammunition, he said.
Meanwhile, fighting with the Taliban in two districts of central Ghazni province has displaced thousands of people in the past two weeks, most of them minority ethnic Hazaras, who are Shiites, said Mohammad Arif Rahmani, a lawmaker from Ghazni.
Also, about 100 Afghan policemen, local pro-government militiamen and soldiers have been killed in the bitter clashes there, Rahmani told the AP. Currently, Afghan security forces are battling insurgents in 22 of the country’s 34 provinces, he added.
Afghanistan’s protracted war has also become increasingly deadly for civilians. A United Nations report issued earlier this year said more civilians died in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when the UN mission first began monitoring civilian casualties.
“Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict in Afghanistan,” said the independent Afghanistan Analysts Network in its own report.
Security forces at outposts throughout the country routinely face shortages of weapons, ammunition and even food supplies, said military analyst Javed Kohistani, blaming government mismanagement.
More senior and experienced generals have been replaced with younger officers whose inexperience is compromising the strength of the security forces.
There are fewer and fewer recruits and in some areas, a battalion which should have 400 to 600 troops barely has 100 to 200 soldiers, he said.
“Nobody is joining the army,” he said.
Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Gen. Tariq Shah Bahrami was grilled by lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday about Taliban onslaughts in Wardak and Ghazni provinces where entire districts are under siege.
Bahrami acknowledged the security forces have a “problem” and said that reinforcements have been sent.