Afghans skeptical about transparency, security of October elections

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a recent news conference in Kabul. (Reuters)
Updated 01 April 2018

Afghans skeptical about transparency, security of October elections

KABUL: The Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) has appointed an election commission and set Oct. 20 as the date for parliamentary and district elections.
The moves follows more than three years of delay due to security threats and NUG infighting.
But some politicians, lawmakers and ordinary Afghans doubt the vote will be transparent, free or secure, as militant attacks have become more prevalent since June 2015, the original date for the long-delayed elections.
The October poll is seen as a test of the ability of the US and the NUG to deal with challenges ahead of the 2019 presidential and provincial council elections.
Given the closeness of the timeline, the election commission and the NUG face colossal tasks and challenges to hold the poll, according to lawmakers and experts.
Voter registration is set to kick off in mid-April, but the election body has yet to hire enough officials, establish offices in the 34 provinces, or appoint heads of the secretariat for the commission and for the electoral complaints body.
The fate of the much-touted electronic national ID cards, aimed at preventing fraud, is in limbo.
An ID is a must for a would-be voter, but some lawmakers say more than half of Afghans do not possess them, and given the slow pace of work, graft and bureaucracy in government institutions, it is highly unlikely that enough IDs will be printed in time.
More than 3,000 of the 7,000 voting centers are either under serious or medium threat, or out of the NUG’s control, say election experts and some MPs.
“Our perspective is that elections must be held to give legitimacy to Parliament, which can ensure the legality of the government. This is very important,” Habibullah Shinwary, an official at the Elections Transparency Organization for Afghanistan (ETOA), told Arab News.
“But we have deep concerns about logistics and security, raising doubt as to whether we can really hold elections.”
The ETOA has raised on numerous occasions its concerns with government organs and the election commission, he said.
“But unfortunately, the government hasn’t taken any action or acted properly. It takes action when it’s too late.”
Sayed Ali Kazemi, a lawmaker from Kabul, told Arab News: “People have lots of questions about these elections. Parliament asked the commission today (Saturday) to appear before lawmakers to answer our questions and those of the people, but it didn’t turn up.”
Security threats during voter registration and on election day are the most important concern of ordinary Afghans, MP Nazifa Zaki told Arab News.
Taliban attacks during the last election deterred people from voting, led to killings and enabled fraud, she added.
The government has vowed to secure voting centers by the time of the elections.
A Taliban spokesman told Arab News that it has yet to come up with an official stance on the vote.


Militants kill two police in Kashmir ahead of India’s Independence Day

Updated 17 min 39 sec ago

Militants kill two police in Kashmir ahead of India’s Independence Day

  • Authorities said the militants had been identified
  • The attack comes days after the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy

SRINAGAR: Militants attacked a police team in Kashmir on Friday, killing two officers and wounding one despite tight security in the disputed Muslim-majority region ahead of India’s Independence Day.
A group of militants opened fire on the police team that was on duty in the Nowgam area of Srinagar city, the chief of police in Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters.
“We had inputs that militants may carry out attack and were alert,” said Kumar. “They came through a narrow lane and fired indiscriminately.”
He said the militants had been identified and vowed to “neutralize them” soon. The area had been cordoned off searches were going on, he said.
The attack comes days after the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy, a reform the Indian government said would promote the region’s development by drawing it closer to the rest of the country.
But many people in Kashmir saw the loss of special autonomy as another step in the erosion of the rights of Muslims by the Hindu-nationalist government. The government rejects that.
Kashmir has been disputed by India and neighboring Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both countries claim it in full but rule it in part.
More than 50,000 people have been killed in more than three decades of insurgency in Kashmir that India accuses Pakistan of fueling by supporting Muslim militant groups fighting India’s security forces in its part of the divided region.
Pakistan says it only offers political support to its fellow Muslims in the Himalayan region.
India celebrates Independence Day on Saturday.