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A thorny path to democracy in Afghanistan

April 22, 2018
tags:#ISIS, #democracy, #Taliban, #Ashraf Ghani, #terrorist, #identity cards
by:Shadi Khan Saif
A Sunday morning suicide attack among Afghan civilians gathered to register for the forthcoming parliamentary elections demonstrated the grim threat to democracy in the war-torn country.

Over 30 people were killed in the ISIS-claimed attack on voters in the Afghan capital Kabul on April 22.

Afghanistan has embarked on a mammoth and thorny democratic process of voter registration for the long-due parliamentary elections that would test the Ghani administration's capabilities in many ways.

The government is facing an array of problems such as the substantial number of potential voters not possessing identity cards, politicians unhappy with the mapping of constituencies, and above all security concerns and militants’ threats.

Extending another olive branch to the Taliban

The country’s president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani – a World Bank economist-turned politician facing backlash from Afghanistan’s powerful political elite – launched the voter registration drive last week by also calling upon the Taliban rebels to take part in the forthcoming district and parliamentary elections in the war-ravaged country.

Beginning the voter registration process for the long-due polls, Ghani said while addressing the media at the presidential palace in Kabul that this is the right moment for the Taliban to commence political activities. “If they [Taliban] believe they have roots among the people in Afghanistan then elections is a chance”, he said, adding Afghans would decide about the fate of the Taliban as a political party.

This was a renewal of his earlier, a more comprehensive peace offer, at the Kabul Process conference in February in which the Afghan president offered to approve the Taliban as a political group, release their prisoners and lift sanctions in return for acknowledgement for the Constitution and shunning ties with terrorist groups. The Taliban have so far not responded to the offer.

The resilient armed rebels were quick to reject the offer, and event warned common Afghans against taking part in the polls.

As per the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), a little over one hundred and fifty thousand potential voters registered in the first week of the drive, but the registration centres and staff have so far sustained at least three major terrorist attacks in various cities, claiming two lives, abduction of five staffers and damage to material and morale.

Syed Hafeezullah Hashimi, Commissioner at the IEC, informed FairPlanet, these challenges were pretty much in sight even before commencing the practical work on the ground. “The fears were there, and are still there, but the turn-out is good, and we would like the security institutions to be more vigilant in ensuring the safety of the voters”.

Identity card woes

Despite all the efforts of the President, Afghanistan’s political scene remained divided on the roll-out of the proposed new biometric identity cards, hence the upcoming polls would be based on the old-style manual identity cards that are marred with issues of duplications, errors and in many cases not available to all citizens.

The Afghan government wanted to issue biometric cards to citizens in time for the election to help curtail fraud and promote national unity, however, the resulting uproar derailed the government’s plan to distribute the cards before the planned parliamentary and district council elections in October this year.

Dr Nizam Uddin, a political observer, argues the Kabul government should not behave as they are: “A very serious task of presidential elections is ahead [2019], and if no consensus is reached by then on the biometric cards, the worst political crises would grip the country”.

Now, to make up for it, the process of issuing manual identity cards has been expedited. According to Afghanistan’s Population Registration Department, more than 400,000 people have received paper national identity cards recently.

The Sunday April 22 attack was on one such centre issuing identity cards for citizens to register for the polls.

The long-due district and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 20 October this year. Over 7000 polling centres have been established across the country, however, nearly 1,000 of these centres are located in areas out of government’s control.

Article written by:
Shadi Khan Saif
Author, Contributing Editor
Embed from Getty Images
The government is facing huge security concerns and militants’ threats.
Embed from Getty Images
“If the Taliban believe they have roots among the people in Afghanistan, then elections is a chance.”
Embed from Getty Images
Over 7000 polling centres have been established across the country, however, nearly 1,000 of these centres are located in areas out of government’s control.
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