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    No polling stations in insecure areas: Manawi

    KABUL (PAN): Next year’s presidential and provincial council elections may not be held in some insecure areas if effective security measures are not put in place, the poll panel chief warned on Monday.

    Fazal Ahmad Manawi, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) head, told reporters in Kabul they were working on a set of plans to ensure transparency in the April 2014 polls.

    One IEC plan to issue new voter cards to minimise chances of fraud had to be dropped recently due to a paucity of funds. It said new cards would be distributed only to the voters who did not have them.

    Manawi said the elections were still far away and the commission would be able to finalise measures aimed at checking irregularities in the democratic exercise. However, he did not elaborate on the measures under consideration.

    “It’ll be a baseless claim to say there the elections will be fraud-free. However, I can say our plans will minimise anomalies,” remarked the IEC chief, who called the distribution of computerised identity cards one of the ways to prevent fraud.           

    He believed the electronic cards could not be issued to all voters before next year’s presidential ballot in or the parliamentary polls slated for 2015. “But the people who get the cards will be able to use them for exercising their voting right.”

    Succumbing to mounting pressure from opposition parties, the government on Sunday announced it would start the distribution of computerised cards from March 21.

    The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said it had signed a contract to the effect on Dec. 12, 2010 with an IT firm called General Technology Resources (GTR).

    Manawi warned the security problem could hamper effective implementation of the IEC plans. The commission will share a list of polling stations with security organs on Feb. 25. 

    “The security forces should ensure protection of polling stations, voters, candidates, observers and IEC workers. I would not send ballot boxes to places where security arrangements are flawed.”

    According to Manawi, the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development could not execute its projects in 33 restive districts. Similarly, the Attorney General Office says judicial organs have no presence in 66 districts.

    How the panel could set up polling stations in a district where there are no judicial officials, he asked, explaining they would dispatch election material to all provinces with the help of security personnel.

    In response to a question, he said the global fraternity had pledged funds for the elections. However, the assistance is to be spent through the Ministry Finance under a presidential decree.

    As a result, Manawi said, IEC plans had been delayed. Previously, the commission itself spent foreign aid on conducting elections. The panel was in talks with the government on how to avoid possible delays, he concluded.

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