Nuristanis fear insecurity to keep many from voting
JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Residents of eastern Nuristan province on Monday said they would be unable to actively participate in the second round of presidential elections if security was not improved around polling sites.
They urged security officials to ensure that residents in all parts were able to exercise their right to vote in the decisive presidential runoff phase.
Haji Mirza Ali, a resident of Paroon, said only the capital city and its adjacent areas had been secure during the April 5 elections and people in other parts found it hard to go to polling centres.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News security forces should beef up security across the province to pave the way for a huge turnout on June 14.
“Kamdesh, Barg-i-Matal and other districts witnessed ghost elections because residents of these areas did not vote due to security threats,” he recalled.
Another resident, Sultan Mir, said most people would not participate in the runoff election because they had received threats from the rebels after participating in the first round.
He said: “It is of immense importance that security should be provided to the people before and after casting votes. Otherwise they will have their fingers chopped off.”
According to Sultan Mir, there had been no voting in Mandol district on April 5 and later there were rumours that ballot boxes from the district were stuffed in another area.
Agha Gul from Mandol district said the elections on April 5 could not take place due to Taliban threats.
He said strong influence of rebels did not allow the government to set up polling stations in the district.
“Every Afghan should have the right to vote and ensuring security is the responsibility of the government and security forces,” he said.
Wishing not to be named, a provincial council member said a handful of women participated in the first round of elections in Nuristan.
She said most of the women were unwilling to go to polling centres due to prior warnings from insurgents. But some people defied the threats and voted, she said.
Former provincial council member Amanullah Inayatur Rahman acknowledged insecurity was a serious problem that could keep at bay voters from the upcoming round of election. He warned many people would be deprived of their right to vote right if security was not ensured.
He said: “The provincial administration should ensure security that polling centres are protected. It was insecurity that led to rigging in the previous polls.” He said Nuristanis were willing to vote but in peaceful environment.
Nuristan election commission head Izzatullah Halim said there were security related problems in various districts.
But he linked the poor security to Nuristan’s geographical location. He claimed only four of the 34 polling centres had been shut during the previous elections.
He hoped residents of Mandol district would be enabled to vote in a fear-free environment, urging security forces to put in place effective measures in all districts.
Governor Mohammad Zahir Bahand said his administration had directed security organs to adopt every possible measure to secure the runoff.
Bahand said: “We held a series of meetings with security officials and they pledged to provide better security during the runoff than the first round.”
Deputy police chief Col. Sherzai said security forces had taken tight measures to facilitate the electoral process.
He said the Interior Ministry and the provincial IEC had designated 34 areas as polling centres and they were committed to ensuring their security.
He said the people could easily go to polling sites on the Election Day because security in Paroon and six districts had been already strengthened.
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