Voters expected to brave fresh threats in round two of presidential polls

Pakistan’s foreign ministry reiterates pledge to take special measures for peaceful elections.


Tahir Khan June 13, 2014
Afghan election commission workers carry plastic ballot boxes at a warehouse in Jalalabad on June 12, 2014. Afghanistan's election will go to a run-off vote between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, results confirmed, as the country enters a new era without NATO combat troops. The head-to-head election, scheduled for today, will choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Determined to brave Taliban threats, millions of Afghans will cast their ballot in the presidential election run-off on Saturday (today). While Afghan officials admit security challenges will be graver this time around, they are confident of ensuring a smooth and peaceful polling process for the second time in nearly three months.

On Wednesday, the Afghan Taliban issued threats asking people to stay away from the run-off vote. “The Islamic Emirate calls upon all the devoted mujahideen throughout the country to carry out their assaults in a well-organised manner according to the prescribed planning. They should circumspectly identify all the polling stations and attack them decisively,” the Taliban leadership council said in what they termed their final appeal to the people.

After none of the competing candidates managed to secure the 50% plus one vote required to emerge victorious in the presidential elections held on April 5, a run-off was announced between the two leading candidates. Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai are now vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai.

Afghan officials are busy downplaying threats issued by the Taliban. They insist the plan to disrupt the democratic process will not bear fruit as they have a lot of experience on the back of the April 5 security plans.

Afghan Army Chief General Sher Mohammad Karimi says his 190,000-strong force of security personnel is on alert for Saturday’s polls. “Compared to the first round of elections, we are well prepared for the second round. We have good plans to secure the process,” Afghanistan’s independent Tolo TV quoted General Karimi as saying on Friday.

Independent defence analysts also believe the Taliban could launch some attacks, but would not be able to stop people from exercising their democratic right. “I do not think there is any major threat to the elections. The Afghan National Army, police, intelligence agencies and all other security organs have put plans in place to pave the way for a smooth election process,” former defence minister Shahzawaz Tanai told The Express Tribune via phone from Kabul on Friday.

Referring to the security plans of April 5, Tanai said Afghan forces had succeeded in ensuring security without the help of foreign forces.

Afghan political analysts view Pakistan’s role as an important one for peaceful polling. They insist Islamabad’s assistance on this historic occasion would bridge the gap in bilateral trust. “Security measures by Pakistan are very important as this approach would also lessen mistrust,” said Regional Studies Center of Afghanistan Director Abdul Ghafoor Liwal while speaking from Kabul.

Liwal’s comments come in the wake of a statement by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry saying the country has taken extra measures to ensure peaceful elections. “Our authorities are taking additional measures including retaining additional troops for this purpose,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said in a dispatch. She maintained security measures include enhanced vigilance along the border, enhanced patrolling in areas close to the border, stricter checking by immigration staff, enhanced communication through the existing coordination and cooperation mechanism along with availability of a hotline contact with Afghan counterparts.

On the eve of the first round of polling on April 5, Pakistan had taken some special steps to beef up security along the border.

Correspondents in Kabul say authorities have sealed all entry routes to the capital to foil any sabotage attempt. Moreover, in order to draw people to the ballot box, Karzai has launched a fresh appeal. “The voting day is of immense importance in terms of Afghanistan’s stability and empowerment of the people,” Karzai said in a statement issued from the presidential palace on Thursday.

He hoped the people would turn up in large numbers to elect a candidate of their choice. Karzai has also asked security personnel and government officials to remain neutral.

The turnout, however, is feared to be affected by the renewed threats from the Taliban. “We anticipate a lower turnout in the run-off. In the previous round, public motivation had played a key role,” said an official of the Free and Fair Election Network. A high turnout was witnessed on April 5 when election officials said seven million of the 12 million eligible voters cast their ballot.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2014.

COMMENTS

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

E-Publications

Most Read