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Afghan Youth Debates: More Polling Stations Open in Paktia Polls

By Abdul Raqib Nuri






Officials in Afghanistan’s southeastern Paktia province say the second round of the presidential election was a significant improvement on the first. 

Despite fears that the insurgent threat would result in a lower turnout on June 14, official figures from the Independent Election Commission (IEC) suggest that 350,000 people voted, compared with 216,000 on April 5

The IEC claims to have fixed problems that dogged the first round, principally ballot papers being delivered late or in insufficient numbers to polling stations.

Civil society activist and freelance reporter Niazullah Asil Zazai, told IWPR there were many improvements on the April 5 ballot, including assertive security measures, efficient delivery of ballot papers, and the fact that all but a few polling stations were open.

Only six of the 212 polling stations in Paktia failed to open. Three were in the Zurmat district, the others in Zazai Aryub district.

According to IEC, the six were closed because of security concerns, but Colonel Gul Mohammad, head of legal affairs at provincial police headquarters in Paktia, denied this. Instead, he claimed that in Zurmat at least, IEC staff failed to turn up on the day.

IEC spokesman Sher Ali Faizi denied the implication that polling station workers were reluctant to make the trip, saying it was the organisation’s policy not to allow staff to go to high-risk areas.

"When security is not guaranteed, the IEC cannot send its workers and electoral materials to the polling stations," he said.

The IEC says that 38 per cent of voters in round two were female.

“Participation was massive. More women took part than in the first round,” said Hafizullah, visiting the main town Gardez from his rural home area. “Only men voted before, but this time our elders not only didn’t prevent women, they actually asked them to go and use their vote."

Ahead of the June ballot, the Taleban stepped up their threats to disrupt the process. But some say the danger receded because locals worked closely with the army and police.

Hajji Janat Khan, a member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, said Pashtun tribal elders deployed auxiliary forces to help keep the peace.

"We appointed tribal paramilitary forces to work alongside the security forces in 13 districts of Paktia to deliver security,” he said. “The paramilitaries consisted of young men from the tribes. Twelve hours before polling day, they imposed security in those areas from which threats to polling stations were likely to emanate."

Abdul Raqib Nuri is a student at Paktia University and an IWPR trainee reporter.

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.

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