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Afghan Youth Debates: New Leaders Must Put a Stop to Wrongdoing

By Mohammad Arif Anwari






Afghan president Hamed Karzai's successor must address longstanding issues of poppy production, insecurity and corruption, students have told an IWPR-backed debate.

The discussion took place before more than 100 students at Balkh University in Mazar-e-Sharif on January 9. Undergraduates in the audience noted that more than three decades of conflict had caused untold suffering for the population, and that April's elections represented real opportunity for change.

Sayed Abdul Hamid Safawat, a lecturer at the university, agreed that voters were entitled to expect a new administration to tackle difficult issues head on, and that ministers must be seen to vociferously oppose criminal wrongdoing.

He argued that Afghan civil society groups were now far stronger and more effective than they had been during previous elections, and were thus much better placed to shine a light on corruption and hold the political establishment to account.

“There of course continue to be narcotics, corruption, and ethnic issues within civil society organisations and government agencies," Safowat admitted. "We have suffered a lot as many individuals and groups have misused democracy and religion in order to deceive us.

"Afghans now expect a new government to stop this wrongdoing."

Yadullah Taheri, a journalism student, told the panel that voters expected security at polling stations on election day to be made a top priority. He claimed that a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) had admitted ballot boxes would not be sent to high-risk districts.

“Safety is the issue of greatest concern to people, as research shows there is insufficient security at between 250 and 300 polling stations," he said. "An IEC representative has said in interviews that they will not allow ballot boxes in places where security is inadequate, so a large number of our fellow-countrymen will not get a chance to vote. Don’t you think this will threaten the transparency of the elections?”

Ajmal Ahadi, the IEC’s deputy head in Balkh province, agreed that the election process was vulnerable to action by insurgent groups, but insisted the only way to deter violence and corruption was for voters to turn out in large numbers.

"The IEC is encouraging people to support the election process. Everybody has a role to play," Ahadi said.

 Mohammad Arif Anwari is a student of journalism at  Balkh University and an IWPR trainee.

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.