Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Paktia Elders Back Poll Security Efforts

By Abdul Raqib Nuri






Tribal elders from Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province have promised to work with the national security forces to maintain order during next month’s elections.

Janat Khan Mangal, a representative of the Mangal, a major Pashtun tribe in this part of Afghanistan, said community leaders from across the region were in regular contact with one another to promote stability and encourage people to take part in the historic poll.

"We have been holding regular meetings with tribal leaders and we have told them to stand shoulder to shoulder with the security forces on election day. They will help guarantee stability and allow local people to vote for whichever candidate they want," Mangal told an audience of 100 students attending an IWPR debate at Paktia University on March 12.

Another panellist, Abdurrahman Solamal, formerly local government chief for Paktia’s Zurmat district, said he welcomed the support of village elders and highlighted the role they had played in previous elections. But he noted that security remained a major concern for voters, and the threat of violence was very real.

“If security is guaranteed, then the election can take place. But if people fear they will have their fingers chopped off if they vote, they won’t dare take part," he said.

A third panelist, Sayed Habibullah Abedi, provincial spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), agreed that greater collaboration between tribal elders and security forces was needed.

“We have to develop a culture where Afghans accept elections for generations to come," he said. "When that is achieved, our nation will grow."

Audience member Taj Ali told the debate that he believed village elders should advise younger voters on which candidates to support on April 5.

“The elders are more experienced and they can distinguish between good and bad candidates,” he explained.

In previous IWPR debates, many participants have raised concerns that community leaders will use their influence to pressure local voters into picking a particular candidate.

Abdul Raqib Nuri is a student at Paktia 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.