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Afghan Youth Debates: Security Forces Say Standards Will be High at Polls

By Abdullah Lami

Afghan security officials have reacted angrily to accusations that soldiers and police cannot be trusted to behave professionally as the country approaches crucial presidential elections at the end of this week.

Asadullah Ensafi, chief of the Afghan National Police in the southeastern province of Ghazni, insisted that his officers were committed to maintaining security around the April 5 elections and would in no way seek to interfere with or corrupt the process.

Speaking at an IWPR debate, he condemned a suggestion from one audience member, Misam Montazeri, that police might mistreat members of the public on election day.

Ensafi said that police had a duty to protect the lives and property of Afghans, and that the significant sacrifices they had made should not be ignored.

“Our police understand that the public expects them to behave ethically,” he said. “In return, we ask young people not to accuse us of unprofessional conduct. The police are committed to ensuring security during the elections and they will never interfere in the voting process. Any officer or staff member found interfering will be fired."

Hamida Gulistani, a member of Ghazni’s provincial council, added that “if people observe the rules on the elections day, police will not act against them".

Mohammad Nazif Sultani, a spokesman for the Afghan Nationlal Army in Ghazni, also reacted strongly. He said that not every soldier was perfect, but that to insult the security services generally was to insult Afghans themselves.

“These forces have not fallen out of the sky," said. "Some of them might have problems, but they should not all be insulted.”

The debate, held on March 16 at Ghazni University, also heard about problems with recruiting female police officers.

Ensafi told students that there were currently only 36 women police officers in Ghazni, with a further 12 still in training. This meant that there were not nearly enough female officers to cover the approximately 280 polling stations in the province 5.

“We plan to hire local women to conduct searches on female voters, as men can’t search women,” Ensafi said.

Asked to provide greater detail on security arrangements for polling day, Ensafi said there were a total of 385 polling stations in Ghazni province, of which 206 were deemed to be completely safe, a further 31 were seen as mid-level security threats, and 148 as high security threats.

Abdullah Lami is a student at Ghazni 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.

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