Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Afghan Youth Debates: Vote Must Unite Afghanistan
Academics and civil society activists in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar have urged voters to "wake up" and recognise that the June 14 presidential ballot is critical to securing peace and prosperity.
Nut Anwar Faruqi, a lecturer in law and politics, said he believed all eligible voters not only had a duty to take part in the historic poll, but should also view the vote as a privilege, not just a right.
Addressing more than 60 undergraduates at an IWPR debate, he urged voters to set aside traditional allegiances when considering whether to back candidate Abdullah Abdullah or his opponent Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Instead, he said, they had a responsibility to support the candidate who would best represent the country's interests. Above all else, Afghanistan needed unity, he added.
"The time has come for Afghans to decide their own destiny," Faruqi told the June 8 debate. "Besides actively supporting the election, we also need to vote for a candidate with sound political and economic programmes, someone who can get this country out of crisis.
"All members of society, particularly young people, should wake up and unite. They should help prevent fraud by monitoring the poll and they mustn't allow those with power and money to disrupt the process. The public must also differentiate between good and bad [policies], and not deliberately push the country towards further catastrophe."
The IWPR debate took place at the privately-run Al-Taqwa Institute of Higher Education in Jalalabad, Nangarhar’s administrative centre. Guest speakers included Faruqi, Mohammad Anwar Sultani, a civil society activist, and Enamullah al-Haq Ehsas, chairman of the Zaland Afghanistan Association, a civil society group.
Sultani assured the audience that lessons had been learnt from the first round of the election, held on April 5. He said problems with a shortage of ballot papers had been resolved and that corruption would not be tolerated.
He also called on voters to "show the world" that the majority of Afghans now wanted peace and reconstruction rather than continued conflict. Taking part in the poll would ensure this message was broadcast loud and clear, he said.
"There were many candidates in the first round and the monitoring process was weak," he noted. "But the [ballot paper] shortages and other problems will not exist in the second round.
"The public's broad participation on April 5 has assured us that the nation has woken up and realised the value of elections. Afghans will not allow anyone to play games with their destiny this time."
Fazel is a student at Nangarhar 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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