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

Provincial Election Trouble

By Danish Karokhel in Kabul (ARR No. 90, 22-Dec-03)
By IWPR

The group, along with a former district official, arrived Saturday and has been trying to meet with officials to demand help for their province, which is largely controlled by Taleban allies. So far they have been unable to get the attention of anyone but the media.


Of the 502 delegates to the Constitutional Loya Jirga, 344 were elected at the provincial level by representatives who had been chosen in the districts.


The women delegates, two from each province, were chosen separately through assemblies of female citizens.


The election for the general delegates from Zabul was held in Kandahar along with other southern provinces. However, the five delegates chosen to represent Zabul were elected by just 150 people from seven of the province's 11 districts. There should have been more than 300 representatives voting on Zabul delegates.


The representatives who were to vote on behalf of the four other Zabul districts did not attend the elections because they weren't informed about the time and place. In those four districts, there is no government authority, the Zabul representatives told IWPR.


Timur Shah, the leader of the group and a previous Loya Jirga delegate from Shamulzai district, said, "Those who have the authority in these four districts have a relationship with the Taleban, and they did not inform us [about elections], so that the Loya Jirga process would have a bad name."


In the other districts, the only authorities are the village elders, the Taleban and the officials who have made compromises with the Taleban, he said.


The group claimed that the government has real power in only two of the 11 districts of Zabul. "The security situation has deteriorated to the point that people are kidnapped within 10 kilometres of the borders of these two districts," said Timur Shah.


"Why doesn't the government take steps to get rid of the Taleban?" he asked.


It was only by coincidence that Timur Shah found out that the elections for Zabul were being held - he happened to be in Kandahar that day. He asked the administrator of elections in Kandahar to delay the vote by one day so that he could inform the district representatives. But the administrator, he said, told him that the delegates who were there would object and the government wouldn't allow it.


Consequently, Timur Shah said, "Afghanistan's people build Afghanistan by approving the constitution, but I'm sad that Zabul people are deprived of that."


He acknowledged that the group's journey to Kabul was a risk, "I know there is danger from the Taleban for me, but still I must inform the officials of the problems of my people."


The elections administrator for the Loya Jirga, Sadiq Mudaber, agreed that 45 or 50 per cent of Zabul's representatives didn't participate in the elections due to lack of security. "The schedule was set, and the delay of Kandahar's elections would not have been a good thing," he said.


Mudaber said that there were similar problems in Nuristan and Helmand provinces, where about 40 per cent of the representatives couldn't participate - either due to security problems or difficulties in travelling to the provincial capital.


In all of Afghanistan, about 85 per cent of the representatives participated in electing delegates, President Karzai's spokesman Jawed Ludin said Monday.


Three of the delegates who were elected to represent Zabul told IWPR they were aware that not everyone was represented in the election process. But they said they can still serve all the people of the province.


They said, however, that the government should do a better job of dealing with the security problems in the province.


Nazar Mohammed, a delegate from Shajoi district, confirmed that in the district of Arghandab no one attended the elections "because there is no government, no telephone, and no official contact [with the representatives]. They were frightened and under pressure [from Taleban allies]."


Danish Karokhel is an IWPR editor/reporter in Kabul.