Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

2010 Elections 24: An anti-election insurgency in the making in Ghor?

Gran Hewad 5 min

While the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) keeps working on the preliminary results and announcing its decisions regarding suspicious or invalid polling stations, the importance of this phase of the electoral process is highlighted by protests and reports of fraud coming from different provinces. One of them is Ghor, an area that often escapes the attention of Afghanistan watchers. AAN researcher Gran Hewad listened to candidates from there who threaten to turn the province even more insecure and violent.

Candidates running for the Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghor province have set quite an unprecedented stage for this remote province’s politics in Kabul last week. More than 20 out of 39 candidates gathered in the Afghan capital and, on 3 October, summoned a public press conference here, where they seriously criticized the election in their province.
During the press conference, after which they provided the public with printed copies of their declaration and CDs of videoclips and photos documenting fraud and irregularities, they related their witness accounts of Election Day in Ghor, a province where no international and surely few even national independent observers have been present for the elections.

Already during the campaign days, according to the protesting candidates, threats and intimidation against the population took place. In Dawlina district, relatives of some candidates who have joined the insurgency targeted a young candidate’s campaign agent who had recently returned from his university studies in a near city. Armed men forcibly seized him, blackened his face with coal dust, paraded him backwards on a donkey around the streets of the district centre and forced him to repeat loud that ‘whoever is caught campaigning for the elections in this district will face a worse punishment than mine’.

On Election Day, further problems stood in the way of voting. Lots of people waited for hours in front of the many polling centres, particularly in Dawlatyar and Pasaband (another centre of the insurgency since 2002 – here, the Taleban actually never left), for a chance to cast their vote, before they finally gave up the project and returned home hopelessly because the IEC’s own staff was busy stuffing ballot boxes inside and did not allow anybody in. In one district, polling centres were reportedly divided between two candidates, who are nephew and uncle; their militias were controlling the areas and ballot stuffing was going on undisturbed inside. Organised fraud like this could be the main reason for the suspiciously high turn out of 87 per cent in this isolated, backward and rather insecure province(*).

Ghor had distinguished itself for a high level of fraud already in past year’s elections, and in the past months there had been some signs of preparations underway to keep up the tradition. For example, women were the majority of newly registered voters in five out of ten districts: in Dawlatyar 4,464 women against 4.086 men; in Dawlina 2,796 women against 1,526 men; in Pasaband; 3,879 women against 2,526 men; in Tulak 3,750 women against 2,519 men; and in Taiwara 6,109 women against 4,668 men. Kuchi and mobile team registration units registered a total of 91,926 voters, 47.22 percent of which were female and 52.77 per cent male.

A former MP from the province said at the mentioned press conference: ‘God is witness that the only thing that did not happen in Ghor election is exactly an election. We, the protesting candidates, ask the government of Afghanistan to directly select the number of MPs for allocated seats for this province from the candidates. This would be more acceptable for us than the kind of MPs resulting from this election’.

The brother of a candidate representing him in the press conference said: ‘There are two categories of protesting candidates: first there are those who will continue protesting via the media and the electoral commissions, and second, and it is terrible to say this, there are those who are getting ready to go to the mountains and start a struggle against the corrupt government and the injustice they suffered.’

These warnings are not to be treated lightly: Ghor is a strategic spot bordering eight other central, southern and western provinces and serves as a major North-South linking route for both drugs and insurgents. Until now, notwithstanding the former ties of several Aimaq leaders with the Taleban during the Emirate(**) and their subsequent antagonistic relations with the anti-Taleban militias who took over most of the security and administrative positions at the provincial level, the province has not completely fallen under the sway of the insurgency.

The absence of a major player on the government side capable of polarizing the hostility by challenging smaller commanders’ assets, as often is the case elsewhere, and the limited presence and activity of the Lithuanian PRT have until now reduced the outbreak of open conflict in the province. But the socio-economic situation in Ghor is disastrous even by Afghan standards. Amongst the poorest, with a sore lack of jobs and medical facilities and a thoroughly inadequate road system, Ghor is likely to experience a winter even harder than usual, due to expected food and fuel price increases. Coupled with the widespread perception of the government as oppressive and parliament as unrepresentative, this could lead many inhabitants closer to an overtly hostile stance.

The experience of past civil wars, with the exodus to the mountains where anti-Taleban groups were often undistinguishable from bandits (and a few stories of severe thrashings of Taleban by them), the current feeling of injustice, stories of gross human rights abuses and unpunished murders as well as a couple of other, possibly economic, motivations could prove sufficient for adventurer types among the candidates who, having lost the election due to somebody else’s fraud, decide to play the local hero again.

And to be the local hero even makes the girls singing a landey(***) about you – like the following one:

پۀ مورچل نېغ ورځه ټيټ نۀ شې
پښتون ځلمی لۀ مرګه څنګ نۀ کړي مينه

Go upright to the trenches, not bent over,
A young Pashtun never turns away from death.

(*) Seven PC were reportedly closed on Election Day, six in Taiwara, one of the districts stronger affected by Taleban insurgency, and one in Dawlatyar, where an armed clash between supporters of two rival candidates took place. Pajhwok News Agency reported also that a PC in Tolak district was raided by insurgents who took away all the material, including 1800 ballot papers. The site was consequently closed.

(**) Recently one of them, Mo’awen Ahmad, who was appointed a senator after last year’s elections, has suspended from attending the Meshrano Jirga by its head Prof. Mojaddedi, because of allegations of retaining an illegal armed group in Dawlatyar district made by his Jamiati rivals. This local conflict, arising as often from a decades-old land dispute, was already the origin of an obscure episode in February 2008, when ‘Taleban’ held hostage the district governor and chief of police to secure Mo’awen Ahmad’s release from the authorities, in what has been since considered the first insurgents’ attack in Ghor.

(***) A landey is a form of Pashtun folklore literature, actually a two-liner in a strict rhythm which were transferred from mouth to mouth. Often, they encouraged Pashtun young men to fight and not be behave cowardly.

Tags:

Democratization Elections Government Taleban

Authors: