Campaigning in Afghanistan. The phone calls start coming in and friends stop by: let me tell you what is happening in my area. These are the details of just one day: rallies, threats and doubts.
People from Spin Boldak are cancelling their attendance for an Abdullah rally in Kandahar because the drivers of the hired cars have been threatened (“we’ll burn your cars if you go” – courtesy of the local head of the border police).
In Daikondi the district governors have been rounding up people and sending them to Nili, to join the schoolchildren for a festive welcome in honour of Karzai and Khalili. And the scandal of the week is a female provincial council candidate who had her husband arrested. He had apparently scolded her for wandering off to the river when the crowd was getting too much, so she called the governor, who sent the chief of police, who hooded and handcuffed and detained the man. Who says the government can’t act decisively..
A disqualified provincial council candidate has heard that other commander-candidates in his area have received letters summoning them to hand in weapons before the elections. He wants to know if there will be justice; whether they will be disqualified as well.
In the seven districts of Kodaman, to the north of Kabul, threats are being passed around, like in earlier elections. By a former police chief, by MPs and relatives of MPs. The voters are left wondering which threat is the most dangerous: the one in favour of Karzai or the one in favour of Abdullah. “The people will decide who they need to keep happy most.”
The campaign manager of a female provincial council candidate in Kabul explains how the campaign had lost some of its energy since the office was visited by the secretary (or random hanger-on) of one of the jehadi leaders. He had asked which mujahedin party was supporting her and if she was in touch with Nilab Mobarez (the UNAMA spokesperson). He mocked her, said she was wasting her money – how could she have a chance without being linked to either a party or the UN. They were still optimistic and expected their own tribal shura and others to vote for her, but it had somehow taken the shine off the campaign.
And there were worries about security and insecurity. Fear of Taliban attacks, rockets on the city, a repeat of what happened in Logar yesterday. Fear of riots during and after the count. Fear of a messy second round with ethnic overtones.
I said, remember how we were nervous during the first time too, wondering what the Taliban would do. That was nervous, she said, this is fear. Nervous is what you are when you have an exam. Fear is when you can’t write your name anymore.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020