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Afghanistan

Registration Extended For Afghan Refugees In Pakistan

http://gdb.rferl.org/1F35EE8D-7CE2-4CEE-96D0-54982C4B799C_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/1F35EE8D-7CE2-4CEE-96D0-54982C4B799C_mw800_mh600.jpg Women recently registering to vote in Afghanistan (file photo) The International Organization for Migration (IOM), said yesterday that a three-day registration drive for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan was extended as fewer women are signing up than hoped for. The IOM, a United Nations affiliate, is urging conservative communities in Afghanistan to encourage more women to vote in the 9 October election. But among the tens of thousands of eligible Afghan women voters living in Pakistan, turnout is clearly lagging.

3 October 2004 -- The marketplace in the sprawling Jallozai refugee camp in northwestern Pakistan is abuzz with activity.

With thousands of refugees, the camp here has been a focus of an intense three-day drive to register voters for Afghanistan's upcoming presidential elections.

For some residents, the 9 October election means a lot. Mohammad Khan says he is eager to vote for his favorite candidate, an engineer named Ahmed Shah. "He has been our leader for a long time," Khan said. "We have relations with him. He is a mujahid [holy warrior]. He has fought in the jihad. I am going to vote for him."

But as Afghan women hurry through the marketplace in their burqas, they are showing less interest in their country's first-ever presidential poll.

For that reason, the UN's International Organization of Migration today extended the registration drive for another day.

Organizers say an estimated 10 millions Afghan have registered for the 9 October election.

Millions of Afghans who fled fighting and drought are living in Pakistan and Iran, and represent a significant bloc of voters.

But after the first two days of registration here, only about a fifth of the estimated 340,000 people who had registered were women. In Afghanistan, by comparison, more than 40 percent of those who registered are women.
Remnants of the former Taliban regime distributed leaflets in refugee camps in Pakistan last week, saying anyone who killed an election worker would earn a divine reward.


Many refugees complained about the lackluster campaigning by the candidates and growing security concerns as main reasons behind the sluggish mood.

Remnants of the former Taliban regime distributed leaflets in refugee camps in Pakistan last week, saying anyone who killed an election worker would earn a divine reward.

But Daud Arsala, in charge of interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai's election campaign here, said refugees would vote in big numbers regardless of any threat.

"I have so far not seen any problem, any hindrance, that will prevent people from [taking part in] elections or registration," Arsala said.

Still, officials in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province say they are taking seriously all threats of sabotage and that police and paramilitary forces will patrol voting areas during the election next weekend.

But voters like the 25-year-old Khan, who is hopeful for peace in his country, say they are undeterred by such fears.

"Now we are trying to get the cards, so that we can free our country," Khan said. "So that peace comes to our land and we can install our own king."

(wire reports/RFE/RL)

[For more on the Afghan elections, see RFE/RL and Radio Free Afghanistan's dedicated webpage "Afghanistan Votes 2004-05."]

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