8 September 2004, Volume 3, Number 32
UN, RIGHTS GROUP WARN OF ELECTION SHORTCOMINGSBy Ron Synovitz
Concerns are growing about the potential for manipulation in Afghanistan's first direct presidential election. Just five weeks before the October ballot, the United Nations and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) have issued a report warning of voter intimidation and a lack security across much of the country. The report says the elections could be seriously undermined.
The UN and AIHRC report highlights three major areas of concern about the 9 October presidential election.
One concern is insecurity in areas where extremist groups are using violence to try to undermine the electoral process. Those regions include much of the south and southeast -- where the U.S.-led coalition is continuing to battle the remnants of the Taliban.
Another concern is about warlords and their private militias. The report says warlord factions continue to intimidate candidates and voters in the lawless provincial regions outside of Kabul.
Finally, the group says a lack of information about democracy is exposing many Afghans to manipulation and is generating a climate of uncertainty for political parties.
"Our second report [on conditions during the run-up to the election] is based on information gathered from 7 July through 24 August," said Nadir Nadiri, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. "It shows that overall, there has not been a major change in political rights of the people compared to the past."
Nadiri said a climate of fear has led to self-censorship by some political parties. Some groups refuse to publicly state their platforms ahead of the vote, saying they fear reprisals by local authorities who may consider their views subversive. So far there has been little talk from the 18 candidates about how specifically to deal with Afghan warlords who have committed war crimes during the past 30 years.
"There are some differences locally in some areas," Nadiri said. "For example, in our eastern provinces, the situation is much improved regarding freedom of speech and political activities. But in the northeast, the south, and the west, [militia] commanders, militia groups, and some government officials are still, in some way, preventing the people from having the freedom to engage in political activity. They have limited this freedom."
Even in the relatively secure capital of Kabul, many residents have expressed concerns about safety. Those concerns were heightened in late August after the Taliban claimed responsibility for detonating an explosives-laden truck outside the offices of the private U.S. security firm DynCorp. DynCorp provides security for Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai and trains recruits for the Afghan National Police. At least nine people were killed in the blast.
Security also is an issue for international election monitors. Neither the European Union nor the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will send full teams to monitor the polls. Instead, each will send a minimal staff to assess how the vote is conducted in major cities. The United Nations says there will not be enough international monitors to determine whether the ballot is free and fair in most provincial regions.
The fledgling Afghan National Army does not have enough troops to establish security in most of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. General Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said the national army will coordinate security patrols from command and control centers in seven provinces.
"The divisions of the National Army are preparing to establish security during the elections," Azimi said. "Since the first days of this process, the command and control centers have been established in seven provinces -- including Balkh, Paktia, Konduz, Nangahar, Herat, Kandahar, and Bamiyan."
Karzai has made the need for improved security a major part of his political platform. Speaking in Kabul today, he emphasized the need for building up the national army and national police force.
"If people elect me, then my government will create such an Afghanistan that is able to stand on its own feet and should have its own army and its own police," Karzai said. "It should be able to defend its own territory so that no country -- a neighbor or any other country -- can look at Afghanistan with bad intentions. Afghanistan has been troubled by neighbors and other countries for the last 30 years. Interference has been done in this country both openly and covertly. This has caused great problems for us."
But so far there has been little talk from the 18 candidates about how specifically to deal with Afghan warlords who have committed war crimes during the past 30 years. AIHRC spokesman said a national survey is still being organized to gather ideas from Afghans about how to deal with the human rights violations and war crimes of the past.
Ron Synovitz is an RFE/RL correspondent. RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report.
AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN BEGINS AMID ALLEGATIONS OF IRREGULARITIES AND INSECURITY.Campaigning for Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election on 9 October officially began on 7 September, international news agencies reported. But Sima Samar, head of the AIHRC, alleged that powerful forces are intimidating voters and prompting some political parties to refrain from openly discussing their platforms for fear of retaliation, the BBC reported on 6 September (see feature above). No one is expecting the elections to be fully free and fair, Samar said, but her organization would be satisfied if the process were 60 percent free and fair. Both the European Union and the OSCE have scaled back their election-monitoring teams due to perceived insecurity, AFP reported on 7 September. "If it is too dangerous for monitors to monitor, isn't it too dangerous for Afghans to vote?" asked Andrew Wilder, head of the independent Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit. (Amin Tarzi)
RIVAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ACCUSES AFGHAN LEADER OF BREAKING ELECTORAL LAW.Independent candidate and former Planning Minister Mohammad Mohaqeq has charged that by appointing a new education minister, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has broken the country's Electoral Law, the Kabul-based daily "Arman-e Melli" reported on 5 September. Mohaqeq said the appointment of Ahmad Shah Moshahed as education minister to replace another presidential candidate, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, is a breach of the Electoral Law. "Ministers who resign after standing as presidential candidates can resume their jobs 20 days after the elections, if they are not elected president," Mohaqeq said.
Clause 4 of Article 13, Chapter IV of the Electoral Law stipulates the following: "Those members of the government, judges, public prosecutors, and civil servants [officials] who want to be candidates to the posts of the Presidential, National Assembly, and Provincial and District Councils, are required to tender their resignations 75 days prior to the elections." Clause 5 then states: "In case candidates of sub clause (4) are not successful in the elections, implications of their resignation do not apply and until 20 days after the elections they can return to their posts.
According to Radio Kelid's report of 6 September, Chairman Karzai on 5 September defended his decision to appoint a new education minister to replace presidential candidate Qanuni. "The ministries should not remain without a minister or a head for a long time," Karzai told a news conference. He contends that the reference to "members of the government" in Clause 4 of the Electoral Law refers to senior government officials, not cabinet ministers.
On 31 August, Radio Afghanistan had reported that Chairman Karzai has appointed Ahmad Moshahed as the new education minister to replace Qanuni who stepped down in July to run in the October presidential election (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 31 July 2004). (Amin Tarzi)
EXCERPTS FROM THE AFGHAN ELECTORAL LAW.English translation of excerpts dealing with the presidential elections from the Afghan Electoral Law approved by Chairman Karzai on 12 May.
Chapter IV; Article 13
1- Electors qualification
Every Afghan who meets the following conditions can vote in presidential, parliamentary, provincial, and district assembly elections:
Has reached 18 years of age at the time of the election;
Has Afghan citizenship at the time of registration;
Is not deprived of any political and civil rights by an
Is registered in the voters' registration list.
2- Candidates qualifications
Every qualified Afghan can declare his/her candidacy in the presidential, National Assembly, provincial, and district council elections.
The chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court and the attorney-general can not be made candidates in the presidential, National Assembly, provincial and district council elections.
Officials of the armed forces (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, and the National Directorate for Security) shall not be candidates in the presidential, National Assembly, and provincial and district council elections during the course of their duties, unless they resign from their relevant institutions 75 days prior to the date of elections.
Those members of the government, judges, public prosecutors, and civil servants who want to be candidates to the posts of the presidential, National Assembly, and provincial and District Councils, are required to tender their resignations 75 days prior to the elections.
In case candidates of clause (iv) are not successful in the elections, implications of their resignation do not apply and until 20 days after the elections can return to their posts.
Chapter V, Article 16
1 - Persons who fulfill the condition of eligibility established in Article 62 of the constitution can run for the presidential post. The presidential candidate shall simultaneously announce the names of two vice presidents to the nation at the time of candidacy.
2 - Presidential candidates must present the copies of voters' registration cards according to Article (44) of this law, and pay the fee.
3 - Candidates shall not:
Pursue objectives that are opposed to the principles of the holy religion of Islam, and principles and values of the constitution;
Use force, or threaten with, or propagate the use of force;
Incite to ethnic, lingual, deanery, or religious sensitivities and discriminations;
Create a real danger to the rights or freedoms of individuals or intentionally disrupt public order and security;
Have nonofficial military organizations or be part of
Receive funds from foreign sources
Receive funds from internal illegal sources
4 - The Independent Election Commission shall verify and approve the eligibility of the candidates.
Article 17 (Election of the President)
1 - The president is elected, in accordance with Article 61 of the constitution and this law, by a majority of the valid votes of voters cast in an election.
2 - If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the valid cast votes in the election, a runoff election shall be held between the two most-voted candidates within two weeks after the announcement of the election results. The candidate receiving the most valid cast votes in the runoff election shall be declared elected.
3 - The candidate receiving the highest number of votes in accordance with Article (160) of the constitution shall assume his duties 30 days after the result of the election has been proclaimed.
4 - In case one of the presidential candidates dies during the first or second round of voting or after elections, but prior to the declaration of results, re-election shall be held according to provisions of this law. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN SUPREME COURT CALLS FOR DISQUALIFICATION OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OVER ALLEGED BLASPHEMY.The head of the Afghan Supreme Court, Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, called on 1 September for the removal of Abdul Latif Pedram from the list of presidential candidates, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Shinwari told AIP that a "few days ago," Pedram "criticized Islam, the Koran, divorce, polygamy, and other Islamic tenets" in a meeting. "Therefore, as a result of these anti-Islamic remarks," the candidate has no right to be "the leader of an Islamic country," Shinwari added. The High Council of the Supreme Court in a meeting on 1 September decided not only to disqualify Pedram from competing in the October presidential elections but also to have prosecutors summon him to investigate his "blasphemous remarks," Shinwari said. According to AIP, Pedram was the editor of the official party newspaper during the rule of communist leader Babrak Karmal (1980-86) and a member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. In the current electoral process, Pedram is running as the candidate of the National Congress Party (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 31 July 2004). According to the Afghan Constitution approved in January, the president must be a Muslim and no political party's charter may contradict the principles of Islam (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November 2003).
Pedram on 2 September said that the Supreme Court has no authority to disqualify him from competing in the October presidential election, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. Pedram said Shinwari has not paid close attention to his remarks, adding that he believes "political intentions might be involved." Pedram said that he has spoken to the UN-backed Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), which has informed him "that nobody has the authority to take such action [to disqualify him]." Only the JEMB has the authority to disqualify candidates, Pedram added. (Amin Tarzi)
BROTHER OF SLAIN AFGHAN COMMANDER OPPOSES POLITICAL USE OF HIS IMAGE IN ELECTIONS.Ahmad Wali Mas'ud has condemned the use of images of his slain brother as part of election campaigns, Kelid radio reported on 1 September. "We do not accept Ahmad Shah Mas'ud's name or picture being used as a tool in the election campaign," the younger Mas'ud said. Ahmad Wali Mas'ud is currently Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Kingdom and leader of the Nahzat-e Melli-ye Afghanistan party, but he has yet to endorse a presidential candidate (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 August 2004). Ahmad Wali's older brother and a member of Nahzat-e Melli, Ahmad Zia, is the first vice-presidential running mate of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, while another member of the party and a close aid to the slain Mas'ud, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, is seen by many as the main challenger to Karzai. Ahmad Wali did not single out any particular campaign for using his brother's images, but Kelid claimed that Qanuni's campaign has been using images of Mas'ud and therefore the statement by Ahmad Wali is directed at Qanuni. (Amin Tarzi)
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE CRITICIZES AFGHAN LEADER'S CAMPAIGN TACTICS.In an interview with "Kabul Weekly" on 1 September, Homayun Shah Asefi accused Chairman Karzai of misusing his position to benefit his current presidential campaign. Asefi said he has demanded that Karzai resign before the election not as a constitutional issue but "because he is using government facilities for his personal benefit." Asefi said he is against boycotting the elections if Karzai does not give up his chairmanship, as was urged by a majority of the candidates (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 August and 1 September 2004). The Afghan Constitution states that the current transitional leader may remain in office until the elections, although another clause bans presidential candidates from holding cabinet-level posts. Asefi said he would have favored having both presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously, arguing that if parliamentary elections cannot be held due to security concerns, presidential elections are equally threatened. "In my opinion, the postponement of the parliamentary elections [until spring 2005] was a tactic, because Karzai hopes to win the [presidential] election and knows that if the parliamentary elections are held [together with the presidential election...most of his opponents may find their way into the parliament." Asefi alleged that Karzai ordered the Information and Culture Ministry not to broadcast speeches by two unnamed candidates who criticized him. (Amin Tarzi)
MEMBERS OF POLITICAL PARTY GATHER IN SUPPORT OF AFGHAN LEADER.An estimated 100 members of the Republican Party of Afghanistan gathered in a central Kabul square on 2 September in support of Chairman Karzai, Radio Kelid reported. The group, led by party leader Sebghatullah Sanjar, said that they want Karzai to stay in office until the election is held in October, rejecting calls made by 15 out of 18 candidates for the Afghan leader to step down before the election (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 August and 1 September 2004). Sanjar is not a candidate in the upcoming election and his party was the first political organization to officially endorse Karzai's candidacy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2004). (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN LEADER MEETS BELGIAN AND FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTERS.Chairman Karzai on 2 September met with Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahuat and his French counterpart Michelle Alliot-Marie, Radio Afghanistan reported. The French defense minister said that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be reinforced if necessary during the election period in Afghanistan, Reuters reported on 2 September. "Security before the elections...is a great concern," Alliot-Marie said, adding that a number of reinforcements have already arrived, increasing the strength of ISAF from 5,500 to 8,000 personnel. In June, NATO decided to increase the number of troops serving with ISAF in Kabul and also expanded the force in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 June and 1 July 2004). (Amin Tarzi)
CIVILIANS KILLED IN U.S. AIR RAID IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN.A disputed number of civilians were killed in a 30 August bombing raid by the U.S. Air Force in Dara-ye Paych District of Konar Province, international news agencies reported. According to Konar Governor Sayyed Fazel Akbar, after insurgents attacked a base used by coalition forces, U.S. planes "bombarded the surrounding areas where the enemy was hiding," killing five civilians, including a woman and two children, "The New York Times" reported on 1 September. Akbar blamed the neo-Taliban for the loss of civilian lives since they use "villages as bunkers." Gorm Pedersen, director of the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees, said on 31 August that, according to his staff working in the area, "there were eight dead villagers," AFP reported on 1 September. According to a U.S. military statement, coalition forces came under mortar fire from insurgents who also "fired indiscriminately at villagers," AP reported on 31 August. Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, claimed that 17 civilians were killed in the Konar raid, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 1 September. Pedersen said that his organization will stop its water-supply project in the area while it reassesses the security situation, AP reported. (Amin Tarzi)
PRT PERSONNEL ATTACKED IN LAGHMAN PROVINCE.Three soldiers -- two U.S. and one Afghan -- and one civilian were wounded in an attack on staff of the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Laghman Province east of Kabul, AIP reported on 31 August. An unidentified Afghan government official described the injuries of two of the soldiers as serious. Mufti Hakimi on 31 August told AIP that a member of the neo-Taliban "threw two grenades at a vehicle carrying Americans in the provincial capital of Laghman Province, Mehtarlam," wounding two passengers. According to Hakimi, the perpetrator managed to escape. (Amin Tarzi)
NEO-TALIBAN CLAIMS TO HAVE KILLED SIX AFGHAN SOLDIERS IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN.Hakimi told AIP over the telephone that on 31 August the neo-Taliban killed six soldiers in the Shorabak District of Kandahar Province, AIP reported the same day. AIP could not obtain a confirmation of the incident from Kandahar officials. (Amin Tarzi)
WESTERN AFGHAN WARLORD REJECTS GOVERNMENT POST...Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan in a speech on 3 September argued that he should not join the government in Kabul, Herat Television reported the next day. Speaking about the bloody clashes that occurred in Herat in August, the self-styled "amir" of Herat said that "they were calling us 'warlords,' but no one gave this title to the rebels in Zerkoh of Shindand," in a reference to militiamen loyal to local warlord Amanullah Khan who attacked Governor Ismail Khan's militia on 13 August (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 and 26 August 2004). "I was asked to serve as a minister in Kabul," Ismail Khan said. "However, I want to say that I do not want to be an interior minister, I do not want to be a defense minister, I do not want to be a president." The governor added that he has asked Chairman Karzai "many times to give" him "two more years to serve the people of Herat." Recent setbacks for Ismail Khan's militia have enabled Kabul to exert greater authority on Herat. (Amin Tarzi)
...AND ASKS FOR HIS RIVAL'S PUNISHMENT.Ismail Khan also said in his 3 September speech that Amanullah Khan's militia killed 134 of Ismail Khan's people and injured another 52, Herat Television reported on 3 September. Three of the dead were beheaded, Ismail Khan claimed. He also blamed the central government in Kabul for the loss of life in Herat. Ismail Khan expressed relief that Kabul has summoned Amanullah Khan and placed him under house arrest. "However, we are awaiting the trial of the criminals," Ismail Khan said. Rumors among villagers living near the areas of conflict put the death toll at around 200, "The New York Times" reported on 6 September. (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN HAILS DDR PROGRESS IN KABUL.According to a 2 September press release from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that he was "very encouraged" by the report that Kabul is free of heavy weapons. Khalilzad noted that the cache of heavy weapons in Kabul was a critical component of the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program under way in Afghanistan. "Step by step, the power of the gun is being removed from Afghanistan's future -- a future where weapons will no longer be tolerated as a means of influence," Khalilzad added. According to the statement, the warehousing of heavy weapons is currently underway in the town of Gardayz and Mazar-e Sharif, in eastern and northern Afghanistan, respectively. The heavy weapons seized in Kabul belonged to the militia loyal to the Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, in breach of the 2001 Bonn Agreement. (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. CONSULTANT TO AFGHAN GOVERNMENT ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF HOMOSEXUALITY.An unidentified U.S. citizen serving in an advisory capacity with the Afghan Finance Ministry has been arrested in Kabul on a charge of having had homosexual relations with an Afghan man, AP reported on 31 August. Abdul Halim Samadi, a prosecutor dealing with the case, said, "Islam doesn't allow homosexuality," adding that "prostitution is also punishable in Afghanistan under Islamic law." A conviction could carry a 15-year prison sentence, Samadi said. (Amin Tarzi)
THIS WEEK IN AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY6 September 1953 -- Mohammad Da'ud becomes prime minister.
6 September 1964 -- Afghanistan and the Soviet Union sign agreement for construction of research nuclear reactor in Afghanistan.
5 September 2002 -- Hamid Karzai escapes assassination attempt in Kandahar.
Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan," Third Edition, by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003).