I'm not an Afghan citizen. I don't have an Afghan passport. Yet I was able to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan.
How did I do it? Just follow these easy directions.
First, brandish a tape recorder, a camera, or even a plain old notebook at the entrance to one of the dozens of voter-registration centers dotted across Kabul.
Tell the security guards at the door that you are a journalist and would like to speak with and take photos of citizens who have just obtained their shiny new voter cards.
Don't worry. You don't need to stand in line behind the hundreds of prospective voters outside the center, some of whom have been waiting for days to get their feet through the door. The guards, while yelling obscenities at the others to step back and make way, will usher you in.
After conducting several interviews and taking dozens of photos -- and chatting with several soldiers stationed on the roof -- approach the manager who runs the center. Tell him that after seeing everyone around you getting their voter cards, you have been inspired and would like to get one, too.
"Right this way," he will reply politely.
Several moments later, you will find yourself inside a small room having your photograph taken. Four photos will be promptly printed -- one for your new voter card and the other three for their "records."
Wait patiently for 10 to 15 minutes, after which a young man will ask you to come over to his desk, where he will ask you a few questions.
"Is this your first voting card?"
Now, you're almost home.
Dip your thumbs in ink and press them against your application form. Sign your card. Wait several minutes for it to be laminated.
"Don't forget to vote," the smiling manager will say as you leave the center, armed with a valid voter-registration card that will allow you to cast your ballot -- or ballots -- and determine Afghanistan's future president.
No proof of name, age, address, or nationality is required.
If they ask for identification, simply say you don't have it, you lost it, or you forgot it at home.
Or you could say what several others in front of me said: "I didn't know I had to bring my national identification card with me."
"Don't forget it next time," you'll hear in reply.
That's the story of how I received a voter card on March 31 in Kabul's Shah Shaheed neighborhood.
It didn't matter that I'm an Australian citizen. (My place of birth is Kabul, however.) Or that I had not lived in the country for an extended period for more than 22 years.
In fact, I didn't have anything at all on my person with my name written on it, save for my reporter's notebook, which has my first name scribbled in the top right corner.
It was that easy.
And if you need more than one voter card, again, don't sweat it. Just follow the instructions above at as many voter-registration centers as you like, and you can presumably collect as many voter cards as you want. The application forms are all filled out and processed by hand, so there's no way of being caught by a computer.
Now I just need to figure out the answer to the question all of my colleagues are asking me: "Who are you going to vote for?"
-- Frud Bezhan