Taliban worries loom as Afghanistan prepares to vote for a president – Newspaper

KABUL: Millions of Afghans are expected to face the threat of militant attacks to vote in a presidential election on Saturday, hoping to avoid repeating a bitter, fraudulent and ultimately unresolved poll in 2014.

About a dozen candidates are in the fray for the presidency, but current President Ashraf Ghani and its executive director Abdullah Abdullah are the main candidates for the position at a time when the Taliban insurgents have intensified the attacks.

Ghani and Abdullah, 70, 59, have ruled through a fractured agreement to share power since 2014, their forces fighting the Taliban even when the rebels held peace talks with the United States that were later abandoned.

The Taliban have more territory now than at any other time since 2001, when their regime was overthrown by a US-led invasion.

“The people of Afghanistan will defend their free and fair votes. I know that Afghans will protect democracy, "Ghani said at an election rally, adding that the hard-line Islamist group could not overcome the inherent spirit of freedom and desire for progress of the Afghan people.

Militants have more territory now than at any time since 2001

However, more than 170 civilians have been killed and more than 300 injured in attacks that involved the Taliban in the pre-election period.

"Stay away from polling stations on election day," the Taliban warned in their last statement.

On Friday, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement that the group had captured the Darah Sof Payan district of the northern province of Samangan, another sign of the rising strength of the insurgency.

Despite decades of war, 9.67 million Afghans registered to vote in 2019 for a population estimated at 34 million.

To fight the militants, the country will deploy more than 100,000 members of the security forces, according to two senior security officials in Kabul.

The Afghan government has allocated $ 90 million and international donors have donated $ 59 million to hold elections in 34 provinces, but hundreds of polling stations in schools and mosques are likely to remain closed following threats from the Taliban.

Ghani's rival, Abdullah, accused the president of abuse of power and use of government resources in his election campaign.

Abdullah said he feared that the result could be biased by electoral fraud and that it would threaten the country's unstable democracy.

“He (Ghani) has been an obstacle, an obstacle to peace. This person is not suitable for the job, "he told Reuters on Thursday.

If there are "massively fraudulent elections, and someone is announced as a winner, this will not be accepted," he added.

Western and Asian diplomats in Kabul said fear of Taliban violence has reduced enthusiasm for voting, and some expect low record participation.

Other fears include the deprivation of women's rights. Mandatory photographs for voting risk, excluding women in conservative areas where they keep their faces covered outside their homes.

Posted on Dawn, September 28, 2019

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1507764/taliban-worries-loom-as-afghanistan-prepares-to-vote-for-a-president


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