Voting under terror

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  • Despite bloodshed, Afghan election still stirs popular enthusiasm

The ‘national unity government’ in Kabul, though really neither national, united or a government beyond the capital confines, still deserves to be lauded for sticking to the October 20 deadline of holding the much delayed parliamentary elections, while resilience and fervour displayed by the long suffering Afghan people, despite serious security concerns, also warrant due appreciation and acknowledgement. In the 20-day election campaign ending Friday, Taliban and the other sinister death dealer, fast-multiplying Daesh, let loose a reign of terror, targeting candidates, voters, campaign rallies, and high-profile government officials, killing ten candidates and 100 civilians so far, but they failed to break the spirit or resolve of tenacious Afghans, who desperately crave peace, stability, and normalcy in their war-torn, shattered nation and lives. In the latest ‘insider’ incident, security guard(s) shot and injured the governor and assassinated intelligence and police chiefs of strategic Kandahar province (where elections have been delayed for a week, as also indefinitely in Ghazni), with the top US army commander in Afghanistan narrowly surviving the attack.

Pity the proud but powerless ordinary Afghans. Despite past military and governance failures and frustrations, they are still firmly pinning all their aspirations on their fledgling democracy, braving terrorism, and overcoming cynicism concerning the flawed election process itself, which includes vote-buying and fraud involving influential mafias and ruthless warlords. In 32 out of 34 provinces, 8.8 million registered electors will vote for over 2,500 candidates, including 417 women, contesting for 249 lower house seats at 17,000 polling booths, employing biometric verification, all this despite Taliban threats, especially to students and teachers, to boycott the ‘fake elections’ which are a ‘conspiracy to deceive the people’ and ‘benefit foreigners’. 50,000 Afghan personnel will oversee the security aspect. The ‘foreigners’, the real Afghan masters, too need to radically revisit and redefine their unconvincing and inadequate past policies, while the next most affected stakeholder, Pakistan, has to pitch in with unswerving support for peace. Hopefully, a new, truly united government in Kabul, not of the corporate variation, and with fresh faces and ideas, will fare better, but then, ‘hope is a good breakfast but it is a bad supper’. Time is precious for peace.