GARDEZ (Pajhwok): More votes have been cast in insecure districts of southeastern Paktia province than in relatively peaceful areas during last month’s presidential election, creating doubts in some people’s minds also producing reassuring comments from others about the province’s participation.
A total of 194 polling centers were designated for 14 districts and the provincial capital, Gardez, but 32 centers remained closed on Election Day due to security threats.
During the September 28 presidential polls, 161,678 people cast their votes at 983 polling stations, taking Paktia to the list of top provinces in terms of high turnout.
But until two days ago, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) had so far transferred 36,827 biometric votes from 653 polling stations of Paktia to the central server.
Some electoral tickets objected over the number of votes cast in Paktia and alleged mass rigging and fraud in the polls.
According to the IEC, 8,569 Tazkeras (ID cards) were attached with voter registration certificate number known as stickers in Shwak district, but on Election Day, only 418 votes were cast in 26 polling stations of three polling centers.
But in Zurmat district, 33,320 Tazkeras had voter registration stickers, while on Election Day 24,836 votes were cast in 97 polling stations at 18 polling centers.
In Rohani Baba district, 13,466 Tazkera had stickers but on Election Day, 9,999 votes were cast at eight polling centers.
In Zurmat district, 13 polling stations at four polling centers remained closed due to insecurity. The total number of polling centers in Zurmat was 22. In Rohani Baba, four polling center remained closed out of the total nine polling centers and 44 polling stations.
The residents of Paktia criticize individuals who raise questions over the high turnout in the province and say people should not level baseless allegations about the Paktia votes.
Haji Dawa Jan, head of the Grand Tribal Council, said that election teams should laud the huge public participation in polls despite security threats and difficulties.
He said due to the missing of names from voter lists and absence of voter lists, most of the people were deprived of voting.
“We cast clean and fair votes. Taking part in the election was an obligation and we performed it. We invited eligible persons at the request of tribal people and participated in elections,” he said.
District Chief Ahmadullah Saberi said considering the massive geography and population of the district, the election turnout was unsatisfactory.
Saberi said Zurmat district was highly populated but it had been deprived of development projects from government.
He said elders and youth of Zurmat fully participated in the presidential polls in order to prove themselves and get their due rights.
He added: “Zurmat is a large district in Paktia, we have always offered sacrifices and are ready for sacrifices always. Individuals who claim that votes were not cast, this is 100 percent wrong. I was present there and this was the love of the people that they demonstrated by high turnout during polls.”
Taimour Oriakhel, the resident of Rohani Baba district, which was part of Zurmat in the past, asked people to honor people’s vote and refrain from baseless propaganda. According to Oriakhel, baseless accusation harmed public trust in the election process.
He said some fake videos of rigging had been recorded by individuals who were associated with some election teams, adding these videos should be checked to find if they were original.
He said, “The people of Zurmat proved in the war time that it is a large and populated district and have more rights, which were never offered. If someone has doubts about Zurmat votes, they shall provide evidence so that everyone could see and if there is no evidence, than these complaints are useless and irrelevant.”
Governor Shamim Khan Katawazai hailed the huge turnout in Paktia during elections and said proper arrangements were put in place for the balloting.
He said some people had been putting pressure on the Taliban to allow the masses to participate in polls and not threaten them.
“The good thing is that we have agreements among tribes in different areas and these agreements illustrate that the Afghan are tired of war.”
The governor said the people of Paktia believed if they did not participate in the presidential election, the government’s attention to them would further decline.
For this purpose, the elders talked with armed opponents in Zurmat, Rohani Baba, Syed Karam, Zazi Arub and some areas of Ahmadabad districts.
“More people from these areas braved threats and took part in the polls to show they are with the government and want its attention for future development and prosperity,” he believed.
However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the claim that they allowed people to cast votes in some places of the country.
Naqibullah Haidari, the head of the IEC electoral office for Paktia, told Pajhwok that around 413,000 individuals had registered themselves as voters in the province, but due to insecurity, more than half of them had not been able to cast their vote in the presidential election.
Haidari termed the September 28 election as transparent and said the international community had also hailed the last month’s presidential polls as successful.
He said a large number of votes had been cast in some districts despite Taliban militants threat of attacks in Gardez City, the provincial capital.
He said that a large number of people still failed to vote in Paktia but people’s participation was large compared to other provinces due to tribal structures.
The Paktia Council did a great job and asked people to widely partake in the election process.
Mujahid Rahmatzai, the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) head for Paktia province termed the last month’s presidential election more transparent compared to the Wolesi Jirga election in 2018.
He said the provincial IECC received 150 complaints from 27 polling centers during 2019 presidential election.
Rahmatzai said 70 complaints had been registered directly with them while the remaining 80 complaints lodged with IECC in Kabul which were referred to them to be addressed.
Out of the total 150 election complaints, 90 had been addressed which were about missing voter names and late opening of some polling stations and early closure of others, added the IECC head.
Rahmatzai said the rest 60 complaints were about electoral issues and they had been referred to the investigation section and a decision on them would be made before the announcement of the preliminary result.
He assured that all remaining complaints would be addressed in light of the law and each vote of Paktia residents would be defended.
Pajhwok tried to have the comment of election monitors, but the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) regional head for Paktia has been fired over allegedly campaigning for the ‘Stability and Partnership’ electoral team.
The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) officials did not want to share their comments due to some security issues.
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