Digital centre’s alleged lock-breaking being investigated
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Monday denied rumors that State Builder team’s supporters broke the lock of its digital data center facility in cooperation with security and electoral officials and relegated the false claims as “a plot and propaganda” against the commission.
The Stability and Partnership’s election team, however, demanded investigation into the incident and suspension of three top IEC officials and the Ministry of Interior.
The IEC inaugurated the digital data center facility on September 30 in order to analyze the results forms transmitted to the IEC during 2019 the presidential election. IEC officials said that photographs of the result forms of polling stations recorded by the biometric voter verification (BVV) devices would be sent to the digital center for comparison and conformation.
Ali Ahmad Usmani, head of the Stability and Partnership team, told reporters on Monday, 21 October, as follows: “On Sunday evening, observers were told to go home because there will be no work on that night. After the observers left, the IEC secretary arrived behind the digital centre gate along with special police force personnel and IEC security adviser and gave orders for breaking the lock. When we got aware of the incident, we rushed to the site and found the lock broken. This action is an attack on transparency of election, public mandate and democracy, which is not acceptable.”
Usmani said: “We had a meeting with IEC leadership this morning (Monday) for two hours on this issue, but Commissioners were unaware of the incident and agreed that it was a critical issue which should be investigated.”
Usmani alleged that the breaking of the lock of the digital data center might be orchestrated by the State Builder team.
He demanded suspension of the IEC secretary; IEC security adviser, senior Ministry of Inrterior (MoI) deputy minister and officials who he claimed directed the plot from the Presidential Palace in response to touching public vote and getting access to digital data center.
Usmani said they also wanted the ongoing election process to be put on hold until investigation into the incident was completed.
The IEC, however, in a statement said the allegations are false and consider them as a propaganda campaign in social media regarding the breaking of the lock of the digital data center. Even though the facility analyzes results forms, no BVV devices or results forms are stored in this building, as all sensitive materials are secured in other locations.
The false issue circulating in social media since morning:
Renowned members of Stability and Partnership team have been circulating the incident in social media, claiming that a number of observers of the State Builder team, in cooperation with police and an official of IEC, broke the lock of digital data center and entered the facility.
The Stability and Partnership team, while quoting IEC Commissioner Maulana Abdullah, wrote on its Facebook page: “Maulana Abdullah: Minutes earlier, a number of special police forces and observers of the State Builder team in cooperation with a senior official of IEC forced their way into the digital centre by breaking the lock and accessed sensitive election materials.”
“This evening, IEC secretariat announced that technical work is halted. The door of the digital data center was locked in the presence of observers but later we found that the lock was broken and observers of State Builder team in cooperation with an IEC official and police entered the digital centre. The issue is being investigated to reveal how much fraud has taken place.”
Fazal Ahmad Manavi, a senior member of Stability and Partnership team in his twitter wrote: “Breaking the lock of digital centre by police in cooperation with some observers from State Builder team is a criminal act which needs critical investigation by judicial organs under observation of representatives of election candidates. Please consider the issue serious.”
Another senior member of Stability and Partnership team Noor Rahman Akhlaqi on his Facebook page wrote: “Breaking the lock of the digital centre by security personnel where sensitive election material exist is an action against democracy and determination of people and a bad news for Afghanistan. It is true that Ghani has lost, but he is an individual and the victory of Afghanistan is important than the victory of an individual. Security personnel responsibility is to move Afghanistan towards victory not to be influenced by the win or loss of an individual. I hope that next morning I will hear something in restitution of this massive fault.”
Mohammad Mohaqiq, another senior member of the team, wrote: “The overnight attack was an incursion of special police force in cooperation with observers of State Builder team on digital centre of IEC and breaking the lock of the facility is an attempt and coup against clean votes of the masses and hampering the belief and trust of people in the democratic process.”
IEC Response regarding the dramatic claims:
A well-placed source at the IEC, requesting anonymity, told Pajhwok Afghan News in this case: “Security personnel entered an administrative facility where ballot boxes exist and they entered the facility due to cold weather but observers of State Builder team did not enter the facility.”
“Such reports are merely propaganda and baseless. More details are provided to the honourable people of Afghanistan in following points:
- Technical work is ongoing in the facility where quarantined biometric devices are stored. The entire work process of this facility was underway in the presence of observers and agents and at the end of every work shift, the door of this facility is locked and stamped in front of observers and election agents. The serial number of the seal is available with observers of other teams which is locked and opened in their presence.
- In addition, the IEC has considered a special user for all candidates through which they could observe all changes happening in the central server, results form collection centre, and analysis of the information in the digital center.
The Stability and Partnership electoral team’s supporters prepared a statement that was quoted by IEC Commissioner Maulana Abudllah, but Maulana did not respond about the issue and said, “ask the Stability and Partnership electoral team in this regard.”
Habib Rahman Nang, IEC Chief Executive Officer, told Pajhwok that the issue was a conspiracy against the IEC. He said a special room in the digital data center was locked and stamped in front all observers and so far no one had entered the room.
He said security forces were situated near the digital data center. When the Stability and Partnership electoral team made the allegation, the security forces reached the site and saw the lock was not broken.
Nang added the lock had not been broken and the Stability and Partnership electoral team’s representatives had been assured that nothing as such had happened but today; they started a propaganda on social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter).
He further said the IEC would investigate the issue and share its results during a press conference to address tensions created in this regard.
Meanwhile, Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told Pajhwok that it was just a rumor and police had not broken the lock of any room.
Rahimi added that reports of security forces interfering in IEC affairs were completely baseless, as security forces had already showed impartiality in this regard and they were committed to their duty in accordance with the country’s laws.
He rejected the involvement of the deputy of interior minister in the incident and said: “It was propaganda and the location was opened based on a formal letter to the IEC from NDS, following which IEC top leadership took decision to settle security personnel, and the IEC decision has no link with the deputy interior minister and other top officials of the ministry.”
Haris Jibran, a spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS), did not want to talk in this regard.
Javed Faisal, a spokesman for the State Builder electoral team, termed the issue as baseless and rumor in a telephonic conversation with Pajhwok.
He said, “Electoral teams should not make baseless accusations and criticism and I have discussed the issue with the IEC. We should let the commission finish its work.”
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