News Summary, Oct 25

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Update: Some analysis of the IEC's preliminary results raises questions about, among other things, turnout; Karzai brushes off reports that he accepted bags of cash from Irank saying the U.S. gave him money too, and accusing the New York Times of defaming him because of his decree on foreign security firms.

Afghanistan – Election

  • Local coverage An editorial in Payam e Mujahid, a Dari weekly (Oct 25, 2010) titled The People of Afghanistan Deserve Better Elections was despite the headline quite positive about the IEC's performance. "Compared to previous elections the people were less enthusiastic about the September 18 parliamentary elections. Therefore, only one fourth of the eligible voters bothered to go the ballot box. The new IEC chief though sounded very enthusiastic and committed to a fair and transparent election at beginning but failed to ignite people’s interest in the electoral process. However, the IEC under Manawi’s leadership had some obvious positive points that should be acknowledged. The IEC did not claim that the elections would be perfect. They accepted, acknowledged, and announced the shortcomings that were obvious to them. They canceled more than 1 million votes. They filed complaints against some candidates to the ECC. They handed over their own staff to the security forces for breaking the electoral laws. However, Manawi failed to completely root out the possibility of fraud. It was because he took over an institution in which the election-fraud mafia had deep roots." But it did say the IEC chairman should have done more: "Manawi," it concluded, "should have reshuffled the entire IEC for a better election. The September 18 election," it said, "tells the following:
    - Holding the elections was a huge success in itself. In a very difficult situation Afghanistan saw a continuity of the democratic process.
    - The drawbacks of the election should be acknowledged and the election community should look into ways of fixing things in future elections. We should think and plan that every election should be a little better than the previous elections. Moreover, she says, there are serious issues of possible disenfranchisement, meaning that "the growing interethnic mistrust means that there is considerable potential for disgruntled Hazaras and Pashtuns to be mobilised around slogans of ethnically biased treatment by the IEC, and by extension the government."
  • Mysteries lurk Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts Network takes a less charitable view, having delved into the data released by the IEC. She asks why the number of votes jumped from 4.4 million to 5.6 million by the end of the tally process, without any explanation, and says that "the results and the underlying data have left both candidates and observers with a distinct impression of randomness and a lack of clarity on how decisions to disqualify or re-include are made." In some places, she writes, "candidates who were blatantly involved in fraud fell off the list of winners after a large part of their votes was invalidated, while in other provinces such candidates still came out on top." She concludes: "In the midst of all the noise and exaggeration of clamouring candidates there are some real issues and real grievances. It would be unwise to ignore them." [AAN]
  • FEFA The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan has highlighted similar problems, and on Monday called on the ECC to resist political pressure to expedite the complaints process at the expense of justice, and for the IEC "to provide an explanation for the dramatic increase in estimated voter turnout announced with the preliminary results." [FEFA]

Afghanistan – Security, Politics and Diplomacy

  • Attacks Nearly 25 people were killed on Monday after Nato forces targeted a mosque in an airstrike in Helmand province, provincial security officials said. NATO said they were striking Taliban insurgents gathering in the area; locals claimed that all the victims in the attack were civilians. Reuters' report made no mention of the alleged civilian casualties. VOA said that NATO was investigating the allegations. [TOLO] [AP] [Reuters] [VOA]
  • Iran, Karzai and Security Firms President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan acknowledged Monday that he has received cash from Iran -- and he said the United States knows about it and does the same thing. He told CNN on Monday that the United States is and has been aware of Iran's financial contributions. He also said that the United States gives bags of money. He told a press conference that the NYT's report to tarnish Umar Daudzai, the president’s chief of staff, because he had taken a strong stand on terminating the use of private security companies. Pajhwok quoted Karzai as calling on the international community to stop threatening his administration on the issue of security firms, warning "it is not the way they should deal with Afghans." Reuters quoted Ghulam Dastgir Azaad, who ran western Nimroz province for five years, as warning that [Afghanistan and its Western allies were dangerously underestimating Iran's destabilising influence on the country. "No one pays much attention to Iran as Pakistan but that's a mistake... Iran plays its own hidden game to increase its influence in western areas," he told Reuters on Sunday in an interview at his Kabul apartment.   [CNN] [NYT] [Reuters] [MEO] [Pajhwok]
  • Kidnap A Dutch citizen working with an international aid organization was kidnapped by unknown gunmen in northern Afghanistan, a police official said Monday. Faiz Mohammad Tauhidi, spokesman for the governor of Takhar province, said the hostage was working for a medical mission donating artificial limbs to the handicapped people. [DPA]
  • Pakistan Pakistan on Monday sealed its border with Afghanistan in the restive Kurram tribal region and deployed additional troops along the frontier due to security concerns, a senior official said. The steps were taken for the maintenance of durable peace, Col Muhammad Tauseef, commanding officer of the Kurram Militia, told reporters. [PTI]