Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

AIHRC-UNAMA Joint Verification of Political Rights (Third Report 24 August - 30 September 2004)

Publisher Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
Publication Date 30 September 2004
Cite as Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), AIHRC-UNAMA Joint Verification of Political Rights (Third Report 24 August - 30 September 2004), 30 September 2004, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A. Introduction

At the request of the Government of the Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan and with the endorsement of the Berlin Conference, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) are verifying the situation of political rights throughout the country with a view to ascertaining that conditions are conducive for the exercise of political rights; making appropriate recommendations to the authorities; and thus helping create an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.

The two previous reports centered on constraints and opportunities in the exercise of political rights during the registration process and provided recommendations to the Government and the international community on ways to improve the environment. This report focuses on the thirty-day election campaign- launched on 7 September- and formulates recommendations for the remaining period of the electoral campaign and polling day itself.

B. General Environment

With the launch of the presidential campaign, political activities have gained momentum. Posters and banners of candidates are profiled in bazaars, shops, street walls and cars throughout the country.

Many public and private media, including television, radio and print media, have been airing the views and platforms of the 18 candidates and the general populace appears to be closely following these discussions and debates. Up until recently however, campaign efforts remained low-profile affairs and were limited to small to medium size events involving selected supporters.

This was in part due to disparity in the resources available to candidates, with some having a large degree of funding and support, allowing them to campaign actively countrywide, and few being confined to Kabul due to lack of funding. Nevertheless, most candidates have traveled to various parts of the country, including provinces in the North, Northeast, East and to a more limited extent to the Southeast, Central Highlands, West and the South. Most candidates appear to restrict their travel to areas where their core constituency resides and rely on their network of supporters to undertake campaigning efforts in other parts of the country.

Moreover, nearly all the candidates seem to rely on traditional means of extending their base of support by brokering relations and alliances with leaders representing other constituencies. The general assumption by most candidates is that people will base their electoral decisions on the guidance of local leaders, and therefore campaign efforts generally involve meeting with local leaders rather than appealing to the larger population.

This pattern confers a key role in campaigning efforts to community leaders and tribal elders. But government officials, military officers and commanders, who are, as state officials, legally barred from participation in the electoral campaign have also been prominently involved. Steps by the Government to prevent such partisan activities by officials have by and large failed. In addition to a legal issue, the participation of state officials in the electoral process raises problems of undue influence, intimidation and sometimes coercion. As illustrated in the body of this report, officials and factional elements wielding official titles have been involved in the use of threats and violence in support of their favored candidates.

Ultimately, and in particular in the context of the parliamentary and local elections, this pattern will have to be overcome through disarmament and the prosecution of those found to resort to threats and violence to advance their political agenda. In the context of the upcoming presidential election, this report, like the previous one, stresses the critical importance of the secrecy of the vote as a way to mitigate the problem of undue influence. In spite of the difficulties that were experienced during registration and the campaign period, the large majority of the voters have continued to show eagerness to vote because they see in the presidential election an opportunity to bring about change, and further disarmament, justice and the rule of law.

Every effort should be made to ensure that appropriate guarantees are in place so that, in spite of the limitations described in this report, the population can be confident that popular will can be effectively translated through the voting process.

C. Update

The second report included several recommendations for improving the electoral process. They were mainly aimed at strengthening public confidence in the electoral process by increasing access to information, expanding electoral observation, improving security through Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and the deployment of national and international security forces. This section takes stock of the implementation of these recommendations.

1. Public Education Campaign

The issue of voter education is a primary concern, particularly in areas outside urban centers where part of the population has less access to information. In order to minimize the possibility of manipulation of the voters, it is particularly important that the secret nature of the ballot be widely disseminated.

Throughout September and up to October 8, civic educators are focusing specifically on voting procedures. Civic education activities include community mobilizing events with community leaders, including teachers, doctors, government officials, mullahs and elders; briefings to larger gatherings; and the use of posters and visuals to instruct non-literate people about the voting and counting procedures

In addition to radio and TV programs, the Secretariat of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMBS), jointly with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), have published a four-page newspaper (two pages in Dari and two in Pashto) about the election. One million copies have been printed. Among the key messages that this issue highlights is the right of all adults to vote and the secrecy of the vote. The paper also introduces the 18 presidential candidates. Two more issues of the newspaper are planned, with one laying out the polling procedures and a last issue –to be published shortly after the presidential elections- focusing on counting procedures, the display of the results and the procedures of a run off election.

Notwithstanding this effort, one must be aware that owing to illiteracy, difficulties of access and the lack of electoral experience, the education of the public about their rights and the procedures of democratic institutions are long-term processes that require sustained effort.

2. Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)

The public has consistently expressed the view that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of militia forces is a prerequisite for the holding of free and fair elections. In order to advance this important process and to decommission as many military units as possible before the presidential elections, a pre-election DDR framework was finalized through a presidential decree signed on 7 September, followed by relevant instructions by the Ministry of Defense (MoD). The framework identifies additional units to take part in DDR ahead of the election and resolves pending issues related to heavy weapons cantonment.

A second initiative, led by the Ministry of Justice's Department of Political Party Registration, has also bolstered DDR. It requires all political party applicants to sign a commitment to adhere to DDR and verifies that this commitment has been fulfilled through the Afghan New Beginnings Programme (ANBP), the National Security Department, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

This initiative has led to some positive developments. Following criticism of under-performance during the DDR process in Faryab (Div 200), Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami has pledged to pressure commanders into delivering an additional 300 weapons and men in Faryab. Some progress has also been observed from a unit affiliated to Da'wat-i Islami. The Kabul based 10th division, after showing initial resistance, has recently disarmed 702 personnel.

In a third initiative, the JEMB requested the MoD on 10 August to appoint new and non-factional commanders in units affiliated to three candidates: President Karzai's running mate Mr. Khalili and presidential candidates Muhaqqiq and Dostum. On 27 September, the MoD appointed three ANA officers to command the 38 Division (Muhaqqiq - Wahdat-i Islami-yi Mardum), 34 Division (Khalili - Wahdat- Islami-yi Milli) and 53 Division (Dostum - Junbish).

Overall, these developments have created a new momentum in the DDR process as shown by the fact that in the past two weeks more than 3,000 have disarmed and 1,951 heavy weapons have been cantoned. The total number of people disarmed since October 2003 now stands at over 19,000 and close to 20,000 weapons have been cantoned (54% of the total).

However, there are still a number of units that are resisting DDR despite MoD instructions. For example, the Kabul-based Rishkhor Division affiliated to Jamiat-i Islami while having submitted a list of individuals to be disarmed on 10 August, has not yet complied; Division 38 linked with Wahdat-i Islami-yi Mardum has only marginally cooperated, disarming only 71 out of 548 men. Concerns have been expressed with regard to the reluctance of the Da'wat-affiliated 839 Infantry Regiment in Kabul to enter DDR.

The Ministry of Defense also needs to do much more to advance DDR. Many units have not received instructions from the Ministry of Defense and are therefore not cooperating with ANBP. The Ministry of Interior also needs to issue instructions to the Border Brigade Badakhshan, linked with Jamiat-i Islami, to comply with the DDR requirements; and to the MOI quick reaction force belonging to the Governor of Ghazni.

3. Use of State Resources and Access to Media

The second report highlighted the concerns voiced by many presidential candidates about the use of state resources by President Karzai. These included, in particular, the use of government guesthouses for campaign purposes and access to the media.

Prior to the election campaign, the JEMB adopted legislation on campaign finances which stipulates that public resources shall not be used for campaign purposes except as a program to benefit all candidates. The regulation also requires all candidates to report periodically campaign contributions and expenditures to the JEMB. So far, none of the candidates have filed their financial reports with the JEMB. The President's campaign manager, as well as candidate Qanooni's campaign manager have been reminded that both are to send their financial reports to the JEMB at the earliest. The same comment will be made to all the other candidates. It also noted that candidates have complained about the use of guesthouses of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for campaigning purposes and asked the President to clarify this matter.

Prior to the election campaign, the JEMB has instructed the Media Commission to carry out a systematic review of all electoral related items and to produce routine reports on media coverage of the election. The Commission's first report indicates that President Karzai is indeed by far the personality getting the largest space in public and private print media at 34% of the overall coverage. It has been dropping since the period preceding the campaign (when it reached 55%), and even since last week (when he received 40% of all the candidates' press coverage). The TV medium also gives President Karzai 31% of its airtime. The two other candidates that feature prominently in the press are candidates Qanooni and Pedram.

The Media Commission found five media outlets in violation of the Mass Media Election Campaign Regulations on a number of grounds, including failing to provide balanced coverage and free coverage for political advertisements. The JEMB reprimanded these outlets and instructed them to give an account for their lack of compliance and to take corrective measures.

In addition, following complaints about the President using his position to launch public events-such as the recent inauguration of a road project in Shibirghan- as a means to garner publicity and draw support for his campaign, the JEMB sent a letter to President Karzai's campaign clarifying that such public initiatives should be either postponed until after the elections or should be delegated to vice-presidents and ministers.

4. Election Monitoring

The second report on the verification of political rights stressed that election monitoring would be a significant factor in strengthening public confidence in the election process. It is therefore encouraging that a number of international and national observers and monitors are being deployed to various regions of the country on polling day. To date, the JEMB has accredited eleven national and international observer organizations, and is expected to accredit an additional fourteen groups in the coming days. A total of 3,510 observers/monitors have applied for accreditation thus far: 88 internationals and 3,422 nationals. A number of international organizations and embassies have requested accreditation for more than 139 international staff to deploy to polling sites as "special guests."

In addition, about 13,000 agents of 32 political parties have been so far accredited as monitors. To date approximately 7,200 agents have completed the candidate agent training program at the eight National Democratic Institute (NDI) Election Training and Information Centers around the country. It will be essential that the remainder of the polling agents receive sufficient training to serve a constructive role at the polls. Otherwise their presence at the polling stations could be problematic and could potentially lead to interference in the voting process.

It is of concern that most of the international teams are small in number and are likely to limit their activities to Kabul and some of the urban centers. There are a number of areas in the country where security conditions are on par with Kabul [1] and the regional urban centers and where an international presence will help contain the possibility of undue influence on the local population, particularly on election day.

5. Partiality of Government Officials

The second verification report stressed the issue of government officials' intervention in the campaign. Despite the issuance of a number of regulations by the JEMB and the central government - including the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense- many government officials and military commanders across the country are seen to engage openly in campaign activities in favor of particular candidates during official hours. Further details regarding this matter are included in the section on the "principle of non-partiality."

6. Anti-government violence targeting voters and election workers:

The second verification report also emphasized the risk of disenfranchisement stemming from violence and threats of violence by antigovernment forces against those who participate in the electoral process. This continues to be a major concern. While these forces have not been able to derail voter registration at the national level, they have had an impact on the South and these threats could keep people away from the polls, thus further disenfranchising parts of the population, particularly in the East, Southeast and South. Additional information on election-related threats and mechanisms for corrective action are included under the "principle of non-intimidation" section.

7. JEMB Complaints Mechanism

The second report noted the importance of establishing an effective electoral complaint mechanism and recommended that the JEMB should give broad publicity to this mechanism and ensure its transparency. The JEMB has completed the regulations for this complaint mechanism and it is finalizing the corresponding procedures. It has allocated staff at headquarters and at the provincial and regional level to register and investigate complaints.

Thus far, eleven complaints have been registered and are currently being investigated. While it is promising that this work has begun, it is a matter of concern that the procedures for this mechanism have not yet been completed and so few complaints have been registered. The experience of the verification process shows that this mechanism should become much more robust in order to fulfill its mandate, particularly for parliamentary elections.

D. Situation Of Political Rights

Freedom of Expression

In accordance with JEMB regulations, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) has been allocating 20 minutes of airtime per evening for candidates to present themselves and their platform. All the candidates have received at least one slot and these sessions will continue until the end of the electoral campaign. These programs are also featured on radio programs.

In its report, the Media Commission has pointed out that RTA, TV Kandahar and TV Jalalabad have consistently been compliant with media regulations requiring them to provide access to candidates for campaigning purposes. TV Balkh did not provide coverage until 16 September but has since been consistently compliant. TV Kunduz and TV Herat have also improved since 19 September. Some candidates have also complained about the editing and broadcast of their presentations in various parts of the country.

Candidates are also using visual material for campaign purposes. Posters and banners of most candidates are displayed on street walls and public and private settings throughout the country. At the same time, the destruction and vandalism of the posters of candidates have been widespread and carried out against all candidates in all parts of the country.

The campaign period has also witnessed some controversy. On 1 September, the Supreme Court issued a statement asking for the disqualification of presidential candidate Latif Pedram on the basis of "anti-sharia" statements he had reportedly made at a women's conference. In the same statement, the Attorney General was instructed to investigate the matter. The JEMB has been corresponding with the High Council to seek clarification about the latter's statement and the legal rights of Mr. Latif Pedram.

Other noteworthy events that bear relevance to the freedom of expression include the Government's decision to change the Governor of Herat. The last two verification reports had highlighted that there was little tolerance for political activities or freedom of expression under the previous provincial government. The new Governor has opened up political space and one of his first initiatives included appointing a new head of TV and radio. There has also been a noted improvement in programming, with the introduction of a weekly public opinion show and the broadcasting of programs aired in Kabul.

Freedom of Association and Freedom of Assembly

The electoral campaign has been gaining momentum in recent weeks. Within the first two weeks, most campaigning efforts were limited to small and low-profile meetings, mostly in major population centers. While there were many activities and gatherings held by the candidates and activists on a regular basis, most efforts were centered on establishing alliances between candidates, political parties and local leaders, and open to selected groups of supporters. The campaign was largely dominated by speculations about coalitions being formed and a number of candidates stepping down in return for positions within the future government.

The communities, tribes and shuras- particularly in the Central Area and in the Southeast- were seen to be organizing themselves and meeting with candidates in order to negotiate posts and development projects. They, in turn, promised to deliver the votes of their communities on election day.

As the election date has drawn closer, candidates have shifted more efforts and resources to extending their appeal to the public. Candidates have started holding larger and more publicized events and the population has become more engaged in many parts of the country. Several political parties and shuras have also publicly announced their support for their favored candidates.

In the East, public and private gatherings have been held by several presidential candidates in the provinces of Nangarhar and Laghman. Political parties have also organized a number of meetings where they have publicly announced their support for and endorsement of their favored candidates. In Nuristan and Kunar, in contrast, there have been few campaign efforts due to the security situation.

While changes in the provincial government in Herat led to the opening up of political space, the tensions that accompanied the changeover stunted political activities during the first week of the campaigning period. The first political campaign rally took place on 23 September but such activities are by and large limited and virtually nonexistent in the neighbouring provinces. However there are signs that the environment may be now more conducive for political activity in the West. In particular, a number of political parties and designated representatives have expressed intentions to open office in the near future, or have informed the public about the existence of political party networks or shuras at the district level and in the western provinces. To date, two candidates have opened offices in Herat.

The North has been one of the centers of activity for candidates aligned with the Coordination Committee of Presidential Candidates. A number of meetings have been held among these candidates and their supporters in an effort to develop a common front. In recent weeks there have also been some high-profile rallies and meetings involving two to three thousand people.

The Northeast has witnessed the most activities by a number of candidates. Eight candidates have visited the provinces of Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan, and Badakhshan. At least three candidates have established election committees and at least four candidates have opened offices in the region. Five candidates (three in person) have held campaign meetings or rallies outside of provincial centers in Dasht-e Qala, Takhar and Baharak, Badakhshan.

In the Central Highlands, six campaign offices and four political party offices have been opened. However, the support of the population in the area appears clearly geared towards two key candidates, which in some way serves as a disincentive for other candidates to extend campaign activities to the region.

In the South, candidates have reported that the security situation prevented them from personally campaigning. However, there have been a number of campaign meetings held by candidate supporters.

The organization of campaign events has not been incident-free.[2] Two weeks before the official campaign period started, Junbish reportedly held an event in Faryab in support of Dostum. It was reported that villagers were beaten and forced to partake in the event. The investigation by the verification unit did find that force was exerted by "Junbish youth"- the youth wing of the Junbish movement- in gathering people.

In the Central Highland- namely in the districts of Shahristan, Sang-Takht, Khidir, Ashtarlai- the political environment is restricted by the presence of a number of commanders who are strongly partisan and known for a history of human rights abuses.

Freedom of Movement

Thus far, candidates have expressed concern about traveling due to potential security risks. Indeed, on 16 September President Karzai's efforts to meet with elders in Gardez were thwarted when a rocket was fired as his helicopter was landing. While there was no damage or casualties, the attack reinforced the perception that the unstable environment would not permit traveling for campaign purposes.

However, candidates increasingly campaigned outside Kabul, largely to the main population centers. Most have traveled to the North, the Northeast, East and the outlying provinces of the Central area for public and private meetings. During the initial period of the campaign, the Southeast did not host any candidate, but in the last two weeks a few candidates have been traveling to Gardez and the central and northern parts of Ghazni. Candidates have also been visiting Herat in recent weeks. Few candidates have traveled to the South thus far due to security concerns and they have relied on their networks in the area to campaign on their behalf. All the women candidates have expressed fear of traveling and have concerns about their safety.

The Ministry of Interior has established a unit to address the security needs of candidates. Upon request candidates can be provided with armed security guards, police to protect them in public gatherings and forces to accompany them during travel. The JEMB, UNAMA's police advisors and a representative of MoI have also met with several candidates to discuss security related matters and to identify ways to address their concerns. These efforts will be undertaken for all candidates and will be continued throughout the remainder of the electoral process.

In the Northeast, the verification unit has confirmed that Commander Jalal prevented a group of elders from traveling from Khinjan to Kabul to meet candidate Mohaqeq, warning that if he found out that the elders proceeded to Kabul, he would "deal with them" after the elections.

Principle of Non-Discrimination

Discrimination has not been cited as an important factor in the campaign process. While there have been some reports of candidates using ethnicity and sectarianism as a means of rallying supporters, there has been no evidence of anyone using such issues to incite tensions or engaging in activities to prevent any ethnic, religious or minority group from partaking in political activities.

The female presidential candidate and the two female vice presidential candidates have also been active in the campaign process. Masuda Jalal is seen to be one of the most active candidate in traveling outside of Kabul and engaging in campaign activities. In meetings with the verification team, the presidential and two vice-presidential female candidates noted that their campaign experiences were generally positive, and that the people who attended their meetings and expressed support for their efforts were largely men. They had also held a number of public events and press briefings.

A number of political parties and candidates have also organized women in order to broaden their support base. On 24 August Junbish inaugurated a provincial shura of Junbesh women. In Taloqan, the female chapter of Karzai's campaign has commenced activities. Women in Kandahar are also seen to be actively campaigning in support of candidate Karzai.

Despite these positive signs, some problems have been encountered. Massuda Jalal has complained that she has difficulty finding a venue for campaign purposes because she is denied access to mosques due to her gender. In addition to the already mentioned risks involved in traveling, she is reluctant to campaign in open spaces such as parks because of security concerns.

Women candidates have also noted that their female supporters are fearful of reprisals because of their political activities.

Principle of Non-Intimidation

The general trend shows that forms of intimidation and violence vary regionally. Intimidation and violence related to antigovernment forces are prevalent in the South, and those involving factional authorities are more common in the rest of the country, particularly in the East, Northeast, North and in the Central Area. The latter are reported in the section on non-partiality below.

Since the end of the registration process, the number of election-related incidents of violence has generally diminished. However, violence and intimidation tactics carried out by the Taliban and other anti-government forces have escalated in the South, particularly in the border district of Maruf and in the districts of Shawalikot and Mia Nishin in Kandahar province as well as in the provinces of Zabul and Uruzgan. They have been increasingly targeting civilians and government officials. In the last month, they have created a climate of fear by confiscating voter registration cards of entire villages and warning people not to participate in the upcoming elections.

On 16 September a group of insurgents in Shawalikot district of Kandahar confiscated voter registration cards from the population in two villages and warned people that they would kill anyone involved in the electoral process. Reports were received that four men had been threatened and assaulted by insurgents in the district centre of Maruf (Kandahar) because they were holding voter registration cards.

There was also a report of the beheading of ten tribal elders from Arghandab district, Zabul. While the case is still under investigation, it appears that these individuals were targeted because they were seen to be supporting the Central Government and processes related to the elections.

In the Southeast, intimidation has been reported on the part of anti-government elements in parts of Paktika and Ghazni provinces. In some areas of Southern Paktika, villagers have reportedly started to hide their voter registration cards, indicating that the intimidation campaign is having some success.

In Khost, a member of the Terezay tribe also warned members of the tribe to vote for Karzai or their houses would be burned down.

The JEMB continues to be a target of attacks. On 24 September, Mullah Noor Mohammad, who used to work for the JEMB several months ago was killed in Andar (Ghazni) during an ambush close to his home. The victim had been an active supporter of the electoral process in his district. On 26 September, two rockets were fired at the JEMB's office in Wardak.

Election security plans have been developed by the JEMB Secretariat (JEMBS), UNAMA, national security agencies, ISAF and the Coalition Forces. The plan includes securing polling sites, counting centers as well as the movement of personnel and sensitive material, such as blank and filled ballots. Building on security arrangements developed during the registration process, the national police is to provide security at the polling sites, with the national army ensuring security of the areas around the sites, and ISAF or the Coalition providing outer ring support.

Experience from voter registration attests to the key role of local communities in ensuring the safety of the voters and election staff in their respective areas. To this end, throughout the country, government officials and community leaders are establishing mechanisms to respond to these threats and anticipated security problems. In the South, the governors of the provinces have agreed to establish a joint security plan for improving security during the elections. The Governor of Kandahar announced that a security commission would be established to ensure that the population could vote in a secure environment.

The Southeast has mobilized through community shuras in all districts in order to respond to anticipated security challenges. Seventy-one protocols have been signed with the local shuras of Khost, Paktika, Paktia and Ghazni. These contracts are pledges by the tribal shura, district commissioner and chief of police to take responsibility for protecting polling sites within their area and to coordinate and take all necessary measures to ensure security of the voters, election workers and community on election day. Overall, 85% of all polling center security personnel in the region are from the local communities.

In the East, the Khogiani tribes of three districts have agreed to work together and collaborate in bolstering security in advance of the elections. Government officials and leaders in the North and Northeast have held a number of meetings to identify means of minimizing election-related violence in the lead up to elections.

Principle of Non-Partiality

Electoral regulations, including the Political Party Campaign Regulation and instructions issued by the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, proscribe government officials from displaying partiality in the electoral process or interfering in any way in the campaign and election processes. The verification exercise has found many officials in violation of these instructions.

Key verified cases are reported below:

There have been widespread reports of police checkposts, offices, and guard boxes displaying posters of presidential candidates. This issue was raised with the Minister of Interior who reported that instructions had been relayed to civil servants and police to remove any articles which compromised their neutrality. Despite this positive measure, most areas continue to witness that the posters have not been removed.

In Khidir district of the Central Highlands, on 4 September, Mr. Rejai, the Deputy Chief of 617th regiment physically assaulted political activists aligned with Mr. Mohaqeq and confiscated their campaign material. The verification team reported the case to the Chief of Police and impressed upon Mr. Rejai the illegality of his actions. Mr. Rejai returned the campaign materials to the supporters of Mohaqeq and no further incidents have since been reported.

In the Northeast, on 13 September, the verification team received reports that Arbab Habiburahman from Katukjar village, Badakhshan, was prevented from opening a Junbish office in the district centre. He was also placed in detention for 48 hours and released after a popular protest. The verification team spoke to the Chief of Police who reported that he arrested Mr. Habiburahman because he had illegally cut trees in a protected area. However, circumstances– absence of clear evidence to substantiate the alleged motive of the police for making the arrest, marked inability of Junbish to actively campaign in the area, other evidence indicating official intention to limit opposition political activity in the area – lead the verification team to believe that the arrest was indeed politically motivated.

Also in the Northeast, on 29 August General Daoud and several of his armed bodyguards prevented the provincial Junbish representative and other supporters of candidate Dostum from putting up campaign posters in Kunduz city.

In the East, the verification team has confirmed that the head of the education department in Nangarhar and the administrative education head of the Qarghai district have been using their positions to campaign for candidate Qanooni. The two officials instructed principals and teachers to vote and campaign for candidate Qanooni. The governors of the two provinces were alerted to these activities and both took action to ensure that these partisan effort ceased. The two officials were dismissed by the Governors of Laghman and Nangarhar for carrying out political activities during working hours. Similar complaints about officials in the Department of Education campaigning on behalf of candidate Qanooni have been reported in other parts of the country.

In the Southeast, a tribal elder in Gardez received letters from the Chief of Police and the Governor of Paktia accusing him of engaging in anti-government activities after he publicly criticized a regional shura for supporting candidate Karzai.

A number of government officials have been seen to be actively campaigning for candidate Karzai during working hours. For example, Mr Anwar Ul-Haq Ahadi, Chief of the Afghan Central Bank, campaigned for candidate Karzai at Abdul Hai Gardezi School in Gardez.

Government officials in the South are implicated in actively supporting candidates Karzai and Qanooni. It has been confirmed that the Mayor of Kandahar, the Foreign Relation Representative and Tribal Minister as well as the District Commissioner of Spin Boldak and the Governor of Helmand are involved in campaign activities supporting candidate Karzai. The Governor has advised these officials to cease their activities and all but the mayor have complied. The verification team is also investigating a complaint that the Governor's guesthouse in Kandahar was being used by a member of the Karzai campaign team.

The Kandahar police on the other hand is engaging in activities supporting candidate Qanooni. The Governor has also raised the issue of non-partiality with the police chief.

The verification team received and confirmed reports that Haji Granai, Deputy Commander of the 2nd Corps, held a pro-Qanooni gathering in Saresafa district, Zabul province. During this event a number of people were assaulted and threatened with further violence if they did not vote for candidate Qanooni.

E. Conclusions And Recommendations

Verification carried out during the past month records several positive developments, including:

· Access to government media by the presidential candidates and the fact that candidates' campaign spots are now broadcast by regional TVs and radios;

· More extended coverage of campaign issues and candidates by radio, TV and the printed press;

· The presence of campaign activities throughout the country and the opening of campaign offices in many provinces;

· The absence so far of violence against candidates and the fact that the feared scenario of ethnic polarization has not materialized.

· Ongoing recruitment and training of Afghan electoral observers who, together with international monitors, will be able to strengthen confidence in the integrity of the electoral process, particularly on polling day; and

· Further progress in DDR efforts;

While we are witnessing the emergence of a more public and open political debate and more widespread political organization, verification also shows the persistence of several negative features. One is the ongoing violence and threat of violence by the Taliban and other extremist groups against those who participate in the electoral process, particularly in the Southern region. While extremists have clearly failed to derail voter registration nationwide, in parts of the South they have been able to prevent the deployment of registration officers and to intimidate voters, who stayed away from registration sites in order not to expose themselves to retaliation. There is a possibility that intimidation and further violence by extremists could make the establishment of polling sites difficult or cause registered voters to stay away from the polling stations. Every effort should be made to prevent this scenario from materializing and to ensure that every registered voter is able to cast their vote free of intimidation.

Another negative feature is the continued electoral activism of local officials, including civilian, police and military authorities, on behalf of one candidate or another. The fact that in several cases these activities have involved acts of intimidation and coercion compounds the need to curb such activities and to prosecute those who are found in violation of the law.

Finally, based in particular on the monitoring carried out by the Media Commission, the JEMB has identified a number of violations of electoral regulations by the government, the candidates and the media, which require corrective measures.

In view of this, the following recommendations are made in order to improve as much as possible the environment in which polling will take place on 9th October:

· Every effort should be made by the national security agencies and the international forces in order to strengthen security in areas of the country where extremist forces are putting pressure on the communities to stay away from the election. As demonstrated, in particular in the Southeast, local communities can play a useful role in order to deter attacks against the process and to protect voters and polling staff.

· The Government and the media should continue to stress that government officials at local, provincial and national levels, have a legal obligation of impartiality and that resorting to intimidation is a particularly serious violation of the law.

· Candidates and political party leaders should ensure that party activists at all levels understand and uphold the neutrality of officials in electoral matters. They should issue statements advising their campaign representatives to abstain from seeking the support of government officials or any activity that limits the free exercise of voters.

· Because the JEMB must rely on the recruitment of local personnel in order to staff approximately 25,000 polling stations, it is particularly important to stress to polling staff their own obligation of neutrality and, in particular, their obligation not to allow local officials or community leaders to interfere in the performance of their electoral duties.

· The deployment of as many national and international observers as possible will continue to be an important confidence-building factor that will enhance the integrity of the polling station. Security permitting, international and Afghan partners should be encouraged to deploy as broadly as possible, particularly in areas where patterns of intimidation are prevalent.

· National and international monitors should practice neutrality in their monitoring work at the polling stations. Political parties and candidates should also instruct their polling representatives to abstain from interfering in the voting process.

· The JEMB recommendations with regard to equitable access to media should be implemented without further delay. Public and private media should commit to accurate, fair and extensive news coverage of the election to ensure that voter's have the necessary information to make an informed choice on election day.

Finally, in order to mitigate many of the limitations that have been identified in the report, one cannot overstate the importance of action by the JEMB, candidates, political parties and their polling agents, and monitoring organizations aimed at publicizing and enforcing the secrecy of the vote and other safeguards that protect the electoral process against intimidation and fraud. Much of the integrity of the upcoming polling will depend on their success.

[1] According to UNSECOORD standards.

[2] See sections on "principle of non-intimidation" and "principle of non-partiality" for more cases.

Copyright notice: Copyright AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission)

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