REGION: UN sees fair vote in Afghanistan
KABUL: The campaign for Afghanistan’s landmark presidential election has been marred by intimidation and official partiality, the United Nations said on Sunday, but it expects this week’s vote to be relatively free and fair.
As the candidates, their supporters and security forces prepared for the Oct 9 poll, President Hamid Karzai received a boost from one of his predecessors, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who heads the Jamiat-e-Islami, a major Islamic faction.
“In the light of previous agreements, Jamiat emphasises and announces its support once again for Karzai’s candidacy,” said Rabbani, who was president in the mid-1990s after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the ouster of Moscow’s protégé, Najibullah.
His support was not unexpected since his son-in-law, Ahmad Zia Masood, is Karzai’s running mate, but Rabbani reminded the president to abide by agreements with the Jamiat to maintain Islamic values, counter foreign influences and crack down on corruption.
“It should be said that when we see that someone acts wrongly and moves against the national interest, then Jamiat will not be quiet and will announce its last stance,” the former president told a news conference in Kabul.
Karzai, who is one of 18 candidates in the fray, has barely campaigned because of security constraints. He escaped an assassination attempt last month in the southeast. The United Nations, which has made a study of the Afghan political situation along with the local human rights commission, said there were several instances of intimidation and partiality shown to particular candidates by government officials during the campaign.
Guerrillas from the Taliban, ousted in a US-led war in 2001 for refusing to hand over militant leader Osama bin Laden, have vowed to disrupt the election.
Not entirely free: The UN report said local officials in many areas were favouring either Karzai or his main challenger Yunus Qanuni. “These less positive elements, perhaps inevitable after 25 years of war, are balanced not only by the fact that Afghans now have political choices before them but above all by the overwhelming wish of Afghans to vote and to create a government that represents their concerns,” said Filippo Grandi, deputy special UN representative in Afghanistan.
“People are very eager to vote,” he told reporters. But he added: “It’s a mixed picture. You are asking me if the environment is entirely free and fair. Of course it is not. “But in balance people can cast their vote in most areas of the country with a relative degree of freedom and fairness.” reuters