Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Insecurity & Target Killings Limits the Ability of Candidates and Voters to Participate in Elections in Kunduz Province

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Insecurity & Target Killings Limits the Ability of Candidates  and Voters to Participate in Elections in Kunduz Province

Residents of Kunduz province, including Kunduz city and all provincial districts, have been confined to smaller population centers and are facing existential threats from armed insurgents in the province because of their participation in the upcoming elections. Major population centers are disconnected from each other due to prevailing insecurity. Roads are infested with gunmen who randomly check vehicles and passengers and select people at will for persecution and execution. Insurgents have established their writ on major districts and population centers and reign by will in those areas. Government writ has evaporated from most of the population centers in the province. Districts of Chardara, Archi and Qala-e-Zal are nominally run by government. Only district buildings are controlled by government in these districts. Insurgents can strike at will and in any time to destabilize the province due to their close proximity to roads and major military and police bases, and their control over large swath of agricultural and populated areas in rural countryside provide them with planning and retreat space, resource generation, conscription of young people in their rank and military maneuvering. Insurgents have established a shadowy, de facto government in the province that regulate most activities in the province – including working hours of mobile phone companies, who are order not to operate antennas from 4pm till 6am. They have effectively used fear and fright to implement their agendas.    
On 4 June 2018, a young man was shot eight times near his home, but he survived the attack, hospitalized. On 2 June, two persons were killed by Taliban in Nowabad area, Chardara district for taking part in elections campaign. On 1 May, three people were gunned down in the midst of day light in Kunduz city, two of them were local police personnel and one was a shopkeeper. On 30 May, two more people were killed in the outskirt of Kunduz city for participating in elections campaign. Also, on 28 May, two more people were killed in Zakhel area of Kunduz city because of their participation in elections campaign. On the night of 3 June, four armed people entered the house of a district council candidate for the kill, but after short skirmishes the target managed to escape with the help of his neighbors. There has been reports of twelve more incidents of target killing, abduction and death threats to candidates and members of their campaign contributors as of 29 June 2018. Leaflets disseminated by Taliban on 3rd June warned people ‘if anyone voted in elections will be punished and those caught campaigning will be killed…’ This situation has exacerbated voters’ and candidates’ plight to register as voters and candidates in the province. Insurgents have taken hard line and are all out to disrupt and fail ongoing electoral process and elections in the province. They have free hands to do so because of their unchallenged behavior and killing of innocent civilians. People in Kunduz believe that special squads with duty to target and kill selective people in cities, sanctioned by Taliban leadership council in the province, are operating in government controlled areas. These conditions have sapped people’s resolve to vote.
A province with total population of more than 1.2 million people can only register one hundred thousand (ten percent up or down) to participate in elections by the time voters’ and candidates’ registration process is over. This figure indicates less than ten percent of total population, which puts at stake the very eligibility of the elections. As if all these issues are not enough, powerful candidates who are already members of parliament, use their official protocol and title to use provincial security personnel – including police and army – to provide relative security at their constituencies for people to register and vote at the expense of national exchequer to suit their personal end. It is a shame that there are no mechanisms to put a check on such misuse of power and government resources by existing members of parliament in the province. IEC should take note of such behavior and coordinate with provincial governor and chief security officials including independent international and national observers to prevent these practices. Provision of security and other services by government should be prevalent and target all citizens – NOT PRIVILEGED few. Continuation of such practices can only make way for corrupt and privileged few to take advantage of the present situation and to continue to grab to power in the next parliament. Ordinary people have noted this diagonal government services and are already making guesses as to who will be the winners!
It is incumbent on government to coordinate with IEC all security measures in the province and make effective plan to push the boundary of government controlled areas wider and deep inside the rebel held territory – especially in districts such as Chardara, Khanabad and Qalai Zal where security situation is worse. The Corps Commander, Police Chief, Intelligence Chief and Governor should take heed of the situation and plan for military operations in these districts at the earliest. They should agree on a joint working committee meeting that should be held weekly to take stock of the progress made on weekly basis. Kunduz province has got special attention of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan last year when the city fell to insurgents’ hands. Since then, there are enough resources in the province to utilize to bring normality and security in the province. It is out of anybody’s guess that how can the Government leave large swath of densely populated and agricultural areas in control and at the mercy of insurgents in the province. It is anybody’s guess that at prevailing situation, it is insurgents’ call to disrupt and make chaos in the province at time and place of their own choosing. This means, insurgents are positioned at advantageous and strategic locations. One can easily observe government security posts and army bunkers dug deep along the road, and only hundred meters away in the fields are insurgents roaming freely. People are good observers and can make judgment about the prevailing situation in the country by keeping in view the psychology of forces at play in the field, so they decide which way to lean hard when it comes to obeying orders and rules. Government should proclaim supremacy by seriously facing up to threats and enemy challenges so that people can trust them. At this point in time when it comes to trust, Government is bankrupt.  Kunduz province is at precarious situation, and Government needs to take necessary measures to stabilize the province.

The author is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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