High turnout reported in Kandahar despite fear of attacks

Afghan voters wait in line to cast their votes at a polling centre for the country's legislative election in Kandahar on October 27, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 October 2018

High turnout reported in Kandahar despite fear of attacks

KABUL: Braving security threats, Afghan women and men came in droves to cast their votes on Saturday in southern Kandahar.
The ballot for parliamentary elections here had been delayed for a week after the brazen attack against Afghan and US military figures.
Long and separate queues involving women and bearded men, youths from both sexes and various walks of life, were formed outside polling stations, heavily guarded by security forces.
But poor management and other shortcomings were apparent, just as in last Saturday’s nationwide polls which were extended for an extra day in hundreds of stations, including Kabul.
“Some polling stations opened an hour and half late, some stations had not received polling materials, but the enthusiasm was very high among people despite the fear of attacks,” Rahmatullah, a resident, told Arab News by phone from Kandahar.
Some voters turned up at polling stations an hour ahead of the opening timing, officials said.
“People showed that they want change, and to bring change they can risk their lives too,” said Ahmadullah, a carpenter.
More than half a million people, many of them men, had registered for the elections, which had already been delayed by more than three years because of wrangling among government leaders and poor management.
The poll could not take place in two districts and some stations of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban guerrillas who were driven from power in a US-led attack in late 2001.
Thirteen of 111 in Kandahar’s candidates, running for 11 seats, are women.
Many shops and business were closed for the vote as security forces checked vehicles and individuals to deter Taliban attacks on stations.
Scores of people, many of them voters lost their lives last Saturday in Taliban attacks. Ahead of the ballot the government announced that due to security threats it could not hold elections in more than 2,000 stations.
Kabul had to delay the ballot in Kandahar for a week after the assassination of a top anti-Taliban commander in a brazen attack in the compound of Kandahar’s government as he walked with a group of top Afghan and US military officials, including Washington’s top commander for Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller.
Two other senior Afghan officials were also killed in the incident, which prompted Kabul to send commando troops to quell possible unrest.
There were no immediate reports of attacks by the Taliban during the voting in Kandahar. Officials said the government conducted a number of air strikes, resulting in the deaths of several dozens of suspected militants on the threshold of the elections.
The poll is crucial for Afghanistan’s political stability and US-led international efforts for consolidation of democracy as Taliban and Daesh militants gain ground in the country.
It will be followed by a presidential ballot in six months’ time when the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani, will stand for re-election.

Trump declares emergency for US-Mexico border wall, House panel launches probe

Updated 19 sec ago

Trump declares emergency for US-Mexico border wall, House panel launches probe

  • The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval, an action Democrats vowed to challenge as a violation of the US Constitution.

The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration he blames for bringing crime and drugs into the United States.

Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners, saying that Trump’s declaration violates the US Constitution and that the planned wall would infringe on their property rights.

Both California and New York said that they, too, planned to file lawsuits.

Hours after Trump’s announcement, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee said it had launched an investigation into the emergency declaration.

In a letter to Trump, committee Democrats asked him to make available for a hearing White House and Justice Department officials involved in the action. They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.

“We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system,” said the letter, signed by Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel.

Trump has been demanding for a wall on the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) southern border

Trump on Friday also signed a bipartisan government spending bill that would prevent another partial government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday.

The funding bill represented a legislative defeat for him since it contains no money for his proposed wall — the focus of weeks of conflict between Trump and Democrats in Congress.

Trump made no mention of the bill in rambling comments to reporters in the White House’s Rose Garden.

He had demanded that Congress provide him with $5.7 billion in wall funding as part of legislation to fund the agencies. That triggered a historic, 35-day government shutdown in December and January that hurt the US economy and his opinion poll numbers.

By reorienting his quest for wall funding toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency, Trump risks plunging into a lengthy legislative and legal battle with Democrats and dividing his fellow Republicans — many of whom expressed grave reservations on Friday about the president’s action.

Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent Trump from invoking emergency powers to transfer funds to his wall from accounts Congress has already committed to other projects.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer swiftly responded to Trump’s declaration.

“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said in a statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

Members of the migrant caravan that has made its way from central America to the US-Mexico border

The first legal challenge, filed in federal court in Washington, came from three Texas landowners along the Rio Grande river claiming they were informed the US government would seek to build a border wall on their properties if money for the project were available in 2019.

The lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, also named the Frontera Audubon Society as a plaintiff whose “members’ ability to observe wildlife will be impaired” by construction of a border wall and resulting habitat damage.

The suit contests Trump’s assertion of a national emergency at the border to justify the president’s action.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, describing the supposed border crisis touted by Trump as “made-up,” and New York state’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, both said they planned to challenge Trump in court.

Trump acknowledged his order would face a lengthy court fight.

“I expect to be sued. I shouldn’t be sued. ... We’ll win in the Supreme Court,” he predicted.

Trump may have also undermined his administration’s argument about the urgency of the situation when he told reporters, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

In their letter to Trump, House Judiciary Democrats said that language had left them “troubled.”

Both the House and the Senate could pass a resolution terminating the emergency by majority vote. However, any such measure would then go to Trump, who would likely veto it. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Although Trump says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border, statistics show that illegal immigration via the border is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments come through legal ports of entry.

Confronted with those statistics by reporters at the Rose Garden event, Trump said they were “wrong.”

Also present were a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants. Trump noted their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.

He estimated his emergency declaration could free up as much as $8 billion to pay for part of the wall. Estimates of its total cost run as high as $23 billion.

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall. It was one of his biggest applause lines at his campaign rallies. Mexico firmly refused to pay, and now Trump wants US taxpayers to cover the costs.