Afghan vote enters second day after series of bloody attacks, claims of mismanagement

An Afghan voter casts her ballot at a polling center for the country’s legislative election in Herat on Oct. 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2018

Afghan vote enters second day after series of bloody attacks, claims of mismanagement

  • Election Commission said more than three million people out of 8.8 million managed to cast their vote on Saturday
  • On Sunday the Election Commission sent more ballot papers for 401 polling stations where people could not vote owing to attacks and irregularities

KABUL: Voting resumed for a second day on Sunday in Afghanistan where the process was marred by bloody attacks and claims of massive irregularities that deprived hundreds of thousands of people of votes for a new parliament.
The mismanagement claims have been seen as another sign of the government’s inefficiency in holding the ballot, which already has faced a delay of more than three years and comes six months ahead of the presidential vote.
The government said it added several thousand more forces to the 50,000 troops already deployed, to further protect some of the sites where polls could not be held on Saturday.
The Election Commission said more than three million people out of 8.8 million managed to cast their vote on Saturday and that on Sunday it had sent sufficient ballot papers and deployed officials to cover for 401 polling stations where people could not vote because of attacks and irregularities the previous day.
Ali Reza Rohani, a spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission, said in a news conference on Sunday that the irregularities that took place on Saturday would “damage the transparency” of the elections.
He said biometric devices, put in place to curb fraud, could not work in some stations, including Kabul, and various stations had not received the list of voters who had registered months ago for the ballot.
He said some stations opened an hour late.
The election is seen as key for Afghanistan’s political stability and legitimacy.
The government had already announced that polls could not take place in more than 2,000 voting stations because of security threats.
The Taliban staged scores of attacks on Saturday in a number of provinces including Kabul where at least 18 people died in two strikes. Unofficial estimates showed that over 70 civilians were killed and more than 300 wounded.
The casualties and irregularities were both unprecedented compared to election-related problems and violence that had happened in all of the previous rounds of elections held since the Taliban’s ouster.
Transparent Election Foundations of Afghanistan (TEFA), a polls watchdog, in its latest finding while citing the irregularities, said it could not operate fully to observe the process on Saturday because of security threats and because it was barred by the election commission and government from having access to election centers.
“It created many challenges for TEFA’s observers, for instance, 65 percent of our female observers left the polling centers because of security reasons, and unavailability of cellular connections in some of the provinces,” it said in a statement.
“In 29 percent of the polling centers, our observers were not allowed by IEC workers, security forces and armed men to observe the counting process.”

Kabul to rebuild birthplace of famous poet Rumi

Updated 28 January 2021

Kabul to rebuild birthplace of famous poet Rumi

KABUL: Afghan authorities are planning to rebuild a 13th-century Islamic teaching complex in Balkh province that once was home to one of the world’s most famous mystics and poets, Jalaluddin Rumi.

Rumi was born in the Balkh complex in 1207. The learning site, which comprised a mosque, monastery and madrasa for hundreds of disciples, belonged to his father, the theologian Bahauddin Walad, known by Afghans as Sultan Al-Ulema.

A few years after Rumi’s family left Balkh around 1210, the prosperous town northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, was destroyed by Genghis Khan’s Mongols storming in from the northeast. 

Work to rebuild Balkh took more than a century and the learning site remained in ruins. Centuries later, when billions of dollars of foreign aid began to reach Afghanistan following the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, the Kabul government came under fire for failing to restore Walad’s center.

However, restoration work is now due to begin in spring with the onset of warmer weather.

“It will be rebuilt in a classic and traditional manner,” Shivaye Sharq, Afghan deputy information minister, told Arab News last week.

“With the revival of the monastery, we hope to introduce people to a lost treasure,” he said. “In addition to the monastery, there will be a museum, a studio for sama dance, a cultural salon, garden and library.”

The whirling dance of sama is associated with Rumi, whose followers practice it as a form of prayer and devotion. 

Since Rumi lived most of his life in Anatolia, Turkey, and was buried in Konya, where his shrine became a place of pilgrimage, the Turkish government years ago pledged to help rebuild his father’s center, but the promise has not been fulfilled.

Matiullah Karimi, head of the information and culture center in Balkh province, said the $7 million cost of the restoration project will be covered by the Afghan government.

“A portion of a massive mud-built dome and four smaller ones are the only things left from the monastery,” Karimi told Arab News.

“Restoring this monastery is important for safeguarding our cultural heritage and learning, and it will be good for the tourism industry as well,” he said.

For Afghan scholars, the restoration of the learning center will also help society at large.

“The advancement of a nation is not gauged by the rising buildings, long roads and wealth that do not promote knowledge and science, but by libraries, knowledge and centers like Walad’s, which was a source of hope for many,” Hashmatullah Bawar, a social sciences lecturer at Kabul’s Dunya University, told Arab News.

The appeal of Rumi, who in the 21st century is still considered one of the world’s greatest and also bestselling poets, reinforces the enthusiasm over the reconstruction of his father’s center. 

“Rumi inherited his mystical thinking from his great father,” Saleh Mohammed Khaliq, head of Balkh Writers’ Union, told Arab News.

“Humanist and mystical thought is badly needed in our current world, which has become a victim of violence and wars.”