Taliban threats leave Afghans fearful of voting in next month’s presidential elections

Taliban threats leave Afghans fearful of voting in next month’s presidential elections

Worsening violence and threats against campaign rallies have left Afghans fearful of heading to the polls next month for the presidential election.

The official campaign season started on July 28, but was immediately beset by deadly violence when President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate Amrullah Saleh was targeted in an attack in Kabul that killed at least 20 people. Mr Saleh, a former spy chief turned vice presidential candidate known for his fierce anti-Taliban stance, was unharmed, but the violence led opposition candidate Hanif Atmar to pull out.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Taliban called the September 28 elections a “deceiving process” and a “theatrical and a sham”, announcing that they intended to target campaign rallies. They urged civilians to “stay away from gatherings and rallies that could become potential targets”.

“As the coming election is akin to the previous misleading processes, the Islamic Emirate (the name the Taliban refer to themselves by) shall exert the utmost effort to prevent it,” their statement read, calling on Afghans to boycott the election.

The Taliban believe the elections and the results are controlled by the occupying foreign forces and as a result are a “ploy to deceive the common people”. Multiple Taliban attacks in the capital Kabul in recent weeks have left Afghans fearful of voting.

“I participated in the first elections (in 2004) and none after that,” said Fida Mohammad, 33, a pharmacist from Kunduz province, which is regularly targeted by the Taliban.

“I don’t have any faith on the electoral system in Afghanistan. Only the candidates who agree to accept the terms of the US administration will come to power. We saw that last time and his is how it will be again,” he said, referring to a dispute during the 2014 presidential elections that led to a US-brokered power-sharing deal between the leading rival candidates, President Ghani and Dr Abdullah Abdullah.

Mr Mohammad will not vote in the coming election. “It’s too risky. The Taliban are talking about peace and killing Afghans at the same time,” he said.

Almost 200 members of his extended family plan to stay away from the elections.

“The Taliban are controlled by external powers (Pakistan) and I don’t trust them at all.

“I don’t allow my 10-year-old son out of the house to play. I have to explain to him how the situation is dangerous in the city. So then why would I let a loved one to go to election centres, which are a target?”

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