Karzai vows Afghan polls on time
By Sayed Salahuddin Monday June 21, 3:22 AM
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai says attacks aimed at disrupting landmark elections planned for September will increase, but he vows the ballot will be held on time.
Security concerns due to raids by Taliban guerrillas, who have sworn to disrupt the polls, and the slow disarmament of factional forces prompted Karzai to delay presidential and parliamentary polls originally supposed to be held in June.
Security remains a concern with scores more people killed in recent weeks and factional disarmament has continued to move at a snail's pace, raising doubts as to whether September is viable.
"Those people who do not want Afghanistan to be tranquil and do not want the nation to choose its leadership and destiny, will do whatever they can to block (the elections)," Karzai told a news conference at his heavily fortified presidential palace on Sunday.
"We should expect that attacks on the Afghan people, on charity organisations and on the reconstruction of Afghanistan to increase and get worse," he said.
However, asked if he planned to delay the polls again, Karzai replied: "We want 100 percent for the elections to be held on time."
Karzai said he would push for parliamentary and presidential polls to be held simultaneously despite concern that regional power brokers and factional commanders may be able to influence the parliamentary vote given the slow pace of disarmament.
Karzai's comments came days after his return from Washington, where he held talks with U.S. President George W. Bush.
AFGHAN BOOST FOR BUSH?
Analysts say the U.S. administration has been pushing for Afghan elections in September to allow Bush to hold up Afghanistan as a foreign policy success ahead of his own bid for re-election in November.
Karzai said "speedy" voter registration showed Afghans wanted elections. "So the government of Afghanistan wants to hold the elections by all means and is waiting for the month of Mizan (September) to come," he said.
The United Nations said on Sunday more than four million of the 9.5 million-9.8 million eligible voters had been registered and more than 100,000 people were now registering every day.
Karzai said the government, the U.S.-led military and NATO-led foreign peacekeepers, would try to step up security to counter growing attacks by the Taliban and allied militants ahead of the polls and to prevent inter-factional violence.
He did not comment on the latest factional crisis, in which a renegade commander last week forced out the police and army chiefs Karzai had appointed in the central province of Ghor, except to say that a commission would be sent to investigate.
Critics say Karzai, whose power extends little beyond Kabul, has contributed to factional unrest in the provinces by sending out appointees without local powerbases or back-up.
The president said he hoped NATO would deliver on its promise to expand its force of nearly 6,500 peacekeepers, which is mostly confined to Kabul. He said he would reiterate his appeal for an expansion of the force into the provinces when he attends a June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul.
The commander of the NATO force, Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier, said last week NATO would send more troops to the Afghan north but had no plans to deploy in the south and east, where the Taliban and their allies are most active.
More than 800 people have been killed in militant-associated violence in Afghanistan since last August, most in the south and east, the bloodiest period since the Taliban's fall.
Afghans say will not send troops to retake town
By Yousuf Azimy 20 Jun 2004 09:13:53 GMT
KABUL, June 20 (Reuters) - The Afghan government does not plan to send troops to retake control of a provincial capital overrun last week by a renegade commander, as the situation there is now calm, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.
Chaghcharan, capital of the remote central province of Ghor, was taken over on Friday by forces of commander Abdul Salaam Khan, who has been resisting a central government drive to disarm factional militias ahead of elections due in September.
Khan's forces pushed out Ghor police chief General Zaman and the head of the government military division, General Ahmad, who appealed to the central government to send troops to help them retake the town.
But Defence Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimy said a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Hamid Karzai had made no decision to send troops.
"The security situation there is not bad right now," he said. "There has been no decision to send troops to secure the province."
Karzai has been struggling to impose the authority of his U.S.-backed government across the country since he took over after the defeat of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Instability caused by local power tussles has coincided with a growing Islamic insurgency blamed on Taliban guerrillas and their allies, raising serious doubts as to whether it is practical to hold elections as planned in September.
Azimy said some troops would eventually be sent to Ghor, but only ahead of the September elections.
On Saturday, Ghor's governor, Ibrahim Malikzada, who had been forced to flee fighting on Thursday in which 18 people were killed or hurt, said he was willing to work with Khan and there was no need for Kabul to send troops. Khan, in return, declared that Malikzada remained the legitimate governor.
Karzai told reporters on Sunday a delegation would be sent to Ghor to investigate but did not comment further on the issue.
It is the latest occasion on which his government has caved in to powerful commanders resisting its efforts to force factional militias to disarm and adds to the questions surrounding the timing of the elections.
Karzai's disarmament plans triggered similar unrest in Herat in March and in the northern province of Faryab in April. This month, stone-throwing supporters of a regional strongman prevented a new governor taking office in Sari Pul province.
Analysts blame the unrest on clumsy attempts by Karzai to impose his will in restive provinces by sending in appointees without the necessary local support or central back-up.
In Herat, Faryab, Sari Pul and now Ghor he has backed down after his appointees were ejected from the provinces and allowed powerful regional rulers to call the shots.
This could have implications for U.S. President George W. Bush, whose administration has been pushing for early Afghan polls in the hope of portraying Afghanistan as a success story to balance Iraq ahead of his re-election bid in November.
Afghanistan to compensate Chinese families
Beijing, China, Jun. 20 (UPI) -- The Afghan government said Sunday it will compensate the families of 11 Chinese victims of a terrorist attack in northern Afghanistan.
"We would compensate all those murdered in the terrorist attack in Kunduz," Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai told Chinese Ambassador Sun Yuxi at a meeting Sunday, reported Xinhua, China's main government-run news agency. The minister said $5,000 would be given in compensation for each victim.
In the June 10 attack, 11 Chinese workers were murdered and five others were injured.
"President Hamid Karzai has instructed all the concerned authorities in central as well as provincial government to ensure the protection of Chinese workers and the speedy trial of criminals behind the terrorist attack," the minister said.
Afghan authorities have so far detained 14 suspects in the attack.
New life, old worries
Afghanistan: Living between war and peace
By John Makely Sun Staff June 20, 2004 The Baltimore Sun
In some ways, life in Afghanistan today appears peaceful. Children ride their bikes through the parks. Vendors are busy in the bazaars. Some neighborhoods have started rebuilding after years of occupation, civil war and air strikes.
But in any town, there are landmarks to remind passers-by that peace is easily shattered: the street where they car-bombed the German troops, the shop where they put a bomb in a shopping bag. The faceless threat of al-Qaida and the Taliban generates an undercurrent of unease. With presidential elections now postponed until September, coalition forces in this troubled nation are experiencing increased attacks and escalating tension.
It's nothing new to Afghans, who have survived generations of war - from the Soviet occupation to the civil war between warlords to the Taliban rule. Few families are untouched by the violence.
Between conflicts, the next generation now attempts a new life. Schools have reopened, including schools for girls in some towns. After class, children walk home past white-painted markers that show which fields have been cleared of landmines.
Young boys in bright yellow or blue school uniform shirts stream from side streets whenever soldiers pass, rushing out to ask for gifts in a custom called baksheesh that is usually reserved for the poor.
The children of Afghanistan are accomplished at soliciting gifts. When military convoys pass by, they repeatedly scream English phrases learned in school: What is your name? How are you? They wave and yell for pens, candy, water. When a candy bar is tossed to them, they hide it with one hand and hold out the other for more.
Not all the youngsters in Afghanistan are happy to see Americans. Like the brother of a small boy in a village a few miles from the Pakistan border. When the boy started to wave to passing soldiers, the older brother quickly grabbed his hand and held it down by his side.
Or the 10-year-old in a nearby village, who grew angry with a photographer who refused to make a gift of a pen in his vest pocket. He shouted words that were not understood, although their meaning was clear, and then held his hands up as if firing an imaginary gun. Then he asked for the photographer's sunglasses.
Like their parents, these young Afghans live in an ancient land and follow the traditions of their ancestors. Some will become shepherds tending flocks of sheep, or farmers tending their fields. And like their grandparents, they continue to live in that uneasy place somewhere between war and peace.
On the cover:
In Sechan, a village roughly 60 miles south of Kabul, two sisters huddle together as soldiers search their home. At first terrified, the girls relaxed when a medic treated their baby sister.
A boy counts his receipts from selling loaves of bread in Kabul's secondhand market, a bazaar where children also try their hand at commerce by selling bread, eggs, candy and fruit.
Right: In the hills north of Kabul, a young shepherd grazes his flock of sheep beside the highway to Bagram.
Below: Students from the Sadakhel school near Gardez accept pencils from U.S. Army soldiers checking the progress of contractors building a latrine for the school. Young girls are usually shy around strangers; the soldiers made an effort to hand them gifts before the boys could grab them.
A mother holds her feverish 5-month-old daughter in a village near Gardez. Two infants in the household had high fevers, but there was no way to get them to the town clinic. The family's only car had been stolen.
In Kandahar, the commander of the 2nd Militia Corps, Khan Muhammed, pauses for a portrait with his youngest son. Khan controls up to 6,000 soldiers who will be phased out by the central government as the Afghan National Army trains more of its own soldiers.
Javid Wahid, 3, stands outside a Kandahar bicycle shop where he was injured by shrapnel in an attack on a passing U.S. patrol in March. The cuts on the boy's leg healed, but the fear may linger.
Baei Ghal, 16, a student at the rebuilt school in Gardez, walks past a student-painted mural of the U.S. and Afghan flags. The school also serves as a site for voter registration.
As the sun sets on a late spring day, a young girl enjoys a ride on the back of a bicycle through Shahre Naw Park in downtown Kabul.
Blast hits Afghan province where Chinese killed
20 Jun 2004 13:40:49 GMT
KABUL, June 20 (Reuters) - A bomb exploded near a girls' school in the capital of an Afghan province where 11 Chinese workers were killed and a peacekeeping vehicle was attacked this month, the governor was quoted as saying on Sunday.
The bomb, hidden in a briefcase, exploded about 30 metres (yards) away from the Fatima-tu Zahara Girls High School in Kunduz city on Saturday, but caused no casualties, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency quoted Kunduz Governor Mohammed Omar as saying.
Omar also told AIP a 19-year-old man named Bakhtyar had been arrested in connection with the June 10 attack on the Chinese.
He said the suspect had worked with the Chinese and non-governmental organisations as a translator and had revealed important information that might lead to the killers.
The governor could not immediately be reached for comment.
The killing of the 11 Chinese workers employed on a World Bank-funded road project was the worst attack on foreigners working to reconstruct Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001.
The provincial military commander said last weekend 10 militants linked to the Hezb-i-Islami faction of a fundamentalist warlord and his Taliban allies were being held in the killings, but he did not reveal any of their names.
The Taliban, which has claimed responsibility for repeated attacks on aid and reconstruction workers elsewhere in Afghanistan, has denied it killed the Chinese.
The group banned female education when it was in power and has been blamed for attacks on girls' schools elsewhere in the country since its overthrow.
On Wednesday, four Afghans died in Kunduz city when a remotely detonated bomb exploded as a vehicle belonging to German NATO peacekeepers passed by. The driver of the vehicle was among those killed. No peacekeepers were hurt.
The attacks, in a northern part of the country that had been considered relatively secure, have dealt further blows to efforts to reconstruct war battered Afghanistan and raised questions about whether U.S.-backed plans to hold landmark elections in September are viable, given worsening security.
China has urged the government to bring those responsible for killing the workers to justice.
Afghan, Pakistani Presidents Discuss Bilateral Cooperation on Phone
Text of report by Afghan radio on 20 June Head of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Hamed Karzai had a telephone conversation with Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf today. During this telephone conversation, Hamed Karzai mentioned the security situation in the country and said: Fighting terrorism and narcotics should be continued on a large scale, and Afghanistan will fully cooperate with Pakistan in this struggle.
Text of report by Afghan radio on 20 June - Head of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Hamed Karzai had a telephone conversation with Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf today. The two sides discussed issues of bilateral interest.
During this telephone conversation, Hamed Karzai mentioned the security situation in the country and said: Fighting terrorism and narcotics should be continued on a large scale, and Afghanistan will fully cooperate with Pakistan in this struggle.
The head of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan and the Pakistani president expressed their interest to hold direct talks about bilateral cooperation next month. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appreciated recent achievements of the head of Afghan state, and congratulated Hamed Karzai on his achievements.
Musharraf invites Karzai to Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai talked on the telephone on Sunday and President Musharraf invited Mr Karzai to visit Pakistan. The latter accepted. Both leaders reiterated their determination to strengthen ties between the two countries. The foreign ministries of both countries will work out the dates for the Afghan president’s visit. app
UAE, Oman reach final, Afghanistan upset Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champions the United Arab Emirates and Oman each had convincing wins in their semi-finals yesterday to make the final of the Asian Cricket Council Trophy.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan, playing their first international tournament since emerging from two decades of war, upset hosts Malaysia and will play Nepal, who defeated Himalayan neighbours Bhutan, for fifth place.
Afghanistan had Malaysia in trouble early, taking three wickets for 15 runs then bowling the home team out in the 36th over for 121. The home team struck back and have Afghanistan at five for 56 before Assad Ullah Asadi scored an unbeaten 45 and lacklustre fielding yielded 22 extras and the visitors a three-wicket win.
Nepal's Mehboob Alam took three wickets for 18 runs, then slammed one six and six fours on his way to 42 from 21 balls as his country reached Bhutan's paltry 72-run target in just 13 overs. Today, Qatar play Kuwait for third place and Afghanistan play Nepal for fifth spot.
Radio listeners in Afghanistan and Iraq tune in to BBC World Service
Financial Times By Tim Burt, Media Editor June 21 2004 5:00
The BBC World Service has become the largest international radio news broadcaster in Iraq and Afghanistan following the US-led invasions of both countries, according to new figures compiled by the corporation.
Radio audience figures, due to be published today, show the government-funded World Service has 3.3m listeners in Iraq including one-in-four in Baghdad, and 60 per cent of the audience in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Nigel Chapman, acting director of the World Service, said the fledgling Iraqi Media Network, closely linked to the Coalition Provisional Authority, was "not making a major impact among people in Iraq".
In Afghanistan, he said, the BBC's local language service had become the country's effective national broadcaster.
Growth in such countries, along with audiences that rose by 6.8m to 65.8m across Africa and the Middle East, offset falling listener numbers in western Europe, Saudi Arabia, India, Bangladesh and Russia.
The World Service's total audience fell by 4m listeners to a weekly average of 146m last year, mainly because of a shift from short wave to new FM services.
Mr Chapman said the broadcaster had also been hit by the Indian government's refusal to license BBC services to FM stations in densely populated urban areas. The BBC is pressing the Indian authorities to liberalise the broadcasting rules.
The World Service, the international radio arm of the BBC, receives grants of about £200m ($368m, €303m) a year, and is investing about £2m a year on FM expansion. Weaker listening figures were balanced by rising demand for online BBC services. The broadcaster's international websites attract more than 16m unique users a month.
"Continuing investment is enabling BBC World Service to maintain its transformation from a short wave broadcaster to a modern multimedia organisation which reaches out to new audiences," said Mr Chapman.
The audience and online figures were compiled following independent surveys of 2.5bn listeners, who receive World Service broadcasts in more than 40 languages. The statistics showed the World Service, which competes with such stations as Voice of America and France's RFI, has at least 50 per cent more listeners than its nearest international rival.
Two men arrested in Afghanistan over attempt to bomb school
Radio Australia, Australia
The arrests of two men apparently planning to place a bomb in a girl's school in northern Afghanistan have led to authorities obtaining vital information on the killing of 11 Chinese workers earlier this month.
Officials say the men were arrested on Saturday at Fatimatul Zahra school in Kunduz city, north of Kabul.
Kunduz governor, Mahommed Omar says the pair were detained when the bomb they were allegedly attempting to plant exploded prematurely.
Governor Omar says one of the men has provided information which will lead police to those behind the attack on the Chinese workers, killed after tents they were sleeping in were sprayed with gunfire.
He says both men have also confessed that the men came to Kunduz city armed with 21 bombs.
Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 20 Jun 2004
Source: UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 20 Jun 2004
Women Registrants Continue Steady Increase -- Overall Voter Registration Reaches 100,000 Plus Per Day
As of 17 June, 4,178,489 Afghans had registered to vote. The gender breakdown is 2,660,903 men and 1,517,586 women -- 63.7 percent men and 36.3 percent women. This confirms the trend that we have been seeing since the beginning of Phase 2 on 1 May of a steady increase in the number of women registering countrywide.
It is important thing to note is that since 14 June we are now seeing 100,000 plus Afghans registering per day. On 14 June there were 101, 513 registered and on 15 June there were 101,939 in all provinces throughout the country.
I'll repeat what I have been telling you in every briefing so that there is no misunderstanding. Today I am giving you figures that have been updated as of June 17 although we do not as yet have figures of registration for all provinces for that date. I have said to you before that as the personnel of Secretariat of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) moves into districts that are farther away it takes longer for information to reach Kabul and be entered in the data centre.
Campaign on Verification of Political Rights to Begin Soon
According to the Workplan annexed to the Berlin Declaration, the Government of Afghanistan, in its commitments, requested the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and UNAMA to verify the full exercise of political rights throughout the country and to prepare public reports with a view to help determine whether conditions exist that are conducive to the holding of a free and fair election.
Until now there has been a lot of work by experts from both the Commission and UNAMA. Yesterday concluded the training of the people who will be doing this work and this coming Wednesday, 23 June, Dr. Sima Samar, Chair of the AIHRC and Mr. Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) will launch the verification of political rights campaign. The launch will happen here in Kabul in a press conference. Both UNAMA and the Commission will send you a media advisory on Tuesday confirming the exact time and location.
One Day Training Session for Kuchi Civic Education Officers Concludes
Yesterday, 19 June, a one-day training session for Kuchi civic education officers was held at the offices of the Joint Electoral Management Body Secretariat in Kabul. Nineteen nomads from the six central provinces -- Kabul, Kapisa, Parwan Panjshir, Logar and Wardak -- participated in the training. Similar training sessions for Kuchis will be held across the country. There are now Kuchi Liaison Officers in the 28 provinces where nomads live or travel through.
Director of JEMB Secretariat Visits Nuristan to See How Voter Registration Sites Can be Increased
This past Thursday, 17 June, the Director of the Electoral Secretariat, Dr. Farooq Wardak traveled to Nuristan to speak with local officials and to determine how to increase the number of sites in the province. There are currently 42 sites in the province and given the topography of that province there is an issue about access by people to these sites and therefore the need to increase the number of sites. While there, Dr. Wardak met with the governor and the chief of police and they discussed proper security and other arrangements for more sites to be opened throughout the province.
99 Year Old woman and 105 year Old Man Register to Vote in Paktia
This past week, a 99-year-old woman and a 105-year-old man registered to vote in the Wacha Gharaka district of Paktia province. In an interview with one of the staff of the Electoral Secretariat, the women, whose husband died 18 years ago, said that she had registered so that she could elect a good leader who would look after the poor and the powerless people of Afghanistan. She had 14 children -- four daughters and two sons who were still alive and eight children who had passed away. The 105-year old man, who said he was a young man in the reign of Amir Habibullah (1901-1919), said that wanted to elect a leader who would serve Afghanistan well.
SRSG to Give a Closing Statement at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Youth Conference on Elections and Hold Press Conference on Monday 20 June at UNAMA
Today at 2:00 p.m., the SRSG will give a closing statement at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Youth Conference on the Elections, which is being held at the Loya Jirga tent. At 4:00 p.m. there is press conference to which you are all invited.
I would also like to inform that SRSG Arnault will also hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday 20 June) here in the UNAMA Press Briefing Room at 10:00 a.m. Mr. Arnault will give an overview of the implementation of aspects of the Bonn Agreement since the recent Berlin Conference 31 March -- 1 April. We are sure you will be concerned about issues such as DDR and elections and those are some of the areas he will cover.
DDR Moves into Takhar -- Main Phase DDR Now Taking Place in Seven Provinces
With the beginning of the disarmament of the 736th Brigade today in Taloqan - Takar province, main phase disarmament is now taking place in seven provinces. These also include Kunduz, Kandahar, Kabul, Gardez, Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif. Disarmament is expected to begin in Jalalabad in the coming days and in Herat as well as Bamyan by early July.
Since the programme began in October last year, 8,963 officers and soldiers have been disarmed and 6,940 weapons collected. Seven thousand, three hundred and twenty of the personnel disarmed have started or are about to start their reintegration options.
Chaghcharan Calm at Moment but UN and Electoral Staff Relocated
The situation in the Chaghcharan District of Ghor Province where conflict erupted amongst rival groups on Thursday is reported to be calm at the moment.
As result of the conflict from Friday until Saturday UN and electoral personnel -- nationals and internationals -- were relocated from Chaghcharan and are now either in Bamyan or Kabul. As a result of that situation UN road missions to and from Herat-Ghor province and within Ghor province have been suspended until further notice. Registration sites in Ghor Province, however, remain open.
UN Restrictions Lifted in Kunduz
Following the explosions in Kunduz that killed four civilians last Tuesday the subsequent movement restrictions that were put on UN staff were lifted on Friday 18 June. Any additional security measures will be discussed today in the regular security meetings that take place in Kunduz.
UN Limits Movements in Southern Region
Following the attack on the office of UNHCR in Kandahar on Friday all UN activities are somewhat restricted in that area. There is limited movement in Kandahar and UN staff members are moving between their guesthouses or homes to their respective offices. All road missions in the southern region are currently being evaluated on a case-by-case basis and if cleared they proceed with armed escorts.
Mop-up Campaign for Polio in the South
From 13 to 17 June, the World Health Organization (WHO) held a training session for 3,294 volunteers for a mop-up campaign against polio in the south. The regional campaign will start this coming Tuesday, 22 June and is expected to continue for three days. Volunteers will go door-to-door and immunize all children under five in 42 districts of four provinces: Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand and Zabul. In July, the campaign will spread to western Ghazni, Nimroz, Farah and parts of northern Uruzgan.
So far this year, three new polio cases have been confirmed in Afghanistan, which has been close to eradicating the disease for three years. For Afghanistan to be declared polio-free, there must be no new cases of polio for two consecutive years.
A countrywide polio campaign will be conducted at the end of August. The polio eradication campaign is conducted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the WHO.
Tetanus Campaign Reaches 3.6 Million Women
Figures now collated from around Afghanistan show that so far in 2004, at least two doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine have been administered to more than three million Afghan women, and that 3.6 million women of child-bearing age have received at least one dose, following a nationwide vaccination campaign.
The campaign, led by the MoH with the support from UNICEF, WHO and other agencies, is part of an on-going effort to bring five doses of tetanus vaccine to four million women of childbearing age in Afghanistan. Three doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine over a 12-month period are sufficient to provide five years of immunity to both mother and newborn child, while five doses will provide life-long immunity.
The third round of immunization, which must take place at least six months after the second dosage, will be held next year. The 2004 campaign is generously supported by Japan and the United States.
For more information, a press release from UNICEF is available on the side table.
Afghanistan to Commemorate International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
This Friday, 26 June, is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. To commemorate the day here in Afghanistan, the Counter Narcotics Directorate (CND) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will be holding a conference at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Media are invited to attend.
The conference, which is expected to go from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., will include speeches by the Ministers of Interior, Justice and Public Health, as well as by the Director General of the CND and the Representative of UNODC's Afghanistan office. President Hamid Karzai, the UK Ambassador to Afghanistan (as you know the UK is the lead nation supporting counter narcotics efforts here in Afghanistan) and SRSG Jean Arnault are also expected to attend.
Similar events commemorating the day will be held in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is going to be done about voter registration for Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan?
Spokesman: Dr. Farooq Wardak briefed you here and spoke about this a few days ago. The JEMB has decided that there should be what is called "out of country voting". That will happen in Pakistan and Iran for the Afghan refugees in those countries. These are very complex operations, very difficult and very expensive. And this is why we keep talking about the need for the shortfall in the budget to be met and for pledges to be transformed into reality by money coming into the bank. Basically the idea is that voting will happen simultaneously -- at the same time that voting happens here in Afghanistan. In Iran there will be no need for registration because Afghan refugees have recently been registered and they have what is called in Iran the Amayesh Card, which is the confirmation of their refugee status. This will therefore be used as identification. In Pakistan there is no such document so there will be a need for registration of voters just like what is taking place here in Afghanistan. This will be happening in the weeks immediately preceding polling days
Question: Do you have any idea about just how many voters there are in Iran and Afghanistan?
Spokesman: We do but of course they are estimates. In Pakistan the estimate is about 1.5 million and in Iran some 800,000 to one million.
Question: Can you tell me about the voter registration process in Daikundy?
Spokesman: As of 15 June, 18,000 people had registered in Daikundy and 53.7 percent are women while 46.3 percent are men. There are 14 sites open in Daikundy Province, which are staffed by 28 electoral registration teams.
Question: How is voter registration in Chaghcharan given the recent fighting and the departure of your registration people?
Spokesman: There is registration in all of Ghor Province. Yes I did say that UN and electoral personnel left Charghcharan on Friday and Saturday. But registration sites continue to operate throughout the province. The reason for that is because the registration teams come from the areas where the sites are opened. This is where the complication that I always mention to you arises -- finding personnel and then training them. The idea is to find people in the areas where registration sites are being opened. [Now back to your question] I do not have precise information for you about sites in Charghcharan itself. My understanding, but this is pending conformation that we have been trying to get since yesterday, is that registration is not happening in Charghcharan Town, per se. This might be because they had already registered all the potential voters in that town. So we are waiting for confirmation that the process was either suspended because of the fighting or if it had already stopped before the fighting because it was assessed that all the potential voters in that particular town had already been registered. I am sure that in the next briefing we will be able to confirm this to you.
Question: Who controls Charghcharan at the moment or has the Government retaken it?
Spokesman: I don't have much to tell you. Our office in Herat which covers that area has been offering its good offices, has been facilitating communications and contacts and this why we could inform you that the situation is reportedly calm today. I do not, however, have precise information on the status of who is in charge of what. That is because I do not have it and I am not implying anything about the situation itself.
Question: Who were the four people killed in Kunduz and what were their nationalities?
Spokesman: On Tuesday [16 June] an explosive device went off in Kunduz and hit a vehicle of the Provincial Reconstruction Team. As a result of that four Afghans were killed; the driver of the vehicle and three passers-by -- two youngsters and a shopkeeper.
Questions: What type of attack was it in against UNHCR in Kandahar? Were there any casualties involved?
Spokesman: The Kandahar attack took place during the night between Thursday and Friday at about 2:00 a.m. or so. There was an attack on the UNHCR office. There is an investigation ongoing right now. But what we have right now is that first there was small arms fire against the Ministry of Interior (MOI) security guards who were stationed outside the gate. Two rocket-propelled grenades that were fired at the building immediately followed that. The attackers fled and even though they were chased by an MOI patrol they managed to escape. There were no victims or casualties. No one was hurt and the damage to the building was minimal -- primarily windows broken and a hit, I am not sure, to the outside gate or wall.
Question: How do you categorize these escalating attacks?
Spokesman: How do we view this? With great concern. We don't know who did this or why they did it. The investigation has not yet reached a final result. But whatever the motivation, this is a UN building that is clearly marked that was attacked. This is a matter of grave concern to us just like the attack a couple of weeks ago on the Gardez Road when vehicles clearly marked as UN and carrying electoral personnel were attacked. This is of concern because we are seeing a repeated number of security incidents some of them in areas like Kunduz or Badghis -- where the Medecins Sans Frontières people were killed -- which have so far not been locations where such incidents were likely to occur. So it is indeed a matter of serious concern to us. We have been discussing and reviewing security arrangements with the authorities to ensure that the commitments that we all have to help this country further the transition to peace can be met. So our efforts towards any of the exercises here must be re-doubled so that the commitment of the international community and those of the Afghan Government can be met.
Question: What is your reaction to the group that staged a protest in front of the Foreign Ministry demanding Karzai's resignation?
Spokesman: I am sorry I don't know about this.
Question: How long do you expect this voter registration process to continue and is there an ideal figure?
Spokesman: No, there is no ideal figure. As I have been telling your colleagues, the reference is to offer as many opportunities for as long as possible for as many Afghans who wish to register. Registration is not compulsory -- It is voluntary. But there are difficulties in the country such as access, security, and traditional patterns of behaviour. So there is a need for a combination of actions -- civic education, security arrangements, transport facilities and not to forget of course looking down the road to elections, a DDR [process] that is effective. So that is the reference with regard to what we want to achieve. Evidently I don't think anyone expects to reach the total estimated number of potential voters in this country, which is around 9.5 to 9.8 million. But we have to work to provide the opportunities for as many Afghans that wish to register. I do not have a date to give you that will tell you how long registration will take. I can certainly tell you that in all likelihood it will go beyond the end of June, which is a reference that many people have. But the final date of registration will be very much determined by the date of the election decided on by the JEMB. According to the Electoral Law the JEMB is the one to decide on the date. To do that, they must hold consultations with political parties and the Government. The first meeting with the JEMB and political parties was held this week and they are collecting the views of political parties on this matter.
Question: Who determines the 10 million [potential voters] figure? It was 10 million and now it's 9.5 million. Who determines the accuracy of this figure?
Spokesman: I am only referring to one figure. I am referring to the total estimated possible number of voters in the country. That number is between 9.5 and 9.8 million and is determined by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). It is an Afghan institution that has always been in this country and has always been in charge of statistics and demographics. They are supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). They will conduct next year, as called for in the Bonn Agreement, a national census. A national census is preceded by what is known as pre-census which in Afghanistan is known as a household listing. The household listing means that personnel of the CSO visit all houses throughout the country. In that visit what they do is get an indication of the number of people living there and where they are so that they can plan the actual census. It is not a census but just a gathering of information to plan the census. Based on that information they have provided the electoral Secretariat with these estimates.
You will recall that earlier in this process we were talking about 10.5 million as the estimated number. Since then, however, the household listing exercise progressed enabling the CSO to refine their estimates. This is why they now speak of 9.5 to 9.8 million because the estimated number of Afghans over 18 is not as high as originally thought. So this is what we are talking about. The JEMB Secretariat is not talking about any target number. What we are talking about, however, as I said in response to the last question, is that as this is a voluntary exercise, and it is the first time that Afghans are going through this, there are many difficulties and many efforts to overcome those difficulties. But we will not have the maximum estimated number [of potential voters]. But there is our commitment [to do the work that is necessary]. Farooq Wardak's visit to Nuristan illustrates this. As we are in the registration process what else can we do that needs to be done when looking at specific situations? What else can be done to address difficulties while we are still in the registration process? In the particular case of Nuristan -- it is to review the number of sites given the topography and the very difficult access for people to reach the sites. So that is what we are talking about.
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