August 17, 2009
The Independent

Afghan Women To Miss Out On Vote In Landmark Election

by Jerome Starkey and Kim Sengupta

Millions of Afghan women will be denied their chance to vote in presidential elections this week because there aren't enough female officials to staff the women-only polling stations.

A desperate shortage of female staff is threatening to undermine the legitimacy of the elections, which are the pinnacle of western-led efforts to build a peaceful democracy. Strict cultural norms mean women can't vote in male-run stations.

Women's activists said the Independent Election Commission (IEC) needs to recruit 13,000 more women before Thursday's elections. The IEC refused to comment on recruitment figures, but papers leaked to The Independent suggest the shortfall is much worse, at more than 42,000.

Without female staff to operate the strictly segregated stations, and more importantly, without female searchers to frisk women voters as they arrive at those stations, conservative men across the country will ban their wives and daughters from taking part.

"If half of the population can't participate, the election is illegitimate," said Orzala Ashref, a director of the Afghan Women's Network. "Without women's votes, without women's participation, of course the election is not going to be valid." . . .


"Afghan Leaders Demand Timetable for U.S. Withdrawal," The Wisdom Fund, May 21, 2009

"Afghan War Could Last 'For Decades'," The Wisdom Fund, August 3, 2009

[The sustained propaganda, quite often vicious and personal, would have us believe Karzai lacks the capacity for good governance, fawns cronyism and is soft on venality; that he pampers corrupt relatives and brutish warlords; and, of course, as Obama once famously put it, that Karzai doesn't even stir out of his "bunker" in the presidential palace. All of this, much of it or at least some of it may be true. But the fog kept out of sight the schism between Karzai and his erstwhile mentors in Washington.

It was towards the end of 2007 that Karzai began demanding that he should have a say in the US deployment and the scale of military operations by the foreign troops. He talked about an Iraqi-style Status of Force Agreement. Essentially, he wanted the occupation forces to abide by Afghan laws. He then raised it at the United Nations, under whose mandate, after all, the NATO forces operate in Afghanistan.--M K Bhadrakumar, "A fog swirls in the Hindu Kush," Asia Times, August 18, 2009]

[Thousands of voting cards have been offered for sale and thousands of dollars have been offered in bribes to buy votes.--Ian Pannell, "Afghan election fraud is unearthed," BBC News, August 18, 2009]

[In a country ruled by warlords, occupation forces, Taliban insurgency, drug money and guns, no one can expect a legitimate or fair vote.--Malalai Joya, "Why Afghans Have No Hope in This Week's Vote,", August 18, 2009]

Gareth Porter, "Karzai and Warlords Mount Massive Vote Fraud Scheme," IPS, August 19, 2009

[Tehran is now keeping its fingers crossed about the possibility that the US might now engineer an "Iran-like situation" to muddy waters and install a surrogate power structure in Kabul.--M K Bhadrakumar, "Powers line up to stir Afghanistan's pot," Asia Times, August 20, 2009]

Jon Boone, "Afghanistan election ink safeguard fails detergent test: Ink used at some polling stations to mark voters can be removed with household soap, in embarrassing echo of 2004 scandal," Guardian, August 20, 2009

Tom Coghlan, "No sign of voters on election day in Afghanistan despite official claims," Times, August 21, 2009

[The problem with U.S.-sponsored elections in Asia and elsewhere in the non-Western world, as in Afghanistan Aug. 20, is that they are sponsored by the United States primarily to legitimize its own presence in the country.--William Pfaff, "Reality Is Its Own Caricature for US in Afghanistan and Pakistan,", August 21, 2009]

Pamela Constable, "Afghans Brace for Unrest Over Vote Tally: Tensions on Rise Between Factions -- And With U.S.," Washington Post, September 2, 2009

Kim Sengupta, "Karzai 'victory' provokes fresh crisis between Kabul and West," Independent, September 9, 2009

[Afghan election authorities issued complete preliminary results showing Mr Karzai received 54.6 per cent of the vote. His main challenger, the former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, got 27.8 per cent. The results are not final until approved by a separate election fraud watchdog, which has called for a recount of 10 per cent of polling stations.--Golnar Motevalli, "Karzai won outright in first round of voting, say Afghans," Independent, September 17, 2009]

[The fundamental failure was the failure of the US and allied forces to provide security for the election, as they had promised to do. If the US and its allies could not establish security for this single event, an event on which they were highly focused, an event for which they had explicitly increased their forces in the country, that suggests that current plans to provide security by increasing foreign forces will fail, absent a broad political process to resolve Afghanistan's conflicts - a political process that must include the "Taliban" insurgencies to be successful.--Robert Naiman, "The Real Failure of the Afghan Election,", September 22, 2009]

Julius Cavendish, "Relief for the US as Karzai concedes election run-off," Independent, October 21, 2009

[The U.S. government has wanted to dump Karzai, but could not find an equally obedient but more effective replacement. There was talk of imposing an American "chief executive officer" on him. Or, in the lexicon of the old British Raj, an Imperial Viceroy.

Washington finally decided to try to shore up Karzai's regime and give it some legitimacy by staging national elections in August. The UN, which has increasingly become an arm of U.S. foreign policy, was brought in to make the vote kosher. Canada eagerly joined this charade.

No political parties were allowed to run. Only individuals supporting the West's occupation of Afghanistan were allowed on the ballot.

The vote was conducted under the guns of a foreign occupation army - a clear violation of international law.--Eric Margolis, "Americans pull strings in Afghan election," Independent, October 25, 2009]

Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, "Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll," New York Times, October 28, 2009

Jon Boone, "Afghanistan election challenger Abdullah Abdullah pulls out of runoff," Guardian, November 1, 2009

[The shadow boxing is over. At the center stage of the political theater stands Karzai. He has turned the table squarely on the Western powers, but he will not easily forget the sustained attempts over the past year and more to ridicule him and pull him down.

. . . Afghan Minister of Counter-Narcotics, General Khodaidad . . . has brought into public debate Afghanistan's best-kept secret: the role of foreign troops in drug trafficking.

. . . when Khodaidad said on Sunday that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) contingents from the US, Britain and Canada are "taxing" the production of opium in the regions under their control, he carried a stern warning on behalf of Karazi. It is a simple, direct message: don't throw stones while sitting in a glass cage.--M K Bhadrakumar, "US goofs the Afghan election," Asia Times, November 3, 2009]

[In exchange for the pullout of the non-Pashtun Abdullah, Pakistan's military has agreed to actively mediate between Washington and the Taliban over a reconciliation plan that will allow the US to exit from Afghanistan, as it is doing in Iraq, with a semblance of success.--Syed Saleem Shahzad, "US puts its faith in Pakistan's military,", November 6, 2009]

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