KABUL candidates from Kabul and other provinces see insecurity as a major threat to their election campaigns. Several nominees claim being threatened with death.
The campaign for the Wolesi Jirga elections, which kicked off on Friday, will run until October 20. Some female contenders complain they could not easily conduct their campaigns due to insecurity and threats.
Laila Ali, a lower candidate from Kabul, said women could not push their campaign the way men have been doing due to insecurity and threats.
She asked the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to provide them with a level playing field in districts and far-flung areas of the country.
Fareshta Amini, hailing from Nimroz province, is contesting the Wolesi Jirga vote from Kabul. She told Pajhwok Afghan News due to insecurity and other reasons, they could not visit districts for canvassing.
She sought equal campaign opportunities for men and women.
Women candidates from Baghlan province powerful individuals and mafia groups had threatened them with death.
Baghlan has eight seats in the lower house, for which 12 women and 76 men are in the race.
Nooria Hameedi, one of the Wolesi Jirg hopeful from the province, charged some unidentified people had been threatening her over the past few days.
“Due to security threats, I arrived in Kabul 15 days before the election campaign began. Security institutions have informed me about the danger to my life. I have received threats as well.”
As a result, on the campaign trail, she is accompanied by a large number of security personnel. Hameedi has twice served as a provincial council member.
Asked about the nature of threats, she replied: “I was told not to contest elections because I’m a woman. They said women could not work properly. I was also warned of an armed attack on my campaign convoy…”
Wajeda Faisal Azizi, another candidate, claimed most of female candidates were being threatened with death by mafia groups and powerful individuals.
“I have personally received phone calls from unknown individuals, telling me to cancel my plan for contesting elections and canvassing,” she charged, grumbling that their worries had mounted and campaigns affected.
Without naming anyone, she said if warnings and threats persisted, most of women would not be able to run their election campaigns effectively.
Tamana Shinwari, another Wolesi Jirga hopeful, held a similar view: due to insecurity they were unable to conduct their election campaign properly.
“Militants are knocking at the doors of Pul-i-Khumri. How would a woman candidate conduct her election campaign”” she questioned.
Shinwari did not speak about threats, but accused certain individuals of spreading vicious propaganda against women to damage their campaigns.
They asked security institutions to resolve the issues so that women aspirants could properly conduct their campaigns.
The IEC head for Baghlan province, Abdul Qahar Safi, confirmed female candidates faced security threats in the province.
He said besides security problems, unhealthy competition between women candidates was another problem in Baghlan.
“Some circles or supporters of some candidates may threaten other candidates to terrify them and get them bowed out, but no such a complaint is so far made to us, we refer such issues to security organs, if we receive any complaints,” he said.
Baghlan police spokesman, Zabihullah Shuja, told Pajhwok that it was police responsibility to protect people including candidates.
He said security organs had adopted special measures for security of the election process in the province.
About threats to female candidates, Shuja said: “No one has complained to us on this issue, we share such issues to detective organs and those involved are chased arrest taken to justice.”
Female candidates in Farah province also face serious security problems. They say they could not campaign in districts, except the provincial capital.
Belqis Roshan, a candidate from Farah, said she could not campaign as per her own desire.
“We cannot spread our message to all people in all areas due to security problems, we have started our campaigning and will see what happens,” she said.
Roshan accused some security and civil officials of supporting some specific candidates.
She said two Wolesi Jirga candidates were flown to Anar Dara and Purchaman districts by Afghan National Army (ANA) helicopters for campaigning there.
“We have no access to such facilities and we cannot go to districts due to security threats,” she said.
Sharifa Sadat, another candidate, echoed Roshan’s concerns and candidates were not provided level playing field in Farah.
Laili, 20, a resident of Farah city, said no one from her family took voter cards as they would not participate in the elections fearing their own security and cultural restrictions.
A civil society activist in Farah, Nabila, agreed with Wolesi Jirga candidates’ concerns and asked the government to pave the ground for women candidates to effectively campaign for themselves.
She said female candidates wanted to go to other parts of the province for electioneering, but they could not do so due to security woes.
Mohammad Munir Parsa, the IEC head for Farah, confirmed security and cultural problems existed in the province, but said no candidates had complained to them in this so far.
He said had put in place measures to facilitate women candidates in their election campaign in other areas of the province.
Mohibullah Mohib, Farah police spokesman, said security organs had taken full measures for the elections and women candidates could campaign safely.
In Balkh province, 22 women are contesting the Oct 20 Wolesi Jirga elections.
A number of women candidates in Balkh say security problems and lack of awareness about the election process are two major problems.
Gulalai Noor Safi, a candidate from Balkh, told Pajhwok that female candidates had been offered limited facilities for campaigning compared to male candidates.
She said security situation in a number of Balkh districts was not stable and it could affect women’s participation in polls.
“Militants control large areas in Chamtal, Chahar Bolak and Dawlatabad districts of Balkh and candidates cannot go there for campaign”, Safi added.
A large number of people from some areas of the province would also be deprived of casting their votes if security situation was not improved, she said.
Meanwhile, Shekiba Shekib, another candidate from Balkh, also said she could not campaign the way she wanted due to security problems.
She said women in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital, had some awareness about elections but women in districts were least informed in this regard.
She asked the government to improve security situation in areas under the militants’ threat, so people could feel safe on the election day.
Candidates also asked the IEC to accelerate its public awareness program so more people could turn out on the polling day.