JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Residents and civil society activists in eastern Laghman province say women’s participation in the October parliamentary elections was weak in the province due to insecurity.
They warn if the situation remains the same until the July presidential election, women in the province may not partake in the ballot.
They say many incidents of violence happened in previous elections and as a result, male family members did not allow their women to go to polling stations.
Provincial government officials acknowledge incidents of violence happened during the previous elections but claim many had been thwarted as well.
The officials say more than 46,000 people, including 12,000 of women, used the right to vote in Laghman during the parliamentary polls.
Public complaints regarding insecurity during election:
Civil society activists and some unsuccessful candidates say many areas were ‘intentionally’ made insecure to manipulate the election outcome.
Civil society activist Rahmini Laghmani told Pajhwok Afghan News that due to insecurity, many women were deprived of casting their votes.
“Some unfortunate incidents took place in Mehtarlam, the provincial capital, on the election day and that prompted families not to allow their women to go polling station and cast their votes.”
She said insecurity kept most of the women from exercising their right to enfranchise and their turnout had been low compared to their participation in the voter registration process.
Breshna Sapi, an unsuccessful Wolesi Jirga candidate, said one of the reasons she lost election was that most of the women did not use their votes.
“Areas where my voters exist were made insecure, faults in the biometric system and rigging were other reasons behind my loss in election,” she said.
Bibi Roshan, 40, a resident of Maidanyano locality in Mehtarlam, told Pajhwok she wanted to vote in the Wolesi Jirga elections, but she was not allowed to do so after they heard about a blast.
She acknowledged security forces had put in place complete security arrangements on the Election Day and thwarted some incidents, but a few violent incidents discouraged people to vote.
Noor Ahmad Noor, Independent Election Commission (IEC) head for Laghman, acknowledged people’s turnout during last year’s elections was low in the province.
In Laghman, nearly 171,000 people registered as voters but only 46,000 participated in the elections, he said.
A total of 46,859 people participated in elections --- 32,257 men and 12,621 women --- in the province, he added.
Noor said insecurity badly affected the voting process in Dawlat Shah and Alingar districts.
Governor’s spokesman Asadullah Dawlatzai insisted many incidents of violence had been foiled by security forces during the elections.
He said the turnout was satisfactory, adding insecurity negative impacted the elections nation-wide.
Fears of low turnout in upcoming polls:
Looking back to the previous elections, the turnout would be low in the presidential polls, believe civil society activists.
Rahmini Laghmani says women were not allowed to participate in previous election due to insecurity and if security was not improved, the next election would be challenging.
Another civil society activist Breshna Sapi said people believed if security was not improved, they would not participate in the presidential polls.
She demanded improved security ahead of the presidential election to encourage a greater turnout.
Provincial Council secretary Abdul Zahir Husainkhel also made the same demand and added the security situation must get better for presidential election.
Assurances regarding security for July polls:
Dawlatzai said consultations were ongoing on ensuring a foolproof security during elections and efforts were being made by the governor and security organs in this regard.
He assured the public turnout during the upcoming election would be high and security in all areas would be improved.
It is worth mentioning that due to insecurity, women in most parts of the country were unable to freely cast their vote.


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