KANDAHAR/MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Protestors closed provincial Independent Election Commission (IEC) offices in Kandahar and Balkh provinces on Saturday, warning to keep the offices shut until their demands were accepted.
Around 70 protestors in Kandahar, backed by the provincial council head, tribal elders and some other influential figures, organized the march under the banner of Grand Political Alliance of Afghanistan and shut the IEC office in Kandahar City, the provincial capital.
A member of the alliance, Toran Nik Mohammad, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the protest was aimed at raising voice for the rights of Kandahar people.
He said only 565,000 people had been registered as voters in Kandahar while the province’s population was above four million people. He said many other people had been deprived of the voter card.
He said there was no guarantee the upcoming elections would be transparent and asked the government to use technology in the election regime.
Mohammad also suggested that the presidential, Wolesi Jirga, provincial council and district council elections should be conducted simultaneous to avoid extra costs.
Some other protestors made the same demand and said they would keep the IEC office shut until their requests were accepted.
Haron Kaliwal, the IEC chief for Kandahar, confirmed around 70 people including the provincial council members and tribal elders had closed their office in protest.
He said the protestors had shared all their demands with the IEC office and they referred those demands to the main IEC office for a decision. All employees of the IEC did not turn up for work and stayed home, he added.
The Kandahar governor’s spokesman, Aziz Ahmad Azizi, told Pajhwok that he was aware about the IEC office closure, but the issue had not been previously shared with them.
Elsewhere, a number of protestors in northern Balkh province also shut the IEC office in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital, by erecting protest tents.
Introducing themselves as members of the National Coalition for Salvation of Afghanistan (NCSA), the protestors said their movement would continue until the government prevented fraud in the election process.
One of the protestors, Hassan Dehqanzada, said the protest tents to NSCA –a coalition of major political parties of the country.
Jamiat-i-Islami, Junbish-i-Islami, Wahdat-i-Islami and some other political parties and councils are members of NSCA, which organized this protest,” he said.
He said the Afghans did not want a fraudulent election and NSCA would use all its resources to stop the parliamentary elections in current situation.
Sayed Qasim Salar, a member of Wahdat-i-Islami party, said they shut the IEC office after the government ignored their demands.
He said the public wanted elections free of any fraud and the government should be committed to that.
The protestors also talked with IEC officials about their demands.
The IEC head for Balkh, Fazl Ahmad Hayati, said they would continue their activities according to the commission’s central office’s order.
He said the IEC was trying to ensure full transparency in the upcoming parliamentary elections. He asked the protestors not to create problems for the election affairs.
“We cannot manage the election process with new technology due to time shortage but we assure the public fraud-free elections,” he concluded.
According to some reports, NSCA supporters also erected protest tents in front of the IEC office in western Herat province.

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