• Afghanistan in June 2014: BAAGs report on key news & developments from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in June 2014: BAAGs report on key news & developments from Afghanistan.

01 July 2014

Elections  

On the 14th, the Presidential Elections run-off was held between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. Election authorities put the turnout at 7 million - higher than the first round. A heavy price was paid. Election-related violence claimed around 60 lives, while dozens more were injured including 11 elderly men whose index fingers were cut off by the Taliban because they voted.

Unlike the first round, the run-off proved to be a disappointment. Abdullah accused the Independent Election Commission (IEC) for orchestrating wholesale fraud. He called that the vote counting be stopped and since then has suspended ties with electoral management bodies.

On the 23rd, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, Head of IEC, stepped down. A day before his resignation, Abdullah released phone conversations in which Amarkhil allegedly spoke to his and Ghani’s electoral staffs to instruct them to stuff ballot boxes, co-opt local officials and staff polling stations with officials sympathetic to Ghani. Amarkhil denied all allegations. He first got into controversy on the run-off day when Kabul police stopped his vehicles for allegedly stealing ballots from the IEC's HQ.

Echoing Abdullah’s concern, the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, an independent watchdog, announced on the 19th that the turnout might not have been more than six million.  

Playing down the impasse, President Karzai said he is looking at solving the issue through electoral bodies and if need be through the UN. The UN Mission in Afghanistan has been encouraging the Presidential candidates to cooperate with each other and with the electoral institutions. The suggested date for the inauguration of new President is 2nd August. 

In response to the rising political tensions, on the 25th Afghan journalists' associations and media executives signed a Code of Good Conduct with the aim to 'responsibly' cover the elections. The 11-article code asks journalists not to interview those who encourage religious and ethnic hatred. Media played a key role in the success of first round of Presidential elections.

Security

June saw the biggest Taliban assault in years, while elections-related and other terrorist attacks continued to take lives of many national and international civilians. On the 21st, Taliban launched a series of coordinate assaults on Government forces across several districts in Helmand. So far, in the ongoing war more than 100 members of Afghan forces and 50 civilians have been reported dead or wounded and thousands have been displaced. 40 Taliban insurgents have also been killed. Amidst worries of a humanitarian crisis, UNAMA called on all parties to protect civilians.

On the 2nd, Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the US Embassy in Kabul to support the country against missile attacks from Pakistani soil. Afghan officials cited the Strategic Cooperation Partnership Agreement that was signed between Kabul and Washington 2 years ago and allows US to help Afghanistan confront external threats. President Karzai has yet to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that will pave the way for continued American military assistance.

On the 25th, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General, said that if the necessary security agreements are not signed, ‘we will not be able to keep any troops in Afghanistan from next year’. On the 4th, a US military official had speculated that next year 12,000 NATO soldiers, including 9,800 Americans, will remain in Afghanistan. They will be split between the NATO training and counter-terrorism missions.

On the 10th, anti-Government elements killed 8 and wounded 3 de-miners working for MDS, an NGO, in Logar province.  In the 2nd, four Turkish construction engineers were killed and many Afghan civilians were injured in a separate attacks.

Economy

In June, a likely economic crisis was averted. On the 25th, President Karzai signed the Anti-Money Laundering law, while the Parliament approved a Financing of Terrorism Prevention law. Last month intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force warned the Afghan government that unless it took legal action to curb money laundering and the financing of terrorism, it will be deemed unfit for investment and blacklisted. This could have cut off the banks of aid-dependant Afghanistan from the global financial system.

Fund for Peace, an independent research organisation, put Afghanistan as the seventh most fragile state in 2014. It uses a variety of primary social, economic and political indicators to gauge the resilience of states towards various pressures. Afghanistan has been fluctuating in seven and sixth place in the last five years. Neighbouring Pakistan stands in the 10th position with South Sudan secured the top place this year. 

An expatriate Afghan, Syed Hashmi, became the first owner of Afghanistan-based computer manufacturing and assembling company. His company, Blue Sonic which operates from Kabul already assembles complete computers, phones and other household devices and will have a showroom soon. Syed believes the big youth population in Afghanistan gives him the 'good numbers' to start business in Afghanistan.

Humanitarian

On the 7th, the latest string of deadly flash floods claimed more than 54 lives and forced thousands to flee their homes in northern Baghlan province. UN announced that the floods in northern Afghanistan have affected over 140,000 people and has totally destroyed over 8,000 houses.

On the 20th, Afghan authorities announced that in the last month some 6,452 people from Pakistan fled the troubled North Waziristan into the eastern parts of Afghanistan. On the 29th, UN estimated the number of cross-border movement from Pakistan roughly 95,411 (14,615 families). On the 30th, Pakistani army launched a ground attack on militants after weeks of airstrikes that displaced nearly half a million people.

Khost provincial authorities announced that the Pakistani refugees are armed and demanded that they hand over their weapons to Afghan security forces. On a different concern, the Head of US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease fear that many of the refugees may not be vaccinated increasing the chance of polio in Afghanistan.

Rights

On the 30th, the Lower House of Parliament passed the Right to Information Act. Press freedom and anti-corruption activists had been advocating for this legislature for many years. Once passed by the Upper House and signed by the President, the law makes it mandatory for the government agencies to provide information to the public. 

On the 24th, Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog, called on the Afghan government to adopt recommendations from UN member states to abolish prosecution for women for so-called 'moral crimes'. Afghanistan had earlier rejected the recommendations. The watchdog estimates that 95% of girls and 50% of female prisoners in Afghanistan had been accused or convicted of moral crimes. Often the only evidence in these cases is that they have run away from their homes.

Culture and people

On the 7th police in Kabul arrested Mohammad Ali and booked him on a charge of kidnapping Zakia. The Bamiani lovers had eloped in March after Zakia’s family disapproved of their cross-ethnic love. He was released 6 days later under pressures form rights groups.

On the 7th, Afghan Team won the second Kabul women football league.  Played between 8 teams for 17 days, the tournament was held in Ghazi Stadium, a venue where Taliban conducted their public executions 13 years ago.

On the 30th, the new Indian government eased visa restrictions for Afghanistan. Afghan nationals are now allowed to stay in India up to two years at a time, while senior citizens are children are exempt from onerous police registration. Meanwhile, on the 25th, Kabul residents became the first ones to obtain electronic IDs.