The Taliban has turned down an offer from President Ashraf Ghani to join the much-delayed parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. In a speech made earlier this month in Kabul, while launching the voter registration process, the Afghan President appealed to the group that has been waging an increasingly bloody insurgency to shun violence and participate in the democratic process.
“Transparent elections are the only tool through which political reforms can take place and the politics of coercion can be replaced with productive politics,” he said, reiterating his offer to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban made in February. “The Taliban can act as a political party and utilise this opportunity and the peace offer,” Mr. Ghani said. “Afghan people should no longer be subject to suffering from the ongoing war.”
However, the Taliban was quick to reject his offer. In a statement, the group not only refused to join the election process but called for a boycott of the polls. “Afghanistan is occupied by thousands of foreign troops... major political and military decisions are taken by the occupiers,” it said. “We have seen in past elections that people have been cheated and the final decision was taken by John Kerry (former U.S. Secretary of State),” it read, referring to the presidential election deadlock in 2014 that led to the formation of a coalition government. “The National Unity Government was created at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.”
A week later, the Taliban announced its spring offensive for this year, raising doubts about its interests in the peace process. The elections for the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan Parliament, and the District Council have now been scheduled for October 20. The registration process, estimated to cost around $30 million, remains vulnerable to increasing insecurity across the country.
Taliban is not the only group attacking the democratic process in Afghanistan. Following the Taliban’s rejection, an Islamic State faction in Afghanistan attacked a voter’s registration centre in Kabul. The attack that took place close to a school left at least 63 dead and over 120 injured, many children among them. The attack has resulted in fear and anger among the citizens, some of whom are calling for a boycott of the election in protest against lack of security.
Yet, despite mounting threats, Afghans have also poured out in encouraging numbers to register to vote in the elections that were originally meant to be held in 2015. Over 47,000 Afghans had registered in the first two weeks since the launch, according to Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC). However, electoral officials hope to register 14 million Afghans over the next two months, while dodging issues of security in several parts of the country. “I will participate in the elections, no matter the risks; and I will also encourage my family to register,” a 23-year-old youth told this writer.
Already, voter registration centres are under attack across Afghanistan. Three IEC employees and two policemen were kidnapped by the Taliban in Ghor province on Wednesday. Another 47 centres have remained closed due to insecurity, according to media reports citing IEC officials.
Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to mount offensive against the Afghan administration. For the second time in a month, armed gunmen associated with the insurgent group cut off major power lines to Kabul, disrupting routine life.
Ruchi Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Kabul