Afghan Government Talks to Taliban for Secure Parliamentary Elections
Parliamentary elections are slated to be held in Afghanistan in less than three weeks away on 20 October. These have been delayed for over three years as the election laws were being reset to overcome the many anomalies and irregularities seen in the 2014 Presidential polls.
Security has emerged as a major issue for the polls on 20 October as over 2,500 candidates are running for 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of the Parliament. An estimated 30 percent of the polling booths are insecure.
For instance in the relatively secure province of Balkh in the North of the 315 Centres, 41 will not be set up as these are in areas under the control of the Taliban while 24 are in high threat areas. “We have 315 centers (in Balkh), and based on security forces assessments, 41 centers are about to fall (to militants) and 24 others are under high security threats,” said Akbari a poll official as per Tolonews.
The possibility of securing these polling stations for now does not exist so the Afghan government has prudently sought to engage with the rebels for smooth conduct of the polls.
A meeting between representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government has reportedly taken place in Saudi Arabia.
This is possibly to create an understanding with the rebels for holding the elections to the parliament peacefully as it is anticipated that the Taliban’s presence in large number of rural areas will not enable the government to establish the polling booths there and conduct a free and fair polls.
While the Taliban have not openly boycotted the elections, these are not in the Islamic ideology of Emirate that they have adopted thus any support to a poll will be anathema as they govern through an unelected Shura.
It is also apparent that the Afghan Government and the US are coordinating the talks and cease fire demands with the proposal by President Ashraf Ghani for a three month hold up of operations on the occasion of the Eid being one that was suggested by the Americans.
Afghan officials have also shown readiness to meet Taliban representatives in Moscow. Russia’s Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has said the Afghan officials confirmed that work is ongoing on the content of Moscow meeting. The meeting for a settlement on the Afghan crisis was expected to take place in Moscow on September 4.
However, a few days before the visit to Moscow, Kabul refused to participate in the conference. Presumably, US pressure on the Afghan government was behind the postponement of the Moscow talks, which were rescheduled after the Russian Foreign Minister spoke to the Afghan President who indicated that there were no prior consultations with Kabul before Russia announced the September 4 Meet.