PAN, September 18, 2010

Taliban block key highways in Ghazni

Only eight of the 18 polling stations are expected to open in the town

By Mirwais Himmat

GHAZNI CITY - Taliban militants have blocked highways in several districts of southern Ghazni province ahead of Saturday's parliamentary election, residents said on Friday. However, officials rejected the claim.

Taliban stand next to burnt tankers in Ghazni
In this photo taken Monday, Oct.19, 2009, Taliban militants stand beside the burnt trucks, background left, on main Ghazni- Kandahar highway in Ghazni, west of Kabul. (Photo: AP)

"Armed insurgents are patrolling major highways, stopping cars and motorcycles, telling people not to go to polling stations," said Ghulam Farid, a resident of the Qarabagh district. He added the militants had distributed night letters asking voters to stay indoors on the voting day.

"In Khogyani district, key roads have been blocked since Thursday," said a resident, Muhammad Naeem. As a result, thousands of people of Nawar, Jaghato, and Rashidan districts have no access to the provincial capital.

Nawa district has been under Taliban's control over the past three years, while the government's writ has been fragile in Moqur, Ajristan, Aabband, Andar, Qarabagh, Giro, Waghaz, Khogyani, Rashidan, Zanakhan and Deh Yak.

Moqur district chief, Sahib Khan, said they had received electoral materials, but were unable to dispatch them to remote areas due to insecurity. Only eight of the 18 polling stations are expected to open in the town.

However, provincial police chief, Col. Zorawar Zahid, insisted all highways remained open and it was for the first time that election materials had been sent to Giro district.

He confirmed there would be security problems in some areas, but asked voters to ignore threats from militants and stream to polling stations without any fear.

The insurgents have warned people to stay at home until the election process was complete, a Giro district resident said. Abdul Wahid claimed the Taliban had warned to punish all those venturing out of home.

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