By Sikander Shaheen
ISLAMABAD – A significant number of unregistered Afghan voters, mostly the refugees, who had moved to Afghanistan from Pakistan were used by Afghan government to cast votes in favour of government-backed electoral candidates, TheNation has learnt.
Reports received from United Nations Afghanistan suggest that the border land routes leading from Pakistan to Afghanistan and vice versa, particularly Waziristan, Khyber Agency and Chaman were closed down for three weeks on the pretext of security threats ahead of Afghan parliamentary elections held on Saturday. However, across the border covert movement of people was reported to have been maximum during this time period prior to elections. The exact number of those who were ‘smuggled’ in this manner to cast fake votes is unknown. The UN officials say that thousands of people unlawfully entered Afghanistan during the last few days.
The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said 1,388 complaints had been received specifically about election day irregularities -- which could impact the results -- ahead of a 4 pm (1130 GMT deadline) deadline for submissions.
The insiders in UN Afghanistan told TheNation that over 40,000 registered Afghan refugees had come to Afghanistan since March 21 this year under Tripartite Agreement on Voluntary Repatriation of Afghan Refugees signed by Pakistan, Afghanistan and UN. These refugees were registered at Voluntary Repatriation Centres (VRCs) in Peshawar and Quetta. But lately, the repatriation of Afghan refugees was suspended due to security reasons ahead of Parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. “There is a standard procedure for refugees’ repatriation that requires proper prior documentation and registration but those people who kept sneaking into the borders were all unlawful entries,” UN officials said confirming that thousands of unregistered refugees had entered Afghanistan in ‘black’ via aforementioned land routes.
Information further suggests, of the 1.1 million Afghan refugees who are presently staying in Afghanistan, 700,000 are adults. However, they were not registered with any electoral constituency and cast fake votes. The Afghan government declared the number of registered voters to be 17.5 million, while in reality, not more than 6 million people were the registered voters. Of them, hardly 2.8 million used their right to vote that shows that people had serious reservations regarding the credibility of the parliamentary poles.
It is also learnt that majority of those Afghan refugees who entered Afghanistan via Chaman border were those who were displaced by floods and were living in adverse living conditions. A few days back, UN had warned that there were high chances for the Afghan refugees in Balochistan to enter Iran due to lack of humanitarian assistance provided to them.
TheNation on August 22 had reported that powerful property Moguls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were harassing the flood-affected Afghan refugees to grab the lands that were provided to the refugees by the Government for temporary shelter. The lack of a sufficient humanitarian response, harassment and insecurity are the core reasons which explain that Afghan refugees could easily be lured by the Afghan government to be used as voters against nominal amounts of money.
Since 2002, around 3 million Afghan refugees have gone to Afghanistan but due to abysmal living conditions there, a significant majority returned back to Pakistan. Still over 1.1 million Afghan refugees are living in Afghanistan.