Clothes and sandals are seen at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 22, 2018.
Clothes and sandals are seen at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 22, 2018.

After a suicide bomber killed 57 and injured more than 100 in Kabul, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission fears insecurity might discourage people from participating in the upcoming parliamentary and district elections.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide attack Sunday on an identification cards distribution center where hundreds of people had gathered to apply for ID cards for the upcoming election.

Afghanistan Independent Election Commission’s deputy, Maazullah Dawlati, said insecurity will demoralize voters and disrupt the democratic process.

“Security forces should do more to prevent the attacks, and to provide security for voter registration centers," Dawlati told VOA.  "If we see that [security forces] are not able to prevent such threats, the commission would talk with the government leadership to find an answer, and things would get clear in the future.”

Last Tuesday, Taliban fighters forcibly took away three commission workers and two members of the Afghan National Police Force from a voter registration center in central Ghor province. They were released after local elders mediated.

The Afghanistan Ministry of Interior (MOI) said the Afghan National Police are doing everything they can to provide security for registration centers.

“Suicide and terrorist attacks are more complicated, and terrorists are utilizing new techniques to carry out attacks on civilian targets. We had forces present at the center where the suicide attack took place, and we are investigating it,” MOI spokesperson Najibullah Danish told VOA.

Blood-stained national ID papers and voters' photo
Blood-stained national ID papers and voters' photos are seen on the ground outside a voter registration center after a suicide attack in Kabul, April 22, 2018.

Expert opinion

Security experts, however, blame the Afghan intelligence agency for such attacks, and fear insecurity might further delay the parliamentary and district election.

“If we have strong intelligence, it would be very difficult for assailants to reach their targets.  Our intelligence and reconnaissance are at best weak, and the enemies are using that weakness to achieve their objectives,” retired Afghan army Gen. Zalmai Wardak told VOA.  

Afghanistan parliamentary and district elections are set to be held October 20, 2018, after more than three years of delay.  But experts predict they may be postponed further, due to insecurity and government intervention.

“The Afghan government has reluctantly started this [election] process, and this [reluctance] could further delay the election. Unfortunately, the Afghan government is the decision-maker, not the election commission,” Fazil Ahmad Manawi, former chairman of the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission told VOA.

An Afghan employee of the Independent Election Com
An Afghan employee of the Independent Election Commission registers a resident at a voter registration center for the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 18, 2018.

The Afghan government, however, rules out any involvement in the election process.

“The Afghan president has strictly instructed that no government employee or organization can intervene in the election process,” Afghan presidential spokesperson Shah Hussain Murtazawi, told VOA.

“The election would be held based on the commission’s plans and on the scheduled date announced [Oct. 20]," he added.

Election opposition

During a ceremony to open voter registration earlier this month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani again called for the Taliban to join the political arena and participate in the election.

"President Ghani asked the Taliban to act as a political party and participate in the elections, while utilizing the prevailing opportunity and the peace offer," an Afghan presidential palace statement said.

The Taliban rejected the offer and called on Afghans to boycott the election.  In a statement sent to the media, the Taliban called the election “fake and exhibitory,” alleging the exercise is being staged at the behest of “foreign occupation” forces.

In a tweet on April 14, U.S. and NATO forces top commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson said the NATO alliance respected the electoral choices of Afghan voters and politicians.

During the 2014 presidential election, the Taliban reportedly cut off the fingers, ears, and noses of some voters who ignored the insurgents’ warnings not to vote.