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Afghanistan tightens security for elections
Safe and transparent elections are needed for a successful election day, officials and citizens say.
By Sayer Zaland
KABUL – With less than a month until the April 5 Afghan presidential and provincial council elections, the country has beefed up security to create a safe environment for the crucial polls.
Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) says it is continuing to do everything it can to improve security for the elections.
"We are sharing our security concerns with the proper institutions and have held several meetings with them in this respect," IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said, adding that most of the polling stations were declared secure nearly nine months ago.
Measures to ensure a secure election include stepped up protection at polling stations and appropriate responses to complaints through a police call centre.
Polling stations secured
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has done everything it can to assure safety at the polling stations, MoI officials told Central Asia Online.
Of the country's more than 6,500 polling stations, 3,435 are deemed secure, 945 are under a low security threat, 1,047 are under medium security threat, and 1,135 are under high security threat, MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Central Asia Online.
The top Afghan National Army (ANA) commanders in February met with President Hamid Karzai and assured him of their commitment to protect the polling stations, Sediqqi said.
"The election's security is one of our main and basic duties, and we are preparing ourselves now," he said.
"We are back in control of areas that insurgents controlled and have re-opened centres," 201st Sailab Military Corps commander Mohammad Zaman Waziri said. "We are entirely ready and have plans to remove the remaining threats."
Indeed, forces have already been put to the test, foiling an attempted attack during an election rally in Faryab Province earlier this month.
Despite the threats hanging over the election, citizens are encouraged to come out and vote, Lt. Gen. Murad Ali Murad, who leads Afghanistan's ground forces, told Central Asia Online. "We are providing security to polling stations that are facing high security threats and are also moving some of the polling stations for security reasons."
The whole process has been very difficult and security forces deserve a great deal of credit, Interior Minister Mohammed Omer Daudzai said.
119 call centre established
The MoI also is encouraging citizens to use the 119 police call centre to report any problems.
The call centre was established in 2012 and received 15,859 calls on serious matters that year, and all were responded to immediately, call centre director Gen. Humayoun Ayeni told Central Asia Online. He did not provide numbers for 2013 or this year, but said calls have dramatically increased.
"We play an important role in the election's security and transparency," he said, noting that the centre already has received some complaints about security personnel, who as a result were fired.
The tip line allows people to call the three-digit 119 code any time of day, and the caller's personal information is kept confidential. People can also report crimes online, at https://www.facebook.com/119PoliceCallCentermoi.
Of the calls in 2012, 1,293 concerned police misconduct, misuse of police vehicles and corruption; 675 calls concerned hooliganism; 509 were related to death threats; 417 were about armed robberies; and 573 concerned physical assaults. All the calls went to the proper agencies and were responded to in a timely fashion, Ayeni said.
One can reach the 119 centre by filling out an online complaint form, he said. "Security is our only desire," Kabul resident Abdul Rahman Hani told Central Asia Online. "We need safe and transparent elections, which are not possible without proper security measures. People want to use their right to vote in a peaceful atmosphere."