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TOLOnews 6pm News 17 April 2014

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 16:11

Top news in this Bulletin:

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Thursday said that a list of roughly 1,000 polling centers to be investigated in connection with allegations of fraud would be shared with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the votes from those centers would be excluded from the counting process until they are verified.

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ECC officials acknowledged openly that the investigations could impact the election results, which are expected to bring on a runoff vote scheduled for late May.

ANP Officers Kidnapped on Kabul-Kandahar Highway

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:48



While traveling along the Kabul-Kandahar Highway, a group of Afghan National Police (ANP) officers were attacked by insurgents and two of them were taken captive. The Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) has confirmed that three police officers and one Afghan National Army (ANA) member were killed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said that an operation to free the two soldiers was underway in the Said Abad district of Maidan Wardak province. So far 17 militants have been reportedly killed.

The Kabul-Kandahar highway is one of the most important highways in Afghanistan, with thousands of Afghans using it daily for personal and commercial commutes to over 10 provinces. However, it has also become a hotbed of insurgent violence and organized crime in recent years, making passage dangerous for anyone, let alone security forces.

According to reports, the group of officers were attacked by militants clothed in normal civilian garb in the Pul Surkh area of Maidan Wardak.

Some of those who use the Kabul-Kandahar highway the most, like commercial truck drivers, are understandably the most fearful of the security issues it faces. Last fall, hundreds of truck drivers went on strike demanding that security forces do more to ensure safe passage along the highway.

Since then, new security check posts have been erected along the highway. However, as this week's attack and abductions stand to show, there remains much to be done if the Kabul-Kandahar throughway is to be freed of its perils.

IEC To Announce Preliminary Results Next Week

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:37



The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Thursday said it would announce a large portion of preliminary results from the April 5 election at sometime next week.

With the counting process ongoing, and thousands of votes being pulled out of it for investigations of fraud, the IEC declined to offer any details about what percentage of the results would be used in the preliminary announcement.

"Based on the discussions that we had today, we will be announcing a major percentage of results through the press next week, but it is still unclear what day and what hour; we first need to make sure that our technical unit is ready and IEC members have approved it," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said.

Although the over seven million ballots cast on April 5 began to be counted just hours after polls closed, the IEC has said it is in the process of recounting votes after a number of result sheets appeared tampered with and polling centers were implicated in allegations of rigging.

So far results from 217 centers from 24 out of the 31 provinces expected to recounted have been. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has reportedly asked the IEC to recount votes from over 500 centers have those suspected for fraud have been isolated.

"Cooperation between the two commissions of ECC and IEC is ongoing very well," Noor said on Thursday.

Earlier this week, ECC officials had criticized the IEC for not cooperating with its investigations into the over 3,000 complaints it has received from around the country. Reportedly, well over 1,000 of the complaints filed with the ECC directly implicate IEC employees electoral irregularities.

The number of centers from where result sheets returned without proper packaging or endorsements from observers was not said, and the extent of this problem remains largely unclear. Though the IEC on Thursday said audits of the centers in question were underway.

Pakistani Analysts Want Kabul-Islamabad Restart

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:14

With the next Afghan President on the horizon, a number of prominent Pakistani analysts have publicly encouraged a rapprochement between long-estranged neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Arguably the biggest point of tension between Kabul and Islamabad over the years has been the support the Afghan Taliban and its affiliates have received from the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus. However, in addition to arguing against this strategy on its merits, a number of experts have suggested Pakistan's backing of the Taliban is already in decline.

"It seems that the Afghan Taliban are weakening because the financial aid the group was receiving from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is declining, and the Taliban are now in a weaker position," former Pakistani military officer Mahmood Shah told TOLOnews on Thursday.

The relative success of the April 5 elections in Afghanistan, which saw unexpectedly high turnout and Taliban violence that fell below most predictions, has reportedly contributed to a rising optimism about the future of relations with Pakistan. With a new government in Kabul soon, many hope to turn over a new leaf.

"When Afghanistan is in stable condition, other countries analyze the situation and realize that the proper person will meet the demands of the Afghan people," Pakistani journalist Aqil Yousafzai said.

"Change has come to Pakistan's perspective, particularly in its Afghan policy," political analyst Ismail Khan added.

However, among Afghan analysts, hope for a marked change in the dynamic between Kabul and Islamabad remains guarded at best.

"We appreciate the Pakistani's army idea of not supporting and cooperating with terrorists," Afghan analyst Abbas Nowyan said. "A limited period of time remains for the establishment of a new government in Afghanistan, and we hope that Pakistan undertake practical measures in this sphere before the formation of the new government."

At worst, others were skeptical of any genuine hope for improved relations between Kabul and Islamabad.

"Pakistan has always asserted such things that we [Pakistan] and Afghanistan are the victims of terrorism, but this is a lie," Afghan analyst Mia Gul Wasiq said. "We are the victims of terrorists produced by Pakistan, and those who were trained by Pakistan sometimes turn on them; the assertions are an act by Pakistan, because they want to appear cooperative with the new government in Afghanistan."

In recent weeks, Afghan officials have accused the Pakistani military of targeting Afghan security check posts on Election Day and trying to sabotage the elections.

The Taliban had denounced the voting process, and vowed to derail it with violence in the weeks leading up. But insecurity on Election Day was minimal, which boded well for the Afghan security forces that are assuming oversight around the country as the NATO coalition prepares to withdraw by the end of the year.

ECC: Votes From 1,000 Polling Centers Inspected

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:07



The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Thursday said that a list of roughly 1,000 polling centers to be investigated in connection with allegations of fraud would be shared with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the votes from those centers would be excluded from the counting process until they are verified.

ECC officials acknowledged openly that the investigations could impact the election results, which are expected to bring on a runoff vote scheduled for late May. They also expressed concerns that certain government and non-governmental interests would try to interfere with the investigation process.

"There are up to 1,000 centers whose lists have been seperated, with the only difference that some of the centers will be inspected completely and some of them partially," ECC Deputy Walid Akbar Sarwari said. "We have shared these topics with the election commission and today the IEC has started the process in the presence of our delegation."

According to Sarwari, 50 percent of the investigations have been completed and the next step will be to decide how to handle the findings. The ECC's decisions are expected to be announced publicly.

On Wednesday, the ECC said that there were some 892 complaint cases being investigated that directly pertained to the counting process. The IEC also announced that recounts would soon begin for 31 out of the 34 provinces in light of discoveries made involving fraudulent votes.

"We are seriously concerned about security threats faced by our staff in the provinces and also from the interference of elements that want to meddle in this process," Sarwari said. "We will move forward in a transparent and neutral manner and will not surrender to pressures, but when the pressures are beyond our capacity, we will tell the nation."

The IEC is expected to announced the preliminary results of the presidential election by April 24, and the final results on May 14.

"Politicians are trying to infiltrate inside the commission and its decisions, if the election commission establishes a strong barrier that can prevent infiltration from outsiders - whether it is the government, powerful figures or politicians - this would be their great success," former IEC chief Fazel Ahmad Manavi told TOLOnews.

ECC officials have said that the number of complaints filed has increased, with now 2,122 complaints having been received with evidence. From that number, 1,339 are against IEC staff members, 456 are against presidential candidates and the remaining 527 complaints are targeted at provincial council candidates.

ELECTION DAY 2014: Election Runoff, Coalition and Its Effects on Afghanistan's Future

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:42

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the election runoff, coalitions and its effects on Afghanistan's future with the following guests:

Daoud Muradyan, Director of Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies

Abdul Ghafoor Lewal, head of Afghanistan's Regional Studies Center

Mujibul Rahman Rahimi, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's campaign member

Abas Noyan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's campaign member

To watch the program, click here:

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FARAKHABAR: 16 April 2014

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:33

House of representatives want the government to quickly pass the Money Laundering and Prevention of Terrorism Financy Law.

In this episode of Farakhbar host, Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the issue with the following guests:

Ahmad Sayed Quraishe, economic analyst

Idris Rahmani, political analyst

To watch the program, click here:

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TAKANI: Suspicious Votes

TOLO News - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:06

In this episode of Takani host, Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the evaluation of suspicious votes by the IEC and the partial results with the following guests:

Dr Faiz Mohammad Zaland, political analyst

Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, head of TEFA

Hayatullah Hayat, head of the Coordination Center of Civil Society Institutions

Fahim Dashti, journalist and writer

To watch the program, click here:

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TAKANI: Suspicious Votes

In this episode of Takani host, Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the evaluation of suspicious votes by the IEC and the partial results with the following guests:

Dr Faiz Mohammad Zaland, political analyst

Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, head of TEFA

Hayatullah Hayat, head of the Coordination Center of Civil Society Institutions

Fahim Dashti, journalist and writer

To watch the program, click here:

Taliban Say They Killed 7 Afghan Policemen

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 06:00
The authorities in Wardak Province said they had reports that a dozen officers had been kidnapped by insurgents while traveling to Kabul in order to collect their salaries.

TOLOnews 6pm News 16 April 2014

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:10

Top news in this Bulletin:

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Nadir Mohseni acknowledged Tuesday that complaint investigations could likely impact election results.

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Out of the 1,300 cases being investigated, the ECC said 892 could directly effect election results and were being taken very seriously.

Recounts Begin for 22 Provinces

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:01

With nearly all ballots and result sheets delivered to the central Independent Election Commission (IEC) office in Kabul, a joint IEC and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) recount is expected to begin for 22 provinces.

IEC alluded to transparency and addressing the complaints of election observers and presidential candidates as the reasons behind the recount, the announcement of which comes the same day the ECC stated there were 892 complaint cases that directly impacted votes cast on April 5.

"Recount of votes in 22 provinces officially started today. In total, recount will take place in 31 provinces," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said on Wednesday.

Mr. Noor said that centers with more than 600 ballots - the standard number distributed to each site - would all be recounted, as per procedure.

Result sheets from nearly 500 centers have been returned to IEC headquarters without proper stamping or endorsements from IEC observers and are under review.

"There were instances where results sheets had no IEC stamp or no signature of center managers or observers. The commission has decided to these results sheets will be re-audited," Noor added.

The IEC had said earlier this week that result sheets without the IEC stamp and signatures from observers would be considered void and would not be counted as part of the preliminary results.

The ECC has reportedly sent information to the IEC intended for isolating corrupted votes from the counting process. However, a significant number of the complaints the ECC has received have been directed at IEC employees.

ECC: 892 Complaints Under Scrutiny, Could Impact Results

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 15:47

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Nadir Mohseni acknowledged Tuesday that complaint investigations could likely impact election results. Out of the 1,300 cases being investigated, the ECC said 892 could directly effect election results and were being taken very seriously.

Mr. Mohseni said the 892 complaints in question, falling in Category A, would mean isolating ballots from the counting process for verification. The ECC received more than 3,000 complaints following the historic April 5 national election, though more than half have been discarded for lack of evidence.

"We will isolate the invalid votes stuffed in the ballot boxes through rigging so that fake and genuine votes are differentiated, this should have an impact on the elections, but it doesn't mean that the process will be harmed or all the votes declared invalid - this would not happen," Mohseni said.

The ECC is expected to communicate all relevant information regarding its cases to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) so that fraudulent votes can be separated as quickly as possible from the counting process.

"We have identified 516 cases and sent them to the election commission to be taken out, we will isolate 892 cases according to our reports, but we are waiting to receive more details from the provinces, lists must be sent to us so that we can forward them on to the IEC," Mohseni said.

All ballots picked out of the counting process in relation to a complaint will be assessed by a committee formed by the IEC, their work open to media and observers for purposes of transparency.

Of the complaints the ECC has received, reportedly some 1,000 of them implicate IEC employees.

Meanwhile, the IEC has repeatedly restated its commitment to a transparent and fair vote-counting process. On Tuesday in Kabul, IEC officials announced that all result sheets returned without proper packaging, IEC stamping and endorsement signatures from observers would be disqualified.

Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Mohammad Fahim Naeemi criticized both electoral commissions for not allowing observers to monitor the vote counting and complaints investigation processes earlier this week.

"The ECC invites the observers only when they receive the complaints, but when they start evaluating, there are no observers."

Legislators Criticize Incomplete Quorum

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 15:09



On Wednesday a number of Afghan legislators criticized their colleagues who do not attend house meetings demanding that their titles be revoked, expressing that their absence is an act of oppression against the people they represent.

"On the basis of article 108 of the constitution, we can dismiss a MP who remains absent for longer than one month," Member of Parliament Ramazan Bashardost said. "We can dismiss the MP on the basis of not conducting his duty and on the basis of betrayal to his province, because he represents his province and he is depriving those who support him."

An incomplete quorum has become an important issue among parliament members. Because the lack of attendance during house meetings, a few MPs angrily demanded that the memberships of the absentees be repealed.

"It is shameful for me as a lawmaker to violate the law and commit an act of oppression against the people," Maidan Wardak Member of Parliament, Ghulam Hussain Naseri, said. "But when it comes time to appear and talk about the president, Supreme Court, Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission they show up."

The House of Representatives will disclose the names of the parliament members who have not attended meetings to the media.

During today's parliamentary session, members endorsed ratification on value added tax; a tax on the amount of increased value placed on an article at each stage of its production or distribution

Observers Question Transparency of Counting Process

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 15:07



Two of Afghanistan's biggest civil society election monitoring groups criticized both election commissions for failing to conduct the voting counting and complaints management processes transparently.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has emphasized the need for a fair and transparent election yet not permitted observers to view sealed ballot boxes being opened.

"No observation mechanism is provided for the observers the way it should be," Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) representative Muhammad Naeem Ayoubzada said. "We have observers at the counting centers, and they are located in a very far location and serve as an audience rather than observers; they can't observe the counting or the registering process."

The IEC has maintained that national and international observers are present at the ballot gathering process at centers across the country and can observe every step.

Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Muhammad Fahim Naeemi told TOLOnews that his organization's observers are not present when suspicious result sheets are reviewed by IEC employees.

"Usually, when these boxes arrive, regular boxes are opened and sent to be scanned and to be added to the database, which our observers can't observe," Naeemi said. "Suspicious boxes are sent for review, but we don't know where and how they will be reviewed."

The grievances of the civil society groups did not end at the IEC, their frustrations for lack of transparency extended to the complaints commission as well.

"The ECC has meetings everyday to address complaints and the observers are only sometimes invited," TEFA's Ayoubzada said. "The instances where we are not invited, we don't know what goes on, or how the ECC is addressing its challenges."

The IEC has said there are reserved spots assigned to observers at the results gathering center, where they can reportedly observe anything they want.

"We have set a specific spot up for media and observers, where they can observe close to 200 computers," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said. "The issue of scanning that was brought up, that happens right in front of them, at a distance; observing is within a specific framework according to the election laws, we cannot let the observers sit next to our workers."

Approximately 358,000 national and international observers have been closely monitoring the election process.

Both election commissions on Wednesday discussed questionable result sheet packaging and votes to be isolated for complaints investigations. In total, the ECC has 892 complaints that it has said could directly effect the vote count.

Two Afghan Soldiers and Seven Taliban Killed in Laghman

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:08

Seven Taliban—one of which was the leader—and two Afghan soldiers were killed, while four other insurgents and a policeman were injured in an operation led by Afghan forces in eastern Laghman on Tuesday, local officials said on Wednesday.

The operation launched in Alingar district of Laghman early Tuesday and continued through the evening to clear the area of insurgents. During the operation, residents of the Nolamsib valley in the Alingar district rebelled against the insurgents in support of the Afghan forces, Provincial Governor Spokesman Sarhadi Zhwak said.

Zhwak added that the Afghan forces have cleared Jabarkhil, Pariyana and several other villages of Alingar district of insurgents.

Alingar distinct is known as an insecure province where insurgents have been very active in targeting Afghan security forces.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) released a statement stating that these operations are being conducted throughout Afghanistan to rid the country of insurgents.

Statement reads: "the Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan National Army (ANA) and the National Directorate of Security (NDS), have conducted several anti-terrorism joint operations in Kabul, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kandahar, Wardak, Logar and Paktia provinces."

Farakhabar: 15 April 2014

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:06

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses corruption at customs with the following guests:

Yama Turabi, head of Afghanistan Transparency Watch

Munawar Shah Bahaduri, MP

To watch the programme, click here:

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TAKANI: Slow Counting Process

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:03

In this episode of Takani, host Zabiullah Sadaat discusses concerns toward the slow counting process with the following guests:

Saleh Mohammad Saleh, MP

Ghulam Hussain Nasiri, MP

Ajmal Hodman, Head of Afghan Lawyers Network

Hassan Mubarak Azizi, political analyst

To watch the programme, click here:

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ELECTION DAY 2014: Partial Results and its effects on Election Process

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 08:37

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Omid Farooq discusses the release of partial results and its effects on the election process with the following guests:

Siddiqullah Tawhidi, director of 'Nai – Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan

Noor Mohammad Noor, spokesman of Independent Election Commission (IEC)

Aziz Rafae, head of civil society organization  

Muhammad Fahim Naeemi, FEFA spokesman

To watch the programme, click here:

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Debate Over Corruption at Customs

TOLO News - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 07:01

Speaking to the The Washington Times, Deputy U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jarrett Blanc said that ongoing corruption in Afghanistan customs offices has undermined much needed revenues. However, the Afghan Ministry Finance (MoF) has disputed those claims.

Custom incomes are considered one of the biggest sources of revenue for the Afghan government, which does not make as much off taxes as many other governments do. Mr. Blanc has maintained there has been a noticeable drop in those incomes in direct relation to corruption within the customs department.

Corruption has been a growing issue in Afghanistan over the years, but with the U.S.-led coalition prepared to withdraw by December, concerns about its effect on the future of the Afghan economy have heightened.

"Recent shortfalls in revenue collection are troubling, and reflect a number of factors, including a general slowdown in the economy," Mr. Blanc said in a written statement. "We have seen some steps by the Afghans in recent months to address domestic revenue collection, though there is much more work to be done...There is no question that corruption remains a fundamental challenge in Afghanistan."

Mr. Blanc maintained nearly half of all public income has been embezzled at customs offices

Meanwhile, Afghan officials from the Finance Ministry have disputed his claims that corruption is the major force behind declining revenues at customs offices. According to MoF spokesman Abdul Qadir Jailani, negative speculations about the Afghan market have caused the downturn, not increased corruption.

"The main reason behind the declining incomes is not corruption, but the speculations and negative propaganda against the government of Afghanistan, particularly surrounding the elections," Jailani said on Tuesday. "Last year, we set a 114 billion AFG target for custom incomes and we received 109 billion dollars," he added.

And regardless of who is more right, administrative corruption remains a major issue in Afghanistan, and one that most experts say must be tackled if the country is to see any efficient economic growth in the coming years.

NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Is Said to Kill Civilians

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 06:00
Local officials say rocket fire into a village in Khost Province killed and a woman and two children.
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