Kabul: Candidates in Afghanistan`s
parliamentary poll are living in fear of insurgent attacks,
with women at particular risk in the conservative Islamic
country, a leading rights watchdog said Thursday.
Afghans are to go to polls on Saturday to vote for 249
lawmakers in the country`s second such election since the
Taliban were overthrown in late 2001.
More than 2,500 candidates are standing amid a Taliban
campaign of violence and intimidation that has already seen
three candidates and dozens of supporters killed in recent
The Taliban told a news agency that polling centres would come
under attack on Saturday, with election workers and security
forces the primary targets.
Amnesty International said candidates, campaigners and
voters had reported "increasing attacks and threats from the
Taliban and other insurgent groups," ahead of voting day.
"Women candidates are at particular risk and some have
told Amnesty International that local security forces refuse
to offer them protection and even ridicule them when they do
report threats or violence against them."
The London-based group said it has "urged the Afghan
government to ensure equal access to police protection for all
candidates based on an objective security assessment, not on
gender or political affiliation".
Other groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch
have also pointed out the dangers faced by candidates,
supporters and voters, with particular emphasis on threats
Of the seats up for grabs in the lower house, or Wolesi
Jirga, on Saturday 68 are reserved for women.
Amnesty quoted a woman candidate as receiving a "night
letter" -- a warning delivered under a gate or nailed to a
door in the dead of night by the Taliban.