Audio recording reveals fraud in Afghan election

The Afghan election commission said today that it had opened an investigation into allegations that a top government official pressured an election worker to rig the results of the parliamentary ballot in western Afghan.

Kabul: The Afghan election commission said
today that it had opened an investigation into allegations
that a top government official pressured an election worker to
rig the results of the parliamentary ballot in western
Afghanistan.

The commission said it had received an audio recording
of a more than 20-minute telephone call purportedly between an
election worker in Kabul and Ismail Khan, the Afghan minister
of energy of water and the former powerful governor of Herat
province in western Afghanistan.

The recording, first broadcast on Afghan television
and obtained today by The Associated Press, is the latest
allegation of fraud in the Sept 18 parliamentary election and
one of the first pieces of evidence that high-level government
officials may have tried to fix results.

Since preliminary results were released last month,
candidates who lost because some of their votes were
disqualified have been protesting across Afghanistan, alleging
that ballot boxes were stuffed, legitimate votes were
discarded and some members of the election commission caved to
pressure to make sure certain candidates won.

Election officials so far have excluded 1.3 million
ballots, or about 23 per cent of the 5.6 million cast. More
than 4,000 complaints have been filed with a government
election fraud watchdog group, which has submitted 413 of the
complaints to the attorney general`s office.

Noor Mohammed Noor, a spokesman for the Independent
Election Commission, or IEC, said the commissioners have not
yet identified the voices on the tape.

"We have started a very serious investigation to
identify the persons who are speaking over the phone with each
other," he said.

However, one of the losing candidates in Herat
province listened to the recording and claimed he was positive
that the two talking were Khan and election worker Abdul
Rashid Ershad.

The candidate, Ghulam Qadir Akbar, claimed Ershad
taped the phone conversation and gave copies of the recording
to some of the candidates to prove that Khan was pressuring
him to tamper with vote counts.

"We know that Ershad was under pressure from Ismail
Khan a lot," said Akbar, chairman of the chamber of commerce
in Herat for the past nine years. "Very clearly I can say that
it`s Ismail Khan`s voice who is ordering the IEC employee to
have certain people win and certain people lose."

"Ershad passed the recording of the telephone
conversation to some of the candidates and told them that he
was under pressure from Ismail Khan - that Khan was putting
pressure on everybody in the election commission because he
wanted specific people" to win seats in the parliament, Akbar
said.

PTI

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