Afghans look for future shaped by `ballots not bullets`

War-weary Afghans are looking forward to a future shaped by "ballots and not bullets" as they eagerly await a historic transition of power for a safe and secure environment.

Kabul: War-weary Afghans are looking forward to a future shaped by "ballots and not bullets" as they eagerly await a historic transition of power for a safe and secure environment.
Afghanistan yesterday hailed another successful election with millions of people defying Taliban threats in a run-off vote to choose a new president ahead of the drawdown of US-led forces.

The run-off result will decide whether former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah or ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani will lead the country into a new era.

Preliminary indicators have suggested a turnout of more than 7 million, out of a total of 12 million voters, according to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan.

"I want to see future of the country and people being shaped by ballots and not by bullets so I voted in Kabul along with four eligible persons including my wives in my village yesterday," 47-year old Abdul Samad, who works in Kabul told.

"No one in the country want Taliban to become powerful because we people and the nation as a whole have suffered a lot because of them and now we want to look forward for brighter days," he said, adding that the Taliban threat did not scare him and other people which resulted in brisk voting.

In the first round of the polls held in April, none of the presidential candidates claimed the required 50 per cent mark which necessitated the runoff between Abdullah and Ghani.

Samad, who hails from Kunduz province, expressed faith in Ghani and feels that if he is elected President, he would be able to function more efficiently in the interest of the nation, particularly in dealing with the Taliban.

Another local man, Sahib Khan, said that election was important not just for him but also for the future of his children and future generations.
"Most of the population in the country is rural and they have no big dreams but they want a safe life. They wish safe return when they go to work. We have seen several gun battles and people loosing their lives. Its painful and we want all this to stop now," he said.

Habibullah, an electrician, said that it was his dream to see people going anywhere in the country freely and without any fear.

"The war has ruined Afghanistan and now we want to make it again. Whoever becomes legitimate President, we urge him to fulfill the dreams of the people of the country by creating a safe environment and generate employment," Habibullah said.

Numerous radio and television channels are the key source of information for the people in Afghanistan. Most of them receive information and updates about the elections through these mediums only.

Women also came out of their houses to vote this time to be a part of the first democratic transition of government in the history of the country.

Markets were closed with most of the people confined to their houses all day.

Security forces and their vehicles regularly patrolled the streets yesterday.

There were long queues in front of polling stations which underlined the importance of the election in the war-torn country.

The Taliban had warned the people to stay away from the polls threatening assaults but the threat was ignored by the voters.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) also took a number of steps intended to better facilitate voters, with more transparency and protection of the integrity of the polls.

About 23,136 polling stations were set up for the election.

Staff members who were implicated in acts of fraud or irregularities, or whose professional performance was sub-standard, in the first election round, were strictly prohibited from employment as electoral staff in the run-off, according to the IEC.

There were around 150 minor attacks that included roadside bombings and rocket firing, leaving several people dead.

There were also reports stating that militants chopped off the fingers of at least 11 people in the rural Herat province in the Western region after the polls were closed.

Abdullah had polled the highest votes against Ghani in the first round in April.

Preliminary results of the elections are scheduled to be announced on July 2 and final results will be out on July 22.

The winner of the run-off will succeed Hamid Karzai, who is now constitutionally bound to step down.

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