Monday, October 4, 2010

Afghan poll body declares thousands more votes invalid

Afghanistan's electoral body Sunday cancelled thousands more votes cast in last month's parliamentary poll due to evidence of fraud.
Head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) Fazil Ahmad Manawi said that votes from 11 polling centres across the country had been invalidated, adding to a list of 130 centres that had already had votes declared void.
"The commission decided today to invalidate the votes from 11 polling centres," Manawi told a press conference.
"Overall, 141 polling centres have been invalidated so far and the votes of 202 other centres from different provinces will be reviewed," he said.
"We are continuing our work to separate fraudulent votes from clean ones," he added
Manawi did not say how many ballots were affected, but the IEC estimates each centre accounted for between 1,200 and 7,200 ballot papers.
The Afghan parliamentary poll drew a turnout of 4.3 million voters who picked candidates for the 249 seats in Afghanistan?s lower house of parliament.
Partial returns have been released for 24 of the country?s 34 provinces. Final results are expected at the end of October.
Cancelling the ballots is likely to intensify concerns that the election could descend into a fiasco similar to the presidential poll of 2009, in which more than one million ballots were cancelled due to massive fraud.
The IEC head said that 45 candidates from the September 18 Afghan parliamentary poll had been referred to the country's Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) for alleged electoral fraud.
"There was evidence that either these candidates were themselves involved in election fraud or fraud had been carried out in their favour," Manawi said.
He said there was also evidence of at least one provincial election chief being caught up in fraud.Observers have noted irregular voting patterns and higher than 100 percent turnout in some provinces.

Pashto folk singer Zarsanga living a miserable life in tent

Zarsanga, a famous Pashto singer often described as the Queen of Pashto folk music, is living in abject poverty in a tent on the roadside in Azakhel after her house was washed away in the recent floods.

Talking to The News, the 65-year-old singer said she had served the country and Pashto music for 45 long years. She said she had performed in Germany, US, France, Russia and Afghanistan but now she had been forgotten by the government. She said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had not even provided her a tent, adding that the one sheltering her family was borrowed from someone else.
Born in 1946 at Zafar Mamakhel, a small village in Lakki Marwat district, she belongs to a nomadic tribe that used to move to Afghanistan in summers and stay in Lakki Marwat during the winter. She settled in Pirpai town in Nowshera but was displaced when her house was swept away by the recent floods.
Zarsanga started her career as a folk singer at the age of 20 and recorded her first song with Radio Pakistan. She also performed on the state-run PTV. The singer said the recent floods had made her a nomad again, but neither the ANP-led provincial government, claiming to represent the Pakhtuns, nor the ministry of culture had done anything for her family.
Zarsanga has six sons Shahzada, Babu, Mudir, Muhammad Wali, Mano and Hijran. All are expert at playing different musical instruments. She was awarded the presidential Pride of Performance Award by former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan in recognition of her contribution to Pashto music. Her son Shahzada said their musical instruments were swept away by floods. “We couldn’t afford to buy new ones so we borrowed some from our friends because we want to carry forward the rich legacy of Pashto music,” he argued. He feared a bleak future for Pashto music if the artistes continued to be ignored like his mother.
Zarsanga said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had offered her to settle in Afghanistan. “I was offered a house and a car and jobs for my children, but I did not accept the offer. I could not leave my country,” she recalled. She appealed to the federal and provincial governments and the lovers of art to help her family to stand on its feet again. Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan announced to build a house for the Pashto singer soon after her interview was aired on the Geo News.

Militants destroy two more schools in Mohmand Agency

Militants on Sunday blew up two more schools, raising the number of destroyed educational institutions to 53 in the volatile Mohmand Agency, tribal sources said.
The sources said a remote-controlled device was used to explode the explosives planted at the Government Boys Middle School in Malik Karim Gurbuz Killay in Safi subdivision during the night. The school building, the sources added, was destroyed in the explosion.
The militants also carried out bomb explosions at the Government Boys Middle School in Masood Ayub Kor village in the same tehsil and destroyed a major portion of the building.Soon after the explosions, the political administration launched search operation and arrested four tribesmen under the collective responsibility section of the Frontier Crimes Regulation.
In another incident, three goats were killed when an explosive device planted by suspected militants on a roadside went off in Ziarat Marble mine. The bomb was apparently planted to target the security forces whose personnel often fetched water from a nearby spring.
In Baizai tehsil, militants opened fire on a vehicle carrying poultry to Lakhkar Killay village. No casualty was, however, reported in the incident. Militants had earlier warned the transporters and other vehicle owners of stern action if they entered Baizai tehsil after October 2. Though several areas in Mohmand Agency have been purged of the militants, local people and the forces still face attacks by insurgents in the troubled tribal region.

Nato supply suspended for 5 days now

The Nato supply through Pak-Afghan border of Torkham lay suspended for five days now, Geo News reported Monday.

According to the sources of Torkham border, the containers packed with Nato supplies are not being allowed to cross the border; their clearance is hitherto suspended, as around 200 Nato containers are standing in the area to cross the border into Afghanistan.

It should be mentioned here that Pakistan suspended the supply line after the martyrdom of Pak security forces in the incident of shelling from helicopters of the allied forces, which violated the country’s airspace.

A high-level team of Pak Army was sent to Afghanistan for probe into the violations of Pakistani airspace by Nato forces. The Pak team is probing the incident in sync with Nato officials.

Meantime, the incidents of attacks on Nato containers are on the rise in Pakistan.

Some days back, the Nato oil containers were attacked in Shikarpur, where several oil tankers were destroyed. Nato supply oil tankers were attacked in Islamabad during Monday night.

Pakistan held these attacks as the public reaction.

Talking to a British news agency, the Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Pakistani people are quite infuriated at the violations of airspace and attacks, adding the supply line would be restored only after the people are pacified and the supply line is secured.