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Hydrazine: A Significant Hazard Each Time An F-16 Crashes (Or Fires Up The Emergency Power Unit)

The Aviationist Blog - Sun, 19/05/2019 - 23:29
The recent crash of a South Dakota Air National Guard F-16 into a warehouse near March Air Reserve Base highlights once again the risk associated with Hydrazine leakes. As already reported, on May 16, 2019, [...]
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U.S. Navy First with Pixelated Aggressor Scheme On VFC-12 Hornet, And the Russians Are Loving It!

The Aviationist Blog - Sat, 18/05/2019 - 15:36
Navy Beats Air Force with First Legacy Hornet in Su-57 Livery, Russia is Confused, Troll Party Ensues. Photos taken by an amateur aviation photographer in the U.S. emerged on Facebook early this week of a [...]
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USAF F-16 Crashes into Building at March Air Reserve Base, Pilot Ejects, Injuries on the Ground.

The Aviationist Blog - Fri, 17/05/2019 - 12:27
California Air Nation Guard Pilot Being Evaluated, Aircraft Was from South Dakota ANG. A U.S. Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed into a large warehouse building while attempting to land at March Reserve Air [...]
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The Results of Afghanistan’s 2018 Parliamentary Elections: A new, but incomplete Wolesi Jirga

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Fri, 17/05/2019 - 04:13

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has, at long last, almost seven months after the ballot was held, finalised the results of the 2018 parliamentary elections. The parliament itself is almost four years overdue – the elections should have been held in 2015. Even now, Afghanistan does not have a completely newly-elected Wolesi Jirga as Ghazni’s elections have yet to take place; they are only planned for 28 September 2019 (together with the presidential and provincial council elections). In this piece, AAN researcher Ali Yawar Adili looks at why it took so long to finalise the parliamentary elections and concludes that the inefficiencies, lack of clarity and failure to adhere to legal procedures – by government and commissions – is not encouraging for the upcoming presidential ballot. (A list of Afghanistan’s new MPs can be read in an annex to this piece.)

Announcement of final results

Late in the evening on 14 May 2019, the IEC finally published the results of the Kabul vote, thereby concluding the 2018 parliamentary elections, seven months after they were held on 20 and 21 October. (1) The following day, at the presidential palace, President Ashraf Ghani administered the swearing-in of the new MPs from Kabul and Paktia provinces (other MPs whose results were announced earlier had already been sworn in). Ghani called (see the video here) the seven-month-long election “a catastrophe.” It was, he said, was the result of the inefficacy of the former election commissions (the IEC and the Electoral Complaints Commissions, the EEC): “In the history of democratic systems, it is unprecedented that the results of an election should take seven months. I do not speak about other aspects of it because they are judicial, but there should be no doubt that the former commission, both commissions, were inefficient. There is a consensus in the country about it.”

The parliamentary elections were planned for 20 October 2018. By then, the election in Ghazni province had already been cancelled, so on the day itself, voters in only 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces went to the polls, along with those voting for the nation’s ten Kuchi representatives and one Sikh and Hindu representative. Even then, not all of the polling centres opened. 401 polling centres failed to open, said former IEC chairman Gula Jan Badi Sayyad, because of technical problems or security threats. AAN described the “technical shambles” and “triumph of administrative chaos”. The IEC had to extend the elections into a second day, opening those polling centres that had not opened on 20 October the following day (AAN’s reporting here).

In addition, the people of Kandahar went to cast their votes a week later, on 27 October 2018 (see AAN’s reporting here and here), a delay triggered by the killing of Kandahar’s Chief of Police General Abdul Razeq and head of NDS General Abdul Momin Hussainkhel two days before the elections had been due (AAN reporting here).

The new Wolesi Jirga is not fully complete, as Ghazni’s elections have yet to be held, something which even state officials sometimes overlook. One of the IEC deputy spokespeople speaking to Arman FM Safayi Shahr-e Programme on 15 May about the Kabul election results told the radio listeners that the IEC had “ended the parliamentary elections.” One of the presenters quipped, “Did you exclude Ghazni from the list?” The IEC had dropped the Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni after the government failed to resolve competing demands about the size of the constituency (AAN’s reporting here and here). Those elections are now scheduled for 28 September together with the presidential and provincial council elections. However, the constituency dispute remains unresolved and may yet resurface once the IEC begins voter registration there. According to article 104 of the electoral law, if elections are postponed or suspended, members of the elected bodies (for instance the Wolesi Jirga) should continue to serve in their positions until the holding of a new election and announcement of its results. So far, according to an MP from Ghazni, ten out of the 11 MPs remain in parliament: the eleventh, Chaman Shah Etemadi, was appointed the new head of the ECC secretariat.

Hasty inauguration of a new, incomplete parliament almost four years late

According to article 83 of the constitution, the Wolesi Jirga’s term ended on 1 Sartan 1394 (22 June 2015) and a new parliament had to have been inaugurated after elections which should have been held 30 to 60 days before that. (2) However, when the National Unity Government (NUG) was formed in the wake of the disputed 2014 presidential elections, it committed to carrying out fundamental electoral reform. More than three years were spent working on reforms, but little was achieved. This period, as AAN reported (see section two of AAN’s dossier here), was characterised by the NUG leaders’ wrangling over the establishment of the Special Electoral Reform Commission (SERC) (which had been envisaged in the NUG’s 2014 political deal); the SERC’s discussions and recommendations for electoral reform; parliament’s rejection of presidential legislative decrees that had adopted some of the SERC’s recommendations, and, finally; changes to the electoral law which were endorsed by legislative decree and the appointment of new electoral commissioners for the IEC and the ECC.

All this meant that the new parliament was inaugurated on 26 April 2019, almost four years after the constitutional end of the previous parliament’s term. (3) Moreover, it was inaugurated in spite of the fact that the final results from Kabul and Paktia had not yet been announced. A total of 38 seats (33 for Kabul and 5 for Paktia) were empty on the day of the inauguration. The IEC announced the final results of the Wolesi Jirga elections for Paktia province two days later and Kabul more than two weeks after that.

Similarly, on the day of the inauguration, the IEC hastily released the final results for three other outstanding provinces (Maidan Wardak, Kunduz and Baghlan) as well as those for the Kuchi constituency (five seats for Maidan Wardak, nine for Kunduz, eight for Baghlan and ten for the Kuchis). It is unclear whether or not the new MPs from these constituencies were able to participate in the inauguration at such short notice (unless they had been informed before the release of the results that they would be winners and were therefore ready to participate in the inauguration). MP Halima Askari from Maidan Wardak told AAN on 15 May that the five MPs from her province had been able to attend the inauguration, but had not yet received their election credentials from the IEC certifying they had been elected.

Two days before the inauguration of the parliament, on 24 April 2019, the IEC granted election credentials to 89 MPs from ten provinces (Kandahar, Helmand, Ghor, Badghis, Logar, Nangrahar, Herat, Takhar, Paktika and Balkh as well as the Hindu and Sikh constituency). IEC head Hawa Alam Nuristani said that the final results for these ten provinces and communities had been released by the new leadership of the IEC. A few months earlier, on 9 February, the former IEC granted credentials to 80 successful candidates from 18 provinces: Bamyan, Daikundi, Jawzjan, Uruzgan, Laghman, Kapisa, Zabul, Panjshir, Parwan, Khost, Samangan, Badakhshan, Faryab, Sar-e Pul, Farah, Nimruz, Kunar and Nuristan (the former IEC had, in fact, finalised the results of only these 18 provinces before its members were all sacked).

Article 88 of the electoral law says that election credentials should be awarded to the members of the Wolesi Jirga following the announcement of the final election results. (4) Yet, in total, only 169 new MPs out of a total of 250 had been fully approved well in advance of the inauguration; 70 other MPs had either not had their results, or not completed the procedure yet (ie, had not yet received their election certificates). Also, ten former MPs from Ghazni participated in the inauguration. (5)

However, President Ghani did not mention the hastiness of the event, saying only that the final results of the parliamentary elections for Kabul had not yet been announced: “I am sorry that the Kabul MPs are not in their seats. I wish the Kabul MPs were present [here] to listen to our programmes for Kabul city and Kabul province.”. Instead, President Ghani claimed that: “We inaugurated the assembly on the auspicious day of Friday to show that the president and the leadership of the National Unity Government cannot tolerate [even] one moment of procrastination in the inauguration of the National Assembly.” However, the rush to inaugurate the new parliament appeared to have been motivated rather by the need for elected MPs to attend the consultative peace Loya Jirga, which was held from 29 April to 3 May (see AAN’s reporting here and here).

Atta Muhammad Dehqanpur, an MP from Ghor province, had been elected as the interim speaker to preside over the inauguration on 26 April. This was in accordance with article four of the Wolesi Jirga Rules of Procedures which says that the oldest member should be appointed as pro tem speaker and the two youngest members should be appointed as pro tem deputy speaker and secretary. (6). Their duty is also to supervise the election of a permanent speaker, who will then supervise the election of the rest of the administrative boards.

The Wolesi Jirga had planned to hold its first plenary session on 11 May following the inauguration and to then elect its administrative board.‌ However, some of the Kabul candidates and their supporters gathered in front of the parliament and blocked the MPs’ entry as they did not want the elections for the administrative board to be held in their absence (which makes sense given that Kabul is the largest constituency with 33 seats) (See a media report here). According to article 87 of the constitution, the Wolesi Jirga should elect one member as the speaker for five years, and two members as the first and second deputy speakers and two members as the secretary and deputy secretary for one year.  (7)

On 16 May, the Wolesi Jirga conducted voting for the speaker. It was inconclusive. There were four candidates: Mir Rahman Rahmani (Parwan) who was the head of the economy commission in previous parliament (75 votes), Kamal Naser Osuli (Khost) who was previously head of the education/higher education commission (69 votes), Mirwais Yasini (Nangahar) (59 votes) and Omar Nasir Mujaddedi (Herat) (seven votes). The runoff will now be held between Rahmani and Osuli, according to Ghulam Hussain Naseri (Maidan Wardak) on Saturday, 18 May (media report here).

The second round might be hard fought and drawn-out. The previous Wolesi Jirga elected its speaker only one month and two days after its inauguration, after its members sat through sixteen sessions, with eighteen candidates competing in four rounds of balloting. Then, MPs used blank votes to prevent the election of any speaker. (AAN’s reporting here).

Change of commissioners

The 2018 parliamentary elections were administered by two different sets of commissions. On 22 November 2016, the 12 new electoral commissioners (seven for the IEC and five for the ECC) were sworn in at the presidential palace for a period of five and three years (see AAN’s reporting here). These commissions prepared for and held the parliamentary elections. The commissioners were in the middle of finalising the results and had announced them for 18 provinces when they were replaced by the new set of commissioners. This was done after growing calls by election observers and political parties for them to be dismissed and replaced. They were accused of misconduct and mismanagement and of being unfit to manage the upcoming presidential elections (AAN reporting here).

Interestingly, some of the Kabul candidates were among the new commissioners who adjudicated or announced the final results. However, they had not won seats, according to the preliminary results, so their adjudication of the results made no difference in their favour.

Controversy around the Kabul elections

The Kabul vote was questioned from the very beginning not only by candidates but also by IEC officials themselves. They included on 20 November, the acting head of the IEC office for Kabul, Zahir Akbari, who resigned from his post in protest at “widespread fraud and corruption allegations.” He said the elections in Kabul had been designed and conducted by a corrupt circle led by the head of the IEC secretariat Akbari Zamanzai. He had been called in to take over from Awal ul-Rahman Rudwal as head of the IEC’s Kabul office after he, Zamanzai and various other officials had been accused of violating the law. On 2 December, the IEC suspended its acting head of field operations for Kabul province, Obaidullah Niazi, for alleged bribe-taking. Niazi had only taken up the job very recently following the replacement of the entire provincial IEC office for Kabul. (AAN reporting here).

On 6 December, the ECC nullified all results for Kabul province. (8) It cited mismanagement, violations of the electoral law, dereliction of duty by the IEC and a lack of transparency as the main reasons. The IEC immediately condemned the ECC’s step as “hasty, unrealistic and political[ly motivated]” and as “disregard and disrespect of the efforts and the sacrifices on the day of elections.” The ECC subsequently withdrew its decision. Both IEC and ECC commissioners were fired by President Ghani before they could resolve the dispute over the Kabul vote. After the new commissioners took over, the ECC held consultation meetings with the political parties and civil society organisations on the Kabul vote (this is because the ECC had not adjudicated the complaints when they were fired).

The new ECC then annulled the previous recount and audits conducted by the previous commissioners and conducted a new recount and an audit based on the result sheets of the election days. (9) Chaman Shah Etemadi, the head of the ECC, had told the media that the earlier audit and recount not only had not resulted in the transparency of the results but also caused more “damage.” He said that if the ECC could be provided with 50 per cent of the result sheets from the first and second day of elections, the vote would be legitimised; otherwise, it might decide to nullify the votes entirely.

Muhammad Qasem Elyasi, the secretary and spokesman for the ECC who was himself a candidate from Kabul, told Etilaat Roz on 12 May that 12 per cent of the Kabul votes had been missing and that the most likely option was that the final results for Kabul would be announced based on 88 per cent of the votes. The ECC told media on 7 May that it had sent its decisions to the IEC. It then took the IEC a week to finally publish the results on 14 May.

The new commissioners confirmed most of the candidates who had been named as winners in the preliminary results and replaced four: Ajmal Gulab, Ahmad Zia Azemi Shinuzada, Muhammad Farhad Sediqi and Salima Nikbin were replaced by Abdul Razaq Istalefi, Erfanullah Erfan, Muhammad Naim Wardak and Parwin Durani. Salima Nikbin and Ajmal Gulab are unhappy with the final results: Nikbin alleged to the media that she had been on the list after the ECC’s adjudication, but had been excluded nonetheless because she lacks political support; Gulab claimed his name had been removed at the behest of the Palace.

IEC and ECC officials acknowledged there were problems with the Kabul vote. The ECC finally approved the results based on 88 per cent of the result sheets from the election days (Etilaat Roz reported) on 16 May that it had obtained documents showing that only 70 of the result sheets had been available and the remaining 30 had been missing). A single vote can matter in elections, so the absence of 12 (or 30) per cent of them is questionable.

Conclusion: Some lessons from the 2018 parliamentary elections

The inefficiency of the former commissioners was cited as the main reason for the problems with the 2018 parliamentary elections. However, in reality, there were many other problems in the parliamentary elections.

  • First, the rules of the game were never clear well in advance of the elections. For instance, only a month before the elections, the IEC was pressured by political parties and the government to make a last-minute compromise and use biometric voter verification on election day (see AAN’s background of the issue here). As a result, as the author wrote at the time, the biometric machines, intended to serve as a panacea for all election ills, turned into a headache during the ballot. Those with a say in how the elections were going to be delivered – the government, political parties and the IEC – should have agreed on the rules well in advance.
  • Second, there was a clear disregard on the part of both the government and the IEC for legal procedure. For instance, according to the electoral law, the postponement of the district council elections and the Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni had to be approved by a special committee. But the government never convened this committee. The disregard for legal procedure obscured the rules of the game for everyone involved because it showed that anything could be dropped or added at any time without the least attention to the rules spelt out by law. This, in turn, undermined the credibility of the election management bodies as well as the election itself (see AAN’s reporting here).
  • Third was the inefficiency and shortcomings of the relevant institutions. For instance, the push for biometric voter verification was stimulated by concerns on the part of the political parties that the manual voter registration was flawed, as fake tazkeras had been used and thus the voter lists would be fraudulent and unreliable. The Afghanistan Central Civil Registration Authority (ACCRA) was responsible for issuing tazkeras under the Memorandum of Understanding it had signed with the IEC. It was the responsibility of ACCRA to ensure fake tazkeras were not distributed and if they were distributed, that they would be detected, but it was unclear whether it had a reliable database for the IEC to be able to cross-check voter registration data.

Given that the parliamentary elections were held three years late, voters could have expected a far better election. As it is, taking seven months to finalise the results of this grossly-delayed election has only added weight to the conclusion that electoral reform has failed. With the politically even more important presidential election looming, the prospect of a timely and fair ballot for Afghanistan’s next leader in the autumn has been made slimmer.

Edited by Sari Kouvo and Kate Clark

(1) Radio Television of Afghanistan (RTA) published (see here) the list of the winners from Kabul before it was published by the IEC. Sources from the IEC told AAN that they had a printout of the results, which they had to have a final look at to make sure it was accurate. It took them almost two hours to do this, during which time it was leaked (whereupon the RTA obtained a copy).

(2) Article 83 of the constitution says:

Members of the House of People shall be elected by the people through free, general, secret, and direct balloting.

The work period of the House of People shall terminate, after the disclosure of the results of the elections, on the 1st of Saratan of the 5th year and the new Parliament shall commence work.

The elections for members of the House of People shall be held 30 to 60 days prior to the expiration of the term of the House of People.

The number of the members of the House of People shall be proportionate to the population of each constituency, not exceeding the maximum of 250 individuals.

Electoral constituencies, as well as other related issues, shall be determined by the elections law.

The elections law shall adopt measures to attain, through the electorate system, general and fair representation for all the people of the country, and proportionate to the population of every province, on average, at least two females shall be the elected members of the House of People from each province.

(3) Parliament’s winter recess ended on 15 Hut 1397 (6 March 2019), but the president refused to inaugurate it with the old members. According to article 42 of the rules of procedures, the Wolesi Jirga has a 45 day-long summer recess from 1 Asad to 15 Sunbula and a 45 day-long winter recess from 1 Dalw to 15 Hut (21 January to 6 March 2019).

(4) An MP from Ghazni, in conversation with AAN, claimed that the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Faruq Wardak, and Second Deputy Chief Executive Engineer Muhammad Khan who hails from Ghazni and some other Hezb-e Islami affiliates mainly from Ghazni did not want Ghazni MPs to attend the inauguration of the National Assembly. According to the MP, Wardak and others had argued that, based on the constitution, the new parliament should be inaugurated with the new MPs and Ghazni MPs were not new. The MP claimed that they had received an indication that Wardak and others had convinced the president of this as well.

The Ghazni MP said this contravened article 104 of the electoral law, which states that when an election is not held in a constituency, the former MPs can continue to work until the election is held. He contacted Wardak to check whether or not this was true and he confirmed it, the MP said. The MP went on to say that he then met Chief Executive Abdullah to raise the issue with him and, in his presence, Abdullah spoke with Wardak on the phone and promised to talk to the president, too.

The MP said that minister Wardak had then asked the Supreme Court, the Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution, the IEC and the ECC verbally and they had all said that the Ghazni MPs should remain in the office until new MPs were elected, and they should be invited to the inauguration.

(5) Article 88 of the electoral law says:

The Commission is obliged that after the announcement of the final election results, it shall issue an award a Certificate of Election to the President, Members of Wolesi Jirga, elected members of Meshrano Jirga members of the Provincial Councils, members of the District Councils, members of the Village Councils, mayors and the members of the Municipality Councils.

(6) Article 87 of the constitution:

Each of the two houses of the National Assembly, at the commencement of their work period, shall elect one member as president for the term of the legislature, and two members as first and second deputies and two members as secretary and assistant secretary for a period of one year.

These individuals shall form the administrative teams of the House of People as well as House of Elders. Duties of the administrative teams shall be determined by the Regulations on Internal Duties of each house.

(7) Article four of the Wolesi Jirga Rules and Procedures says:

  • At the first sitting of the Jirga, the oldest Member, who is not a candidate for the position of Speaker, shall be appointed as Pro Tem Speaker.
  • The oldest Member shall present his or her identity card to the Secretary-General in order to be appointed Pro Tem Speaker. The national identity card (Tazkara) shall determine the age of the Member.
  • If there are two or more Members of exactly the same age, the Pro Tem Speaker shall be appointed by lottery.
  • The two youngest Members of the Jirga, who are not candidates themselves, shall be appointed as Deputy and Secretary to the Pro Tem Speaker.
  • The method of election of the Secretary and Deputy to the Pro Tem Speaker of the Jirga shall be in accordance with clauses 3 and 4 of this article.

(8) It called for the dismissal of five current and former IEC officials named (head and deputy of the IEC secretariat, Ahmad Shah Zamanzai, and Abdul Aziz Samim, respectively, and the head of IT, Sayyed Ibrahim Sadat, head of field operations, Zmarai Qalamyar, and former head of Kabul IEC, Awal ul-Rahman Rudwal) for “mismanagement, violation of laws, regulations and procedures of the electoral commissions and failure to exercise legal authorities and obligations on timely basis which led to widespread electoral violations and crimes.” (AAN reporting here.)

(9) On 15 April 2019, the ECC held a consultative meeting with election observer groups about the Kabul elections. According to its report, the representatives of the election observers stressed that the most widespread election fraud had been committed during the recount of the Kabul votes and this needed serious attention. They believed that reviewing the result sheets from election day and addressing the objections and complaints from the Kabul elections would yield satisfactory results.

On 21 April, the ECC consulted representatives of political parties. According to its report, the review of election day result sheets and the recount phase of Kabul votes, identifying ghost votes and nullifying Kabul votes were discussed by the political party representatives. (10) On 25 April 2019, the ECC made the following decisions: 1) all the documents related to the appeal cases for Kabul province should be quarantined and sealed by the ECC members in the ECC headquarters; 2) all the reviews, audits and recounts conducted (by the outgoing IEC and ECC) were to be annulled; 3) all the result sheets from the first and second day (20 and 21 October 2018) of the elections in the specified polling centres and stations, having fulfilled the necessary criteria of the election procedures and regulations were to be considered valid; 4) the IEC is obligated to provide all the documents related to Kabul to the ECC; 5) all the original result sheets from the first and second day (20 and 21 October 2018) of the elections should be quarantined and sealed by the ECC members in the location specified by the IEC, and; 6) all the IEC and ECC staff should cooperate seriously and comprehensively in addressing the Kabul cases.

Annex: Below is the table for the new MPs from 33 provinces plus ten Kuchi MPs and one Hindu and Sikh representative.

1. Kabul: the largest constituency with 33 seats, including nine for women. The results were announced on 14 May, late evening. The first 24 are male and the remaining nine are female.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 384 Haji Ajmal Rahmani 1-1186-37 11,158 2.0 2 152 Al Hajj Abdul Qayyum Khairkhawh 1-1442-4 8,748 1.5 3 528 Khan Agha Rezayi 1- 1162-88 7,850 1.4 4 217 Al Hajj Mullah Muhammad Khan Ahmadi 1-1283-128 6,727 1.2 5 297 Feda Muhammad Ulfat Saleh 1-1389-78 6,690 1.2 6 34 Ahmad Jawid Jaihun 1-1537-14 6,213 1.1 7 469 Mir Amanullah Guzar 1-1164-56 6,095 1.1 8 45 Al Hajj Amir Gul Shahin 1-1188-22 6,061 1.1 9 2 Ghulan Hussain Naseri 1-1479-47 6,024 1.1 10 788 Dr Ramazan Bashardost 1-1704-56 5,983 1.0 11 79 Al Hajj Sayyed Muhammad Muhammadi 1-1704-56 5,339 0.9 12 749 Al Hajj Allah Gul Mujahed 1-1521-25 5,198 0.9 13 432 Haji Khan Muhammad Wardak 1-1185-51 5,128 0.9 14 430 Al Hajj Qazi Mir Afghan Safi 1-1265-55 4,628 0.8 15 89 Najibullah Naser 1-1023-75 4,401 0.8 16 529 Habib-ul Rahman Sayyaf 1-1297-60 4,014 0.7 17 220 Anwar Khan Oryakhel 1-1432-81 3,885 0.7 18 477 Sufi Abdul Razeq Estalefi 1-1224-77 3,749 0.7 19 84 Tawfiq Wahdat 1-1066-102 3,716 0.7 20 475 Haji Zergai Habibi 1-1444-12 3,594 0.6 21 535 Muhammad Naim Wardak 1-1249-30 3,520 0.6 22 354 Haji Hafizullah Jalili 1-1209-19 3,449 0.6 23 484 Erfanullah Erfan 1-1176-45 3,429 0.6 24 129 Obaidullah Kalimzai Wardak 1-1010-32 3,418 0.6 25 760 Wakil Fatema Nazari 1-1577-5 2,736 0.5 26 631 General Nazifa Zaki 1-1228-11 1,441 0.3 27 608 Shinkai Karokhel 1-1711-104 1,406 0.2 28 377 Mursal Nabizada 1-1686-124 1,396 0.2 29 324 Fawzia Naseryar Guldarayi 1-1220-1048 1,287 0.2 30 19 Rubina Jalali 1-1330-1 1,259 0.2 31 375 Mariam Sama 1-1818-141 1,255 0.2 32 575 Zuhra Nawruzi 1-1072-78 1,223 0.2 33 266 Bibi Haji Parwin Durani 1-1588-3 1,149 0.2

 

2. Kapisa: it has four seats, including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 17,952 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 34 Mirdad Khan Nejrabi 2-1249-103 5,849 15.1 2 21 Engineer Mir Haidar Afzali 2-1685-42 5,370 13.9 3 15 General Muhammad Iqbal Safi 2-201-1142-13 5,355 13.9 4 33 Khadija Elham Khalili 2-1274-34 1,378 3.6

 

3. Parwan: it has six seats, including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 52,988 votes cast.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 16 Abdul Aziz Humayun Harirud 3-1593-34 14,690 17.1 2 12 Al Hajj Mir Rahman Rahmani 3-1093-1 10,693 12.4 3 1 Sediq Ahmad Osmani 3-1541-2 9,961 11.6 4 17 Al Hajj Abdul Zaher Salangi 3-1441-18 9,329 10.8 5 7 Zakia Sangin 3-1306-4 5,415 6.3 6 24 Master Samia Aziz Sadat 3-1177-15 2,900 3.4

 

4. Maidan Wardak: has five seats, including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 26,407 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 7 Al Hajj Abdul Ahmad Durani 4-1185-6 7,731 13.2 2 8 Abdul Rahman Wardak 4-1593-8 6,893 11.7 3 26 Muhammad Mahdi Rasekh 4-1297-27 6,025 10.2 4 18 Halima Askari 4-1541-31 3,219 5.5 5 30 Engineer Hamida Akbari 4-1477-40 2,539 4.3

 

5. Logar: four seats, including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 4,427 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes %

  1 1 Muhammad Khaled Momand 5-1437-22 1,474 9.5 2 29 Shahpur Khan Hussainzai 5-1022-41 1,361 8.8 3 12 Engineer Muhammad Asef Nabizai 5-1185-12 1,016 6.5 4 30 Humma Ahmadi 5-1397-27 576 3.7

 

6. Nangrahar: has 14 seats, including three for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 86,104 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 2 Abdul Karim Karimi 6-1274-12 10,437 3.9 2 7 Feraidun Khan Mumand 6-1441-9 8,311 3.1 3 92 Malek Qais Nur Aghah Malekzai 6-1401-31 7,966 3.0 4 36 Abdul Rauf Shpun 6-1593-83 7,706 2.9 5 73 Amir Muhammad Yar 6-1265-145 7,137 2.7 6 69 Nabiullah Baz 6-1185-6 7,106 2.6 7 71 Mirwais Yasini 6-1297-32 6,858 2.6 8 82 Al Hajj Hazrat Ali 6-1034-57 6,463 2.4 9 56 Abrarullah Murad 6-1093-99 6,273 2.3 10 20 Nayaz Wali Muslim 6-1261-172 5,652 2.1 11 72 Arian Yun 6-1609-7 4,446 1.7 12 41 Bibi Haji Lailuma Wali Hukmi 6-1305-78 3,340 1.2 13 32 Saima Khogyani 6-1330-69 2,692 1.0 14 84 Anisa Omrani 6-1637-235 1,717 0.6

 

7. Laghman: four seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 11,740 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 23 General Abdul Munir Tarakhel 7-1297-6 4,048 9.1 2 10 Muhammad Rafi Mamuzai 7-1174-64 3,021 6.9 3 19 Engineer Muhammad Alem Qarar 7-1441-13 2,884 6.5 4 1 Al Hajj Zifnon Safi 7-1305-2 1,787 4.0

 

8. Panjshir: two seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 10,033 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 12 Haji Zal Muhammad Zalmai Nuri 8-1265-2068 8,456 27.2 2 4 Qazi Rahela Salim 8-1250-7 1,577 5.1

 

9. Baghlan: eight seats including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 43,271 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 72 Al Hajj Asadullah Shahbaz 9-1274-91 8,738 7.2 2 4 Muhammad Azem Mohesni 9-1329-120 6,481 5.3 3 25 Atiq Ramin 9-1541-33 5,828 4.8 4 44 Al Hajj Mamur Ahmadzai 9-1249-41 5,508 4.5 5 86 Dr Muhammad Nasim Mudaber 9-1009-48 4,895 4.0 6 41 Al Hajj Ustad Abdul Razaq Hashemi 9-1273-15 4,345 3.6 7 69 Shurkia Essakhel 9-1197-54 4,701 3.8 8 62 Nurian Hamidi 9-1553-9 2,775 2.3

 

10. Bamyan: four seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 35,662 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 38 Muhammad Rahim Aliyar 10-1297-134 10,529 8.4 2 1 Al Hajj Zahiruddin Jan Agha 10-1461-3 9,945 7.9 3 35 Sayyed Muhammad Jamal Fakur Beheshti 10-1094-8 9,021 7.2 4 29 Nekhbakht Fahimi 10-1009-62 6,167 4.9

 

11. Paktika: has four seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 11,094.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Canadidate No Votes % 1 18 Muhammad Mirza Katawazai 12-1182-12 5,142 17.6 2 24 Nader Khan Katawazai 12-1665-8 2,756 9.5 3 6 Khalid Asad 12-1234-72 2,701 9.3 4 5 Suraya Akbari 12-1133-64 495 1.7

 

12. Paktia: has five seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 12,145 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 56 Muhammad Ibrahim Ghukhtalai 13-1173-46 3,206 6.3 2 18 Dr Yarbaz Khan Hamidi 13-1298-62 2,544 5.0 3 76 Nasib Muqbel 13-1289-10 2,465 4.8 4 1 Sayyed Hassan Gardizi 13-1141-5 2,214 4.3 5 30 Razia Saadat Mangal 13-1542-1075 1,716 3.4

 

13. Khost: has five seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 23,086 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 7 Kamal Naser Osoli 14-1541-88 7,758 9.7 2 11 Engineer Helmand Helmand 14-1593-47 4,438 5.6 3 12 Dr Muhammad Musa Khawarin 14-1001-92 4,202 5.3 4 17 Ghaffar Khan 14-1637-2 4,127 5.2 5 22 Sahera Sharif 14-1505-17 2,561 3.2

 

14. Kunar: has four seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 23,577 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 5 Jawid Sapai 15-1437-1006 6,909 8.4 2 19 Ustad Neamatullah Karyab 15-1273-6 6,326 7.7 3 24 Ziaurahman Kashmir Khan 15-1665-1024 6,036 7.3 4 8 Wazhma Sapai 15-1233-5 4,306 5.2

 

15. Nuristan: has two seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 2,761 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 1 Ismail Atikan 16-1297-19 2,271 16.4 2 7 Dr Omar Banu Akbari Nuristani 16-1606-1337-36 490 3.5

 

16. Badakhshan: has nine seats including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 54,450 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 51 Abdul Rauf Enami 17-1553-23 7,392 4.6 2 52 Abdul Shakur Waqef Hakimi 17-1585-6 7,060 4.4 3 41 Hujatullah Kheradmand 17-1461-78 6,598 4.2 4 72 Abdul Wali Neyazi 17-1233-47 6,524 4.1 5 23 Mawlawi Zabiullah Attiq 17-1445-46 5,707 3.6 6 69 Fazl Azem Zalmai Mujaddedi 17-1169-15 5,589 3.5 7 18 Dr. Ahmad Zia Yaftali 17-1313-12 5.508 3.5 8 69 Nilofar Ibrahimi 17-1537-10 6,717 4.2 9 13 Sadeqa Adib 17-1477-79 3,355 2.1

 

17. Takhar: has nine seats including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 67,724 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 1 Abdullah Bek 18-1141-4 13,818 7.9 2 4 Rais Abdul Baqi Malekzada 18-1050-257 8,469 4.8 3 15 Muhammad Alem Sa’i 18-1094-24 7,762 4.4 4 46 Engineer Amir Muhammad Khaksar 18-1429-13 6,985 4.0 5 5 Ghulam Sarwar Sadat 18-1274-18 6,835 3.9 6 52 Dr Sayyed Ashrafuddin Aini 18-1225-3 6,767 3.9 7 12 Dr Hamiduddin Yoldash 18-1269-10 6,380 3.6 8 61 Habiba Danesh 18-1339-87 5,817 3.3 9 20 Nazifa Yusufi Bek 18-1009-79 4,891 2.8

 

18. Kunduz: has 9 seats including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 16,378 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 62 Al Hajj Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi 19-1265-30 2,986 5.7 2 21 Engineer Kamal Safi 19-1185-43 2,276 4.4 3 32 Shah Khan Shirzad 19-1142-9 1,996 3.8 4 31 Engineer Muhammaduddin Hamdard 19-1141-13 1,905 3.6 5 2 Muhammullah Batash 19-1273-8 1,699 3.3 6 13 Haji Muhammad Omar Khan 19-1553-42 1,631 3.1 7 49 Fazel Karim Aimaq 19-1149-35 1,586 3.0 8 5 Nilofar Jalali Kufi 19-1161-47 1,257 2.4 9 67 Dr Fatema Aziz 19-1226-56 1,042 2.0

 

19. Samangan: has four seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 27,681 votes (http://www.iec.org.af/results/en/home/final_leadingcandidates_results/20).

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 28 Hayatullah Samangani 20-1685-1020 9,256 12.2 2 23 Makhdum Abdullah Muhammadi 20-1418-1 9,000 11.8 3 25 Ziauddin Zia 20-1241-2030 6,261 8.2 4 3 Ustad Mahbuba Rahmat 20-1185-1006 3,164 4.2

 

20. Balkh: has 11 seats including three for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 97,727 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 68 Ghullam Abbas Ibrahimzada 21-1185-10 17,543 9.0 2 2 Ahmad Shah Ramazan 21-1329-1 11,238 5.8 3 74 Alam Khan Azadi 21-1074-27 10,448 5.4 4. 43 Abdul Hamid Sharifi 21-1141-9 10,148 5.2 5 36 Sayyed Zaher Masrur 21-1306-3 10,030 5.2 6 65 Muhammad Ali Mohaqeq 21-1118-4 9,683 5.0 7 58 Gul Rahman Hamdard 21-1273-58 9,598 4.9 8 53 Rais Abdul Khaleq 21-1257-28 9,486 4.9 9 47 Saifura Nayazi 21-1049-81 3,377 1.7 10 15 Fawzia Hamidi 21,1250-64 3,157 1.6 11 52 Breshna Rabi 21-1150-78 3,019 1.6

 

21. Sar-e Pul: has five seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 34,621 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 13 Muhammad Akbari Sultanzada 22-1185-1 9,242 12.1 2 20 Sayyed Muhammad Hassan Sharifi Balkhabi 22-1094-16 7,358 9.7 3 31 Al Hajj Hamidullah Bek 22-1297-72 6,260 8.2 4 3 Haji Sayyed Hayatullah Alemi 22-1417-91 5,746 7.5 5 32 Aziza Jalis 22-1305-22 6,015 7.9

 

22. Ghor: has six seats including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 57,361 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 8 Muhammad Ibrahim Malekzada 23-1441-56 19,438 17.5 2 12 Atta Muhammad Dehqanpur 23-1094-12 11,828 10.6 3 19 Keramuddin Rezazadah 23-1605-59 8,823 7.9 4 17 Gul Zaman Naib 23-1329-89 8,131 7.3 5 5 Fatema Kohestani 23-1541-1 5,247 4.7 6 28 Ruqia Nail 23-1581-4 3,894 3.5

 

23. Daikundi: has four seats including one female seat (two female MPs have been elected from Daikundi this time). The elected candidates represent a total of 46,705 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 15 Sayyed Muhammad Daud Naseri 24-1441-6 13,055 9.7 2 35 Raihana Azad 24-1297-16 12,680 9.4 3 3 Ali Akbar Jamshidi 24-1581-41 10,490 7.8 4 4 Shirin Mohseni 24-1325-65 10,480 7.8

 

24. Uruzgan: has three seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 3,367 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 6 Besmellah Jan Muhammad 25-1593-33 1,420 11.4 2 7 Qudratllah Rahimi 25-1313-24 1,394 11.2 3 12 Bibi Gulalai Muhammadi 25-1601-1 553 4.4

 

25. Zabul: has three seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 3,767 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 5 Abdul Qader Qalatwal 26-1461-2 1,825 14.1 2 15 Hamidullah Tokhi 26-1593-5 1,458 11.2 3 6 Zahra Tokhi 26-1273-7 484 3.7

 

26. Kandahar: has 11 seats including three for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 50,797 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 52 Sayyed Muqtada Miran 27-1387-10 7,282 4.6 2 95 Dr Mahmud Khan Nasrat 27-1197-41 6,377 4.1 3 53 Rohullah Khanzada 27-1009-57 6,312 4.0 4 82 Haji Sayyed Ahmad Khadem 27-1329-15 5,700 3.6 5 1 Gul Ahmad Kamin 27-1177-21 5,118 3.3 6 104 Sayyed Ahmad Silab 27-1010-16 4,120 2.6 7 29 Khalil Ahmad Mujahed 27-1401-20 3,967 2.5 8 19 Engineer Muhammad Aref Nurzai 27-1561-34 3,893 2.5 9 48 Freba Ahmadi Kakar 27-1541-2 3,500 2.2 10 31 Malalai Ishaqzai 27-1232-70 2,826 1.8 11 36 Parwin Nama 27-1577-62 1,702 1.1

 

27. Jawzjan has five seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 35,691 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 6 Haji Batur Dostum 28-1141-1030 20,045 36.0 2 15 Batash Ishchi 28-1441-3 6,818 12.2 3 12 Muhammad Karim Jawzjani 28-1397-11 4,159 7.5 4 23 Azizullah Ulfati 28-1437-1025 3,515 6.3 5 28 Halima Sadaf Karimi 28-1505-17 1,154 2.1

 

28. Faryab: has nine candidates including three for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 30,360 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 5 Hashmatullah Arman 29-1541-1007 8,772 12.7 2 53 Muhammad Rasul Faryabi 29-1226-2033 4,166 6.0 3 14 Sanjar Kargar 29-1141-2015 3,563 5.2 4 11 Muhammad Hashem Khan 29-1545-3 3,466 5.0 5 50 Sayyed Babur Jamal 29-1505-2034 3,174 4.6 6 59 Muhammad Shaker Karimi 29-1334-2038 3,064 4.4 7 62 Rangina Kargar 29-1329-2014 1,519 2.2 8 55 Shafiqa Sakha Yulchi 29-1346-2026 1,355 2.0 9 46 Al Hajj Fawzia Raufi 29-1005-2 1,281 1.9

 

29. Helmand has eight seats including two for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 19,792 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 12 Muhammad Zafar Sadeqi 30-1034-19 4,038 5.3 2 65 Haji Ghulam Wali Afghan 30-1194-24 3,267 4.3 3 2 Mirwais Khadem 30-1309-32 3,084 4.1 4 60 Al Hajj Muhammad Karim Atal 30-1092-26 2,651 3.5 5 4 Abdul Rashid Azizi 30-1545-5 2,494 3.3 6 85 Shir Muhammad Akhundzada 30-1022-39 2,317 3.1 7 21 Nasima Nayazi 30-1174-29 1,320 1.7 8 75 Shegufa Nurzai 30-1685-83 621 0.8

 

30. Badghis: four seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 14,572 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 10 Zaiuddin Akazai 31-1142-2 4,575 10.4 2 13 Abdul Basir Osmani 31-1333-29 4,509 10.3 3 8 Amir Shah Naibzada 31-1185-64 4,162 9.5 4 12 Ustad Farida Bekzad 31-1441-35 1,326 3.0

 

31. Herat: has 17 seats including five for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 116,569 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 110 Habiburrahman Pedram 32-1469-1137 16,835 5.2 2 144 Muhammad Reza Khushak Watandost 32-1329-4 16,275 5.1 3 51 Omar Naser Mujaddedi 32-1405-1092 10,896 3.4 4 154 Haji Muhammad Sadeq Qaderi 32-1141-26 9,663 3.0 5 92 Ghulam Faruq Majruh 32-1161-6 7,027 2.2 6 142 Ustad Hamidullah Hanif 31-1317-1128 6,950 2.2 7 8 Munawar Shah Bahaduri 32-1441-10 6,811 2.1 8 40 Haji Shahpur Popal 32-1257-1075 6,549 2.0 9 161 Sayyed Azem Keberzani 32-1105-1118 6,517 2.0 10 105 Qazi Nazir Ahmad Hanifi 32-1074-46 5,963 1.9 11 113 Al Hajj Ghulam Faruq Nazari 32-1074-46 5,963 1.9 12 128 Sayyed Taha Sadeq 32-1081-1096 5,729 1.8 13 45 Rahima Jami 32-1078-1064 3,118 1.0 14 44 Masuda Karokhi 32-1225-1123 2,824 0.9 15 130 Nahid Ahmadi Farid 32-1461-17 1,957 0.6 16 30 Simin Barakzai 32-1249-1110 1,665 0.5 17 115 Shahnaz Ghawsi 32-1685-1068 1,662 0.5

 

32. Farah: has five seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 8,524 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes %

  1 17 Humayun Shahidzada 33-1397-26 2,457 9.7 2 37 Abdul Satar Hussaini 33-1305-4 1,859 7.4 3 11 Abdul Nasir Farahi 33-1541-1 1,642 6.5 4 40 Abdul Ghaffar Arman 33-1505-16 1,468 5.8 5 39 Belqis Roshan 33-1142-15 1,098 4.4

 

33. Nimruz: has two seats including one female seat. The elected candidates represent a total of 12,148 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 11 Gul Ahmad Nurzad 34-1033-16 5,812 18.8 2 9 Farida Hamidi 34-1390-6 6,336 20.5

 

34. Kuchis: there are ten Kuchi seats, including three for women. The elected candidates represent a total of 49,033 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 37 Al Hajj Shah Wazir Tarakhel 35-1231-77 21,738 32.7 2 26 Habib Rahman Afghan 35-1185-61 5,148 7.7 3 21 Mirwais Hussiankhel 35-1780-1100 4,671 7.0 4 25 Nangyalai Lawang 35-1687-23 4,147 6.2 5 5 Haji Parwiz Arabzada 35-1687-90 3,629 5.5 6 17 Al Hajj Haidar Jan Naimzoi 35-1186-15 3,270 4.9 7 11 Rasul Khan Kuchi 35-1439-17 2,853 4.3 8 31 Hamida Ahmadzai 35-1585-85 1,940 2.9 9 9 Mariam Sulaimankhel 1-1080-172 839 1.3 10 1 Farzana Kuchi 35-1672-151 798 1.2

 

35. Sikh: there is one seat reserved for the Hindu and Sikh communities in a country-wide constituency. The elected candidate has a total of 303 votes.

No Ballot No Candidate Name Candidate No Votes % 1 1 Narender Singh Khalesa 1-1217-259 303 100.0

 

 

 

 

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The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Sun, 12/05/2019 - 04:00

Weddings in Afghanistan are often an expensive and ‘back-breaking’ affair. A government law to change the expensive wedding culture remains largely unimplemented and there seems to be little will to enforce it. The Taleban have also imposed an assortment of rules for controlling wedding costs in areas under their command, which vary depending on the area and commander. In practice, their edicts have had limited impact. This is particularly the case in the Turkic dominated provinces of the northwest, where bride prices and wedding ceremony costs are often driven up by a bride’s carpet-weaving skills. In this dispatch, AAN’s Obaid Ali looks at the social culture of weddings among the Turkic community and finds that in spite of government laws, Taleban pressure and local initiatives, the culture of holding expensive weddings remains firmly in place.

A wedding in Afghanistan tends to be an expensive affair. There have been several attempts by the Afghan government, social activists and community elders, as well as by the Taleban, to change this culture. While their attempts have had some impact in certain local communities, they have not led to a larger cultural shift.

Practices with regard to bride price and wedding expenses are different for different ethnic groups, communities, and regions (see also AAN’s previous report here). The ‘bride price’ in the northwest, for instance, is not a mahr (dowry), a sum of cash that should be given to a bride by her groom as a financial pledge and which remains the property of the bride. Rather, in Turkic communities where women are often employed as professional rug makers, the bride price is known as qaleen.

Bride prices and wedding expenses in northwestern Turkic communities (including provinces like Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-e Pul, and Balkh) tend to be high, largely due to the fact that a woman’s skill makes her a high earner. Moreover, in the Turkic community (e.g. among Uzbeks and Turkmen), an expensive wedding party is considered an honour for both the groom and bride’s families.

Weddings in Turkic communities

The qaleen for a rug-weaving bride in the provinces of Faryab, Jawzjan, and Balkh tends to range from 15,000 USD to 25,000 USD. The price variation is often affected by the reputation of the family and the skills of the woman. Skilled women weavers from these provinces are famous for their ability to produce some of the most sought-after and hard to find rugs in the country (listen, for instance, to this famous Afghan song about rug weaving in Jawzjan province). The skill involved in producing such rugs means that they are often sold even before they are completed or on the market. The high prices of such carpets means that a prospective groom can expect a relatively prosperous life. Therefore, the bride price a groom has to pay is considered to be not only for the girl herself but also for the income her unique skill will provide for the rest of their lives as husband and wife. Because of the extra high costs of the qaleen and wedding party for skilled brides, it is actually very difficult to find a rug-weaving woman to marry.

When a groom’s family initiates a marriage proposal for a rug-weaving woman they face huge expenses. Although the high asking price is often an indirect way for the bride’s family to deter unsuitable marriage proposals, in many cases this does not prevent the groom’s family from persisting. The groom’s side will often try to negotiate the cost down to a manageable amount. However, high interest in a particular bride and her skills means that her family can insist on the price and even add additional wedding costs. These include the costs of the marriage and wedding parties, as well as items that the groom’s family must provide.

A list of items

In many northern provinces, the bride’s family submits a long list of items that the groom must purchase. The list often includes jewellery for the bride, clothes and gifts for the bride and her close relatives, food for the guests, other expenses of the bride until she leaves her parent’s home and a guarantee that the groom will provide two fully-furnished rooms for his bride. The groom’s family is then left with two options: to accept the conditions or to step away from the negotiations.

Haji Khalilullah Azizi, a former speaker for Sar-e Pul’s provincial council, described weddings among the Turkic community as kamarshekan (‘back-breaking’). He told AAN that an ordinary wedding for a woman without carpet weaving skills, including the qaleen price, averages a total of at least 1,500,000 Afs (19,000 USD).Qubuddin Kohe, a local journalist and a civil society activist from Faryab province, said that the qaleen in Maimana city, Faryab’s provincial centre, normally exceeds 800,000 Afs (nearly 10,000 USD). He added that the groom must submit the money in a number of instalments before he gets married. He told AAN that there had been several attempts by social workers, the educated generation, and community elders – both at the local and national levels – to advocate for reduced wedding expenses. Their efforts, however, had only had a limited impact.

Durtaj, the district governor for Khan Charbagh district in Faryab, said the high qaleen prices have compelled some girls to flee. Speaking to AAN, she said that since her appointment in mid-2017 more than ten cases of girls who had fled their home “largely due to their parents’ unwillingness to marry them for a lower qaleen” had been registered. She told AAN that most of these girls ran away with their partners of choice to a hiding place. Community elders then had to mediate between both families, often convincing the girl’s family to allow her to marry the boy after all. In other cases, girls fled to local government-run women’s shelters, refusing to return to their families unless their parents guaranteed their safety and security. In the worst case, she said the girls could face death if captured by their parents, because of harsh traditions and the perceived damage to their family’s reputation.

If a groom’s family cannot provide enough cash for a qaleen, they can offer livestock and other goods during the engagement period instead, particularly in rural areas where goods are acceptable currency in the marriage market. The rest of the wedding expenses, such as jewellery for the bride, clothes for her and her close relatives, as well as food for guests should still be paid for and prepared by the groom’s family.

According to Haji Khodai Dad, a local elder from Faryab who has mediated several negotiations between brides and grooms’ families, as soon as the bride’s family accepts a groom’s family proposal and has fixed the price of the qaleen, any goods the groom sends to the bride’s family counts as cash. The price for these items is calculated based on their local market value. This is not, however, without occasional trouble. Haji Khodai Dad said that a quarrel erupted recently between two families over a dairy cow that was sent to the bride’s family, which stopped producing milk after a couple of weeks. The issue was taken to village elders for a resolution. They decided that the cow should be sold and the groom’s family should add money so that the bride’s family could buy another cow that could produce milk.

In most of the Turkic-dominated provinces of the northwest, the bride’s family agrees to arrange the nikah (a legal contract between man and woman to marry) during the engagement party. After the nikah, the groom becomes a mahram (the male companion for his bride) and he can meet and sometimes stay at his bride’s home. According to Durtaj, during the engagement period, which can last several years, the bride may already become a mother of two or three children. This pushes the groom to work even harder, as he now not only has to earn the qaleen, but also has to provide food and clothes for both his wife and children while they are still in his father-in-law’s home. Some of the grooms who take a long time to submit the qaleen not only bring a bride back to their family’s home, but also an already established family.

There seems to be a general reluctance to give up on expensive wedding parties. For the Turkic community, expensive weddings are not only a social demand but also an opportunity: for the groom to make a name within the community by holding a remarkable wedding, and for the bride’s family to increase their reputation by having secured an expensive wedding for their daughter. This has spread an ideology among villagers that, for the last few decades, has compelled them to invest in enormous weddings and high qaleen prices. But these expensive weddings also mean that grooms have to start a long and difficult journey to earn money. They often leave the country for Iran or Turkey, where they spend years working to save money, which can delay a wedding ceremony for years.

The government law on wedding ceremonies  

The Afghan government published a wedding ceremony law in the official state gazette in December 2017. The law includes clauses on the bride price and ceremony expenses. According to article six, the bride’s family and relatives cannot force the groom to pay a bride price as a condition for getting married. The law also limits the number of guests at a wedding party: article ten says the groom and bride’s families may hold the wedding party in a wedding hall or a restaurant, but should not invite more than 500 people (full text in Dari and Pashtu here).

According to Azizi, Sar-e Pul’s former provincial council speaker, the local government is not seriously committed to enforcing this law in the Uzbek dominated provinces of the northwest. He told AAN there were no outreach teams or public awareness programmes to inform people about the new rules. To enforce this wedding law, the Afghan government would probably face serious problems as it would see itself confronted with the expectations of guests and the interests of the prosperous wedding hall industry. (1)

There have been some local initiatives in Faryab, Sar-e Pul and Jawzjan provinces to reform the costly wedding culture, which have seen limited results. In some parts of Faryab’s provincial centre, Maimana, local elders say they have achieved a minor shift in that the qaleen. Here, wedding expenses are said to have been reduced from an average of 800,000 Afs (nearly 10,000 USD) to around 400,000 Afs (around 5,000 USD). Similar efforts have taken place in some parts of Jawzjan and Sar-e Pul provinces. According to Durtaj, the local government has held several gatherings and carried out campaigns to reduce wedding expenses in local districts. She told AAN, however, that because of the insecurity, these efforts had only affected district centres and nearby villages. (2)

 Taleban restrictions and rules on wedding ceremonies

In some areas, according to local sources, Taleban rules and restrictions were being enforced instead of the government’s law. These Taleban rules on wedding ceremonies are largely enforced by their local vice and virtue committee, known as the religious police, tasked with enforcing Sharia law. The rules themselves seem to vary in different parts of the country, as does their enforcement. There seems to be no general or national Taleban regulation with regard to wedding ceremonies.

When it comes to public awareness of these disparate rules on weddings, the Taleban use local mosques and public gatherings to inform people and announce new restrictions, as well as the consequences for those who violate them. Taleban regulations that have been announced in parts of Faryab, Jawzjan, and Sar-e Pul provinces include that:

  • The bride price should not be more than 200,000 Afs (2,650 USD);
  • Men and women should be segregated and/or attend wedding parties at different times;
  • Playing music and recording videos is prohibited;
  • The bride and groom should receive only three suits of clothes each (normally the bride’s family asks for up to 20 suits of clothes for the bride and, in return, prepares five to ten suits of clothes for the groom).
  • The wedding ceremony should take place in the groom or bride’s family home;
  • The number of guests should be low (there is, however, no requirement to actively reduce the number of invitees, since it is understood that villagers will often attend the party without official invitation);
  • The food for guests should be simple food, common among villagers: palao (rice with meat).

In practice, in the Taleban-controlled areas of Faryab, Jawzjan and Sar-e Pul provinces, locals often obey the Taleban’s rules in public but ignore them in private. For example, in Taleban-controlled areas, though the qaleen is presented as low in public, both families will often negotiate a confidential deal with a higher qaleen.

Even in the government controlled areas of Faryab and Sar-e Pul the local Taleban has tried to prevent people from holding parties in wedding halls. In July 2017, for instance, the Taleban issued warnings against wedding halls in the provincial centres of Sar-e Pul and Faryab. Speaking to AAN, Mahsuma Ramazan, a female provincial council member for Sar-e Pul, said that because of these warnings, the wedding halls in her province remained closed for a couple of months (see this media article). She said it was a clear indication of the Taleban’s influence on people’s social lives even in government-controlled areas. Eventually, the wedding halls reopened. It was unclear whether this was due to a deal between the Taleban and owners of the wedding halls, or whether pressure had simply subsided. (3)

Given that in Turkic communities wedding ceremonies usually take place in the bride and groom’s houses anyway, without much pressure to hold the party in a wedding hall, the impact of this specific restriction is limited. But other aspects of the wedding ceremony that the Taleban try to regulate are a common practice among locals, including the qaleen negotiation and payment, live music during the party, and the video recording of the wedding ceremony. The Taleban rules, if enforced, would thus surely impact the ways the Turkic communities marry in the northwest.

According to Sayed Fazel Agha, a former member of the Sar-e Pul provincial high peace council, neither the government law on wedding ceremonies nor the Taleban’s regulations were being obeyed by the population, at least not in his province. Wedding expenses, he said, thus remained a serious issue within the local community.

Conclusion: The cost of high expenses

Despite the government law on weddings, Taleban pressure and local initiatives to change the expensive wedding culture, the phenomenon of expensive parties and high qaleen prices remains firmly entrenched within the Turkic community. This comes at a high cost, in particular for the next generation. The need to meet qaleen prices has prevented many young men from studying, as they need to work and save money to get married. The high qaleen expenses also narrow the bride’s options for what she can do with her life, as she is under pressure to continue rug making instead of pursuing other possible futures. Even though she may have entered into marriage with seemingly high status, in reality, her marriage merely moves her as a worker from one rug making factory to another for the remainder of her life. So far, neither the government law on weddings nor the Taleban rules have solved this problem. Both laws and regulations are largely ignored: at best observed in public and ignored behind closed doors; at worst, openly flouted.

 

(1) The wedding halls in Kabul, for instance, located only a few kilometres away from the Ministry of Justice, host thousands of people every night in luxury wedding parties with expensive food. According to a wedding hall manager from Kabul, the prices for the wedding party’s menus ranged from 400 Afs (5 USD) to 1200 Afs (16 USD) per head. He said they would not host parties with fewer than 500 guests, since preparing food for fewer people wouldn’t allow them to make a profit (see for instance these pages for wedding halls in Kabul here and here which show a clear lack of awareness of, or refusal, to obey articles 17 and 18 of the law that limit the wedding menu price to 300 Afs (4 USD) and the number of guests to 500).

(2) At the national level there are ongoing efforts to reduce wedding expenses by holding mass wedding ceremonies, for instance in Kabul, Herat, Balk and Bamyan provinces. These ceremonies, organised by charity foundations and local businessmen, are aimed at shifting away from the expensive wedding culture (see a media report here, here, here, here and here. But there is little sign of such initiatives in the Turkic communities of the northwest.

(3) During the Taleban regime (1994-2001), holding a wedding party in a hall was prohibited. Wedding ceremonies in wedding halls, however, have a long history in Kabul and other big cities. After the Taleban’s government collapsed, weddings were again held in halls, and the number of wedding venues in Kabul alone now stands at over 200.

 

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One Land, Two Rules (5): The polio vaccination gap

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 03:54

While researching the delivery of health, education and other services in districts affected by the insurgency, we found that three of our featured districts, in Helmand, Nangrahar and Kunduz provinces, had seen cases of polio leading to paralysis in the last five years. There is no cure for polio, but there is an effective vaccination, so why, more than forty years since polio vaccination began in Afghanistan, are some children still not being protected? AAN’s Jelena Bjelica (with input from the AAN team*) finds some answers in the impact of the conflict, a mobile population, patchy and scarce health care, women being unable to take decisions on health care, and vaccination strategies that might need to be re-thought.

Service Delivery in Insurgent-Affected Areas is a joint research project by the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

Previous publications in the series include an introduction, with literature review and methodology, “One Land, Two Rules (1): Service delivery in insurgent-affected areas, an introduction” by Jelena Bjelica and Kate Clark; and three case studies: on Obeh district of Herat province by Said Reza Kazemi; Dasht-e Archi district in Kunduz province by Obaid Ali; and Achin district in Nangrahar province by Said Reza Kazemi and Rohullah Sorush.

In this dispatch, the author first looks at what polio is and how efforts to eradicate it began, in the United States in the 1950s and globally, including Afghanistan in the late 1970s. She plots how polio has declined since then, before looking at why it continues to circulate here. She assesses current strategies for reaching newborns and under-fives. She then looks at three case studies, districts where polio has resulted in paralysis in recent years: Achin district in Nangrahar province, Nad-e Ali in Helmand province and Dasht-e Archi in Kunduz province.

What is polio?

Polio, short for poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease that is caused and transmitted by the poliovirus. The name ‘poliomyelitis’ is derived from the Greek for grey (polios) marrow (myelon) and refers to the tissue inside the spinal cord.

There are three types of poliovirus, all members of the enterovirus genus. (1) Poliovirus only infects humans. It is very contagious and spreads through person-to-person contact. The virus is most often spread by the faecal-oral route, ie it enters through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Infected individuals shed poliovirus into the environment for several weeks, where it can spread rapidly through a community, especially in areas of poor sanitation.

One of the severe symptoms of polio in childhood is paralysis, and the disease is therefore also known as ‘infantile paralysis’. Polio can interact with its host in two ways: as an infection that does not affect the central nervous system and only causes a minor illness with mild symptoms; or, as an infection affecting the central nervous system when it may cause paralysis and in some cases even result in death. In about 98 per cent of cases, polio is a mild illness, with no or only flu-like symptoms. In paralytic polio, the virus leaves the digestive tract, enters the bloodstream, and then attacks nerve cells. Fewer than two per cent of people who contract polio become paralysed, but they are disabled for life.

Global eradication

In the early 20th century, polio was one of the most feared diseases. In 1916, for example, New York experienced its first large epidemic, with more than 9,000 cases and 2,343 deaths. Nationwide in 1917 in America, there were 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. Polio struck in the warm summer months, sweeping through towns in successive epidemics every few years.

It was only in the mid-1950s that a preventive vaccine was found and tested. In 1952, Dr Jonas Salk began to develop the first effective vaccine against polio. Mass public vaccination programmes followed and had an immediate effect; in the US, cases fell from 35,000 in 1953 to 5,300 in 1957. In 1961, Albert Sabin pioneered the more easily administered oral polio vaccine (OPV). (See this BBC timeline on the history of polio and this timeline on the history of polio vaccine).

It took somewhat longer for polio to be dealt with as a major problem in developing countries. It was only in the 1970s that routine immunisation was introduced worldwide as part of national programmes. By 1988, polio had been eliminated from the US, UK, Australia and much of Europe, but remained prevalent in more than 125 countries. The same year, the World Health Organisation adopted a resolution to eradicate the disease completely by the year 2000. Since then, through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunised against polio.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) certified the Americas as a polio-free region in 1994 and the European region in 2002. India reported the last positive case in January 2011 and was certified polio-free in 2014; China was certified polio-free in 2013. Since 2012, polio has remained officially endemic in only three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Although the global incidence of polio has decreased by 99 per cent since the start of the global vaccination campaign, tackling the last one per cent of polio cases has proved difficult, as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported on its website:

Conflict, political instability, hard-to-reach populations, and poor infrastructure continue to pose challenges to eradicating the disease. Each country offers a unique set of challenges which require local solutions.

In Afghanistan, between January 2001 and March 2019, there were 414 cases of individuals contracting polio and becoming paralysed.

Positive polio cases in Afghanistan: 1980 to 2018   

Despite the ongoing conflict, the number of paralytic polio cases in Afghanistan has decreased over the last 40 years. The publicly available historical data on positive paralytic polio cases in Afghanistan that can be found on the website ‘Our World in Data’ by Oxford University, shows that the number of positive polio cases dropped from almost 2,000 in the mid-1980s to four in the early 2000s. (See graph 1 below for an overview of positive cases between 1980 and 1990 and graph 2 for 2001 to 2018). Although the numbers fluctuate, positive polio cases in Afghanistan in the 2000s and 2010s have been as low, annually, as in the dozens and even fewer than ten. This compares positively to the number of cases in the 1980s, which ranged from several hundred to often more than a thousand, indicating a relatively effective immunisation campaign (more on this below).

Graph 1: Positive polio cases in Afghanistan in the period 1980 – 1990. WHO data cited on the Oxford University’s website, ‘Our World in Data’. Graph by AAN, 2019.

Graph 2: Positive polio cases in Afghanistan in the period 2001 – 2018. WHO dataset of positive polio cases in Afghanistan, which AAN received from the organisation, segregated by province, district and date. Graph by AAN, 2019.

Data on positive polio cases in Afghanistan for the first half of the 1990s is almost non-existent. There is only a figure for 1991 when two cases were documented. It is nevertheless interesting to note that an almost complete dataset exists for the period of Taleban rule. According to the WHO, 19 cases were documented in 1997; 59 in 1998; 150 in 1999, and 120 in 2000. The data for 1996 is missing; that year saw the increased conflict as the Taleban moved to consolidate their power. How reliable these datasets are, given the WHO’s limited access during the civil war and subsequent Taleban rule is another question. The presumption that the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan during the 1980s had accurately reported the health situation in the country is also suspect. As usual, caution is needed when using historical datasets for Afghanistan.

An analysis of the WHO dataset of positive polio cases in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2018 segregated by province, district and date, which AAN received from the organisation, shows that the poliovirus has most often been detected in the eastern and especially the southern regions in Afghanistan. (See graph 2 for an overall number of positive polio cases between 2001 and 2018.)  In the south, they were mainly in Kandahar province, with spill-over transmission observed into other southern provinces, mainly Helmand and Uruzgan. In the eastern region, the epidemic is part of what is called the northern corridor transmission zone extending from Nangrahar, Kunar and Nuristan into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas in Pakistan. There was also a smaller number of positive polio cases during this period further north, for example, in Kunduz and Balkh, as well as one case in Kapisa, the easternmost province of the central region. Herat province in the west of the country also had positive polio cases, as did Farah, which neighbours both Herat and Helmand.

Taking 2018 as an example, 21 children were paralysed by the poliovirus in Afghanistan. Despite this high number of cases, the transmission was geographically limited to the southern and eastern regions and reported from only six of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. 15 of the cases were in the southern region – nine in Kandahar province and with spill-over transmission to Helmand and Uruzgan. In the southern region, a major issue is lack of access: more than 840,000 children have missed out on the vaccination since May 2018. Inaccessibility coupled with some communities refusing to allow vaccination (more on this below), particularly in and around Kandahar, is a major obstacle for polio eradication in the country. It also makes responding to detected polio transmission difficult. The six cases in the eastern region are in the northern corridor transmission zone.

What causes the poliovirus to spread?

The vital question for those trying to protect children against the poliovirus is what drives it to spread in Afghanistan? According to experts, it boils down to two factors: lack of access for vaccinators and a highly mobile population. The 2017 report of the Afghanistan Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on polio eradication, looking at the epidemiological evidence, said it showed that “the vulnerability of pockets of unreached children” and “the role of population movement” are the key factors for poliovirus transmission across Afghanistan. The number of positive polio cases in Pakistan plays an important role in the virus spread through population movement across the border. In 2017, this number declined to only eight, from 306 cases registered during 2014, 54 in 2015 and 20 in 2016.

Afghanistan and Pakistan’s eradication efforts are interlinked and the two countries are dependent on each other’s success in eliminating polio – or held back by the other’s failings. This is why the two countries established a daily communication channel on polio in 2016 (see here) and why Afghanistan established compulsory vaccination at border crossings with Pakistan for children under five years of age. However, poor access to health services at the sub-national level, a lack of professional health staff and in particular limited access for women to health services play an equally important role in the spread of the virus in Afghanistan.

Immunisation in Afghanistan

Routine immunisation against polio, launched under the name of ‘Mass Immunisation Programme through the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), has been mandatory since 1978 in Afghanistan. This followed the global trend of mandatory immunisation against polio introduced in the 1970s. This so-called ‘routine immunisation’ against polio means that every newborn child should be given his or her first oral polio vaccine within their first 14 days of life, with four more vaccines to follow in the sixth, tenth and fourteenth weeks and a final one at nine months. However, the reach of mandatory routine immunisation, despite improvement over the years, has remained limited – because of the conflict and lack of access to health services.

According to publicly available WHO data, immunisation coverage among Afghan one-year-olds rose from three per cent in 1981 to 33 per cent in 1989. (A word of caution here: all percentages are estimates rather than hard statistics.) During the 1990s, it dropped back to an annual average of 25 per cent. The first supplemental immunisation activity, ie national immunisation days or polio vaccination campaigns aimed at children under the age of five, was launched in 1997. These campaigns, that usually last several days, have been conducted on a yearly basis since 1999. Their aim is to reach as large a population as possible and create an immunological barrier against the spread of wild poliovirus and risk of outbreaks. During these designated days, tens of thousands of polio workers go from door to door, making sure that every child under five, “including new-borns, sleeping, sick, and visiting children,” receives the polio vaccine. However, this approach has often been met with resistance and scepticism by local communities, especially since 2001, as will be explained in more detail in the following sections.

Nevertheless, the coverage of immunised children has increased over the years, from 24 per cent of one-year-olds in 2000 to 66 per cent in 2010. It rose further in 2011 and 2012, reaching 68 and 67 per cent, respectively. Progress was halted in 2014, the year when most foreign troops left Afghanistan and a presidential election was held, both events which lead to a general deterioration of security and consequently less access for vaccinators. The number of children immunised dropped to 50 per cent in 2014. In 2015, it increased again, to 60 per cent, and remained stable during both 2016 and 2017 (the latest available figures). This, however, is still too low: Afghanistan’s aim is to reach and immunise up to 80 per cent of newborns every year; this is the universally-accepted threshold for full immunisation.

Health sector shortfalls and some cultural considerations

Low routine immunisation coverage is one of the reasons the poliovirus continues to circulate in the country, said a 2011 UNAMA report. Even so, routine immunisation of all newborns, infants and pregnant mothers is only one of the strategies for polio eradication. Other strategies include: supplementary immunisation activities, surveillance, ‘mop-up’ campaigns, ie door-to-door immunisations that are carried out in specific areas where the virus is known or suspected to still be circulating and care for post-polio paralysis – part of the strategy because an infected person can spread the virus. Afghanistan’s health sector, however, is still not at the required level to systematically deliver basic routine immunisation.

Health expenditure in Afghanistan, although pretty high – 9.5 per cent of GDP according to the country’s Central Statistics Office (2) – is heavily dependent on donors, with around 75 per cent financed by foreign aid (see page 10 of this report). It is thus mainly driven by donors’ policies. For example, programmatic decisions as for major on-budget aid investment, such as the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF,  through which the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) (see also endnote 7) is entirely funded, although it is a fully ‘on-budget’ programme,  are still made by the World Bank (see this AAN analysis on aid and poverty in Afghanistan).

The number of health workers is also too low. Nationwide, there are 2.3 physicians and five nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, 2011 WHO study found. The global average is 13 physicians and more than 20 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people. (3)

A minimum of 23 health workers per 10,000 people, according to 2006 WHO report, is required to achieve “80 per cent skilled coverage of births, one of the interventions considered by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).” In Afghanistan, only 50.5 per cent of births are attended by a skilled health worker, as the latest available WHO estimate for 2015 shows. This is important for two reasons: it is one factor behind the still-high maternal mortality rate, which was at 396 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, (4) and the high mortality rate of children under 5 years of age, which was 91 per 1000 live births in 2017 and; secondly, the presence of skilled personnel at birth means mothers can be informed in a timely manner about vaccination. The first polio vaccine can also be administered by health personnel. This may be why only 15 per cent of surveyed mothers that had newborns in 2015, a year when the first ever Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey was carried out, reported that their children had been vaccinated against polio at birth. (5)

A journal article on routine immunisation coverage in Afghanistan, published in 2017 in BMC Public Health, an open access, peer-reviewed journal that focusses on the epidemiology of disease and the understanding of all aspects of public health found that, nationally, only 51 per cent of children participating in the survey had received all the vaccines included in Afghanistan’s routine immunisation schedule. (6) The survey found that 31 per cent of surveyed children had only been partially vaccinated and for the following reasons: the place to vaccinate child was too far (23 per cent), mother was not aware of the need to vaccinate (17 per cent), mother had no faith in vaccination (16 per cent), mother was too busy (15 per cent) and had fear of side effects (11 per cent). The remaining 18 per cent of mothers in the survey sample had never had their children vaccinated, mainly for the following reasons: place for vaccination being too far (40 per cent), no faith in immunisation (34 per cent), unaware of the need for vaccination (33 per cent), concerns about conflict-related security (21 per cent) and not being allowed to go to a clinic without a male family member (or mahrahm) (21 per cent).

Women’s lack of access and lack of power to make health-related decisions are detrimental to their own health and make significant obstacles for them to get their children vaccinated. 2013 WHO study on gender-sensitive health service delivery said that:

For health-related decision-making, the findings were unanimous that women cannot take independent decisions on their own health and often need accompaniment for seeking health services. The heads of households (i.e. husband, father or brothers) are the ones who make those decisions for the women and this inhibits their timely access to health care services.

It is not only cultural norms that prevent women from accessing health services. The way health services are provided in the health sub-centres in villages is equally limiting. A 2017 study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases found that, although the average availability of essential vaccines, such as OPV (Oral polio vaccine), BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin, against tuberculosis) and measles vaccines were generally high (above 90 per cent) at the various types of health facilities, in the health sub-centres (HSCs), it was typically below 80 per cent. (7) The study said:

Compared with other facility types, HSCs were less likely to have adequate stock of vaccines, essential cold-chain equipment, or proper documentation of vaccination activities […] Staffing inadequacies at the HSC level, which averaged 1 vaccinator compared with 2 for other types of facilities, may hamper the ability to deliver RI [routine immunization] services. Furthermore, unlike other facility types which had an average of 1 trained female vaccinator, most HSCs had none. This could hinder compliance with immunization, especially among women of childbearing age, given cultural sensitivities.

In 2018, as a result of all of these factors, according to UNICEF, only one in three children less than a year old received a vaccine through routine immunisation.

Door-to-door campaigns

Supplementary immunisation activities, commonly known as ‘door-to-door campaigns’ have intensified over the years in the form of national and subnational immunisation days, ie short and intensive campaigns. Usually, there is more than one campaign a year (see, for example, details about the national immunisation campaign from July 2018 here; from August 2018 here: and from November 2018 here). These campaigns are intensive, massive and sometimes geographically defined, ie vaccinations are targeted at particular provinces or districts. They also come with pre-defined targets. In July 2018, for example, the target was 6.4 million children under five; in August 2018 it was 9.9 million and; in November 2018, 5.3 million.

An Afghan health worker administers the polio vaccine to a child during a vaccination campaign on the outskirts of Jalalabad in November 2018. Supplementary immunisation activities, commonly known as door-to-door campaigns have intensified since 2001 in the form of national and subnational immunisation days. Photo: NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP

However, this ‘targeted outcome’ approach also has a downside. In the past, it repeatedly resulted in dishonest services, as AAN heard from two different sources in international organisations involved in the vaccination campaign. In some instances, the vaccinators simply dumped vaccines in the garbage, but counted them as administered, in order to reach their quota. In another case, according to the sources, the vaccinators took responsibility for areas they felt were too dangerous to work in, but did not report this lack of coverage back. This was also possible because there were no means to verify the number of vaccinated children. According to the director of the National Emergency Operation Center, Dr Maiwand Ahmadzai, they managed to overcome these limitations on monitoring in 2016. Through a presidential decree, a call centre was established which used GPS tracking of phone calls. Through this call centre, Dr Ahmadzai said, almost 95 per cent of physically-inaccessible areas could be communicated with and monitored. This, however, happened without sufficient consideration that the tracking method might amount to a violation of privacy or safeguards for the data collected not being used for other purposes.

The campaigns also often cause political tensions. Although organisers regularly highlight their neutrality, see for example in the 2019 National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication, which says that the goal is to “maintain dialogue with AGEs [anti-government elements, ie the insurgents] at local, provincial and higher level on programme neutrality for polio and supporting activities” (see here), this is often disputed by the Taleban. Their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, told AAN via WhatsApp that the polio vaccination had most recently been misused in Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni, Uruzgan and all other areas where fighting was intense. “The enemy was misusing vaccinators for collecting intelligence data,” he said, adding that:

Several people were arrested, who had entered Taleban-controlled areas, calling themselves vaccinators, but actually collecting intelligence data.  Such had been appointed to identify the houses [and] residential areas of Taleban commanders and leaders. The vaccinators would leave chips [GPS tracking devices] in houses, so that the government would identify that house and locate it for targeting. This clearly shows that the enemy was seriously misusing the polio vaccination drive.

The director of the National Emergency Operation Center, Dr Maiwand Ahmadzai, said it was not easy for them to deal with these issues:

I have only a few people that I can send to these [contested or controlled] areas and who are technically able and trustworthy to us and to the Taleban […] and there are more than 50 districts that are in need of these kinds of people.

Mistrust has led to low levels of immunisation acceptance in some communities, (8) although acceptance has improved over time. The government’s National Emergency Action Plan 2019, for example, foresees a publication of the qualitative analysis aimed at understanding why people might refuse the vaccine. The government also plans to engage with media and social media to address rumours undermining the drive to vaccinate.

Nevertheless, the political tensions surrounding vaccinations still most often result in bans, which can be imposed by a local insurgency commander or at the regional level, as was the case in 2018 in Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni and Uruzgan provinces (more on this below).

Three district case studies

1. Achin, Nangrahar province

Achin is a long-embattled district with complicated conflicts (see this AAN report). As of early 2019, most of the district was under government control. But, before that, in the 2015-18 period, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Islamic State’s Afghan-Pakistani franchise, also known as Daesh – controlled most of it. The ISKP still continues to operate from mountain strongholds in the southern parts of the district. Before ISKP, between 2009 and 2015, the Taleban were in control of much of Achin. These power shifts, messy and often brutal, have resulted in the frequent internal displacement of people (see here and here) and a lack of access to health providers. Additionally, most health facilities have been damaged in the fighting. Even though, as of early 2019, health service delivery had only been hindered in ISKP-ruled areas, there are more general problems. For example, there are no female doctors in the district.

According to the WHO database on polio cases in Afghanistan, six positive polio cases were recorded in Achin between January 2001 and March 2019: one in 2012, one in 2014 and four in 2015, ie two were during Taleban rule and four during the shift in power in 2015 when ISKP captured Achin and turned the Mamand Valley into their local headquarters. It was also in 2015 that the Taleban banned vaccinations in areas still under their control in Nangrahar province. That ban included Achin, Dehbala and Rodat districts (see here). Both of these security-related factors were probably behind difficulties in vaccinating and the four positive polio cases, as this report) also found. Dr Sebghatullah, in charge of polio vaccination in Achin at the time, told AAN that he remembers that two of four children infected in 2015 were from Taleban families.

It is interesting, however, that there were no positive polio cases in Achin during most of the ISKP rule over the district, despite their strict ban on the government provided public health services. AAN research on service delivery in Achin found that the ISKP opposes both the running of health services, as well as the administration of any vaccination campaign in areas under its rule. The significant factor here may be something different, however, a doctor from Achin, Ezzat Shah Samim, told AAN that between 2016 and 2018, there had not been any positive polio cases in Achin because most of the people had fled areas under ISKP rule.

The history of positive polio cases in Achin shows the impact that lack of access for vaccinators, either because of bans or insecurity, can have on community health.

2. Nad-e Ali, Helmand province

The ethnographic make-up of Nad-e Ali district is somewhat different from Achin’s, although the communities in both districts are largely monoethnic, predominantly Pashtun. Achin is traditionally inhabited by members of the Shinwari tribe and as such is a homogenous community, albeit with significant sub-tribal conflict (see this AAN report). Nad-e Ali has a diffuse tribal structure as a result of large-scale government-led irrigation and settlement schemes that began in the 1950s. According to David Mansfield in his 2016 book A State Built on Sand (p 247), the mixing of new settlers with the original population resulted in a rural élite that is “fragmented, competitive and limited in its geographic sphere of influence.”

Nad-e-Ali communities are extremely dependent on opium cultivation. The district frequently featured as either the top or second place opium poppy-cultivating district during the mid and late 1990s. During the 2000s, opium poppy cultivation decreased, and the Helmand Food Zone project that began in 2008 aimed to replace illicit crop with licit ones. This led to the loss of income for many farming families and lowered health expenditure. By, 2018 Nad-e Ali was yet again the top opium cultivator in the county with 21,396 of a total countrywide estimated 263,000 hectares.

According to the data received from WHO, the district has had at least one positive polio case on an almost annual basis during the past 14 years, apart from a four-year break between 2014 and 2017. The number of cases was respectively: one in 2005; three in 2006; two in 2007 and 2008; four in 2009; three in 2010; up to a maximum of eight in 2011; and down again to two in 2012 and one in 2013, followed by four years without any recorded cases. A new case was registered in 2018. The increase in positive polio cases between 2009 and 2011 may have been indicative of lower incomes for most of the farming communities in the district.

There are other theories, too, as to why polio has persisted in Nad-e Ali. UNICEF’s communication specialist for polio eradication, Sayed Kamal Shah, told AAN that, of the 80 positive polio cases in Afghanistan in 2011, 11 in Helmand were transmitted by people who often go to Pakistan. According to this theory, cross-border transmission played a key role in spreading the virus. Helmand’s provincial WHO coordinator, Tahsil Khan, offered a more comprehensive explanation. He told AAN that the reasons for the 2011 polio cases were the bad quality of the vaccination campaign, the lack of cooperation from communities, fighting and the negligence of polio vaccinators and supervisors.

Cultural considerations also play a role, according to one of the interviewees from the province consulted as part of AAN’s service delivery in insurgent-affected areas research:

Because of traditional restrictions, families do not want their women going out of their homes. The people are poor, and the male members of the families are busy in daily labouring or working their lands. Therefore, a number of children have been deprived of immunisation. It is why we have polio positive cases in Helmand province.

According to the national eradication programme, Nad-e Ali’s poor immunisation record is mainly due to persistent access problems caused by insecurity. Added to this, the illicit nature of most of Nad-e Ali’s agriculture also ensures farmers and their families stay away from government-provided health services.

At the same time, the Taleban, who have controlled most of the district since 2016, do not generally oppose polio vaccinations. On the contrary, according to the respondents in AAN’s research, they recommended their own people for hire by the health department. Despite this, the Taleban have imposed occasional bans on immunisation, the most recent one, between May and December 2018, covered four provinces – Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni and Uruzgan. According to Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, the decision to ban vaccinators was made by the movement’s health commission and approved by the Emirate’s leadership and was motivated solely by security. He repeated the Taleban’s allegation that immunisation staff doubled as ‘spies’:

The enemy was misusing the polio vaccination process in Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni, Uruzgan and all other areas where the fighting was intense. The enemy was misusing vaccinators for collecting intelligence data. […] We have witnessed some night raids and bombings in some areas where the enemy had collected intelligence information via the polio vaccination process. In such raids, commanders of the Islamic Emirate were targeted and their houses identified.

Yet, Mujahed also underlined the general need for vaccination:

At the same time, there is a serious need for people to vaccinate their children. Therefore, the [Taleban] Health Commission worked on another solution. They decided that, as every village has a mosque and a malek, so the children should be vaccinated either in the house of the malek or in the mosque of the village. This way, the vaccinators will go to the mosque or the malek’s house where people will bring their children to vaccinate them. The commission also told the people that when vaccinators come to a village, a public announcement should be made via the mosque loudspeakers. […] When it was decided, mujahiden [sic] go from village to village and inform the villagers about the new procedure for vaccinating children.

However, he said the ‘intelligence collecting’ had not been witnessed in other parts of the country in 2018, so in other provinces, health staff were allowed to go door-to-door to vaccinate children. (9)

Public health officials and other stakeholders AAN spoke to in Nad-e Ali said the Taleban plan was inadequate. They said that most people, especially women, cannot bring their children to the mosque. Because of the difficulty of getting to a central location, all parties agreed to open polio vaccination centres in each village on 25 February 2019, when the last polio campaign resumed in Nad-e Ali.

Nad-e Ali district is an example of how polio-related politics in Afghanistan work and the array of actors involved. It is also interesting that the Taleban sometimes take a regional approach in their health-related decision-making and that bans are not left only to the will of the local commander, as was the case in Dasht-e Archi in Kunduz province in 2017 (more on which below). It also shows that polio policies have consequences. The form of polio vaccination favoured and supported by the Taleban was implemented too late for one three-year-old from Nad-e-Ali, who became the latest positive case from the district and who will remain permanently paralysed. 

3. Dasht-e Archi, Kunduz province

Dasht-e Archi, a district in the northeastern corner of Kunduz province, is almost entirely controlled by the Taleban (see this AAN report). They have established shadow sub-national governance structures, while most Afghan government officials are absent and work remotely from the provincial capital. Although the Taleban do not provide any services themselves, they have co-opted many governmental and non-governmental organisation (NGO) services in the district and these continue to run.

According to the WHO database, Dasht-e Archi had one positive polio case in February 2017. This happened after a local Taleban Committee for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue introduced a district ban on Kunduz’s door-to-door campaign between March 2016 and February 2017. There were two reasons for this ban, according to AAN sources in the district. First, the local Taleban representatives had argued that the polio vaccination was “harmful” for children and the vaccine “useless.” The second reason was security-related – the Taleban said the vaccinators took photos of their location and shared it with the government. According to WHO estimates, because of this ban, 176,000 children were unable to access the vaccination programme in 2016 and 2017. As seen in the 2016 UNAMA Civilian Casualties report, during the November 2016 vaccination campaign “50 per cent of children missed vaccination due to active fighting while the remaining half missed it due to a ban on the house to house polio vaccinations imposed by Anti-Government Elements.”

The ban was lifted after the intervention of local elders who put pressure on the Taleban, locally, to allow vaccinators to carry on with their campaign. The solution at the local level ie, between community elders, provincial government officials and Taleban shadow provincial government officials, shows how powerful and successful communities can be, if united on an issue of concern. It was essentially local elders who stood firm for vaccinations to be carried out, in opposition to the Taleban committee’s decision.

Conclusion

The three case studies show that local security and political context plays an important role in any successful immunisation campaign. In Achin district in Nangrahar, a complicated and often brutal conflict between three warring parties has been the main obstacle for the delivery of health services, and, in particular, the timely immunisation of children. In Nad-e Ali and Dasht-e Archi, which are also sites of armed conflict (although only between two parties) and political tensions, a combination of fighting and bans have been the main obstacles. Bans may be imposed locally (and may be resolved at a local level) or regionally, covering several provinces.

It may be that in the country’s south (Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar and Ghazni), bans are mainly imposed by Taleban central command, based on a strategic approach to safeguarding territorial gains and not allowing any suspected intrusion of the government’s security apparatus. The 2018 ban in four provinces for a particular method of immunisation indicates that the Taleban there may be ready to propose and accommodate different solutions to the problem of getting children immunised during the conflict, ie immunisation in mosques or maleks’ homes, rather than the more intrusive, as they see it, door-to-door campaigns. That the Taleban should want to try to accommodate polio vaccinations should not come as a surprise, as the historical records on polio immunisation in Afghanistan show that the first national supplementary campaigns were carried out during their rule in the late 1990s, when the south was firmly under Taleban control. As the door-to-door campaign has become a cause of tensions since 2001, this approach probably requires some rethinking. While such campaigns would ideally guarantee that the majority of children are immunised, they may ultimately fail if both insurgents and communities perceive them as intrusive and harmful.

Fundamental for carrying out a successful door-to-door campaign would seem to be focused interaction between government and Taleban stakeholders on the timing and planning of the campaigns to build up trust and ensure better information. The examples of the past indicate that solutions were generally found, but post-facto, rather than in a pre-emptive fashion. Even if the Taleban are not part of the discussion on the timing of national immunisation days, health providers could consider including them at the planning phase and seek their consent and get guarantees of support for the campaigns.

The eradication of the poliovirus in Afghanistan will remain a top health priority in years to come. A reduction in violence, or indeed an end to the conflict, would be the single most useful factor for ensuring success in immunising Afghan children. However, regardless of how well or badly the current talks on a political settlement go, there are still changes that could be made to how immunisation is carried out to make better coverage more likely.

The AAN series on service delivery in insurgent-affected areas found that in most districts, health services at the local level are sub-standard. Health facilities lack the basics, from a scarcity of female health workers to a scarcity of electricity for the refrigerators used to store vaccines. In some districts, health facilities have been destroyed by fighting or temporarily occupied by parties to the conflict. Especially in remote villages, health facilities may not be available at all.

Afghan women, who are the primary target group for the timely vaccination of their children, face an additional obstacle: they lack the power to make health-related decisions due to ‘traditional’ cultural norms which mean men are responsible for the decisions affecting the health of their women and children. If more women had access to skilled health personnel during child delivery then compulsory vaccination at birth could easily be achieved. However, given that education of girls is often poor in these districts as well – often because of conflict and the same conservative norms – there are not the educated young local women coming through who could become midwives, nurses or doctors. Meanwhile, women from outside the districts do not want to work there.

The reasons for the persistence of polio in Afghanistan are many, but basically boil down to several difficult-to-tackle issues – conflict, poverty and lack of women’s rights – and the geographical fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to provide a reservoir of the poliovirus for the other.

Maybe it is time in Afghanistan to rethink the delivery of health services in general and consequently to mend the health of the nation, which is still characterised by one of the highest rates of maternal mortality at birth and children’s mortality in the first five years. Empowering women and educating both men and women on health-related issues through all available channels, such as through radio, television and mosques, could also be used in a bottom-up approach to achieve a society that is more gender equal and thus more equitable

* Rohullah Sorush and Said Reza Kazemi reported on service delivery in Achin district in Nangrahar province, Obaid Ali reported on Dasht-e Archi in Kunduz province, Ali Mohammad Sabawoon who will be publishing on Nad-e Ali in Helmand province, and Fazal Muzhary helped with additional research.

 

Edited by Christian Bleuer and Thomas Ruttig

 

(1) Enteroviruses belong to a group of ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses which typically occur in the gastrointestinal tract and sometimes spread to other parts of the body, including the central nervous. They also include Hepatitis A (see here).

(2) This is not a low percentage. By way of comparison, in high-income countries, the average health expenditure is just above 12 per cent of GDP.

(3) Life expectancy in Afghanistan remains low, for women it is 63.2 years and for men a little higher, at 63.6 years. Interestingly, while in most countries, female life expectancy is higher, in Afghanistan, it is men who tend to live a little longer.

(4) According to The Guardian report from 2017, the real number of maternal deaths at birth could be much higher. The newspaper quoted an unpublished report which said that the Afghan government found an average level of maternal deaths between 800 and 1,200 for every 100,000 live births.

(5) For the 2015 Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey, 24,395 households were interviewed, including individual interviews with 29,461 married women age 15-49.

(6) The routine immunisation schedule in Afghanistan includes: Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) against tuberculosis; a pentavalent or five individual vaccines given in one go, intended to protect against Haemophilus influenza type B (bacteria causing meningitis, pneumonia and otitis), whooping cough (or pertussis), tetanus, hepatitis B and diphtheria; oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV); and the first dose of the measles vaccine.

The interviews for the study published in the BMC Public Health journal were conducted in 34 Afghan provinces with 6,125 caregivers of children aged 12–23 months at the time of the survey who were identified as eligible.

(7) In 2003, the government of Afghanistan introduced the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) programme. BPHS was established to improve access to healthcare services in rural areas, which account for more than 70 per cent of Afghanistan’s population. BPHS comprises several key elements, including maternal and newborn care, child health and immunisation, and communicable disease control. These services are provided through different tiers of the primary health sector, ranging from small health posts catering to approximately 100–150 families to district hospitals, which serve populations of tens of thousands of people. Health services administered through BPHS are provided on a graduated scale, with the higher tiers of health facilities providing a more comprehensive package of services compared with smaller health facilities. The tiers of BPHS facilities include: health sub-centres (HSCs) that represent the smallest and lowest levels of service delivery, with higher levels of services offered by basic health centres (BHCs) and comprehensive health centres (CHCs). District hospitals (DHs) represent the highest level of service delivery. All tiers provide immunisation services.

(8) In an attempt to confirm their suspicions that al-Qaeda’s leader was living in a compound in Pakistan, the US launched an immunisation scheme in 2011 with the objective of obtaining DNA from a resident in the property that would confirm any family link (see here and here). This event fuelled conspiracy theories about vaccines in Pakistan and Afghanistan (see here), and communities sometimes refuse vaccinations on the grounds that the government is collecting biodata.

(9) On 11 April 2019 the Taleban said that it has temporarily stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) from carrying out relief work in the areas it controls in Afghanistan and it has revoked security guarantees for their staff. The Taleban said in a statement that they have found WHO staff involved in “some suspicious activities” during vaccination campaigns and that the ICRC failed to practically implement pledges given to the Taleban. (see more here).

 

 

 

 

 

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The End of the Jirga: Strong Words and Not Much Controversy

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Fri, 03/05/2019 - 21:04

The Consultative Peace Loya Jirga has ended in Kabul with reports back from the fifty committees of delegates, a speech from President Ghani and a communiqué which he said is now the government’s ‘roadmap’. Key points emerging from the jirga were calls for an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue with the Afghan government in charge, for a ceasefire and protection of women’s and other rights. Kate Clark, Ehsan Qaane and Ali Yawar Adili (with input from the rest of the AAN team), report on the jirga’s conclusions and ask whether it will strengthen the government’s hands vis-à-vis the Taleban.

The Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, described by the head of the organising commission of the jirga, Omar Daudzai, in his opening speech to the 3,200 delegates as “an opportunity for representatives from provinces and districts to share their views and thoughts on peace and stability in Afghanistan,” has wrapped up. It was a day later than planned – it had taken longer than expected to elect the various jirga officials which meant the main ‘meat’ of the jirga, the delegates’ discussions, only began on day 3, rather than day 2 as planned.

The delegates

The jirga’s organisers said the delegates were representative of the nation; along with MPs and provincial council members, there were also delegates selected at the district level; how free and fair those selections were is not clear or how much influence the Palace had. There should have been at least some type of voting, but reports varied on how this was carried out (see this AAN backgrounder).

30 per cent of the delegates were women. They also featured reasonably well in the line-up of jirga officials (this after a delegation of women, Killid editor and delegate Najiba Ayubi told AAN, met Sayyaf to demand 50 per cent of the jirga officials). At the end (and after elections) four out of the ten members administrative board of the jirga were women, as were 13 heads and 28 secretaries of the fifty committees (see this favourable comment by women’s activist Mary Akrami here).

As in previous jirgas, the delegates were split into committees, fifty in this jirga, and asked to consider four questions:

1. How can we convince the Taleban to participate in [an intra-Afghan] negotiation? What has not been done so far that should be done?

2. What are the values and achievements that the Afghan government should not compromise on? Why they are important?

3. What are your views on the make-up of the Afghan delegation for peace? What should be the characteristics of the delegates?

4. How should the Afghan government deal with the neighbouring countries, especially the country which is financially supporting the Taleban and providing them weapons [a reference to Pakistan]? Generally, what is your expectation from countries who are involved in Afghanistan?

The committees’ proposals

These committees then reported back at the end of day four. The AAN team monitored their conclusions as broadcast on Radio Television Afghanistan. We only managed to get three of the fifty committees’ conclusions in written form (they have not been published yet), so we could only make a ‘rough and ready’ assessment of what we thought were their main proposals:

1. Almost every committee stressed the crucial need for a ceasefire, at least during Ramadan (which begins on 5 or 6 May).

2. Almost every committee demanded intra-Afghan talks, ie the Taleban talking not just to the United States, but to other Afghans.

3. Almost all of the committees stressed that representatives of women, civil society, youth, religious scholars and academics should be part of any delegation that negotiated with the Taleban. Some also said representatives of war victims and political parties should also be included.

4. Almost all committees said that women’s rights and the last 18 years of ‘achievements’ should not be negotiated away.

5. Some committees stressed the desirability for a slow and pre-scheduled withdrawal of international troops, which should not take place before direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taleban began.

6. Some committees suggested that the United Nations should supervise talks between the government and the Taleban.

7. Some committees said the provisions of the constitution, but not the constitution as a whole, could be amended if the Taleban asked for this, but it had to be according to the procedures laid out in the constitution (i.e. through a Constitutional Loya Jirga – information on this in our backgrounder).

8. Some of the committees said a regional consensus was essential and the countries supporting the Taleban should stop doing so. Almost no committee was specific on this issue.

9. A few committees asked the government to open a political office for the Taleban in Afghanistan and demanded an end to talks behind closed doors (whether this pointed to talks between the Taleban and the US was not clear, but implied).

Today, on the final day of the jirga (3 May 2019), President Ghani delivered a speech (read it here in Pashto) saying he endorsed the committees’ recommendations and said they would form the government’s ‘roadmap’ for peace.

The final communiqué

The final communiqué was released as the jirga ended. It was composed in suspiciously well-written language for a document compiled from fifty other different documents at speed  (see the Annex for AAN’s translation of the original Dari). It does contain many of the committees’ reported recommendations, but not all, and also features items not prominent in the reports back. Delegates that AAN spoke to (perhaps a dozen out of the 3,200, so a limited sample) said they generally thought it reflected the views they had heard.

The communiqué does not challenge the Palace view of what is needed from negotiations with the Taleban. In particular, it puts the government at the centre of any talks. It also excludes by omission the idea of an interim government taking over when the president’s constitutional mandate ends on 22 May. This idea is still on the table, despite the Supreme Court ruling, two weeks ago, that Ghani’s term can be legally extended until the results of the much-delayed presidential election are eventually in. The court’s ruling is not without controversy or opposition; as we reported, most of the other presidential candidates had already called on Ghani to stand down. One delegate told the media (see here) that his committee had reached a consensus on the need for an interim government, but this had not been reported to the hall. There is no way of checking this or whether other committees may also have reached this conclusion.

The placing of the government at the heart of any negotiations with the Taleban is also a ‘Palace-friendly’ answer to the Taleban’s dismissal of Kabul as a ‘puppet government’ that is not worth talking to and to the US acceptance of the Taleban demand that it speaks directly to the US and, at least initially, without the government being present.

Some items in the communiqué were equally prominent in our assessment of the committees’ reporting back. They include the urgent need for a ceasefire, the need for an end to interference by (unspecified) neighbours and the prospect of the withdrawal of foreign troops. Common items also included the value put on protecting the rights of women and the other ‘achievements’ of the post-2001 polity, and of having a representative negotiating team. However, here, the communiqué puts the need for “jihadi personalities” at the top of the list of necessary participants in any delegation – not mentioned much, we thought, in the committees’ reporting back – and then, as an apparently separate (mutually exclusive?) category, those who value human rights, have good reputations and are expert. Women, young people, those with disabilities, academics and ulema were also necessary members.

Both committees and the communiqué thought the constitution could be amended, if the Taleban wished it, but only according to the constitution, ie through a constitutional loya jirga. The communiqué said this could only happen “after a peace agreement” (emphasis added).

Other issues mentioned by the committees did not appear in the final communiqué, for example, some committees called for the United Nations to ‘supervise’ talks. Other proposals in the communiqué were not, we thought, mentioned much by the committees; for example, the idea (made by Chairperson Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf in his opening and closing speeches) that the dispute with the Taleban lay in ‘different interpretations’ of Islam. Also not featuring prominently, we thought, in the committees’ reporting was the release of Taleban prisoners; the communiqué says the “exchange of captives and release of prisoners” could build confidence between the two parties. Ashraf Ghani, in his speech, said the government was already identifying 175 Taleban prisoners it would free as a gesture of goodwill. He also said they were ready to discuss the technicalities of a ceasefire, although it would have to be bilateral.  The Taleban, reported the BBC, have already rejected this.

Two side issues can be mentioned here, to do with provisions in the 2008 Amnesty Law, usually cited for its controversial blanket immunity for those who perpetrated war crimes before 2001 and any current or future war criminals who reconcile with the government. It specifies that parliament must choose any delegation that negotiates with insurgents (art 5). It also says that the release of detainees and persons convicted of crimes related to the conflict is only possible if proposed by the now defunct Commission for Consolidation of Peace (kamisyun-e tahkim-e suh) (art 5). (For more details about the Amnesty Law, read AAN’s analysis here.)

Conclusion

Depending on what the actual aim of the jirga was, it could be viewed as a success or a failure. If the jirga was aimed at projecting a united front and forging a common negotiating position with the Taleban, among those Afghans broadly supportive of the post-2001 polity (the authors were not sure how to refer to this ‘side’), then it was a failure as soon as it was boycotted by major opposition figures, including other presidential candidates, Chief Executive Abdullah, the chairperson of the High Peace Council, Abdul Karim Khalili and eleven political parties. (1)

Opposition figures and parties have said, all along, that the jirga was “a political trick” and “election campaign” (see here), aimed at strengthening the Palace position that there is no need or obligation to have an interim authority. If this was the jirga’s real aim, to project Ashraf Ghani’s legitimacy as continuing president, then it could be seen as a reasonably successful, if minor, propaganda victory.

All that having been said, however, much of the substance of the communiqué and the committees’ conclusions were not controversial. Many, from all sides – Palace, opposition and civil society including women’s groups – have been united in calling for the protection of ‘post-2001’ rights and for those representing non-Taleban Afghans in any negotiations to be representative of the country at large. As former governor of Balkh province Atta Nur Muhammad, who has shared the communiqué on his Facebook page said, there was nothing in it that has not been discussed before). Atta also thanked the participants for not allowing the government to ‘deviate’ the jirga from its course. (As of yet, there has been no official opposition reaction to the jirga).

If this jirga had been convened last summer after the Eid ceasefire put peace on the agenda, before election campaign season and before the US’s decision to talk to the Taleban, it could have been a much stronger vehicle for creating consensus. Instead, with the opposition angry and suspicious and with the Taleban already speaking to those it considers the ‘real’ power facing it in Afghanistan, the United States, the point of this jirga was diminished.

As it is, this gathering of more than 3,000 Afghans has come as US Special Envoy Zalmai Khalilzad and the Taleban were beginning their sixth round of talks in Doha (it began on 1 May 2019) and after the failure of an attempt at intra-Afghan dialogue, also scheduled to be held in Doha, on 19–21 April. The Doha talks were cancelled after either the hosts or the Taleban (it was never clear) became unhappy at the size and unwieldiness of the ‘Kabul delegation’ – 250 people who would supposedly talk to 25 Taleban representatives. Referring to this in his speech today, Ghani said that, “Mandated and inspired by the resolution of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, I will assign a negotiating team, not an army of negotiators.” However, if the Palace again tries to organise the non-Taleban side of the dialogue, the team might – if Taleban sentiments remain consistent – still be rejected.

This is not to say that the Taleban should have a veto on which Afghans they talk to, or that the US should ‘exclude’ the government from talks with the Taleban (as Ghani and many other Afghans believe it is doing). However, despite the strong intent of the final communiqué, it is difficult to see how this jirga will strengthen the hand of the Palace vis-à-vis the United States or of Afghans supporting the 2001 settlement against the insurgents.

 

Edited by Rachel Reid

 

Resolution of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga

 9-13 Saur 1398 (29 April-3 May 2019)

Taking inspiration from the holy verse (wa amruhum shura bainahum) and pursuant to decree number 162, dated 20/12/1397 (11 March 2019), of the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, we, the 3,200 members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, including women and men, elected representatives of the nation in the two houses of the National Assembly, ulema [religious scholars], rohaniyun [clerics  and influential and tribal elders, members of the provincial councils, members of the High Peace Council, representatives of civic and social organisations, women representatives, representatives of the private sector, academic institutions, writers and poets, artists, national and civil organisations, young people, media, associations of lawyers and association of defence lawyers, registered political parties, athletes, people with disabilities of [caused by] war, families of victims from the security and defence forces, families of victims of war, representatives of  the Popular Helmand Peace Movement, representatives of refugees residing in Iran and Pakistan, representatives of Afghan experts residing abroad, Kuchis, Hindus and Sikhs, and other influential and expert groups of the society, came together for five days from 9 to 13 Saur 1397 [29 April to 3 May 2019] to present our advice on the definition of peace and setting the parameters and framework for peace negotiations with the Taleban Movement for the parties involved in the Afghan peace process.

We, the members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, representing the noble and proud nation of Afghanistan, having endured long years of war and bloodshed, poverty, deprivation, migration and displacement; realising our religious and national obligations, the vital need of the people of Afghanistan for peace, and that honourable and durable peace does not mean only an end to fighting [but also] requires the protection of national interests, economic and social development, the elimination of poverty, bringing about political stability and regional and international consensus; also recognising the determination, forbearance, patience and sacrifices of the great nation of Afghanistan, especially of the security and defence forces of the country for achieving a durable peace and general prosperity [;recognising] the initiative of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to seek advice from the nation to end the war and bloodshed and to achieve durable peace, and the efforts of the international community in ensuring peace in Afghanistan; and reiterating [the need to] preserve Islamic principles and national values and jihad and resistance, and preserve the national sovereignty and territorial integrity, have gathered to convey peace-loving messages to the different parties involved in the Afghan peace process.

We, the members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, in accordance with the agenda of the meetings of the 50 working committees and the plenary session, conducted comprehensive discussions and agreed on the following articles:

Annex: The Final Communiqué of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga (29 April – 4 May) (AAN translation from the original Dari)

1. We, the participants in this Jirga, are determined and committed to bring durable peace to the country.

2. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga call on the Taleban Movement to, given the unpleasant consequences of war and bloodshed, listen to the voice of this great mass of people who represent every corner of Afghanistan and denounce animosity and participate in the building up and prosperity of their homeland. War does not have a winner and peace does not have a loser.

3. One of the big factors of war in Afghanistan is different perceptions and interpretations of the religion of Islam. Members of the Consultative Peace Jirga suggest to the government, the Taleban and religious scholars to unify their perspective on the interpretation of Islam and pave the way for national unity and accord.

4. The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taleban Movement should accept the voice of the absolute majority of Afghans and declare an immediate and permanent ceasefire from the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan of this year and implement it across the country in order to respect the will of the people, honour the holy month of Ramadan, end violence, build confidence between the two parties, and put an end to the negative propaganda.

5. The Islamic Republic system is the great achievement of the people of Afghanistan and is the outcome of years of sacrifices and endeavours. Establishment and consolidation of peace in Afghanistan should be achieved by protecting the type of the system (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) and through a direct negotiation channel.

6. The current constitution of Afghanistan is a national and invaluable document for the people of Afghanistan which should be preserved; but if needed, an amendment to some of its articles through principled and favourite mechanisms [envisaged] in this law is possible, after a peace agreement.

7. The fundamental rights of the citizens, enshrined in the constitution of Afghanistan, including the rights of women and children, political and civil right to participation, the right to freedom of expression, the right to education and labour, the right to access public services as well as the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, people with disability, heirs of martyrs, as the fundamental pillars of consolidation of peace, should be preserved and strengthened in the peace process

8. The security and defence forces are the pride of the country. Consolidation and continuation of durable peace require strong national security and defence forces. Therefore, the people of Afghanistan, through this Jirga, emphasise on protection and strengthening of these institutions.

9. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga request the warring parties and the countries involved in the Afghan peace process to, through understanding and collaboration, paving the way for opening the political office of the Taleban in Afghanistan.

10. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga call on the government of Afghanistan to, in close coordination with the international community and after understanding among all factions (parties) involved in the peace process, and to preserve the values and achievements of close to two decades, prepare a feasible timetable for responsible exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan

11. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga call on the government of Afghanistan, all political parties and currents and effective national personalities to use the currently available opportunities to build a domestic national and political consensus at this historical and critical situation to advance the peace process and enter into peace negotiations from a single and Afghanistan-wide address.

12. All the involved parties should avoid preconditions that restrict the ground for the beginning of direct negotiations.

13. All parties involved should treat the captives and prisoners of the other in an Islamic spirit and with good behaviour and take actions, using constructive and flexible methods, [aiming at] the exchange of captives and release of prisoners for the purpose of further building confidence and goodwill between the two parties.

14. In order to achieve durable peace, regional and international consensus is imperative and vital. Therefore, members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga call on the regional and trans-regional countries and the international community to coordinate their efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan with the government and put the role of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the centre of their initiatives and efforts.

15. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga call on the government to emphasise, in all negotiations and talks, a policy of good neighbourliness with the countries of the region and the neighbours. If there is continued interference by the regional countries or some of the neighbours in the affairs of Afghanistan, [the government should] formally lodge the complaint of the people of Afghanistan with the UN Security Council.

16. The government should, in consultation with influential national, political and social ‘addresses’ [influential people or groups], develop and enforce a comprehensive and all-inclusive plan for accelerating the peace process and beginning direct negotiations with the Taleban Movement, in considering of the advice of this jirga.

17. Realising the urgent need for an impartial body to facilitate the peace process, members of this Jirga recognise that, for the purpose of making the High Peace Council transparent and effective, fundamental reforms to the structure, organisation and performance of this Council should be carried out.

18. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, considering the past experiences, advise that the negotiating team be formed of jihadi personalities and [those who are] national, expert, experienced, have good reputations, are committed to human rights values and are peace-loving, with a manageable composition (maximum 50 people); [it should be formed] considering the ethnic balance and the presence of learned ulema, tribal elders, women, young people, the families of victims, people with disabilities, minorities, representatives of civil society, refugees, the media, Kuchis and of different classes and strata of the society, including some of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga members.

19. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga ask the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to, for the purpose of facilitating and accelerating the peace process, identify the legitimate and reasonable wants and demands of the Taleban and take necessary actions vis-à-vis them for further confidence building

20. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga commit to convey this jirga’s message of peace to their people upon return to their areas and localities as messengers of peace and to start a comprehensive effort in cooperation with local administrations, ulema, tribal elders, young people and women, so that we can play our religious and national part in the ensuring peace.

21. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga call on the government to maintain its relations with members of this jirga and with the influential institutions and constantly keep members of the jirga posted on the implementation of the jirga’s advice and the progress of peace talks and negotiations

22. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, emphasising the articles of this resolution, address the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Movement of the Taleban, the International community, regional countries and other factions (parties) involved to respect the rightful wants and demands of the people of Afghanistan and the advice of this historic loya jirga and seriously and honestly make efforts and take practical steps to establish and consolidate a durable peace and prevent the continuation and intensification of the war and [continuing] casualties among ordinary people.

23. Members of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga, due to the significance of this historic loya jirga, want the president and administrative board of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga to print and publish all the views, opinions and recommendations of the 50 committees in a formal document.

 

[1] A day before the Jirga, on 28 April 2019, 12 presidential hopefuls issued (available in Dari here) a statement announcing their boycott of the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga. They said (AAN’s translation of the original Dari):

We, the 12 presidential candidates’ election tickets of 2019 and a number of political parties of the country, believe that the consultative loya jirga which has been called by the president is untimely, unnecessary and a waste of state resources. In the current situation in which almost all international partners and Afghan politicians have intensified their efforts to ensure durable peace, the government of Afghanistan wants to consult with the people now.

We believe that this jirga is untimely and in contradiction with the peace-seeking efforts.

Ambiguity in the agenda, on one hand, and non-inclusiveness of the members of this Jirga, on the other, calls to question the effort to ensure peace as being national.

We believe that any initiative at the national level in the run-up to the presidential elections is an abuse of state resources for election campaigning in favour of a particular person.

Moreover, the Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which according to the constitution has the duty to only compare the ordinary laws with the constitution, under the influence of the government and contrary to its authorities, has recently extended the term of the president until the elections are held.

This action is against the constitution and political consensus on one hand and a serious obstacle to bringing peace and holding transparent elections on the other.

The government had better spend the financial resources used for the jirga for the victims of the recent national disasters and fighting [and] for improving the lives of our people, around 52 per cent of whom are under the poverty line.

Therefore, we, 12 presidential candidates and our political partners, will boycott this jirga and will not participate in it.

Nur ul-Rahman Liwal

Enayatullah Hafez

Muhammad Ibrahim Alekozai

Muhammad Hakim Tursan

Ghulam Faruq Nejrabi

Faramarz Tammana

Sheida Muhammad Abdali

Ahmad Wali Massud

Nur ul-Haq Olomi

Rahmatullah Nabil

Muhammad Hanif Atmar

Muhammad Shahab Hakimi

The spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah also announced his boycott, saying the jirga was unnecessary, not necessarily legitimate and would have no result. The party of Second Chief Executive Muhammad Mohaqeq, Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami-e Mardom declaring its boycott said no one “will participate in this cosmetic Jirga on behalf of the party and those who will participate in the Jirga want to counter the deceits and khaima shab bazi (marionettes, puppet shows) advanced by the government as the agenda of the Jirga.” Boycotts were also announced by former president Karzai (available in Dari here) and Herati strongman, Ismael Khan.

 

 

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