Undeterred by Taliban Threats, Afghans Showing up to Get Voter Cards
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, January 5 (S&S)
A sweeping voter registration drive is under way across Afghanistan for the presidential election to be held later this year.
Registration began in some areas in October and is scheduled to be completed in February. The election itself is expected to be held in the second half of 2009.
U.S. units have picked up reports of isolated physical assaults against villagers who register. But Capt. Jeffrey Farmer, a company commander based in western Paktika, said he sees the intimidation campaign as a positive sign.
"It shows that the enemy is upset by whatâ€™s happening, which is great," he said. "I think itâ€™s a sign that theyâ€™re worried they might be losing control of this area."
Officials say turnout in areas that have completed registration has been strong. In Paktia province, along the Pakistani border, official tallies show women out-registering men on a roughly 2-to-1 ratio, despite cultural norms that generally forbid women from leaving their homes. Similar concerns have also been raised in Logar province.
The United Nations is acting in an advisory role in the election but has no direct oversight. Foreign donors contributed more than $359 million to pay for the 2004 presidential vote and parliamentary polls held the following year.