A Brief Guide to the History of Afghanistan
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Sometimes, the material was redirected to the private houses of local strongmen and then used to stuff ballots. Despite new preventive measures see below , there is still the chance that this kind of fraud might be attempted again in Particularly relevant to watch in this regard, are the polling centres that have remained on the official IEC list, despite being in districts fully under Taleban control.
Examples of such districts include:. At that time, district governor Nasruddin Sahdi told AAN that local security forces had retreated to Khwaja Ghar district in neighbouring Takhar and there was no plan to conduct a counteroffensive ahead of the election.
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In Takhar province, the districts of Yangi Qala and Darqad have been changing hands between the Taleban and the government see here and here. The authorities say they plan to open five polling centres in Yangi Qala, even though, according to local elder Haji Asad, the district governor and administration are operating in exile from the provincial capital Taloqan. He told AAN that, because of the large Taleban presence, he expected that only two out of a total of eight designated polling centres would be able to open. In Ghazni province, it is suspicious that in Andar district, which is also under full Taleban control, the authorities plan to open 16 polling centres, spread over nine villages.
Particularly striking is the centre in the small village of Shamshai. It has seven polling stations, enough to cater to 2, voters, a large number for such a village. Yet, locals told AAN it would be difficult even for election material to reach there; usually, only heavily-armed convoys make it to Surkhab to supply the local police post.
They said they thought the heavy Taleban presence in the district would deter voters from casting their ballots even if the ballot papers manage to arrive. Significant changes to the local security situation on election day, or during the few days before, could also point to attempts by localofficials, strongmen or campaign teams to either prevent voters coming out in favour of a certain candidate or use the insecurity as a cover for fraud and manipulation.
One piece of good news seems to be the significant technical improvements in the software of the Biometric Voter Verification BVV devices, designed to prevent multiple or other illegitimate voting from taking place.
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During the parliamentary election, many of the devices malfunctioned, or staff were not sufficiently trained in their use, so that the IEC also allowed people to vote without their biometric data being captured and verified. This time, additional measures have been introduced to prevent mass fraud, such as ballot stuffing. However, there might still be undetected backdoors in the system that could allow manipulation. As experience in the wider world shows, hackers are often a step ahead of safety measures and quick at finding ways around security systems.
Although key election stakeholders have told AAN that IEC staff were trained earlier and better than in , it is still not clear whether all BVV devices will work, whether all election staff have really understood the complicated technology and whether they will handle it as designed, especially in stressful situations. Mass malfunctioning, a lack of capacity to properly handle the devices, or the intentional failure to use them could still create opportunities for fraud, or a situation in which safeguards need to be abandoned again in order to avoid voter disenfranchisement as was the case in the election.
This year, the IEC has increased the number of polling stations — to 29, in total — in order to reduce the number of voters that need to be processed in each station, from to However, there still may be long lines, given that all registered voters are now supposed to cast their vote in a much shorter time, within eight hours, between 7am and 3pm. This means that a polling station with the maximum voters of which there are many, both in cities and the countryside where all voters turn up, the electoral staff will need to keep the crowd moving at an average speed of a little over a minute per voter.
This means that every minute, a voter should enter and exit the polling station; once inside they can spend a few minutes to go through the entire procedure — checking whether their name is on the voter list, having their photo taken, getting a QR code for the ballot paper printed and casting a ballot — as long as they do not stop the queue from moving.
It is not clear whether the two extra hours which can be added at the end of the day if a polling centre is still crowded, will be sufficient. It has both widened the reach of information, and added confusion and noise to the process. But the suspicious can imagine it later justify implausibly high turnout figures, coupled with election-day footage of long queues at the polling stations, that could then be posted and reposted en mass.
As one activist warned AAN, the wrong impression can be created by photos of long queues; they could either reflect a lot of interest by many voters, or the inability of the IEC staff to properly process the voters that have turned up. So far, there is little indication that turnout will be high. Campaigning has been lacklustre and does not seem to have reached many rural areas. Even in cities like Kabul and Herat, there were visibly fewer candidate posters than in previous elections for Herat see this AAN dispatch.
In Kabul city, where during earlier elections, there was barely a spare place left on any wall, now even major thoroughfares show only a few posters, and many shop windows are conspicuously empty. Many AAN interlocutors, Afghan and international, and even those who are officially campaigning for certain candidates, report low interest in voting, even in the big cities and even among their own staff.
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In the middle part of the campaign, even Ghani reverted to mainly addressing election meetings through video conference he has had over 40 of these virtual meetings, according to a member of his campaign team. Travel to the provinces by candidates has only picked up in the last week of the campaign, with Dr Abdullah and Rahmatullah Nabil, and again Ghani, attending events in multiple provinces.
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When it comes to campaign logistics, media outreach including social media and advertising, Ghani seems to be well ahead of his expected closest rival Abdullah. The Ghani campaign has even blocked a whole section of a central Kabul street, now nicknamed Kucha-ye Entekhabat Election Lane , from where it coordinates its campaign efforts. However, even this impression of heightened activity might be a result of the campaign itself.
AAN has also been shown a smart phone app that was developed by the Ghani campaign to send and collate real-time results from polling centres. However, given the often protracted process of complaints and adjudication, the actual election results could and — given the record of previous elections — are likely to differ significantly from the count on election day. The presence of candidate and political party agents and independent observers is supposed to prevent on-the-spot manipulation and increase the legitimacy of the poll.
Particularly the two top candidates, Ghani and Abdullah, have registered high numbers — each in the tens of thousands. However, previous elections have had similarly high, or even higher, numbers of observers and agents around , in the presidential election, s ee AAN reporting here and they provided no guarantees against mass fraud.
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Observers and agents can be vulnerable to threats and co-option, particularly in insecure areas, and have in some cases been involved in manipulation themselves, together with others. It also remains to be seen whether all staff and observers who were trained and paid actually turn up on election day.
It is also unlikely that observers and agents will be spread evenly over the country, including in the more insecure — and therefore more fraud-prone — areas. During the first post elections, their physical presence encouraged Afghan observers and contributed to their independence. One of the keys to the legitimacy of the forthcoming election will be turnout and its ethno-geographical spread. Activists close to the Ghani campaign say they would consider a turnout of 4 to 4.
And indeed, a combination of insecurity, an insipid campaign, a choice between frontrunners who are incumbents, and the fact that there is no simultaneous provincial council election to attract voters with a local interest may dampen the numbers of Afghans turning out to vote.
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And even at the high end of the expected turnout — 4 to 4. It also needs to be scrutinised how even or uneven the turnout is countrywide and whether any of the relevant ethno-political groups have been disenfranchised.
The general distribution of polling sites in this election is, in general, heavily tilted towards urban areas. Many rural citizens are being effectively denied a vote because of where the insurgency and government is each strongest see AAN analysis here and here. After election day, the next main vulnerability in the process is when the votes are checked and tallied in the data centre in Kabul.
Previous elections have shown that it is vulnerable to attempts at post-factum manipulation and these are difficult to track and detect. After the count come the complaints and complaints adjudication process which is often controversial and equally open to manipulation, as well as discretionary or seemingly random decisions.
In , there were mass disqualifications of votes that were ruled invalid in the complaints process, followed by counter-complaints that led to the re-qualifications of some of the votes, and to great confusion read an AAN snapshot here ; for an overview over the almost four months-long painful aftermath see part 1 of this AAN dossier. One of the main features to watch is the level of transparency in terms of the adjudication criteria, the decision-making process and the final decisions.
It is to be hoped that the new Electoral Complaints Commission EEC will not follow the bad habits of its predecessors, which included both not documenting their decision-making processes and reasoning and not disclosing their decisions to either the complainants, the targets of the complaints or the wider public.
This is particularly relevant, given that in almost all elections so far the actual outcome, in terms of who wins and who loses, is determined in the process of complaints adjudication and the resolution of the conflicts that flow from it. What is more important than whether the IEC will be able to meet this date, is whether it will be transparent about the reasons for possible delays.
In the meantime, a key feature of the much needed transparency will be the timely release of detailed partial preliminary results by the IEC. But as the commitment of coalition partners fades, what Washington decides will shape the future of South Asia. Looking ahead, there are three different scenarios for American engagement in Afghanistan. It remains to be seen exactly which route Washington will take.
But it is clear that U. There are three ways forward. Each entails a different degree of involvement and carries varying risks and rewards.
A Concise History of Afghanistan-Central Asia and India in 25 Volumes
The first option is the riskiest. These books present for History an understanding what has come through from Aryana to Afghanistan, from past to present — a priceless legacy: Aryana-Central Asian Heritage. It comprises certain skills of the historian. In the use of materials that produce Afghanistan everyday standard of living it is the science that searches, and will continue to search, for fundamental social constructs and historical laws which are basic to the skills and business of the moment; the contributions of art, literature, philosophy and religion to the wealth of the mind and spirit; the formal institutions that express and discipline Afghan life; the safeguards that guarantee to the individual his freedom of thought and of expression of worship.
The actors in the long drama of The Afghanistan-Great Central Asian Civilization could not know the full consequences of their thoughts and actions. Each, following lights perceptible to him, did his job within limited horizons. The common man laboured that he might live from one brief day to another; the merchant transported goods that he might find a profit at the end of the journey; the artist and author mirrored what they saw in life about them; the philosopher, the scientist, the priest, each in his own way, sought eternal laws which rose above the haphazard and the ephemeral; the statesman endeavoured to guide vital forces into channels that would benefit him and his people.
The historian records the flow of these myriad currents, noting what is characteristic and enduring about them.