ISLAMABAD - For the first time in Afghanistan’s electoral history the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan would not be able to exercise their right of vote in the Afghan elections being held today.
Pakistan has not received any request from the Afghan government in this respect", Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said. As a consequence, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees won't be able to cast their votes in their country's presidential election.
Close to Islamabad fruit market there are hundreds of small mud houses. Suleman is a 40 years old Afghan national living in one of these houses. Without any basic civic facilities living in slum is very tough, but he has no other choice. Suleman works in fruit market as labourer. "I am sad that I cannot participate in elections, but I have no means to go back and cast my vote", Suleman told TheNation.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, there are around 2.6 million registered Afghans in Pakistan, whereas 1.6 million are registered with National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). They are spread all over the country and in refugee camps along the Pakistani-Afghan border. Most of them are doing humble jobs and swinging on poverty line. These Afghans dream of prosperity and political stability in their country, so that they could go back to their homeland.
According to UNHCR database, out of the total 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan some 854,500 Afghans are above the age of 18, which is the eligibility criterion for voting. However, for casting their vote, Afghans also have to be enlisted in the Election Commission of Afghanistan's voters list and should be in possession of the Afghan national identification card called "Tazkira".
Many of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan were born and raised in Pakistan, and many of them have never been to their country of origin. For that reason, many of the newly eligible voters may not have their "Tazrikra" made and thus have not been enlisted with the Election Commission of Afghanistan. UNHCR official told TheNation.
The Afghan election commission has reportedly said it does not have sufficient resources to make proper polling arrangements for the Pakistani Afghans. In 2004 elections Afghan refugees living in Pakistan exercised their right for vote. Government of Pakistan, Afghanistan and international agencies facilitated the voting process.
KPK government believes it is a sham excuse that it was not logistically possible to allow Afghan refugees to vote. "We can make all the arrangements for Afghans residing in our country," Shah Farman, the information minister of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province told the media.
There are eight candidates running for president with former government ministers Abdullah Abdullah, Zalmai Rasool and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai seen as front-runners. According to Afghan constitution present president Hamid Karzai cannot seek for a third term.