Despite decades of horrific violence and destruction, the people of Afghanistan refuse to give up on their future. For many in Pakistan and elsewhere, the image of a brave Afghan is that of a gun-wielding guerilla fighter. However, the courage and resolve of an average Afghan national is most accurately depicted when he patiently waits in a long queue to cast his vote amidst serious threats of violence presented by the same gun-wielding guerilla fighter.

Polls show that no less than 75% Afghans plan to vote in the Presidential Election to be held on 5th April 2014, despite the Taliban’s warning against any form of participation. To let everyone know that they mean business, the Taliban have increased attacks against the government and security personnel. Recent attacks have been carried out in the heart of Kabul targeting the Interior Ministry and Election Commission Headquarters. The message couldn’t have been clearer; stay away from the election or face consequences. How has the public responded to this vicious campaign? Election rallies continue to take place all over the country. People continue to attend in large numbers. As death lurks around the corner, they wave party flags, chants slogans and cheer for their favourite candidate. Their message is just as clear; they will vote and make themselves heard come hell or high water. The attacks were meant to scare, silence and stop the people. Instead, we see a public who is not afraid. It is louder than it has ever been in recent history and appears well prepared to march on. This, in contrast with the 30% turnout in the previous election, displays the public’s growing reliance on the ballot over bullets to decide the fate of the country. Perhaps this is one of the most valuable lessons the Afghans have learnt from experience.

Previous elections in Afghanistan were tainted with allegations of large-scale fraud. The 2009 Presidential Election was extremely controversial as around 1 million votes were determined to be fake and rejected. But, a lot has changed since then. A vibrant local media network is closely following all developments. Independent observers, improved systems and various surveys – all ensure that massive rigging will not take place this time. And if it does, it will definitely not go unnoticed. The populace still has reservations, but it is inclined towards going ahead with the exercise while hoping for the best. No matter how it all unfolds on the 5th of April, the Afghans have shown that it takes a special kind of people to remain so enthusiastic under such grim circumstances.