Afghan district warns of poll boycott

A district in northwestern Afghanistan, an area largely controlled by regional strongmen, has threatened to boycott elections due this year unless it is upgraded to a province.

    Karzai's government is under pressure to carve up provinces

    Shindand district in western Herat province will present President Hamid Karzai with its demand for "reforming the district to a province", district representative Wakeel Dawlat Sarwari said on Monday.


    The demand was included in a six-article resolution passed by some 500 representatives in the district council, he said.


    The resolution also urges immediate disarmament and administrative reforms in Herat ahead of the elections, due in September, and the recognition of the rights of all ethnic groups, especially Pashtuns.


    "If our suggestions are not accepted - mainly the reformation of the district into a province - then the whole district will not attend the elections," Sarwari said.


    Factional fighting


    Shindand, a mainly Pashtun region of some 500,000 people riven by factional fighting, lies about 120 km south of Herat city. Herat province is controlled by the powerful Tajik leader, Ismail Khan.


    "Our district has all the necessary institutions needed for a province," Sarwari said.


    "Our district has all the necessary institutions needed for a province"

    Wakeel Dawlat Sarwari,
    district representative, Shindand

    "We already have a modern airport and also we are located quite far from the two neighbouring provinces. It will bring a positive change to the lives of people if the district becomes a province."


    Two other districts, Panjshir and Dai Kundi in Afghanistan's mountainous centre, were recently converted into new provinces. Other areas such as eastern Khogyani and northern Pamir are also bracing for provincial status.


    Poll officials have said the historic national election was likely to be delayed by a month because of uneven voter registration, funding problems and an ongoing insurgency.


    Meanwhile, an American official on Monday said US-led troops had seized 90 suspected fighters during the past three weeks in southeastern Afghanistan.


    Earlier in the week, US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager said that occupation forces had killed more than 80 suspected fighters in gun battles and bombings in Deh Chopan, a troubled district in Zabul province some 300km

    southwest of Kabul.



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