Debate surrounding this year’s presidential election has heightened in recent days following the release of further audio recordings by the Abdullah Abdullah camp. The recordings released on Saturday allegedly include conversations that show Paktika Gov. Mohebullah Samim trying to cover electoral fraud.
The audiotape follows a string of recordings Dr. Abdullah has released painting a picture of improprieties during the runoff at the highest levels of leadership in the country. The conversations released on Saturday
include ones supposedly with former Independent Election Commission (IEC) Secretariat Chief Zia-Ul-Haq Amarkhail, who resigned last week amid allegations of fraud launched by Dr. Abdullah and his supporters.
The fraud referenced in the tapes were related to the discovery and seizure of 20 ballot boxes that were stuffed a day prior to the June 14 Election Day.
The conversation, supposedly between the Gov. of Paktika and Amarkhail, is as follows:
“Governor: They have a serious problem.
Amarkhail: Yes, it is a major problem.
Governor: Now the only solution is to blame it on the Afghan National Army (ANA) commander and say that he forced these employees. They are ready to confirm it too.
Amarkhail: Have the boys confessed?
Governor: No, they haven’t said anything yet. They are ready to say that they were forced by the ANA to stuff the ballot boxes and defame the election process.
Amarkhail: Then do it brother, and say that it was done by the ANA to defame the election process.”
The recording is said to have taken place the day before the election, when the Commander of the ANA’s Thunder 203 Battalion in Paktika province arrested five IEC officials in Barmal district on charges of ballot stuffing.
“A night before the elections, 20 ballot boxes were stuffed in Barmal district,” commander Sharifullah Yaftali told TOLOnews on June 13. “Our forces seized the boxes and currently the boxes are at the NDS Office of the province,” he said.
Reportedly, the Gov. and provincial IEC head tried to bribe the ANA commander, but were unsuccessful.
At the end of the recorded conversation between Amarkhail and Paktika’s IEC head, the voice attributed to Amarkhail asks in a harsh tone for the other man to do his job very carefully. This conversation is said to have taken place the same day IEC Chairman Ahmed Yusuf Nuristani discussed his being in touch with the Gov. and provincial IEC head.
“I am in direct contact with the provincial head of the IEC and the Gov. of Paktika,” Nuristani told TOLOnews on June 13. “A number of people have said that ANA has done it to defame the other presidential campaign team,” he added.
The IEC has since defended its earlier stance, despite the release of the recordings. “The IEC acted on time and contacted the senior security officials regarding the interference of security forces and followed up on the issue on Election Day,” IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor saidon Sunday.
Meanwhile the Gov. Mohebullah Samim has also rejected the veracity of the recordings in a public statement and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) has backed him.
“We confirm the statements of our governors and so far we have not received any complaints about them,” said Tawab Ghorzang, an IDLG spokesman.
But analysts have said the interference of government officials in the elections is unacceptable and said that if the accused individuals in the recordings are found guilty the entire election process would be questionable.
“It is a crime. Not only will the people involved be investigated but whatever has happened in the process will be questionable,” former IEC head Fazel Ahmad Manawi said. “If the house owner is the robber himself, then what would be the result?”
The tapes made public by Dr. Abdullah’s campaign are said to reveal fraud in favor of his rival. But the Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai team has emphasized that they would not accept a single fraudulent vote.
“We ask for the separation of all fraudulent vote from our votes. Those proved to be guilty of such widespread fraud must be tried based on the laws of Afghanistan,” Abbas Nawyan, spokesman for the Dr. Ghani-Ahmadzai campaign team, said.
President Hamid Karzai issued a decree ahead of the runoff in which he strictly forbade government officials from interfering in the election process. However, the Dr. Abdullah team has accused him too of supporting fraud in favor of Ghani.
The authenticities of the tapes and the voices in them have yet to be verified. As of now, it is unclear if the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) will review the most recent ones released officially.