Committee Formed to Investigate Amarkhail Fraud Allegations
 
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News - Election 2014

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A committee consisting of Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Ministry of Interior (MoI) officials has been formed and assigned to investigate the accusations of fraud made by Kabul Police Chief General Zahir Zahir against IEC Secretariat Chief Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail on Saturday.

Following the close of polling centers Saturday evening, news broke that Amarkhail, the second highest ranking member of the IEC, was involved in an incident thought to be related to electoral fraud. A convoy of cars belonging to Amarkhail, being driven by his staff, was stopped by Afghan National Police (ANP) officers while attempting to leave the IEC's headquarters in Kabul with unused ballots. Amarkhail's bodyguards reportedly then went on to threaten the police officers who kept them from leaving with the ballots.

Sareer Ahmad Barmak, a senior member of the IEC, confirmed on Sunday that an investigative committee had been formed. He also said that, based on the rules and procedures of the IEC, the Secretariat is not permitted to take any action without informing the rest of the commission first. He declined to provide any further details about the incident or the IEC's protocols.

"Until yesterday, we thought it might have been a misunderstanding, but since the issue has been taken seriously by the security institutions, we are forced to investigate the issue until it is cleared up," Barmak said.

Amarkhail has denied the allegations against him and his staff and maintained that the ballots were being taken from the IEC's office in order to resupply two polling centers that were running low on materials. There were a number of centers around the country that did in fact face ballot shortages on Saturday.

The Amarkhail controversy has quickly turned into a kind of a turf war between the IEC and the Interior Ministry.

The commission's spokesman, Noor Muhammad Noor, on Sunday suggested the police had no right stopping Amarkhail's convoy. He said only the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has the right to address fraud and electoral violations.

"Based on the law, security institutions cannot interfere in the political process - it is not their job," Noor said. "Election management belongs to the IEC, and if any violation takes place, the ECC is there to investigate it, the security institutions are just there to maintain security."

Yet MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqi has maintained that the police officers who stopped Amarkhail from moving the ballots were acting in accordance with Minister Umer Daudzai's instructions. "The police work so far has been transparent, and based on directions from Minister of Interior, the police are responsible for preventing fraud," Sediqi said.

Meanwhile, Afghan election observers like Muhammad Naeem Ayoubzada, the head of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), on Sunday suggested Amarkhail's alibi was questionable, and demanded a thorough investigation.

"The transfer of critical election materials by Mr. Amarkhail at that time of the day, and his being prevented by General Zahir Zahir, cannot be a misunderstanding, and it needs to be investigated thoroughly, otherwise people will not trust the election process or the IEC anymore," he said.

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