News - Election 2014
Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's campaign team on Sunday publicly released alleged recordings of phone calls made by the head of the Independent Election Commission's (IEC) Secretariat, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, regarding plans for ballot stuffing during last Saturday's runoff election.
The five phone conversations publicized by Abdullah's team are reportedly between Amarkhail, his assistant and members of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's campaign as well as provincial level IEC officials. Although the identities of the persons heard in the tapes remain unconfirmed, the content of the conversations is extremely incriminating.
The audio releases were presented by Nasrullah Baryalai at a press conference in Kabul early Sunday afternoon. They mark the first installment of supposed evidence that Abdullah and his team have claimed to have proving the involvement of election officials in widespread fraud.
Abdullah accused Amarkhail of orchestrating ballot rigging within a day after polls closed on June 14. When his demands that Amarkhail be suspended from his position and investigated went unmet, he announced his decision to boycott the election commissions, called for vote counting to halt and asked that the United Nations step in to mediate the remainder of the process.
The first of the recorded conversations released on Sunday is purportedly between Amarkhail and a member of Ghani's campaign team. The two voices, which seem to be male, begin by discussing the "Governor of Ghazni", who the man Abdullah's team claims to be a member of Ghani's campaign, says "is also with us".
The voice that the Abdullah team claims belongs to Amarkhail then instructs the other man to tell the governor to return to Ghazni province from Kabul in order to start working with the Police Chief. The same voice then asks whether the Police Chief is "with us or against us" and later asks the man on the other end, as well as someone named "Popal", to meet with the commander. The voice names "Ashraf Ghani" as someone who Popal spends time with.
The voice attributed to Amarkhail derides the quality of people he says the other man on the phone has sent him. "Send me some useful people and make the best of my presence here," the voice says. "I need two to three people in Badakhshan; I need an Uzbek and some one from Ismalis there."
Then, in perhaps the most explicit reference to fraud on the first recording, the voice alleged to be Amarkhail urges the other man send him people who "know why they are hired." "They are hired to stuff the sheep properly," he states. Abdullah's team have maintained "sheep" is code for ballot boxes.
The other man then warns that he cannot tell all of the people in question everything over the phone, to which the man said to be Amarkhail advises that another phone or a meeting in Kabul would work. He indicates the people they are referring to are in Badakhshan province.
The video containing the audio that Abdullah's team compiled then goes on to bullet point what they regard as the key takeaway's of the recording, naming Ghani in each one, despite the fact that his name was largely left out of the phone conversation.
The next recording is said to be between Amarkhail and a senior IEC staff member in Laghman province named "Mr. Safi". Again, the two voices in the tape sound male.
The conversation begins with the voice attributed to Amarkhail questioning whether or not "changes" had been made, and suggesting that efforts in Laghman are going slowly. The other man on the phone responds by assuring that he had "appointed three individuals as DFC's from the list Mr. Serat had sent." Mr. Serat is identified by the Abdullah team as being Amarkhail's Executive Assistant.
The two men on the phone refer to meeting with a man named "Rayes Saleh", and taking the "goats and the sheep" from him. As well, the voice identified as Mr. Safi is told by the other man on the phone to meet with someone who has come from abroad to help "make a proper plan".
Although it is difficult to distinguish who says it, one of the voices says, "Be brave. Stuff the sheep properly and bravely and then bring them."
When the supposed voice of Mr. Safi asks about what to do with a number of "sites" that have been labeled "high risk" by a local Police Chief in Freshghan, the alleged voice of Amarkhail says to close the sites all together.
Again, the video concludes the audio with bullet point takeaways.
The third conversation included is said to be between Amarkhail and a "Mr. Mashal", reportedly a senior IEC staff member of the "South". The two men heard sound male.
It begins with the voice said to be Amarkhail saying, "Today somebody sent you a message, meet them and also coordinate with Sulatni." He then instructs the other man to "bring Baloch and like-minded people" to deal with an unspecified issue related to six districts.
"I have already arranged that only Dilaram and Charburjak are left. I have invited the person and I am meeting him now," the voice of Mr. Mashal responds.
The man claimed to Amarkhail instructs the other man to, "place them properly and tell them to bring the sheep stuffed and not empty." The video provided by the Abdullah team then, in a slightly cheeky tone, reads: "Mr. Amarkhail likes his sheep stuffed properly."
The fourth conversation is said to take place between Amarkhail and an IEC staff-member in Faryab province. It begins with the voice alleged to be Amarkhail asking "what seems to be the problem?" The other man responds that "other people" make up the majority in his office.
"Why don't you get rid of them then?" the supposed voice of Amarkhail says. "Take a stick and kick them all out. It's an embarrassment. Recruit Uzbeks and Pashtuns. If you don't, they will again resort to fraud."
The other voice said to be the Faryab IEC officials says he is looking for an "excuse to fire them", and then the other man again tells him to recruit Uzbeks and Pashtuns, but this time he says explicitly as "center managers".
Although the recording did not say anything of the kind explicitly, the video composed by Abdullah's team characterizes the previous conversation as saying, "Mr. Amarkhail orders IEC staff to fire Tajiks and Hazaras from Faryab province...Mr. Amarkhail thinks they are disgrace to IEC."
The video then displays a paragraph directed at the viewer. "What you will hear in a moment is a secret audio recording between Adam Khan Serat, Executive Assistant to Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail and Ehsanullah Kamawal, a senior member of Dr. Ghani's campaign team in Nangarhar. This conversation took place about two weeks before the run-off. The subjects use coded language and we have tried our best to decode their messages without prejudice."
The conversation begins by the voice identified as Serat telling the other man to save the number he is using, which is apparently different from the one the other man has for him. The voice attributed to Serat says,"These days the price of goat and sheep has gone up." The video, in brackets, claims "goat and sheep" is a metaphor for ballot boxes.
The two voices discuss texting each other before calling and then the one said to belong to Serat tells the other that the "boss", thought to be Amarkhail, wants to talk to him.
"I didn't understand...it both in Laghman and also in Dar-e-Noor Nuristan province," the supposed Ghani team member says. The other man says no, and says new "individuals" should be introduced.
"The person you just met, he is smart and knows what he is meant to do," the voice attributed to the Ghani guy says. He then goes on to say that of two individuals in Nuristan, one "who came newly has joined us."
The man thought to be Amarkhail's assistant then says he hopes the fact that the person in Nuristan might be "willing to cooperate" because he is from the same village and the "nephew of the man". In brackets, the editors of the video have noted that IEC Chairman Ahmed Yousuf Nuristani is from Nuristan.
The supposed Ghani campaign member asks if "Badr" can come to "us", to which the voice attributed to Serat says that "Badr" is already with them. Serat then allegedly says Badr might be able to convince the person from Nuristan to cooperate because they are from the same village, but warns that he should not pressure the person too much because "he is a nephew of the man".
The voice said to belong to the Ghani team member then asks about what will happen in Laghman province.
"I am confident in the person in Laghman 100 percent," the voice attributed to Serat says. "Just introduce people to him so that they take the sheep to the mountain and bring them back stuffed."
The man identified as a Ghani team member then agrees to meet the person in Laghman once he has contacted him. The recording ends.
The composed video concludes with a message declaring that the tapes show the IEC Secretariat is in cahoots with the Ghani campaign, raising "serious questions about integrity and impartiality of the commission."
Abdullah's team refused to disclose the source of the recordings, but has said they will present further evidence of electoral improprieties on the part of government, security and election officials in the coming days.
"We have many other documents, this was only a small part of it, we will share the remaining files with you in the upcoming days," Baryalai said at the press conference on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Abas Nuyan, a spokesman for Ashraf Ghani's campaign, said the authenticity of the audio recordings still needed to be determined. He also said that if they were given to Abdullah's team by members of the Afghan security institutions, then their impartiality would be called into question.
Officials at the IEC have asked both candidates to submit any and all evidence they have of electoral fraud to the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). The Abdullah team did not make it clear whether or not the recordings were part of the complaint against Amarkhail that they have filed.