TOLOnews.com RSS Feed http://tolonews.com/ Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:22:41 GMT FeedCreator 1.8.0-dev (info@mypapit.net) Preliminary Results Delay Will Impact Final Results: ECC http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14639-preliminary-results-delay-will-impact-final-results-ecc alt

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Wednesday said the decision to delay announcing the preliminary results of the presidential election would impact the work of the ECC and ultimately when final results can be announced.

The preliminary results delay was announced by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Tuesday night. According to officials, there will be a third partial result announcement on Thursday, and then the preliminary results will be announced on Saturday.

"The delay in announcing preliminary results will make us start our work with a one or two day delay, this will impact the initial timetable of the elections," ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni said on Wednesday. "Again, I want to stress that what was important for us is the transparency and fairness of the elections."

The ECC was scheduled to start a twenty days complaints investigation process once the preliminary results are announced, but that has now been pushed back two days.

The ECC was initially expected to dispatch the outcomes of its investigations to the IEC on May 8, for a final announcement of election results to be made by May 14, but now it is likely that will all be delayed a few days.

The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), one of the country's largest election monitoring groups, has called on the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to explain exactly why the delay has occurred.

"People deserve to have access to adequate information, if they get access to information, I am confident that people will not have a problem with the two day delay," FEFA chief Nadir Naderi said.

In response, IEC Commissioner Sarir Ahamd Barmak said that the delay was only intended to better ensure the transparency of the elections and that there was no political motive behind the move. He said vote recounting and fraud investigations were taking longer than expected.

Former IEC chief Fazel Ahmad Manavi confirmed that the recounting process was as time-demanding as it was meticulous, and would only be good for the elections.

"The election commission is trying to separate fake and valid votes, this is part of IEC's responsibilities, but more responsibility should be on the shoulders of the ECC," Manavi added.

In a press release on Wednesday, the United Nations' special envoy for Afghanistan, Yan Kubis, expressed confidence in the efforts of the election commissions and said he hoped that process continues to be as transparent and credible as it has been. He also added that he hopes the needs of observers and candidates are met.

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:10:08 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14639-preliminary-results-delay-will-impact-final-results-ecc
ECC Voids 74 Polling Centers, Prepares for Open Review http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14638-ecc-voids-74-polling-centers-prepares-for-open-review alt

With the provincial complaints investigation process coming to a close, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Wednesday said that votes from 74 polling have been voided.

ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni said the completion of the provincial investigation process marked just the first stage in the commission's efforts to get to the bottom of all the complaints it has received. The ECC has issued 1,311 decisions since Election Day, after which it was said to have received over 3,000 complaints.

"Considering that these inspections and decisions are appealable [by candidates], so far the voided votes from 74 centers were not included in the IEC results," Mohseni told TOLOnews on Wednesday.

The ECC's open investigation process will begin at its headquarters in Kabul a day after the preliminary results of the presidential election are announced by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC). However, the final results of the investigations, which are not expected to be established until May 8, will be confidential and can only be made public by the IEC.

The IEC was forced to push back its announcement of preliminary results to Saturday, two days later than originally planned, because the recounting and vote verification processes were taking so long. ECC officials said on Wednesday that the IEC's delay could cause further delay in the complaints investigations.

ECC officials said that 920 Grade A complaints - directly pertaining to election results - have been investigated.

The ECC has received 38 appeals by candidates regarding decisions to invalidate certain votes. Complaints and appeals are allowed to be submitted to the ECC up until just 24 hours after the preliminary results announcement.

Candidates have emphasized the importance of fair treatment from the election commissions.

"The candidates, the people and civil society expect ECC to perform its jobs fairly and transparently, it should be according to the law, and if this is the case, everyone will accept the results," Abdullah Abdullah's campaign representative Sayed Aqa Fazl Sancharaki said.

Hamidullah Farooqi, a member of Ashraf Ghani's team, said the twenty days of investigation by the ECC should effectively separate clean votes from fraudulent ones.

Partial result announcements made by the IEC so far have put Abdullah in the lead, with Ashraf Ghani not far behind. Although no one has received a majority of votes yet, most experts went into the election expecting a runoff round between the two men.

Ashraf Ghani and his supporters have raised a good deal of concern about the sifting of votes, and whether or not corrupted results were being mistakenly included in the partial figures.

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:58:50 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14638-ecc-voids-74-polling-centers-prepares-for-open-review
TOLOnews 6pm News 23 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14637-tolonews-6pm-news-23-april-2014 alt Top news in this Bulletin:

The Lower House has formally summoned Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) Governor Noorullah Delawari to appear before MPs for questioning after he failed to appear on Wednesday for a more informal meeting to discuss concerns with his bank.

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Representatives in the Lower House said they had intended to ask Delawari about employee appointment practices and his unexplained absences from Financial and Budget Committee meetings.

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:41:14 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14637-tolonews-6pm-news-23-april-2014
Parliament Summons Central Bank Governor http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14636-parliament-summons-central-bank-governor alt

The Lower House has formally summoned Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) Governor Noorullah Delawari to appear before MPs for questioning after he failed to appear on Wednesday for a more informal meeting to discuss concerns with his bank.

Representatives in the Lower House said they had intended to ask Delawari about employee appointment practices and his unexplained absences from Financial and Budget Committee meetings.

Lower House Chair Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi called on his chamber Wednesday to summon Delawari formally after he failed to appear for questioning when asked.

"Today, the Central Bank Governor's absence was against the Constitution...we must act in accordance with the law," Ibrahimi added.

It is still unclear when exactly Delawari will be summoned for, but MPs said the next few day. It is likely a vote of confidence will be taken.

In order to summon Delawari, 57 MPs gave positive votes on Wednesday. Of the 249 members of the Afghan Parliament, to summon a government official, 20 percent must vote in the affirmative.

Delawari is currently outside Afghanistan and was unavailable for comment.

A number of MPs were highly critical of the central bank head on Wednesday.

"DAB's actions are not in the interest of Afghanistan, plus he is old and he cannot work properly," Herat MP Munawar Shah Bahador said.

Ghazni MP Aref Rahmani adds that the Governor is not capable of performing his duties. 

"The central bank Governor does not have the necessary physical or psychological capabilities, and he has many problems in banking...the House must take serious action," Rahmani said.

According to the Afghan Constitution, if a government official does not appear for a summoned meeting at Parliament, MPs can hold a vote of confidence in his/her absence.

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:24:01 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14636-parliament-summons-central-bank-governor
Tajikistan's Volleyball Team Arrives in Kabul http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14635-tajikistans-volleyball-team-arrives-in-kabul  alt

Polytechnic University of Dushanbe Volleyball Team arrived in Kabul to participate in four friendly matches with Afghanistan's National Volleyball Team.

The first match is scheduled to be held at Afghanistan's National Sports and Olympic Committee hall on Thursday, April 24.

According to the Deputy of Afghanistan Volleyball Federation, Mohammad Aref Paiman, these matches will have positive effects on the morale of the volleyball team. Paiman added that the matches will be held in other countries also.

Tajikistan's team has also expressed excitement about the approaching matches.

"I am happy to be in Afghanistan and hold these friendly matches," Tajikistan's team coach Mozafar Sanawbar said. "We have been preparing for two months and look forward to having great matches with the Afghan National Team."

Furthermore, according to the Captain of Dushanbe Polytechnic University Team, Moheb Lotyouf, such matches can improve Kabul-Dushanbe relations.
The Dushanbe Volleyball team was invited to Kabul by the Afghanistan Volleyball Federation.

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:43 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14635-tajikistans-volleyball-team-arrives-in-kabul
Afghan Pankration Athletes to Participate in Asian Competition http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14634-afghan-pankration-athletes-to-participate-in-asian-competition
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Afghan pankration athletes departed on Wednesday for Kazakhstan to participate in the Asian pankration competition that begins on April 25.

Ajab Noor Sayar, head of the Pankration Federation of Afghanistan, said the team is ready to showcase their skills in the competition.

"Our boys are completely ready, however, there are many great Pankration teams that we will be up against," Sayar said. "But we have taken necessary the preparations and hope to return to the country triumphant."

Pankration athlete, Safi Kohistani, who won a gold medal at last year's competition, says he is confident in being victorious at this year's competition.

"I won gold medal in last year's competition and this time I am enthusiastic to win the Asian gold medal," Kohistani said. "My opponent this year is from Azerbaijan. I am determined to defeat him."

The Afghan pankration squad consists of five athletes, coach and supervisor.

Pankration became a part of Afghanistan's Olympic Committee in 2001. Since then the Afghan pankration athletes have won 11 gold, bronze and silver medals from the Asian and international events.

Pankration is a sport that was introduced in ancient Greece that has become a famous sport among men and women around the world.

Pankration, which literary means 'all power', is a combination of wrestling and boxing. It is considered a dangerous sport because everything is allowed except biting and gouging out the opponents eye.

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:44:22 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14634-afghan-pankration-athletes-to-participate-in-asian-competition
International Earth Day: Pollution in the Nation's Capital http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14633-international-earth-day-pollution-in-the-nations-capital

On April 22, International Earth Day, as people around the world show appreciation for their planet, it would seem fitting to take stock of the condition of Afghanistan's natural environment.

Across Afghanistan, but especially in urban centers like Kabul, pollution and degradation of the natural environment are issues of growing importance. Experts have pointed to population inflation, water management and outdated vehicles as major causes.

Mehrullah is a resident of Kabul and told TOLOnews about the environmental issues that are becoming a growing concern for her in everyday life.

"Illness has increased, we usually go to the doctor or pharmacist twice a week or more, because pollution causes asthma and respiratory diseases, we also get sore throats," Mehrullah said.

Mukhtar Ahmad, another resident of Kabul, is also concerned about environmental and public health conditions in the capital.

"Pollution has increased in Kabul, many factories that are supposed to be outside the city are inside," he said. "Look at the public sauna, and roads are unpaved.

Kabul produces 100 cubic meters of garbage daily, which can be seen littering roads or collected in massive urban landfills. Much of it is caused by the lack of public waste disposal facilities in the city as well as residents willingness to discard their trash virtually anywhere.

Another major concern for many residents of the capital is the lack of proper sewage and draining systems. Flooding is common when it rains and open sewage makes it easier for airborne bacteria to travel.

Kazem Hamayoon, an environmental analyst and Director at the Ministry of Environment, said the importing of low quality fuel was a big cause of air pollution in Kabul and other major cities.

"When we talk about pollution, it starts with an individual who must know his responsibility, for which, we must increase awareness," Hamayoon added.

"We will not have clear air unless we include the environment as part of our economic and social policy plans."

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 07:31:01 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14633-international-earth-day-pollution-in-the-nations-capital
FARAKHBAR: 22 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14632-farakhbar-22-april-2014 alt

Former Taliban leader Mutasem Agha Jan who was reportedly brought to Kabul on Saturday after being detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under murky circumstances, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council (AHPC) said. There is no official statement out yet detailing the transfer of Mutasem.

To watch the program, click here:

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Mutasem is part of a last ditch effort by the Hamid Karzai administration to get peace talks on track before Afghanistan's new president is elected.

Mutasem went missing in the UAE early last week, while there to meet with members of the HPC. Although Afghan officials claimed he had been arrested by the UAE, Abu Dhabi did not acknowledge that to be true.

With Mutasem now in Kabul, it is likely he will be milked for all he is worth, being one of the few former Taliban elite who have shown a consistent and concerted interest in peace talks.

Mutasem was injured in an attack in August of 2011 in Karachi, Pakistan. Mutasem received treatment in Turkey where he moved permanently. He also spent time in Dubai.

To read the article, click here.

In this episode of Farakhbar host, Yama Siawash discusses the issue with the following guests:

Amanullah Paiman, MP

Ahmad Sayede, political analyst

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 07:05:11 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14632-farakhbar-22-april-2014
ELECTION DAY 2014: Electoral Complaints http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14631-election-day-2014-electoral-complaints alt

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Muslim Sherzad addresses how the Electoral Complaints Commissions and other election commissions have approached the counting of votes with the following guests:

Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, IEC secretariat chief

Nadir Muhsini, IEC commissioner

Abas Noyan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai campaign member

Abdul Satar Murad, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah campaign member

To watch the program, click here:

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 07:01:57 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14631-election-day-2014-electoral-complaints
TAKANI: Voting Results http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14630-takani-voting-results alt

More than 97 percent of the votes have been recorded at the result collection center.

IEC spokesman says efforts are ongoing to announce preliminary results on Thursday.

Host, Zabiullah Sadat discusses the issue with the following guests:

Ghazi Nawaz Tanai, the head of the Afghan Tribal Solidarity (ATS)

Qamaruddin Shinwari, President of Eastern Social Council

Sher Khosti, former Ghazni governor

To watch the program, click here:

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 06:38:42 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14630-takani-voting-results
Kerry Tells Russia of 'Deep Concern' Over Ukraine: Official http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14629-kerry-tells-russia-of-deep-concern-over-ukraine-official alt

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of his "deep concern" Tuesday over Moscow's failure to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine, a senior State Department official said.

Kerry also warned that a lack of Russian progress on a deal struck in Geneva last week would lead to more sanctions, the official added.

The latest flurry of US diplomacy came as Ukraine relaunched military operations against pro-Kremlin separatists, while Russia already has tens of thousands of its troops massed on Ukraine's eastern border.

Those moves underscored the severity of the crisis that has brought East-West relations to their most perilous point since the end of the Cold War.

In a phone call to Lavrov, Kerry "expressed deep concern over the lack of positive Russian steps to de-escalate, cited mounting evidence that separatists continue to increase the number of buildings under occupation and take journalists and other civilians captive," the senior official said.

"He urged Russia to tone down escalatory rhetoric, engage diplomatically in the east with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) and Ukrainian government, and issue public statements calling for those occupying buildings to disarm and stand down in exchange for amnesty."

The official added that Kerry "also reiterated that the absence of measurable progress on implementing the Geneva agreement will result in increased sanctions on Russia."

The top US diplomat also spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and praised the "important steps" the interim government in Kiev has taken to quell tensions.

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 04:50:38 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14629-kerry-tells-russia-of-deep-concern-over-ukraine-official
UPDATE: IEC Delays Preliminary Results to Saturday http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14628-breaking-news-iec-delays-preliminary-results-to-saturday alt

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) stated in a press release Tuesday night that they have delayed the announcement of preliminary results to Saturday April 26, 2014. Instead a third partial result will be shared on Thursday.

The press release states, that the delay is only for a short period of time allowing the IEC to thoroughly assess the ballots to provide an accurate and credible result that will impact the final outcome.

According to the IEC Secretariat Chief, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, the IEC is committed in protecting the votes and results, as promised to the public, with utmost honesty.

Preliminary results are scheduled to be released on Saturday April 26, 2014.

IEC was scheduled to release preliminary results on Thursday April 24, 2014.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:25:52 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14628-breaking-news-iec-delays-preliminary-results-to-saturday
IEC: A Likely Delay in Preliminary Results http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14627-iec-a-likely-delay-in-preliminary-results

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Monday reported that efforts were underway to announce the preliminary results of the presidential elections as scheduled. However, the IEC stated that recounting in some provinces are taking time hence the possible delay in the announcement.

On Tuesday, IEC Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told reporters that roughly 97 percent of the results sheets have been audited.

"98.37 percent of the result sheets have been audited and entered into our system," Noor said. "85.62 percent of that has been archived; archiving is the last process."

Noor stated that votes from 789 polling centers that need to be recounted, only 557 of it have been completed with work still remaining to be completed.

"We are trying to announce the preliminary results according to the schedule," Noor said. "Again I want to stress that the IEC realizes that the polling sites and/or centers need to be recounted and assessed thoroughly, but it's a bit time consuming. Although, I can confirm that we have received many achievements with the possibility of preliminary results being announced on Thursday."

More than seven million people have casted votes in the elections. The IEC has only announced 50 percent thus far.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 15:59:03 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14627-iec-a-likely-delay-in-preliminary-results
TOLOnews 6pm News 22 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14626-tolonews-6pm-news-22-april-2014 alt Top news in this Bulletin:

Amnesty International released a list of recommendations for Afghanistan's next president on their website Monday evening addressing the basic human rights of the country.

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In the recommendation to the future president, Amnesty International asks that he support human rights by implementing international treaties to bring justice to the nation.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 15:07:13 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14626-tolonews-6pm-news-22-april-2014
Election Observers Question Commission Over Voided Votes http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14625-election-observers-question-commission-over-voided-votes alt

Afghan and international election observers on Tuesday raised concerns about the manner in which votes were being ruled invalid and discarded by election officials, also noting the drop off in monitoring discretion they have been afforded since polls closed on April 5.

At a gathering held in Kabul, representatives of Democracy International (DI) explained their qualms with the methods used by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) for vote counting and complaints investigations.

DI Executive Director Zekirya Barakzai spoke at the event on Tuesday, and emphasized that invalidating the votes solely based on assessments of result sheets was contrary to the national election laws.

"Looking at a result sheet form and issuing a decision is in contradiction to the election law, and some votes have already been invalidated," Barakzai said. "If we study the election law accurately, the election commission is allowed to invalidate votes when the investigations have been completed and not just by looking at a form."

Democracy International initially assigned at least 500 observers to monitor the election process, though many left the country in the lead up to the vote in early April due to a wave of Taliban violence.

According to election officials, all result sheets will be invalidated that do not contain signatures from observers or proper IEC stamping.

IEC Deputy Chair Abdul Rahman Hotaki on Tuesday maintained that all efforts made by the commissions have been legal and transparent. He said that the result sheet invalidations were based on a decision made by the IEC.

"The Chairman of the commission decided to invalidate some of the ballot papers that were without signatures or stamps."

But Afghan civil society groups for the last week have complained about not being allowed to observe key stages in the vote counting and complaint investigation processes.

Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) head Naeem Ayoubzada has said that the ECC invalidates the votes of hundred polling centers hastily and all in the absence of observers.

Despite having been overwhelmingly positive about the way Election Day went earlier in April, Afghan observers have become the hardest critics of the national election commissions and their handling of the not insignificant amount of fraud that appears to have taken place.

According to the IEC, 1,486 sites have been investigated, and votes from 606 suspicious sites have been recounted as well as those where more than 600 ballots were used.

The election commission said that it intends to announce another partial results before the preliminary results are to be released. Preliminary results were originally scheduled to go public by April 24, but with the workload election officials face, that date could be pushed back.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:58:47 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14625-election-observers-question-commission-over-voided-votes
Release of Afghan Deputy Minister a Failed Operation http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14624-release-of-afghan-deputy-minister-a-failed-operation

On Tuesday, Kabul Special Forces launched an operation in Deh Sabz district of Kabul to release the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Waheed, from the kidnappers who abducted him last Tuesday, but the operation was unsuccessful.

An Afghan police officer was injured during the gunfire battle between the police force and kidnappers. Afghan police officer was shot twice in the leg.

Kabul Police Chief Gen. Zahir Zahir, who led the failed operation, told TOLOnews that before the operation launched residents of Deh Sabz cooperated with the investigation by providing leads to Minister Waheed. Though, before the police force could arrest the kidnappers they had already escaped the premises with the minister in midst of the clash.

"The kidnappers were informed that we detained Fawad, a man who was providing food for the suspects," Zahir said. "Unsuitable land, ups and downs and water-filled holes of Deh Sabz district paved the way for them to runaway."

Deh Sabz is a location known for kidnapping; it's located in northeastern Kabul. Gen. Zahir said that 15 kidnapping cases were filed from this district.

Minister Waheed was kidnapped by four unknown gunmen last Tuesday morning while he had just entered his vehicle in Khair Khana area of Kabul city.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:40:28 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14624-release-of-afghan-deputy-minister-a-failed-operation
People Ask Candidates to Accept Election Outcome http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14623-people-ask-candidates-to-accept-election-outcome alt

As the Independent Election Commission (IEC) heads closer to announcing the final results, the public expect their demands be honored after the final announcement is made on May 14.

Few kilometers away from Kabul, residents of Kalakan district express their satisfactions about Election Day stating that a bright future may be in store.

"We voted in the elections and will accept the outcomes of our votes," school teacher, Saleh Mohammad said. "Whoever wins the election, is acceptable for us and should be acceptable to the candidates as well."

Shoemaker Sher Alam who works alongside the road, said that he was tired of the instability of the country and wants to see what the next president has in store.

"30 years of war did not make us wealthy nor cure our pain," he said. "We voted and our votes must be respected. We will respect whatever the results may be."

This comes at a time where a number of presidential candidates have shown disagreements with the announcement of partial results. Of the eight contenders the two leading candidates have said that they will accept the outcome on the basis of the law and fulfilling the dreams of the people.

Based on the IEC schedule, the preliminary results will be announced Thursday with final results to be released on May 14.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:17:02 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14623-people-ask-candidates-to-accept-election-outcome
Shaheen Asmayee Holds Trial Tournament in Kabul http://www.tolonews.com/en/sports/14622-shaheen-asmayee-holds-trial-tournament-in-kabul alt

Shaheen Asmayee, Kabul's team in the Roshan Afghan Premier League (APL) and the winner of last year's championship, has sponsored a tournament between the capital's top local teams this week to determine what players will be on the APL team this season.

The tournament kicked-off on Monday with two matches held in Ghazni stadium. The competition is intended to identify the 26 best footballers from the hundreds who play for Kabul's 14 top local teams. Those 26 will get the chance to play for Shaheen Asmayee in this year's APL, which now going into its third season, is considered to be the top professional football league in Afghanistan.

The first round of matches on Monday saw Sherdarwaza defeat Taq-e-Zafar 2-0 and Bala Hissar tie Sherpoor 1-1. On Tuesday, Taq-e-Zafar will go against Bala Hissar and Sherdarwaza will face Sherpoor.

"This year our best new talent from four teams of the Kabul football league are in the tournament and I hope the football federation's technical staff identify and invite them to Shaheen Asmayee so we can keep the championship in Kabul," former Shaheen Asmayee goalkeeper Hamidullah Yousofzai said.

Shaheen Asmayee proved the best of the APL's eight teams last year when it defeated the league's inaugural season champions Toofan Harirod in the semi-finals and then Simorgh Alborz in finals.

Yousef Kargar, the coach of the Afghan National Football Team, has said the APL itself has proven a useful feeder program for the national squad.

"Just as the Roshan Afghan Premier League had a key role in the National Football Team's achievements abroad, this year, we also hope that talent is identified and selected so we have a strong national team in the future," Kargar said.

The APL's third season will begin in late August at Ghazi stadium after the teams representing the various region of the country are formed. Shaheen Asmayee plays for greater Kabul; Toofan Harirod plays for the west; Da Abasin Sape represents the southeast; Simorgh Alborz plays for the north; De Spinghar Bazan the east; Mawjhai Amu the northeast; Oqaban Hindukosh in the centre (north of Kabul); and De Maiwand Atalan represents the southwest.

Mr. Kargar said a competition to select top players for the 26-man De Spinghar Bazan team would be held next week. Among the squads competing, a team of Afghan refugees in Pakistan will be included and play in a match in Nangarhar province.

Mr. Kargar noted that financial resources had been provided by the Afghan government to outfit the Ghazi stadium with night lights, which will allow APL games to be played at night for the first time.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:44:29 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/sports/14622-shaheen-asmayee-holds-trial-tournament-in-kabul
Amnesty International's Recommendations for Afghanistan's Next President http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14621-amnesty-internationals-recommendations-for-afghanistans-next-president

Amnesty International released a list of recommendations for Afghanistan's next president on their website Monday evening addressing the basic human rights of the country.

In the recommendation to the future president, Amnesty International asks that he support human rights by implementing international treaties to bring justice to the nation.

Amnesty International's recommendations were retrieved from their website and the list is as follows:

1. Fulfill the Human Rights of Women and Girls

This not only means protecting and promoting women's and girls' rights and security, but also supporting women's engagement so that they are not marginalized but are leaders and participants in this transfer of power. Currently, women's human rights defenders face threats, intimidation and attack without adequate government protection. Violence against women and girls continues to be rife across the country and implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women continues to be limited. The new president must make supporting ALL of women's human rights one of his top priorities.

2. Abolish the Death Penalty

Trial proceedings in Afghanistan fall short of international standards of fair trial and by the end of 2013, more than 300 people remained on death row, with 174 death sentences issued in 2013 across Afghanistan.

Judicial decisions are largely based on confessions from the accused, which are often coerced, including through torture or other ill-treatment. The new president must take immediate action to end the death penalty in Afghanistan.

3. Fulfilling Afghanistan's International Human Rights Obligations

Afghanistan's Constitution explicitly commits it to abide by international conventions that Afghanistan has signed and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The new president must ensure that Afghanistan abides by international law and support the work of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) to monitor respect for human rights in Afghanistan as well as to foster and protect it.

4. Ensure Accountability for Alleged War Crimes by Afghan and International Forces

The new President must ensure that all allegations of civilian casualties and harm resulting from national and international military operations are fully investigated and that a credible independent mechanism to monitor, investigate, report and provide remedy is created.

5. Help Internally Displaced People

According to UNHCR, there are around 600,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan, largely as a result of the conflict. Many experience multiple human rights violations including forced evictions, inadequate housing and lack of access to affordable food, water, health and education, sometimes leading to further instability in otherwise relatively stable urban areas.

The new president must ensure that all necessary measures are taken to minimize displacement in areas affected by military operations; and help expand access for humanitarian actors seeking to meet the emergency needs of all IDPs and displacement-affected communities.

6. End Impunity for Past Human Rights Abuses and War Crimes

Inadequate investigations and accountability have hindered justice for past human rights abuses in Afghanistan. The new Afghan president must guarantee prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial judicial investigation of human rights abuses and war crimes, in accordance with international law and standards.

7. Protect and Respect Freedom of Expression

The new president must protect and respect freedom of expression in Afghanistan. Since 2001, more than 450 journalists and other media workers in Afghanistan, including 54 in 2013, have been killed, injured, beaten, threatened or detained.

Afghan journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to report on cases of corruption and criminal activity by government officials and members of the Afghan parliament, as well as reporting on cases of other human rights violations committed by the Taliban.

After the release of the recommendation list, civil and human rights institutions inside Afghanistan call for the government to not only consider, but apply and practice these recommendations.

"Based on the Afghan constitution the government is obligated to protect and respect human and civil rights of the citizens," Executive Director of Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said. "Like many other areas of social, cultural and economical issues there must be effective programs to support and develop human rights."

Afghanistan Civil Society Foundation (ACSF) also welcomes the proposal asking the government to put it into practice.

"Upcoming government must pay close attention and make it a priority to pledge international treaties," Head of Afghanistan Civil Society Foundation (ACSF).

Amnesty International adds that Election Day in Afghanistan was successful calling the next five years a chance for great opportunity to implement these recommendations.

The next president of Afghanistan is due to start his responsibilities in two months.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 12:56:05 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14621-amnesty-internationals-recommendations-for-afghanistans-next-president
Parliament Blames Ministers for Critical Law's Delay http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14620-parliament-blames-ministers-for-critical-laws-delay

Members of the Lower House this week criticized the executive branch for taking so long to send new legislation against money laundering practices to Parliament.

The law, called the "Ban on Money Laundering and Prevention from Financing Terrorism Law", has been hung up with the Council of Ministers, while MPs and economic experts have warned that further delay would only hurt the Afghan economy.

Deputy Chair of the Lower House, Saleh Muhamamd Saljuqi, was the loudest critic of the executive this week, calling the failure to move along the law "careless".

"This law can have major social and economical benefit, but there is no serious focus from the executive branch on ratification," Saljuqi said. "Inshallah, in the upcoming days, this law will be sent to the House of Representatives."

The Office of the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs said that the modified money laundering law has been discussed by the Council of Ministers but has not yet been finalized.

Nematullah Basharwal, spokesman for Office of State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, said that as soon as his office receives the draft from the Council of Ministers it will be forwarded on to Parliament for approval.

This news comes after MP Habeeba Danesh, a member of the Lower House's Economic Committee claimed that the law was already received by the Lower House.

Top Parliament leaders said the law would be prioritized once cleared by the Council of Ministers.

Experts have said the law is critical for continued foreign aid to Afghanistan. If the law goes unapproved for another 10 weeks, Afghan banks are expected to face major obstacles in their dealings with international banks.

Banking analyst Ahmad Sareer Quarishi added that if the law is not ratified by the given deadline, Afghanistan would lose creditability and would have a hard time working with foreign banks.

Money laundering is a major issue in Afghanistan, in no small part because of the country's massive illicit drug production and smuggling industries.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 12:38:13 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14620-parliament-blames-ministers-for-critical-laws-delay
FARAKHABAR: 21 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14619-farakhabar-21-april-2014 alt

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Yama Siawash discusses the small number of applicants who applied for the Kankor entrance exam and why the Higher Education Minister was summoned to the Senate house. The following guests are:

Ghulam Hussain Nasiri, MP

Ali Yousefpour, Kabul Medical university lectuere

To watch the program, click here:

{youtube}nWXoCu-3Ba8{/youtube}

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 08:32:27 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14619-farakhabar-21-april-2014
ELECTION DAY 2014: Quarantined and Invalid Votes http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14618-election-day-2014-quarantined-and-invalid-votes alt

In this episode of Entekhabat 93 host, Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the functions of the ECC regarding quarantined and invalid votes with the following guests:

Walid Akbar Sarwari, ECC Deputy

Shagul Razaie, MP

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, Journalist

To watch the program, click here:

{youtube}xqGof1pMR0o{/youtube}

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 08:24:58 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14618-election-day-2014-quarantined-and-invalid-votes
MoEC: New Economic Policy to Revitalize Economy http://www.tolonews.com/en/business/14616-moec-new-economic-policy-to-revitalize-economy alt

Afghan Ministry of Economy (MoEC) Spokesman, Najibullah Amin, reported on Monday that the extractions of mines, energy generation and establishment of infrastructure projects have been included in the new economic policy and that its implementation requires long term international support.

Amin said if the projects are actually executed it will bring visible economic change to the country within three years.

"The five year economic policy has been prepared in accordance with the economic policy of the country," Amin said. "The implementation of this new policy will advance smoothly creating jobs for thousands of people."

Amin said that the policy focuses on the extraction of mines and establishing hydroelectric dams because it will support Afghanistan's economic development.

The new economic policy also emphasizes on trade and agriculture.

In reaction to the new policy, officials of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said the government has negelected the private sectors in the new policy.

"The past several policies that were made were not implanted properly," Deputy Head of ACCI Atiqullah Nusrat said. "We want the government to investment in such programs so that private sector is able to offer better services."

ACCI claims that in the past the government has failed to implement the economic policy.

Based on the assertions of ACCI officials, the new economic policy will allow government to influence the private sectors leading to an unhealthy business relation.

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 07:56:31 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/business/14616-moec-new-economic-policy-to-revitalize-economy
TAKANI: Presidential Candidates Reactions after Partial Results Announcement http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14617-takani-presidential-candidates-reactions-after-partial-results-announcement alt

In this episode of Takani, host Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the reactions of presidential candidates toward the release of partial results with the following guests:

Noor Mohammad Noor, IEC spokesman

Waqif Hakimi, Spokesman for political faction, Jamiat-e Islami

Abdul Jabar Qahraman, MP

Mohammad Naeem Asghari, FEFA Program Director

To watch the program, click here:

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Tue, 22 Apr 2014 04:39:21 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14617-takani-presidential-candidates-reactions-after-partial-results-announcement
TOLOnews 6pm News 21 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14615-tolonews-6pm-news-21-april-2014 altTop news in this Bulletin:

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Monday said that ballots from 63 polling centers and 13 sites would be invalidated after assessment by provincial staff.

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The decision was made after the ECC's provincial offices completed investigations into 1,311 complaints. The total number of ballots that would be voided was not shared, though if each of the centers consists of three polling sites with 600 ballots, which is the average, then roughly 120,000 ballots were discarded.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:59:23 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14615-tolonews-6pm-news-21-april-2014
Arghawan Festival Held in Parwan Province http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14614-arghawan-festival-held-in-parwan-province- alt

On Monday a number of writers, poets, intellectuals, and men of culture gathered at Gul Ghondi Hill in northern Parwan province to celebrate the Arghawan festival.

Every spring, the cultural dignitaries celebrate with special zeal by writing poems and performing about the ancient festival.

The participants urged that Afghan tradition and historic events be safeguarded allowing nothing to outshine the ancient traditions and festivals.

“In Afghanistan we celebrate many festivals alongside our social values,” writer Shamsul Haq Aryanfar said. “We celebrate the Red Flower Festival, Gul-e-Anar Festival, Gul-e-Seb Festival and Arghan Festival.”

“In the past we celebrated many festivals in our country,” musician Abdul Jalil Sadidd said.  “But in recent years holding festivals are a bit delicate because of negative factors that exist here such as the war;  a cursed phenomena.”

Alongside the intellectuals and cultural dignitaries, the youth gathered to enjoy the festival and learn about the past.

“Our youths and residents in the area want the cultural dignitaries to contribute in the growth of our culture,” another resident Ali Agha said.

The festival provides a platform to the people in commemorating the good days of the past.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:20:08 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14614-arghawan-festival-held-in-parwan-province-
ECC Discards Votes From 63 Polling Centers, 13 Sites http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14613-ecc-discards-votes-from-63-polling-centers-13-sites alt

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Monday said that ballots from 63 polling centers and 13 sites would be invalidated after assessment by provincial staff.

The decision was made after the ECC's provincial offices completed investigations into 1,311 complaints. The total number of ballots that would be voided was not shared, though if each of the centers consists of three polling sites with 600 ballots, which is the average, then roughly 120,000 ballots were discarded.

Meanwhile, a former head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) criticized its counterpart for going about the investigations in a cursory manner, reminding candidates and others that they may appeal the decision to discount the ballots to the ECC.

ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni noted that the decision to discard the ballots could be wrong, and subject to change. “The decision made by the province offices could change, be amended or announced incorrectly.”
 
The centers and sites invalidated are in Herat, Balkh, Badakhshan, Takhar, Panjsher, Khost, Paktika and Bamiyan provinces. 16 polling centers and 13 sites in Herat; three centers in Balkh; three centers in Badakhshan;  one site in Takhar; one centers in Panjshir; four centers in Khost; three centers in Paktika; and one center in Bamiyan.

There are 48 other centers quarantined; 32 in Paktia and 16 in Kunduz.

ECC provincial employees in Balkh explained the basis of their decision regarding the three centers.

“We literally saw people entering voting sites and filling boxes after the time for voting had ended,” Balkh ECC member Walid Ahmad Formuli said.
 
Some ECC staff have pointed blame at the IEC, arguing that ballot shortages on Election Day contributed to the fraud activities. However, the IEC has defended itself.
 
“We compensated for the hours when there were no ballot papers and the process was extended after 5pm too, but were the issues and the ECC has the authority to address them,” IEC Balkh regional office head Azatullah Arman said.

In a number of provinces ballot boxes from centers and sites have been isolated for further inspection. Recounts have also begun. The ECC's announcement on Monday is not expected to be the last regarding the discarding of fraudulent ballots.
 
Election observers have picked-up their criticisms of the election commissions in recent days as they have been denied the ability to monitor much of the vote counting and complaint investigation processes. No documentation of complaints has been provided for observers either.

“Procedures dictate when there is a complaint or evidence, it must be given to the observers, but unfortunately this is not happening,” election observer Zabiullah Fitrat said on Monday.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:07:36 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14613-ecc-discards-votes-from-63-polling-centers-13-sites
ELECTION DAY 2014: Second Round of Partial Results http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14611-election-day-2014-second-round-of-partial-results  alt

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the Independent Elections Commissions (IEC) announcement of the second partial results with the following guests:

•    Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil,  IEC Secretariat

To watch the whole program, click here:

{youtube}qyWajhjQ3CU{/youtube}

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:49:50 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14611-election-day-2014-second-round-of-partial-results
Ministry Tries But Fails to Save Afghans From Execution in Iran http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14612-ministry-tries-but-fails-to-save-afghans-from-execution-in-iran alt

The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Monday raised concerns about the execution of Afghan prisoners in Iran after attempts to save four Afghans convicted of drug smuggling from the death penalty proved fruitless this past weekend.

The four Afghans were executed on Saturday in Iran, and the Afghan Foreign Ministry has said consular services were never permitted for them.
 
Ministry spokesman Shakeeb Mustaghni said the Afghan government had implored Tehran to lower the four men's sentences from the death penalty to life in prison.
 
“Regarding the execution of Afghans, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the government have shared their concerns with Iran and several times we have asked Iran to decrease the sentences of those Afghan who are sentenced to death to lifetime prison and to share decisions regarding Afghans with Afghans,” Mustaghni said.
 
The fact Afghan prisoners in Iran have not been able to be seen my embassy or consulate personnel seems to be the biggest point of contention.
 
“We are trying and our embassy in Tehran has tried in the past to find access to Afghan detainees in Iran and provide them consular service,” Mustaghni said.
 
Parliament has also raised concerns with the treatment of Afghan prisoners in Iran.
 
In the past, the bodies of executed Afghans have been handed over to Afghan authorities for burial in Afghanistan, however, in the case of the four executed this past weekend, no arrangements for transportation of their bodies have been made.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:48:39 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14612-ministry-tries-but-fails-to-save-afghans-from-execution-in-iran
Ghani Wants IEC to Stop Partial Results Announcements http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14610-ghani-wants-iec-to-stop-with-partial-results- alt

On Monday presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai held a press conference and claimed the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) is confusing the public with announcements of partial results because invalid votes are included.

Ghani told his supporters that the results will change after valid votes have been separated from the fraudulent ones. He also denied reports of a possible coalition with leading presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah.

In reaction to the 50 percent partial results released on Sunday, Ghani questioned the results announced by the IEC, asking: when the exact number of votes have not been confirmed, how is it possible for the IEC to release the outcome of 50 percent of votes?

"We demand the election commission avoid announcing partial results without differentiating the votes,” Ghani said.  “Because this only confuses the public’s perceptions and what we need to do now is move forward with trust because our duty is to stabilize the country. At this stage no one can say that the votes are clean because the results were partly clean and partly dirty.”

In response to Ghani’s statement, IEC Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said that they have not hidden any information from the public.

“The constitution states that information cannot be withheld from the people,” he said. “We have shared all information with the people round the clock.”

He continued to criticize the IEC stating the term “clean vote” used by the commission is used loosely and that they did not consult with him prior to the release.

Into his speech Ghani called on the other presidential candidates and encouraged them to frinharmony in fighting against fraud together like good colleagues, not rivals.

The IEC announced partial results on Sunday with presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in the lead.

IEC Chief Mohammad Yousuf Nuristani announced that Abdullah is in the lead with 44.4 percent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai trails with 33.2 percent, and Zalmai Rassoul is in third with 10.4 percent.

"Today's announcement is not final," Nuristani emphasized. "There will be changes in the results as counting continues."

The partial result consisted of 49.67 percent of votes from 34 provinces, adding up to roughly 3.5 million votes nationwide.

Of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan, Abdullah is ahead in 17 provinces, Ghani in second claiming 15 and Rassoul with votes in two provinces.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:37:45 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14610-ghani-wants-iec-to-stop-with-partial-results-
IEC: 93 Percent of Result Sheets Audited http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14609-iec-93-percent-of-result-sheets-audited- alt

Independent Election Commission (IEC) spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor on Monday reported that 93 percent of result sheets have been processed and audited at the data center and almost 85 percent of it has been archived by the commission.

IEC stated that the remaining votes, which form more than 40 percent of the outcome, will be announced soon.

The IEC claimed that only 10 percent of the results sheets have technical problems and are being evaluated by the commission seperately. The process is expected to be completed within the next two days.

“5.88 percent of result sheets are being scanned,” Noor said. “And 85.56 percent of the results have been archived and in the final stages.”

He said on the basis of reports received from IEC provincial headquarters, 13 provinces had issues with their ballots at some polling centers. These provinces include: Nangarhar, Faryab, Kapisa, Nimroz, Urozgan, Badakhshan, Panjsher, Herat, Ghor, Khost, Daikondi, Helmand and Maidan Wardak.

He added that the IEC is prepared for a possible runoff if no candidate gets an outright majority.

“It is too soon to be talking about a runoff because we’ve only announced 50 percent of votes,” Noor said. “50 percent of votes are still remaining to be counted for; we can comment about a possible runoff after a few days."

"We must also keep in mind, according to the constitution, only two leading candidates are allowed to partake in the second round of elections," he added.

The process of registering the result sheets has gone successfully, according to the IEC, and plans to announce preliminary results on April 24 are moving forward.

Over the past week, Afghan election observers and civil society groups have criticized the election commissions for not allowing them to observe all aspects of the vote counting and complaint investigations processes. 

Observerse have said they are not allowed to view complaint documentation or the assessment of questionable ballots. 

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:37:22 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14609-iec-93-percent-of-result-sheets-audited-
29 Taliban Insurgents Killed in Afghan Raids http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14608-29-taliban-insurgents-killed-in-afghan-raids alt

The Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) announced on Monday that 29 insurgents were killed, 11 were injured and 3 other were arrested during a series of operations coordinated by Afghan forces in the past 24 hours.

In a statement released by the MoIA, "the Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan National Army (ANA) and the National Directorate of Security (NDS), conducted several anti-terrorism joint operations in Smangan, Faryab, Zabul, Logar and Helmand provinces."

The statement said the operations were launched in the provinces to clear the insurgents.

The MoIA did not provide details about Afghan forces' casualties during the raids. And self-identified Taliban spokespeople have not yet commented on the operations.

The statement read: "During these operations, ANP discovered and confiscated light and heavy rounds of ammunition and IEDs in Kunar, Baghlan, Faryab, Kandahar, Wardak, Khost and Paktika."

There are over 350,000 Afghan soldiers serving in the ANA at the moment, with thousands more in the academy. The Afghan forces will take over full security responsibility from the foreign troops by the end of 2014.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:24:05 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14608-29-taliban-insurgents-killed-in-afghan-raids
FARAKHABAR: 20 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14607-farakhabar-20-april-2014 alt

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced partial results on Sunday with presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in the lead.

To watch the program, click here:

{youtube}j-aCBhDjINU{/youtube}

IEC Chief Mohammad Yousuf Nuristani announced that Abdullah is in the lead with 44.4 percent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai trails with 33.2 percent and Zalmai Rassoul with 10.4 percent.

In this episode of Farakhbar host, Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the second partial results with Ahmad Zia Rafat, former member of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and Parwiz Kawa, a journalist.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 08:25:22 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14607-farakhabar-20-april-2014
US Vice President Heads to Ukraine After Fragile Truce Shattered http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14606-us-vice-president-heads-to-ukraine-after-fragile-truce-shattered alt

US Vice President Joe Biden will begin a two-day visit to Ukraine on Monday, hours after a fragile Easter truce was shattered and pro-Kremlin rebels in the country's east appealed for help from Russian "peacekeepers".

Biden's arrival in Kiev comes after a deadly gunfight killed at least two pro-Russian militants, an incident which sparked "outrage" in Moscow.

But the Western-backed authorities in Kiev claimed the violence was a set-up by Russia to create a pretext for it to send in troops.

The attack, near the flashpoint town of Slavyansk, undermined an accord worked out in Geneva between Russia, Ukraine and Western powers on Thursday under which "illegal armed groups" were to surrender their weapons.

The deal, aimed at easing what has become the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War, now appears to have stalled.

Russia has an estimated 40,000 troops massed on Ukraine's border in what NATO says is a state of readiness to invade, while the United States, according to The Washington Post, is preparing to send ground troops to neighbouring Poland.

Vladimir, a masked 20-year-old pro-Russian rebel, said Sunday's shootout erupted when four cars pulled up to a roadblock manned by the separatists in the early hours.

"We wanted to conduct a check, and then they opened fire on us with automatic weapons," Vladimir said.

Three of the separatists were killed, he added.

An AFP photographer saw two bodies laid out in a truck near the scene.

The identity of the assailants, who escaped before the pro-Russian rebels could bring in reinforcements, was not known.

The leader of the separatists in Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said he believed two attackers were also killed.

He declared a midnight-to-6:00 am curfew in Slavyansk, and appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to send in troops as "peacekeepers to defend the population against the fascists" -- the separatists' label for Ukraine's new government and its supporters.

Later, Ponomaryov said: "If you can't send peacekeeping forces, send us weapons."

- Moscow blames ultra-nationalists -

Putin has said he "very much hopes" he will not have to send his forces into Ukraine, but asserts he has a "right" to do so.

On Sunday, Russia's foreign ministry declared its "outrage" at the deadly attack.

It blamed the deaths of the "innocent civilians" on ultra-nationalists who were at the vanguard of the street protests that forced the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in February.

The ministry said locals had found the attackers' cars containing weapons, satellite maps and business cards belonging to the ultra-nationalist group Pravy Sektor ("Right Sector"). It demanded the Ukrainian government abide by the Geneva accord.

But a Right Sector spokesman told AFP that Russia's claims were "lies" and "propaganda" designed to portray the east as ungovernable by Kiev.

Ukraine's government, confirming three people were killed, described the latest violence as a "cynical provocation" by Russian-armed separatists.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who travelled to the east on Sunday to inspect troops in the region, said investigations into the shootout were ongoing.

- Geneva accord stalled -

The gunfight ended days of relative calm underpinned by a promise by the Western-backed authorities in Kiev to suspend military operations to oust the rebels over Easter.

The last deadly clash was on Thursday, when three pro-Russian militants were killed by Ukrainian soldiers when they tried to attack a military base in the southeast port city of Mariupol.

But with the pro-Kremlin rebels refusing to comply with the Geneva accord, Washington has been ratcheting up pressure on Moscow, which it sees as pulling the strings in the Ukrainian insurgency.

US President Barack Obama has threatened to impose more sanctions on Moscow if no progress is made on the ground.

A Kremlin spokesman shrugged off as "absurd" claims that Washington could sanction Putin directly, after an article in Britain's Times newspaper cited anonymous sources saying the United States could target Swiss bank accounts belonging to the leader that allegedly hold some $40 billion (29 billion euros).

Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, told Fox News that sanctions represented a return to the "Cold War mentality" but said Moscow could "withstand pressures".

- Prayers for peace -

Pope Francis pleaded for peace in Ukraine in his Easter Sunday prayer. "We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine," he prayed.

But efforts to that end were undermined overnight when the Orthodox Christian leaders in Kiev and Moscow traded barbs.

Kiev's Patriarch Filaret thundered that Russia was an "enemy" whose "attack" on Ukraine was doomed to failure because it was evil and against God's will.

In Moscow, the patriarch of the Russian Church, Kirill, led a prayer calling on God to put "an end to the designs of those who want to destroy Holy Russia" and pleading for Ukraine to soon have "legitimately elected" leaders.

In comments broadcast on US television on Sunday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk lashed out at Putin for having a "dream to restore the Soviet Union".

"The world has a reason to be concerned about Putin's intention because what (the) Russia Federation did, they undermined the global stability," Yatsenyuk told NBC's "Meet the Press".

Washington has warned Moscow that Ukraine is in a "pivotal period" and said progress is needed on the Geneva accord "within days".

 

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 05:51:50 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14606-us-vice-president-heads-to-ukraine-after-fragile-truce-shattered
TOLOnews 6 pm News 20 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14605-tolonews-6-pm-news-20-april-2014 altTop news in this Bulletin:

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced partial results today with presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in the lead.

{youtube}UO2NzDrpwro{/youtube}

IEC Chief Mohammad Yousuf Nuristani announced that Abdullah Abdullah is in the lead with 44.4 percent with Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai trailing with 33.2 percent and Zalmai Rassoul falling behind with 10.4 percent.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:59:45 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14605-tolonews-6-pm-news-20-april-2014
Gunmen Shoot Girl Who Fled Family in Baghlan http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14604-gunmen-shoot-girl-who-fled-family-in-baghlan alt

Local officials in northern Baghlan province on Sunday said unknown gunmen shot dead an Afghan girl on Saturday while she was returning home after seeking asylum with provincial authorities the day before.

The incident took place in Pul-e-Khumri district, along the Tala and Barfak district highway, and the gunmen were able to flee the scene before police arrived. The girl was named Amina.

Amina fled from her home on Friday to get asylum at the provincial Ministry of Women's Affairs, according to the Ministry's representative, Khadija Yaqeen.

She was picked up by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), investigated and then brought to the provincial Women's Affairs office.

"I decided to run away because I was not happy with my fiancé" Amena told officials on Friday. "I am going back to my father's house and there is no threat to me; I am going with my brother because I trust that my brother will not tease me."

The girl spent a night at the Ministry and on Saturday she decided to go back to her family home. Amina and her fiancé were living at her father's house.

"She kept insisting that she wanted to be sent home, so we contacted her family and her family came to the Directorate and she was presented to go home, but then she was killed on the way home," Yaqeen said.

Ahmad Jawid Basharat, the Baghlan Police Chief, said the unknown gunmen shot Amina while she was with some of her family members. He seemed to place partial blame on the local office of Women's Affairs, which he said failed to coordinate Amina's departure with police.

"Amena escaped from home on Friday and came to Pul Khumri city and was arrested by the NDS and after an investigation, she was sent to the Directorate of Women Affairs of Baghlan," Basharat said. "The Directorate of Women Affairs, without keeping police in the loop, handed her over to her family..."

Basharat said officers have been sent to the Tala and Barfak to head up an investigation.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:38:56 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14604-gunmen-shoot-girl-who-fled-family-in-baghlan
ECC Voids 150 Ballot Boxes in Herat http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14603-ecc-voids-150-ballot-boxes-in-herat alt

The Electoral Complaints Commission announced on Sunday in a press conference that 150 ballot boxes, including some 100,000 votes, would be discounted in Herat due to obvious signs of tampering.

The announcement comes after the recounting and inspection process began in Herat on Wednesday, as it did in provinces around the country.

"Our preliminary results show that close to 150 boxes will be voided in this province," ECC Herat chief Abdullah Sherzai said.

The ECC has received just under 900 complaints that directly relate to election results. And the IEC has said it is committed to separating all fraudulent votes from the counting process in order to ensure an uncorrupted outcome.

One member of the Herat ECC disagreed with the decision to void the boxes, calling on the central office in Kabul to intervene.

"I do not agree with the voiding of these boxes, I hope that the central office will address this problem," Herat ECC member Abdul Razaq Nejrabi said.

Representatives of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah also spoke out against the discounting, questioning whether or not it was legal for the IEC to do.

"We do not expect this, and this is against the conduct of the IEC, we ask the officials to address this issue," said Muhammad Naser Khazeh, a member of Abdullah's campaign in Herat.

Reportedly, the boxes in question are from the districts of Shindand, Adraskan, Farsi, Angelel, Gazra, Rubat Sangi and Gulran.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:37:14 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14603-ecc-voids-150-ballot-boxes-in-herat
Observers Call for Neutrality From IEC http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14602-observers-call-for-neutrality-from-iec alt

With nearly half of all votes counted, observers and election analysts on Sunday said the Independent Election Commission (IEC) must maintain the utmost neutrality throughout the process or Afghanistan could face crisis.

After the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) revealed last week that over 1,000 of roughly 3,000 total complaints it received implicated IEC employees in acts of fraud, questions have been raised about the commission's neutrality, and ability to conduct the vote counting process fair and transparently.

"There is no doubt that if they want, they can make changes," former IEC chief Azizullah Lodin said. "During the process, they can change 50 to 500 and vice versa, it is possible."

However, Lodin said the demand for a credible process this year is uniquely high, with so much pressure weighing down on the election process.

The NATO coalition is prepared to pullout of Afghanistan by December, leaving the security future of the long embattled country uncertain. Moreover, as the country's first democratic transition of power in modern history, the transition form two-term President Hamid Karzai to a new leader is in its essence a trip to uncharted waters.

Based on partial results counted so far, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah leads the race, 11 percentage points ahead of Ahsraf Ghani. For the election to not enter a runoff round, someone must gain an outright majority of votes, which most experts have said is improbable this year.

But not far from any discussion of results is one of fraud, and possible interference in the process.

"If the inspection and announcement of results is done in the presence of candidates and observers, then transparency will be maintained," said Zekria Barekzai, a Political Section Official at Democracy International.

Last week, observers criticized the IEC and ECC for not allowing them to monitor the entire counting and complaints investigation processes.

The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), one of Afghanistan's largest observing organizations, has warned that the credibility of the elections almost entirely rests on the shoulders of the IEC.

"There is disagreements among the leadership of IEC and I hope that these disagreements will not be to the extent where they can have a negative impact on the election process and the work of IEC," TEFA head Muhammad Naeem Ayoubzada said. "These disagreements could have a negative impact on the process and will undermine the IEC's transparency."

However, the IEC has continuously assured the public and election observers that full neutrality is being maintained and any internal discord among leaders of the commission is not impacting the process.

"Members of the IEC make decisions based on the majority, and this right is given to them by law," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said. "Please do not forget that views among members of the commission are different, but at the end of the day, their decision will be based on Afghanistan's laws."

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:35:07 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14602-observers-call-for-neutrality-from-iec
ECC Member Questions Discounting Centers http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14601-ecc-member-questions-discounting-centers alt

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) member Azizullah Aryafar has called attention to a move by election officials to void 150 voting centers in Herat, which he called illegal.

In the weeks since Election Day, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and ECC have had their hands full with the twin tasks of counting votes and investigating fraud. So far, thousands of votes have been pulled for inspection, and the ECC has said around 870 complaints it has received pertain directly to election results.

Mr. Aryafar's claims were based largely on the fact that the review of provincial results ended nearly a week ago, making the new set of invalidations in Herat far too late in the process.

"This move is illegal because the legal deadline in provinces ended on April 14," Aryafar said. "Based on Article 2, 63rd Provision, elections commissions were to announce their inspection results 10 days after the election, which has not been done."

According to Aryafar and others, the processes of the IEC and ECC have seen a number of delays since the elections, which likely portend a rescheduling for results announcements. Preliminary results are expected to be announced by April 24, and final results by May 14.

"As far as we know, in many instances they have only inspected 10 percent or 15 percent and even less in some other provinces," Aryafar said regarding voting centers.

The aggrieved ECC member also said that the decision to discount the ballot boxes in Herat was based on reports from separate observing institutions and were not well-documented.

"Based on 58th Article of the elections law, ballot boxes can only be set aside for election if there are signs of fraud," Aryafar said. "Currently, the boxes that have been set aside are only on the basis of reports from observing institutions such as TEFA and FEFA, which is against the law."

Aryafar expressed the concern that if the vote counting and fraud investigation process continued as it is, discord could increase among the candidates and the public.

TOLOnews attempted to reach the ECC and its spokesman's office for comment, but were unable to do so.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:26:57 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14601-ecc-member-questions-discounting-centers
UPDATE: Mutasem to be Transferred http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14600-update-mutasem-to-be-transferred alt

Former Taliban leader Mutasem Agha Jan who was reportedly brought to Kabul on Saturday after being detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under murky circumstances last week will be transferred to Turkmenistan, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council (AHPC) said. There is no official statement out yet detailing the transfer of Mutasem.

Mutasem is part of a last ditch effort by the Hamid Karzai administration to get peace talks on track before Afghanistan's new president is elected.

Mutasem's disappearance was just one of a number of challenges that beset efforts at reconciliation with the Taliban. According to some reports, Mutasem has been excommunicated by the Taliban, who have shown little interest in negotiating with Karzai and the High Peace Council (HPC). A number of analysts have now suggested that Pakistani intelligence has actively tried to derail negotiations, by attacking and arresting Taliban leaders interested in talks.

"Most of the people who wanted to take part in the peace talks were killed by the intelligence agency of Pakistan," military analyst Atiqullah Amarkhail said on Sunday.

Kabul has long implored Islamabad to help in efforts to negotiate with Taliban leaders, many of which are thought to reside in Pakistan, but little if any tangible aid has ever been given. Most in Afghanistan still see Pakistan as the Taliban's key patron.

Mutasem went missing in the UAE early last week, while there to meet with members of the HPC. Although Afghan officials claimed he had been arrested by the UAE, Abu Dhabi did not acknowledge that to be true.

With Mutasem now in Kabul, it is likely he will be milked for all he is worth, being one of the few former Taliban elite who have shown a consistent and concerted interest in peace talks.

A government official who asked to speak on condition of anonymity confirmed Mutasem was moved from Dubai to Kabul on Saturday and transported to a secure location in unmarked vehicles.

"A lack of cooperation among countries who made promises, and pressure from Pakistan, caused Mutasem to come to Kabul, which is in fact better for the High Peace Council and government because Afghan cities are a safer place for peace talks," military analyst Jawed Kohistani said. "Any Taliban who are interested, they can join the discussion."

Mutasem was injured in an attack in August of 2011 in Karachi, Pakistan. Mutasem received treatment in Turkey where he moved permanently. He also spent time in Dubai.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:36:56 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14600-update-mutasem-to-be-transferred
UPDATE: Abdullah Leads Second Round of Partial Results http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14599-update-abdullah-leads-second-round-of-partial-results alt

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced partial results on Sunday with presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in the lead.

IEC Chief Mohammad Yousuf Nuristani announced that Abdullah is in the lead with 44.4 percent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai trails with 33.2 percent and Zalmai Rassoul with 10.4 percent.

"Today's announcement is not final," Nuristani emphasized. "There will be changes in the results as counting continues."

The partial result consisted of 49.67 percent of votes from 34 provinces, adding up to roughly 3.5 million votes nationwide.

Of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan, Abdullah is ahead in 17 provinces, Ghani in second claiming 15 and Rassoul with a majority in two.

Five provinces in the country are considered Grade A—a province with large population and land—that will affect results. These Grade A provinces include Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar and Kandahar. From these top five, Abdullah dominates Kabul, Herat and Balkh, while Ghani is winning Nangarhar and Rassoul Kandahar.

Nuristani added that the results were based entirely on votes whose authenticity had been verified. Of the 3.5 million, Abdullah received 1.5 million, Ghani got 1.1 million and Rassoul 350,000.

Ghani is in the lead in the eastern part of the country where the Uzbek population dominates. Rassoul is in the lead in the southern region, specifically in Kandahar and Zabul.

Of the 49.67 percent announced, 10 percent of this was from the initial partial result announced on April 13.

After the release on Sunday, leading presidential candidate Abdullah told TOLOnews that there have not been any talks about creating a coalition among the eight candidates who remain in contention for the presidency.

"I have not met with Ashraf Ghani in respect to forming a coalition," Abdullah said.

Later on Sunday, current runner-up Ghani said in an interview that he was confident the results would soon change.

"The results will change once all complaints have been addressed by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC)," Ghani said. The ECC has received some 870 complaints that directly pertain to results, and is not expected to complete its investigation and adjudication process until mid May.

Ghani also pointed out that the IEC has still not released the total number of votes nationwide.

Partial results for the remaining presidential candidates are as follows: Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf 7.6 percent, Qutbuddin Helal 2.7 percent, Gul Agha Sherzai 1.6 percent, Daoud Sultanzoy 0.5 percent and Hedayat Amin Arsala with 0.2 percent.

Nuristani said preliminary results will be announced according to schedule.

"We will do our best to announce preliminary results on April 24," he said. "Our employees are working double shifts to ensure that preliminary results are announced as scheduled."

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:18:49 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14599-update-abdullah-leads-second-round-of-partial-results
Lessons Obtained from Afghan Presidential Polls 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/opinion/14598-lessons-obtained-from-afghan-presidential-polls-2014 alt

Preface
History- When, Nadir Khan, the father of Zahir Shah the last king of Afghanistan and Father of the Nation, decided to draft a constitution for his absolute monarchy, the sycophants in his court opposed the idea. They advised him that while his majesty king was alive Afghanistan did not need constitution. They said that the will of the king is law for each and every subject. But Nadir Khan did not act upon the advice of his courtiers. He said that Afghanistan needed a constitution since all the countries around it had one. The idea was not to define the relationship of the citizens with the state and outline their rights and obligations. Instead the exercise was intended to maintain the reputation of the monarchy.

All his successors showed the same attitude. They tried every type of system, from constitutional monarchy, to presidential republic, one party soviet style state and the Islamic Emirate led by Molla Omar the so called Amir-ul-Mominin (The lord of the faithful).
What was common to all those regimes was the denial of the basic rights of the citizens. Afghans experienced tyranny, brutality and all types of discrimination. But law protected the tyrants and their tribal and ideological interests. The rulers instead of taking responsibility to serve the people claimed power as a God given right.

The hope in the post-Taliban era was that the Afghan ruling elite would benefit from the presence of the world community and lead Afghanistan on the path of progress and prosperity with a real working democracy. After more than a decade, with the international mission in its final stages, Afghans wonder what happened to the dream of a better life and civilized values.

Elections 2014

Officially, there have been many elections in Afghan political history. But the elections to the country's thirteen pre-war parliaments were limited exercises and grossly manipulated. Afghans expected that the presence of the international community after 2001 would ensure that elections adhered to democratic norms. But after three presidential elections and two parliament elections the fate of representative democracy still hangs in the balance.
The official script for the Afghan presidential poll held on April 05, 2014 is that it heralds a harmonious transfer of power based on the popular will, a great act of Afghan democracy. The international community has helped to put in place lots of technical fixes to prevent the repetition of the manipulation seen in 2004 (when the international community signed off on the pro-incumbent weighting of the process) and that in 2009 (when the Afghan elite's home grown fixers organized the ballot-stuffing). The massive turn out of real Afghans shows they trusted the promises of a better election. Barcoded ballots are to stop Afghan riggers. Anxious Afghans are watching the fate of the election to see if the elite can stomach a popular mandate.

Some lessons learnt in the Afghan democratic experiment

1. Power addiction- Once in power, Afghan rulers are very reluctant to step down. The incumbent president is tempted to follow the path of his predecessors, who once in power tried to remain for the rest of their lives. Afghans reading the body language of President Karzai in the run up to the elections concluded that he was in no to step. In spite of continuous assurances by the president, the doubt still exists that he might not be sincere in really transferring power. Instead of strengthening institutions, president Karzai tried to rule as a tribal leader. He did not form a political party to promote ideas and policies. Indeed he never allowed political parties to flourish. Of course, he sought the help of political parties on certain occasions. But he never seriously involved in the power game. His main guiding principle for a decade of government has been "divide and rule". He happily manipulated the political parties and encouraged their fragmentation over time. His addiction to power has seriously damaged the political institutions.
Lesson learnt- In spite of the whole hearted support of the international community for a democratic Afghanistan, the Afghan ruling elite failed to embrace the true spirit of democracy. On the contrary, they prefer the tribal way of rule rather than representative democracy. They have yet to prove that they respect the will of the people to choose their leader, in case this will contradicts elite notions of the divine right of one community to rule over Afghanistan.

2. Structural Flaws- After the fall of Taliban and the November 21, 2001 "Bonn Conference", the international community led by the US installed a team to rule Afghanistan and trusted them to play by the rules. The international community hoped that Afghan technocrats would pioneer modernization and democratization. But leading technocrats cut a deal with the new elite in the palace. They undertook limited institution building as a smokescreen to distract attention from the real project which was to build patronage networks focused on the presidential palace. They neglected what should have been key elements of the new democratic framework in Afghanistan. The lacunae included:

a. National Census- The Bonn Agreement mentions the conduct of a national census. But over the last 13 years the Afghan government showed no will to complete this important element of the historic agreement. The Afghan government only looked at the political aspects of the issue. Reliable census data would have restricted the government's scope for discretion and patronage in dealing with different communities. Tens of billions US dollars came and disappeared but the relatively modest amount required was not allocated for a thorough civil registration. Afghans still do not have a biometric ID card which could be used for electoral and many other purposes. At the moment all the available population data is unreliable. No one knows the exact population of any province and ultimately the eligible number of voters for province is unknown. Therefore even the allocation of the seats for the parliament for each province is also a matter of dispute.

b. Electoral Institutions- The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) have yet to prove their credibility. Past experiences show that both the institutions were subject to the whim of the presidential palace and obliged to tamper with the popular will. The latest teams in these institutions have yet to prove whether they stand with people or palace. The unnecessary delay in declaring results raises questions about their commitment to fairly dealing with the votes of people who risked their lives and defiantly chose the ballot over the bullet.

c. Electoral database- In the absence of an authentic Electoral Database no reliable election can be held. At the moment no one knows the exact numbers of voters for any polling center, which is an invitation to rigging. It is almost impossible to supply the correct numbers of ballot papers as well as to monitor the turnout. Tens of thousands of voters could not cast their vote due to local unavailability of ballot papers. This issue has reduced confidence in the process and no one has yet given satisfactory answers to those asking why they were turned away from the polls.

d. Electoral Law- Since 2005 there have been debates on reform of the Electoral Law and the update of the electoral manuals. The serious debate has consistently been blocked. The ruling elite never had a will to bring useful reforms in the Electoral Law. Inadequate laws hamper transparency and reduce confidence in the process. Parliamentary Elections are to be held next year and the clauses of the law dealing with them are even more in need of an overhaul.

Lesson Learnt- Afghanistan still lacks effective election institutions and an adequate legal framework to ensure that elections deliver a truly representative government and legislature. It has been once again proven that without a fair civil registration with biometric data and an authentic Electoral database it is not possible to conduct an election which meets domestic and international standards. The Afghan political elite should transcend their ethnic sentiments and, with the help of international community, should overhaul the Electoral law and manuals and establish a real impartial body to conduct fair and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections.

3. Where the mandate lies? The high turnout in the relatively peaceful areas shows a deep desire of the people for change and gives a resounding "no" to the Taliban life style. The turnout is also a tribute to the political parties and their role in mobilizing people to the polling centers. The partial results show that the majority of the people voted for traditional political parties which are mostly ethnic in nature. The main contender Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was the unanimous candidate of a coalition of political parties, mainly Jamiat-e Islami (JI) led by Salahuddin Rabbani (Tajik), People's Unity Party of Afghanistan (PUP) led by Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq (Hazara) and a faction of Hizb-e Islami led by Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal (Pashtun). The other important contender Dr. Ashraf Ghani was mainly supported by the Junbish Party led by Gen. Dostum (Uzbek), a faction of Wahdat party led by Mohammad Karim Khalili, Afghan Millat led by Anwarulhaq Ahadi (Pashtun) and Right and Justice Party led Hanif Atmar (Pashtun). Jamiat-e Islami and People's Unity Party of Afghanistan achieved an extraordinary performance in favor of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah while Junbish Party was successful in its mobilization in favor of Dr. Ashraf Ghani.

Lesson learnt- The aforementioned parties representing the Tajiks, Hazaras and the Uzbeks seem to have proven that they enjoy the mandate of their respective communities. Around 80% of the Tajiks and 70% of Hazaras voted for Dr. Abdullah Abdullah while approximately 70% of the Uzbeks voted for Dr. Ashraf Ghani. Sahuddin Rabbani, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and Gen. Dostum, who swept the votes of their constituencies in favor of their candidates, have proven themselves to be the trusted addresses of their respected communities. They thus have strong potential to play an important role in future development of Afghanistan. It would be wise if the Afghan political elite and the international community take note of this mandate and properly utilize their capacity for a better future of Afghanistan.

The writer is the Chief Editor of the daily Outlook Afghanistan.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 10:22:25 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/opinion/14598-lessons-obtained-from-afghan-presidential-polls-2014
PURSO PAL: Exclusive Interview http://www.tolonews.com/en/purso-pal/14597-purso-pal-exclusive-interview alt

To watch Muslim Sherzad's interview with Carlotta Gall, a reporter for the New York Times covering Pakistan and Afghanistan, click here:

{youtube}LdqMZ80bEoA{/youtube}

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 09:56:17 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/purso-pal/14597-purso-pal-exclusive-interview
7 MAIL Personnel Injured in Kabul Blast http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14596-7-mail-personnel-injured-in-kabul-blast alt

Kabul local officials said at least seven employees of the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) were injured in a bomb blast in Kabul city early Sunday.

Kabul Police Chief Gen. Zahir Zahir said the incident took place in the 8th district of Kabul where a magnetic bomb was placed on the car that was carrying the staff.

"The car belonged to the MAIL and was traveling from Char Asiab to Kabul city," Zahir said. "The bomb was placed on the car and exploded in Pul-e-Safid area in the 8th district of Kabul."

Gen. Zahir said the victims were taken to the hospital. Two of the victims are in critical condition.

He added that investigation is in progress.

Insurgent groups including the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the blast.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 08:21:01 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14596-7-mail-personnel-injured-in-kabul-blast
At Least 42 Dead in Pakistan Road Accident http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14595-at-least-42-dead-in-pakistan-road-accident alt

At least 42 people were killed and 17 wounded in southern Pakistan Sunday when a bus travelling to Karachi collided with a tractor pulling a trolley, police said.

The dead and injured included women and children.

The accident happened in the town of Sukkur, 425 kilometres (266 miles) north of Karachi in the southern province of Sindh.

Fida Hussain Shah, a senior police officer in Sukkur who gave the casualty figure, said the bus driver was killed on the spot while the driver of the tractor-trolley was wounded.

Police said the cause of the accident was yet not clear. Tractor-trolleys are a common form of transportation in rural areas.

Sharjeel Kharal, another senior police official, confirmed the incident and told AFP the injured have been taken to a nearby government-run hospital.

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 07:39:37 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14595-at-least-42-dead-in-pakistan-road-accident
FARAKHABAR: 19 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14594-farakhabar-19-april-2014 alt

Afghanistan's House of Representatives summoned Suraya Daleel, Minister of Health, because the health sector has not addressed major problems such as lack of medicine and sanitary hospitals in the past few years.

To watch the programme, click here:

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Minister Daleel says the reason behind this problem is the lack of sufficient budget. Members of the house were not satisfied with Daleel's response criticizing her inefficient effort.

In this episode of Farakhbar host, Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the issue with the following guests:

Najia Tariq, deputy minister of health care services for the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH)

Naqibullah Faiq, Head of the. Parliamentary Health Committee

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 07:07:59 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14594-farakhabar-19-april-2014
TAKANI: Candidates Must Respect Legal Results http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14593-takani-candidates-must-respect-legal-results alt

President Hamid Karzai during his weekly radio talks said that the IEC commission must announce the election results lawfully and asked all presidential candidates to respect the results.

In this episode of Takani host, Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the issue with the following guests:

Naqibullah Faiq, MP

Moen Mrastyal, Right and Justice Party Deputy

Obaidullah Barakzai, MP

Zia Bomi, Writer and journalist

To watch the program, click here:

{youtube}gHGx--U7ecY{/youtube}

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 06:56:27 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14593-takani-candidates-must-respect-legal-results
ELECTION DAY 2014: Exclusive Interview with Ghani http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14592-election-day-2014-exclusive-interview-with-ghani alt

To watch Mujaheed Kakar interview with Presidential candidate Dr. Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai, click here:

{youtube}wadWl9kuWO8{/youtube}

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 06:32:06 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14592-election-day-2014-exclusive-interview-with-ghani
ECC in Herat Inspects Close to 1000 Ballot Boxes http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14590-ecc-in-herat-inspects-close-to-1000-ballot-boxes alt

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) in Herat has investigated close to 1,000 ballot boxes from roughly 100 polling centers.

Head of ECC in Herat said that efforts will be made to separate the fraudulent votes from genuine votes.

The 1,000 ballot boxes that have been reviewed are from Shindand, Keshk Kuhna, Gelran, Aaraskan and other districts of Herat city.

"About 183 centers ballot boxes have been separated because of suspicious acts and its inspection will start tomorrow," ECC head in Herat, Abdullah Sherzai said. "In addition, there are 94 other centers that need to be inspected and reviewed of which 75 centers were instructed to be reviewed by the ECC headquarters and 19 of it were complaints by local and international observers."

Meanwhile, Sherzai reports that a group of observers from Kabul arrived in Herat to inspect centers where fraud was of concern.

"These inspections include both recount and audit, both with very specific instructions from the head office," Dr. Muhammad Daoud Sediqzad, IEC head of Herat, said.

Recount process in Herat started on Wednesday and is still ongoing.

Although, votes from many centers in Herat have been recounted, none of the votes have been voided yet.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 15:30:39 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14590-ecc-in-herat-inspects-close-to-1000-ballot-boxes
Recounting Continues In Balkh http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14589-recounting-continues-in-balkh alt

Out of the 83 ballot boxes from 17 voting centers in the province of Balkh, only 30 ballot boxes have been recounted. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials in Balkh said the ballot boxes are from Mazar-e-Sharif and surrounding districts.

The recount is taking place on the basis that the IEC headquarters in Kabul issued instructions in differentiating real from fake to ensure the cleanest and fairest election result possible.

IEC is performing the recount on the request of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). ECC's condition was that the recounts take place in the presence of the ECC and IEC representatives, observers and officials of the presidential campaigns.

"The public's demand and our will are to make sure transparency is maintained during the whole process," Muhammad Anabi, ECC member in Balkh, said.

Another member of the ECC, Daoud Muhammad Anabi, added that they will attempt to complete the recounting process today.

Meanwhile, residents of Balkh call on the election commission to provide fair and neutral results.

"We ask the IEC and ECC to separate the clean and honest votes of the people from the unclean ballots," resident of Balkh Abdul Qayoum said. "The real votes of the people must be presented to the people."

ECC officials in Balkh assured the residents that they will provide neutrality throughout the course.

Ballot boxes in review are from Mazar-e-Sharif, Chemtal, Balkh, Zare and Kushenda districts of Balkh province.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 15:03:38 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14589-recounting-continues-in-balkh
TOLOnews 6pm News 19 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14588-tolonews-6pm-news-19-april-2014 altTop news in this Bulletin:

Officials of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) say preliminary results will be announced on April 24, but it is still unclear when the release of overall findings will be announced.

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IEC officials said that over 70 percent of the results have been investigated and completed, but they still have to be double checked before finalizing count.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:58:37 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14588-tolonews-6pm-news-19-april-2014
Health Minister Summoned to Parliament http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14587-health-minister-summoned-to-parliament alt

Afghanistan's House of Representatives summoned Suraya Daleel, Minister of Health, because the health sector has not addressed major problems such as lack of medicine and sanitary hospitals in the past few years.

Minister Daleel says the reason behind this problem is the lack of sufficient budget. Members of the house were not satisfied with Daleel's response criticizing her inefficient effort.

"Private clinics are very expensive," Member of Parliament Zemrak Padkhwayee said. "What have you done for the people of Afghanistan? Why are our poor people so over charged?"

Another Member of Parliament, Kubra Mustafawi, exclaimed that children have died in hospitals because there is no efficient and up-to-date medical technology.

"I can provide you with the specific address of the children who died in hospitals due to the lack of a CT scan," MP Mustafawi said.

In response to these claims, Daleel said that the government must invest in fixing the situation.

"If we want a 21st century standard medicine in Afghanistan, it will have costs," Daleel said.

The session of Parliament ended without any results because of disorder and multiple criticisms from Member of Parliaments.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:49:02 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14587-health-minister-summoned-to-parliament
IEC Unclear When Final Results Will Be Announced http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14586-iec-unclear-when-final-results-will-be-announced alt

Officials of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) say preliminary results will be announced on April 24, but it is still unclear when the release of overall findings will be announced.

IEC officials said that over 70 percent of the results have been investigated and completed, but they still have to be double checked before finalizing count.

"IEC will do its best to announce preliminary results as scheduled, but for now we cannot specify a time," IEC Spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said. "We can give you percentages only when the process has ended, but so far we are still in process."

Based on the election timeline on IEC's website, preliminary results are to be announced in five days with final results released on May 15th.

On Election Day people voted unprecedentedly despite all the challenges and threats to elect their future leader. People are demanding transparency from election commissions is among demands of people.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:25:05 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14586-iec-unclear-when-final-results-will-be-announced
Category A Complaints Inspection to End in Two Days http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14585-category-a-complaints-inspection-to-end-in-two-days alt

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said 52 percent of Category A complaints has been addressed. ECC states that Category A complaints are backed by hard evidence that will directly impact the election results if proved true.

ECC Spokesman Nader Mohseni says that their primary focus is Category A complaints.

"If proved true, these complaints can have an impact on the result of elections," Mohseni said. "The review is continuing and we hope to complete the process in the next two days."

Earlier this week ECC recounted and audited votes from roughly 1,000 voting centers; findings from this review are still unknown.

"Based on a request from the ECC, IEC inspected and recounted votes from provincial offices," Mohseni said. "Our ECC representatives are present during the recounting."

Both ECC and IEC have not specified the number of votes analyzed.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:26:42 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14585-category-a-complaints-inspection-to-end-in-two-days
TAKANI: The Election Process http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14584-takani-the-election-process alt

In this episode of Takani, host Zabiullah Sadat discusses the election process with the following guests:

• Bismiullah Afghan, Senator

• Mir Ahmad Sirat, professor at the University

• Qazi Ismaelzada, civil society activist

• Ahmad Saeedi, Political analyst

{youtube}Uo5FHwjkizs{/youtube}

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 12:43:21 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14584-takani-the-election-process
ELECTION DAY 2014: Roles of Women in Elections http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14583-election-day-2014-roles-of-women-in-elections alt

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the roles of women in the elections and the challenges ahead of the election process. The following guests are:

• Dr. Alima, women activist

• Dr. Humaira Qaderi, civil society activist

• Kamela Sediqqi, head of Kaween company

{youtube}oY-ieJ2J1Pg{/youtube}

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 12:24:47 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14583-election-day-2014-roles-of-women-in-elections
4 Taliban Insurgents Killed in Afghan Army Operation http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14581-4-taliban-insurgents-killed-in-afghan-army-operation alt

The Ministry of Defense stated on Saturday that at least four Taliban insurgents were killed and six others were injured in an Afghan army operation early Friday.

The statement read: "within the last 24 hours, the Afghan army conducted several operations across the country killing four militants, wounding six others and arresting four armed militants."

Army specialists found and defused 55 roadside bombs and landmines during the operation.

The statement did not offer details about Afghan army casualties during the operation.

These operations have increased throughout Afghanistan to clear the country of insurgents.

Foreign troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014 with the end of the NATO combat mission, after which the ASF – currently numbering at around 300,000– will take over full security responsibility of the country. According to NATO and Afghan officials, the ASF have already assumed the bulk of leadership on operations throughout the country.

Of the roughly 80,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, around 47,000 are Americans.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 09:53:13 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14581-4-taliban-insurgents-killed-in-afghan-army-operation
First Earth-Sized Planet Found in 'Habitable Zone': NASA http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14580-first-earth-sized-planet-found-in-habitable-zone-nasa alt

The hunt for potential life in outer space has taken a step forward -- an international team of researchers has discovered the first Earth-sized planet within the "habitable zone" of another star.

The exoplanet dubbed Kepler-186f was first spotted by scientists using NASA's Kepler telescope, according to research published Thursday in the US journal Science.

The exoplanet, located some 500 light years from Earth, orbits in what is seen as the sweet spot around its star: not too close and not too far, so it could have liquid water, considered a crucial component to possibly hosting life.

"The discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth," said Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

The planet is "the right size and is at the right distance to have properties that are similar to our home planet," said Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, the lead author of the paper published in Science.

"We can now say that other potentially habitable worlds, similar in size to Earth, can exist. It's no longer in the realm of science fiction," she said, speaking at a press conference.

Kepler-186f is around 1.1-times the size of Earth -- which researchers say is key to predicting the composition of the surface and its atmosphere.

When planets are 1.5 times the size of Earth or larger, many of them seem to attract a thick hydrogen and helium layer that makes them start to resemble gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn.

Kepler-186f is the fifth and outermost planet orbiting the Kepler-186 star, right on the far edge of that solar system's habitable zone, meaning the surface temperature might not be warm enough to stop water from freezing.

"However, it is also slightly larger than the Earth, and so the hope would be that this would result in a thicker atmosphere that would provide extra insulation," explained San Francisco State University astronomer Stephen Kane, another member of the team behind the discovery.

- Tracking 'transits' -

Scientists using the NASA's Kepler telescope first discovered it by tracking "transits" -- shadows that cross in front of the star.

The finding was confirmed by observations from the W.M. Keck and Gemini Observatories.

But current technology does not allow astronomers to see the celestial body directly or do any analysis to determine its atmosphere or composition.

"Some people call these habitable planets, which of course we have no idea if they are," said Kane. "We simply know that they are in the habitable zone, and that is the best place to start looking for habitable planets."

Solar systems like Kepler-186, with an M-Dwarf star at its center, may be the best chance for finding a habitable planet, because there are so many of such stars and because many are very nearby.

However, because M-dwarfs are cooler, smaller and dimmer than our sun, they interact differently with planets, the researchers said.

Kepler-186f is therefore "more like an Earth cousin than an Earth twin. It has similar characteristics but a different parent," Tom Barclay, researcher at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at Ames, said at the NASA press conference.

And whether Kepler-186f is actually habitable would depend largely on the planet's surface temperature, which would be linked to whether it has an atmosphere and what that atmosphere was like, Barclay explained.

Future missions are being designed to characterize the planets around M Dwarfs in more detail, he said.

However, because its star is quite dim, Kepler-186f may not be suitable for follow-up studies, Quintana had explained earlier.

"However, our research tells us that we should be able to find planets around bright stars that will be ideal targets to observe" with telescopes like NASA's Webb orbiting telescope, currently under construction, she said in a press release.

Of nearly 1,800 planets detected over the past 20 years, only around 20 orbit within the so-called "habitable zone" -- and all appear to be larger than Earth, which makes it harder to tell whether or not they are gas giants.

The Kepler space telescope, launched in March 2009, observes some 150,000 stars, a few thousand of which have been found to have possible planets.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 04:16:49 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14580-first-earth-sized-planet-found-in-habitable-zone-nasa
Helmand Promoted Among Grade A Provinces http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14579-helmand-promoted-among-grade-a-provinces alt

President Karzai and the Ministers council have announced that Helmand province has been promoted from a Grade B province to a Grade A province, according to Helmand officials.

Grade A province is a province that will receive greater government support because of the increasingly large population and territory. Other provinces that are a part of the Grade A category include Kandahar, Heart, Balkh, Nangarhar and few others.

Helmand residents celebrated the news with dancing and music held at the Karzai Sport Stadium.

"Becoming a Grade A provinces has its benefits," Governor of Helmand, Muhammad Naeem, said. "There is an increase in the number of representatives at the Parliament and council levels, increase in budget, improvement of education and agriculture."

The Governor adds that the promotion to Grade A has not been completed. They are waiting for the final approval of the House of Representatives, which will be fulfilled soon.

Helmand is located in the southern part of Afghanistan making up 10 percent of the country's land, according to officials.

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:03:27 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14579-helmand-promoted-among-grade-a-provinces
TOLOnews 6pm News 18 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14578-tolonews-6pm-news-18-april-2014 alt Top news in this Bulletin:

Suspicious votes from roughly 1,000 voting centers were recounted and reviewed by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) on Thursday.

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Votes from 457 centers have been recounted while votes from an estimated 400 other centers have been reviewed. IEC officials said after recounting they found a number of votes to be invalid, though the exact number of voided ballots has yet to be determined.

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:58:19 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14578-tolonews-6pm-news-18-april-2014
Karzai Confident Candidates Will Respect Election Outcome http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14576-karzai-confident-candidates-will-respect-election-outcome alt

In his weekly statement aired by Afghanistan's national media, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), President Hamid Karzai announced that the April 5 elections not only created history, but will bring positive change to Afghanistan's stability and security situations.

During his talk he urged electoral bodies, specifically the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) that they not only fairly account for results, but announce final results as scheduled.

"The next steps are counting ballots, filing complaints and investigating the complaints," President Karzai said. "The ECC and IEC are working on these and I hope that the final results are announced on time."

He added that the IEC and ECC to abode neutrality and impartiality during the counting and investigation processes so that the public trust is maintained. He added that he admired the massive turnout on Election Day despite threats the people voted for the future of their country. He hopes that the candidates respect the outcome of elections.

In addition, presidential candidates have said that the nation is keeping close eye on the actions of the electoral bodies.

"The election commissions must prove its neutrality, credibility, trust and quality through every step because this is the future of Afghanistan and its people," Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said. "They must realize their responsibility."

Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai also emphasized on the neutrality of the electoral bodies as the election process begins to wind down.

"We want transparency so that the fundamental principles, which will be executed in Afghanistan for the first time, are maintained if we move on to a runoff in order to prevent frauds and continue our national cooperation in an environment of trust and mutual respect," Ghani said.

The 2014 presidential and provincial council's election is considered a milestone in the political history of Afghanistan because of the unprecedented turnout; the Afghan people defied security threats and intimidation of the Taliban. The election will mark the first democratic transition of political power from one elected president to another.

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:45:56 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14576-karzai-confident-candidates-will-respect-election-outcome
IEC Recounts and Reviews Suspicious Votes http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14577-iec-recounts-and-reviews-suspicious-votes alt

Suspicious votes from roughly 1,000 voting centers were recounted and reviewed by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) on Thursday.

Votes from 457 centers have been recounted while votes from an estimated 400 other centers have been reviewed. IEC officials said after recounting they found a number of votes to be invalid, though the exact number of voided ballots has yet to be determined.

"IEC's focuses are in three specific areas: recount votes, audit voting centers and void fraudulent ballots," IEC Spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said. "IEC has a specific framework and they are working based on that."

IEC says votes from 600 polling centers that were considered mistrustful by the ECC is also being recounted.
The investigation period ended Thursday with only the review and recounting process ongoing.

"In total, there are 575 centers that were specified by ECC to IEC that needed to be reviewed and recounted," Noor said. "The investigation period was to separate the genuine votes from rigged votes. Now we're in second phase where the votes will be recounted and reviewed. We will be cooperative with the ECC during the recounting and reviewing procedure."

Result sheets that were sent to the IEC headquarters without secure packaging is being reviewed by IEC members.

IEC says that the preliminary results will be announced in the upcoming week tentatively scheduled for April 24.

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:45:47 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14577-iec-recounts-and-reviews-suspicious-votes
Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dead at 87 http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14575-writer-gabriel-garcia-marquez-dead-at-87 alt

AFP - Colombia's Nobel-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday in Mexico City at the age of 87, the Colombian president said.

"One thousand years of solitude and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time," Juan Manuel Santos wrote on Twitter.

Garcia Marquez, the author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," passed away at his home with his wife and two sons by his side, Mexico's Televisa anchor Joaquin Lopez-Doriga said on Twitter.

The cause of death was not immediately known but Garcia Marquez spent one week at hospital earlier this month to be treated for pneumonia.

He had been convalescing in his Mexico City home, where he has lived for more than three decades

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:28:56 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14575-writer-gabriel-garcia-marquez-dead-at-87
One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14574-one-dead-as-s-korea-ferry-with-476-passengers-sinks alt

Seoul (AFP) - South Korea's coastguard said Wednesday one person had been killed as it struggled to rescue 476 people -- mostly high school students -- aboard a ferry that ran aground and sank off the southern coast.

Lee Gyeong-Og, the vice minister of security and public administration, told a press briefing in Seoul that he could only confirm the rescue of 161 people so far.

However, he added that commercial ships involved in the operation were understood to have rescued a significant number of people.

"The ferry is almost completely submerged," Lee said, adding that a detachment of South Korean Navy SEALS were taking part in the rescue.
Lee had said there were no reports of casualties so far, but the coastguard later said one person had been killed.

"We have recovered one body from the ship so far," a spokesman told AFP.

Photos broadcast on television showed the ship initially tilted over 45 degrees on the port side with helicopters flying overhead, and then fully capsized with only its stern visible.

Of the 450 passengers on board the ferry bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, 325 were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul. The remainder of those on board were crew.

Coastguard officials said the crew sent out a distress signal at 9:00 am (0000 GMT) with passenger testimony suggesting it may have run aground.

The 6,825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble some 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the island of Byungpoong.

Distraught parents of the students gathered at the high school in Ansan, desperate for news.

TV footage showed a chaotic scene in the school's auditorium, with parents yelling at school officials and frantically trying to make phone calls to their children.

"I talked to my daughter. She said she had been rescued along with 10 other students," one mother told the YTN news channel.

"They said they had jumped into the water before getting rescued. One was injured in the leg and is being treated in hospital," she said.

Lee Gyeong-Og said 34 naval, coastguard and civilian vessels were involved in the rescue operation, along with 18 helicopters.

In a personal message, President Park Geun-Hye "ordered us to make efforts not to leave a single casualty," he said.

The ferry manifest included 150 cars.

Hundreds of ferries ply the waters between the South Korean mainland and its multiple offshore islands every day, and accidents are relatively rare.

However in one of the worst incidents, nearly 300 people died when a ferry capsized off the western coast in October, 1993.

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:21:06 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14574-one-dead-as-s-korea-ferry-with-476-passengers-sinks
6:30 REPORT: Afghanistan's Third Presidential Election http://www.tolonews.com/en/6:30-report/14573-630-report-afghanistans-third-presidential-election

In this week of 6:30 Report, host Anisa Shahid explores the past presidential and provincial councils elections.

To watch the video, click here:

{youtube}DuKOwF4Ur44{/youtube}

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:25:08 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/6:30-report/14573-630-report-afghanistans-third-presidential-election
ELECTION DAY 2014: Electoral Commissions Performance http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14572-election-day-2014-electoral-commissions-performance

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Omid Farooq discussed the electoral commissions performances after Election Day with the following guests:

Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil, IEC Secretariat

Nader Mohseni, ECC Spokesman

{youtube}p4QICs-Bp3A{/youtube}

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:14:27 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14572-election-day-2014-electoral-commissions-performance
TAKANI: Diversities of 2014 Elections compared to Past Election http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14571-takani-diversities-of-2014-elections-compared-to-past-election

In this episode of Takani, host Zabiullah Sadat discussed diversities of the April 5 elections with past elections in Afghanistan.

Guests:

Naeem Asghari, Head of Planning in FEFA

Asef Wardak, Freelance Journalist

Hamidullah Hotak, Tribal Elder

Abdullah Poyan, Political Expert

{youtube}2RdqDbjj7XY{/youtube}

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:11:54 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14571-takani-diversities-of-2014-elections-compared-to-past-election
TOLOnews 6pm News 17 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14570-tolonews-6pm-news-17-april-2014 alt Top news in this Bulletin:

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Thursday said that a list of roughly 1,000 polling centers to be investigated in connection with allegations of fraud would be shared with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the votes from those centers would be excluded from the counting process until they are verified.

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ECC officials acknowledged openly that the investigations could impact the election results, which are expected to bring on a runoff vote scheduled for late May.

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:11:42 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14570-tolonews-6pm-news-17-april-2014
ANP Officers Kidnapped on Kabul-Kandahar Highway http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14569-anp-officers-kidnapped-on-kabul-kandahar-highway alt

While traveling along the Kabul-Kandahar Highway, a group of Afghan National Police (ANP) officers were attacked by insurgents and two of them were taken captive. The Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) has confirmed that three police officers and one Afghan National Army (ANA) member were killed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said that an operation to free the two soldiers was underway in the Said Abad district of Maidan Wardak province. So far 17 militants have been reportedly killed.

The Kabul-Kandahar highway is one of the most important highways in Afghanistan, with thousands of Afghans using it daily for personal and commercial commutes to over 10 provinces. However, it has also become a hotbed of insurgent violence and organized crime in recent years, making passage dangerous for anyone, let alone security forces.

According to reports, the group of officers were attacked by militants clothed in normal civilian garb in the Pul Surkh area of Maidan Wardak.

Some of those who use the Kabul-Kandahar highway the most, like commercial truck drivers, are understandably the most fearful of the security issues it faces. Last fall, hundreds of truck drivers went on strike demanding that security forces do more to ensure safe passage along the highway.

Since then, new security check posts have been erected along the highway. However, as this week's attack and abductions stand to show, there remains much to be done if the Kabul-Kandahar throughway is to be freed of its perils.

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:48:06 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14569-anp-officers-kidnapped-on-kabul-kandahar-highway
IEC To Announce Preliminary Results Next Week http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14568-iec-to-announce-preliminary-results-next-week alt

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Thursday said it would announce a large portion of preliminary results from the April 5 election at sometime next week.

With the counting process ongoing, and thousands of votes being pulled out of it for investigations of fraud, the IEC declined to offer any details about what percentage of the results would be used in the preliminary announcement.

"Based on the discussions that we had today, we will be announcing a major percentage of results through the press next week, but it is still unclear what day and what hour; we first need to make sure that our technical unit is ready and IEC members have approved it," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said.

Although the over seven million ballots cast on April 5 began to be counted just hours after polls closed, the IEC has said it is in the process of recounting votes after a number of result sheets appeared tampered with and polling centers were implicated in allegations of rigging.

So far results from 217 centers from 24 out of the 31 provinces expected to be recounted have been. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has reportedly asked the IEC to recount votes from over 500 centers and have those suspected of fraud to be isolated.

"Cooperation between the two commissions of ECC and IEC is ongoing very well," Noor said on Thursday.

Earlier this week, ECC officials had criticized the IEC for not cooperating with its investigations into the over 3,000 complaints it has received from around the country. Reportedly, well over 1,000 of the complaints filed with the ECC directly implicate IEC employees electoral irregularities.

The number of centers from where result sheets returned without proper packaging or endorsements from observers was not said, and the extent of this problem remains largely unclear. Though the IEC on Thursday said audits of the centers in question were underway.

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:37:09 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14568-iec-to-announce-preliminary-results-next-week
Pakistani Analysts Want Kabul-Islamabad Restart http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14567-pakistani-analysts-want-kabul-islamabad-restart alt

With the next Afghan President on the horizon, a number of prominent Pakistani analysts have publicly encouraged a rapprochement between long-estranged neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Arguably the biggest point of tension between Kabul and Islamabad over the years has been the support the Afghan Taliban and its affiliates have received from the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus. However, in addition to arguing against this strategy on its merits, a number of experts have suggested Pakistan's backing of the Taliban is already in decline.

"It seems that the Afghan Taliban are weakening because the financial aid the group was receiving from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is declining, and the Taliban are now in a weaker position," former Pakistani military officer Mahmood Shah told TOLOnews on Thursday.

The relative success of the April 5 elections in Afghanistan, which saw unexpectedly high turnout and Taliban violence that fell below most predictions, has reportedly contributed to a rising optimism about the future of relations with Pakistan. With a new government in Kabul soon, many hope to turn over a new leaf.

"When Afghanistan is in stable condition, other countries analyze the situation and realize that the proper person will meet the demands of the Afghan people," Pakistani journalist Aqil Yousafzai said.

"Change has come to Pakistan's perspective, particularly in its Afghan policy," political analyst Ismail Khan added.

However, among Afghan analysts, hope for a marked change in the dynamic between Kabul and Islamabad remains guarded at best.

"We appreciate the Pakistani's army idea of not supporting and cooperating with terrorists," Afghan analyst Abbas Nowyan said. "A limited period of time remains for the establishment of a new government in Afghanistan, and we hope that Pakistan undertake practical measures in this sphere before the formation of the new government."

At worst, others were skeptical of any genuine hope for improved relations between Kabul and Islamabad.

"Pakistan has always asserted such things that we [Pakistan] and Afghanistan are the victims of terrorism, but this is a lie," Afghan analyst Mia Gul Wasiq said. "We are the victims of terrorists produced by Pakistan, and those who were trained by Pakistan sometimes turn on them; the assertions are an act by Pakistan, because they want to appear cooperative with the new government in Afghanistan."

In recent weeks, Afghan officials have accused the Pakistani military of targeting Afghan security check posts on Election Day and trying to sabotage the elections.

The Taliban had denounced the voting process, and vowed to derail it with violence in the weeks leading up. But insecurity on Election Day was minimal, which boded well for the Afghan security forces that are assuming oversight around the country as the NATO coalition prepares to withdraw by the end of the year.

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:14:49 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14567-pakistani-analysts-want-kabul-islamabad-restart
ECC: Votes From 1,000 Polling Centers Inspected http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14566-ecc-votes-from-1000-polling-centers-inspected alt

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Thursday said that a list of roughly 1,000 polling centers to be investigated in connection with allegations of fraud would be shared with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the votes from those centers would be excluded from the counting process until they are verified.

ECC officials acknowledged openly that the investigations could impact the election results, which are expected to bring on a runoff vote scheduled for late May. They also expressed concerns that certain government and non-governmental interests would try to interfere with the investigation process.

"There are up to 1,000 centers whose lists have been seperated, with the only difference that some of the centers will be inspected completely and some of them partially," ECC Deputy Walid Akbar Sarwari said. "We have shared these topics with the election commission and today the IEC has started the process in the presence of our delegation."

According to Sarwari, 50 percent of the investigations have been completed and the next step will be to decide how to handle the findings. The ECC's decisions are expected to be announced publicly.

On Wednesday, the ECC said that there were some 892 complaint cases being investigated that directly pertained to the counting process. The IEC also announced that recounts would soon begin for 31 out of the 34 provinces in light of discoveries made involving fraudulent votes.

"We are seriously concerned about security threats faced by our staff in the provinces and also from the interference of elements that want to meddle in this process," Sarwari said. "We will move forward in a transparent and neutral manner and will not surrender to pressures, but when the pressures are beyond our capacity, we will tell the nation."

The IEC is expected to announced the preliminary results of the presidential election by April 24, and the final results on May 14.

"Politicians are trying to infiltrate inside the commission and its decisions, if the election commission establishes a strong barrier that can prevent infiltration from outsiders - whether it is the government, powerful figures or politicians - this would be their great success," former IEC chief Fazel Ahmad Manavi told TOLOnews.

ECC officials have said that the number of complaints filed has increased, with now 2,122 complaints having been received with evidence. From that number, 1,339 are against IEC staff members, 456 are against presidential candidates and the remaining 527 complaints are targeted at provincial council candidates.

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:07:38 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/election-2014/14566-ecc-votes-from-1000-polling-centers-inspected
ELECTION DAY 2014: Election Runoff, Coalition and Its Effects on Afghanistan's Future http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14565-election-day-2014-election-runoff-coalition-and-its-effects-on-afghanistans-future alt

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the election runoff, coalitions and its effects on Afghanistan's future with the following guests:

Daoud Muradyan, Director of Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies

Abdul Ghafoor Lewal, head of Afghanistan's Regional Studies Center

Mujibul Rahman Rahimi, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's campaign member

Abas Noyan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's campaign member

To watch the program, click here:

{youtube}f6HJYnbSaPk{/youtube}

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:42:38 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14565-election-day-2014-election-runoff-coalition-and-its-effects-on-afghanistans-future
FARAKHABAR: 16 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14564-farakhabar-16-april-2014 alt

House of representatives want the government to quickly pass the Money Laundering and Prevention of Terrorism Financy Law.

In this episode of Farakhbar host, Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the issue with the following guests:

Ahmad Siyar Quraishe, economic analyst

Idris Rahmani, political analyst

To watch the program, click here:

{youtube}kE7UMiwPdJ8{/youtube}

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:33:19 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14564-farakhabar-16-april-2014
TAKANI: Suspicious Votes http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14563-takani-suspicious-votes alt

In this episode of Takani host, Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the evaluation of suspicious votes by the IEC and the partial results with the following guests:

Dr Faiz Mohammad Zaland, political analyst

Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, head of TEFA

Hayatullah Hayat, head of the Coordination Center of Civil Society Institutions

Fahim Dashti, journalist and writer

To watch the program, click here:

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TAKANI: Suspicious Votes

In this episode of Takani host, Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the evaluation of suspicious votes by the IEC and the partial results with the following guests:

Dr Faiz Mohammad Zaland, political analyst

Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, head of TEFA

Hayatullah Hayat, head of the Coordination Center of Civil Society Institutions

Fahim Dashti, journalist and writer

To watch the program, click here:

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Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:06:38 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14563-takani-suspicious-votes
TOLOnews 6pm News 16 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14562-tolonews-6pm-news-16-april-2014 alt Top news in this Bulletin:

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Nadir Mohseni acknowledged Tuesday that complaint investigations could likely impact election results.

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Out of the 1,300 cases being investigated, the ECC said 892 could directly effect election results and were being taken very seriously.

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:10:48 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14562-tolonews-6pm-news-16-april-2014
Recounts Begin for 22 Provinces http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14561-recounts-begin-for-22-provinces alt

With nearly all ballots and result sheets delivered to the central Independent Election Commission (IEC) office in Kabul, a joint IEC and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) recount is expected to begin for 22 provinces.

IEC alluded to transparency and addressing the complaints of election observers and presidential candidates as the reasons behind the recount, the announcement of which comes the same day the ECC stated there were 892 complaint cases that directly impacted votes cast on April 5.

"Recount of votes in 22 provinces officially started today. In total, recount will take place in 31 provinces," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said on Wednesday.

Mr. Noor said that centers with more than 600 ballots - the standard number distributed to each site - would all be recounted, as per procedure.

Result sheets from nearly 500 centers have been returned to IEC headquarters without proper stamping or endorsements from IEC observers and are under review.

"There were instances where results sheets had no IEC stamp or no signature of center managers or observers. The commission has decided to these results sheets will be re-audited," Noor added.

The IEC had said earlier this week that result sheets without the IEC stamp and signatures from observers would be considered void and would not be counted as part of the preliminary results.

The ECC has reportedly sent information to the IEC intended for isolating corrupted votes from the counting process. However, a significant number of the complaints the ECC has received have been directed at IEC employees.

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:01:43 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14561-recounts-begin-for-22-provinces
ECC: 892 Complaints Under Scrutiny, Could Impact Results http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14560-ecc-892-complaints-under-scrutiny-could-impact-results alt

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Nadir Mohseni acknowledged Tuesday that complaint investigations could likely impact election results. Out of the 1,300 cases being investigated, the ECC said 892 could directly effect election results and were being taken very seriously.

Mr. Mohseni said the 892 complaints in question, falling in Category A, would mean isolating ballots from the counting process for verification. The ECC received more than 3,000 complaints following the historic April 5 national election, though more than half have been discarded for lack of evidence.

"We will isolate the invalid votes stuffed in the ballot boxes through rigging so that fake and genuine votes are differentiated, this should have an impact on the elections, but it doesn't mean that the process will be harmed or all the votes declared invalid - this would not happen," Mohseni said.

The ECC is expected to communicate all relevant information regarding its cases to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) so that fraudulent votes can be separated as quickly as possible from the counting process.

"We have identified 516 cases and sent them to the election commission to be taken out, we will isolate 892 cases according to our reports, but we are waiting to receive more details from the provinces, lists must be sent to us so that we can forward them on to the IEC," Mohseni said.

All ballots picked out of the counting process in relation to a complaint will be assessed by a committee formed by the IEC, their work open to media and observers for purposes of transparency.

Of the complaints the ECC has received, reportedly some 1,000 of them implicate IEC employees.

Meanwhile, the IEC has repeatedly restated its commitment to a transparent and fair vote-counting process. On Tuesday in Kabul, IEC officials announced that all result sheets returned without proper packaging, IEC stamping and endorsement signatures from observers would be disqualified.

Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Mohammad Fahim Naeemi criticized both electoral commissions for not allowing observers to monitor the vote counting and complaints investigation processes earlier this week.

"The ECC invites the observers only when they receive the complaints, but when they start evaluating, there are no observers."

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:47:12 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14560-ecc-892-complaints-under-scrutiny-could-impact-results
Legislators Criticize Incomplete Quorum http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14559-legislators-criticize-incomplete-quorum alt

On Wednesday a number of Afghan legislators criticized their colleagues who do not attend house meetings demanding that their titles be revoked, expressing that their absence is an act of oppression against the people they represent.

"On the basis of article 108 of the constitution, we can dismiss a MP who remains absent for longer than one month," Member of Parliament Ramazan Bashardost said. "We can dismiss the MP on the basis of not conducting his duty and on the basis of betrayal to his province, because he represents his province and he is depriving those who support him."

An incomplete quorum has become an important issue among parliament members. Because the lack of attendance during house meetings, a few MPs angrily demanded that the memberships of the absentees be repealed.

"It is shameful for me as a lawmaker to violate the law and commit an act of oppression against the people," Maidan Wardak Member of Parliament, Ghulam Hussain Naseri, said. "But when it comes time to appear and talk about the president, Supreme Court, Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission they show up."

The House of Representatives will disclose the names of the parliament members who have not attended meetings to the media.

During today's parliamentary session, members endorsed ratification on value added tax; a tax on the amount of increased value placed on an article at each stage of its production or distribution

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:09:44 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14559-legislators-criticize-incomplete-quorum
Observers Question Transparency of Counting Process http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14558--observers-question-transparency-of-counting-process alt

Two of Afghanistan's biggest civil society election monitoring groups criticized both election commissions for failing to conduct the voting counting and complaints management processes transparently.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has emphasized the need for a fair and transparent election yet not permitted observers to view sealed ballot boxes being opened.

"No observation mechanism is provided for the observers the way it should be," Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) representative Muhammad Naeem Ayoubzada said. "We have observers at the counting centers, and they are located in a very far location and serve as an audience rather than observers; they can't observe the counting or the registering process."

The IEC has maintained that national and international observers are present at the ballot gathering process at centers across the country and can observe every step.

Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Muhammad Fahim Naeemi told TOLOnews that his organization's observers are not present when suspicious result sheets are reviewed by IEC employees.

"Usually, when these boxes arrive, regular boxes are opened and sent to be scanned and to be added to the database, which our observers can't observe," Naeemi said. "Suspicious boxes are sent for review, but we don't know where and how they will be reviewed."

The grievances of the civil society groups did not end at the IEC, their frustrations for lack of transparency extended to the complaints commission as well.

"The ECC has meetings everyday to address complaints and the observers are only sometimes invited," TEFA's Ayoubzada said. "The instances where we are not invited, we don't know what goes on, or how the ECC is addressing its challenges."

The IEC has said there are reserved spots assigned to observers at the results gathering center, where they can reportedly observe anything they want.

"We have set a specific spot up for media and observers, where they can observe close to 200 computers," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said. "The issue of scanning that was brought up, that happens right in front of them, at a distance; observing is within a specific framework according to the election laws, we cannot let the observers sit next to our workers."

Approximately 358,000 national and international observers have been closely monitoring the election process.

Both election commissions on Wednesday discussed questionable result sheet packaging and votes to be isolated for complaints investigations. In total, the ECC has 892 complaints that it has said could directly effect the vote count.

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:07:54 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14558--observers-question-transparency-of-counting-process
Two Afghan Soldiers and Seven Taliban Killed in Laghman http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14557-two-afghan-soldiers-and-seven-taliban-killed-in-laghman alt

Seven Taliban—one of which was the leader—and two Afghan soldiers were killed, while four other insurgents and a policeman were injured in an operation led by Afghan forces in eastern Laghman on Tuesday, local officials said on Wednesday.

The operation launched in Alingar district of Laghman early Tuesday and continued through the evening to clear the area of insurgents. During the operation, residents of the Nolamsib valley in the Alingar district rebelled against the insurgents in support of the Afghan forces, Provincial Governor Spokesman Sarhadi Zhwak said.

Zhwak added that the Afghan forces have cleared Jabarkhil, Pariyana and several other villages of Alingar district of insurgents.

Alingar distinct is known as an insecure province where insurgents have been very active in targeting Afghan security forces.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) released a statement stating that these operations are being conducted throughout Afghanistan to rid the country of insurgents.

Statement reads: "the Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan National Army (ANA) and the National Directorate of Security (NDS), have conducted several anti-terrorism joint operations in Kabul, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kandahar, Wardak, Logar and Paktia provinces."

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:08:25 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14557-two-afghan-soldiers-and-seven-taliban-killed-in-laghman
Farakhabar: 15 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14556-farakhabar-15-april-2014- alt

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses corruption at customs with the following guests:

Yama Turabi, head of Afghanistan Transparency Watch

Munawar Shah Bahaduri, MP

To watch the programme, click here:

{youtube}vsQ-jT_NQBo{/youtube}

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:06:13 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14556-farakhabar-15-april-2014-
TAKANI: Slow Counting Process http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14555-takani-slow-counting-process alt

In this episode of Takani, host Zabiullah Sadaat discusses concerns toward the slow counting process with the following guests:

Saleh Mohammad Saleh, MP

Ghulam Hussain Nasiri, MP

Ajmal Hodman, Head of Afghan Lawyers Network

Hassan Mubarak Azizi, political analyst

To watch the programme, click here:

{youtube}a190DOnrl0E{/youtube}

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:03:23 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14555-takani-slow-counting-process
ELECTION DAY 2014: Partial Results and its effects on Election Process http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14554-election-day-2014-partial-results-and-its-effects-on-election-process alt

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Omid Farooq discusses the release of partial results and its effects on the election process with the following guests:

Siddiqullah Tawhidi, director of 'Nai – Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan

Noor Mohammad Noor, spokesman of Independent Election Commission (IEC)

Aziz Rafae, head of civil society organization  

Muhammad Fahim Naeemi, FEFA spokesman

To watch the programme, click here:

{youtube}TYEUj18sIV4{/youtube}

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 07:37:22 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14554-election-day-2014-partial-results-and-its-effects-on-election-process
Debate Over Corruption at Customs http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14553-debate-over-corruption-at-customs alt

Speaking to the The Washington Times, Deputy U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jarrett Blanc said that ongoing corruption in Afghanistan customs offices has undermined much needed revenues. However, the Afghan Ministry Finance (MoF) has disputed those claims.

Custom incomes are considered one of the biggest sources of revenue for the Afghan government, which does not make as much off taxes as many other governments do. Mr. Blanc has maintained there has been a noticeable drop in those incomes in direct relation to corruption within the customs department.

Corruption has been a growing issue in Afghanistan over the years, but with the U.S.-led coalition prepared to withdraw by December, concerns about its effect on the future of the Afghan economy have heightened.

"Recent shortfalls in revenue collection are troubling, and reflect a number of factors, including a general slowdown in the economy," Mr. Blanc said in a written statement. "We have seen some steps by the Afghans in recent months to address domestic revenue collection, though there is much more work to be done...There is no question that corruption remains a fundamental challenge in Afghanistan."

Mr. Blanc maintained nearly half of all public income has been embezzled at customs offices

Meanwhile, Afghan officials from the Finance Ministry have disputed his claims that corruption is the major force behind declining revenues at customs offices. According to MoF spokesman Abdul Qadir Jailani, negative speculations about the Afghan market have caused the downturn, not increased corruption.

"The main reason behind the declining incomes is not corruption, but the speculations and negative propaganda against the government of Afghanistan, particularly surrounding the elections," Jailani said on Tuesday. "Last year, we set a 114 billion AFG target for custom incomes and we received 109 billion dollars," he added.

And regardless of who is more right, administrative corruption remains a major issue in Afghanistan, and one that most experts say must be tackled if the country is to see any efficient economic growth in the coming years.

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 06:01:33 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14553-debate-over-corruption-at-customs
UPDATE: Afghan MP Injured by NDS Personnel in Kabul http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14552-update-afghan-mp-injured-by-nds-personnel-in-kabul alt

Afghan parliamentarian Maryam Koofi was shot by a National Directorate of Security (NDS) personnel in Kabul on Tuesday night and the shooter was arrested, said local officials on Wednesday.

The incident took place in Aria Township where she resides and the motive behind the attack is not clear yet, said the Ministry of Interior Affair's (MoIA) spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi.

"Ms. Mariam Koofi, member of the Parliament, was injured by one of our personnel security force after an argument broke out between the two," Sediqqi said. "The suspect has been arrested and investigations are in progress."

Eyewitness said four people came out of a white vehicle around 9:55 p.m. among the four one shot MP Koofi. The shooter not only shot Koofi, but her bodyguard injuring him. The three other suspects fled the scene.

"Mariam Koofi was on her way home when she was attacked by the gunmen," Noor Mohammad Aria, resident representative of Aria, said. "One of the attackers was injured and the three others fled the area."

Aria town is known for being a secure place in Kabul where most governmental officials live.

MP Koofi was taken to the hospital and is reported to be in stable condition, hospital officials said.

She is the sister of parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi who represents northeastern Takhar province.

This was the second attack carried out by unknown gunmen against high profile officials in Kabul on Tuesday.

The Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Wahid, was kidnapped by unknown gunmen Tuesday morning in Kabul city.

Police officials said they have launched a full investigation.

Kabul city has been relatively safe in terms of kidnapping in the past couple of years, while suicide bombings and tactical assaults have remained more common. But the abduction of Minister Wahid alarmed government officials and business leaders.

Kidnapping Afghan officials is not a tactic often used by the Taliban. Experts suggest that it might be criminals who seek ransom.
NDS declined to comment on the incident.

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 04:00:15 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14552-update-afghan-mp-injured-by-nds-personnel-in-kabul
S. Korea Ferry with 450 Passengers Sinks http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14551-s-korea-ferry-with-450-passengers-sinks alt

South Korean coastguard vessels and helicopters pulled passengers off a stricken ferry as it sank Wednesday off the southern coast with around 450 passengers on board -- mostly high school students.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties, but Lee Gyeong-Og, the vice minister of security and public administration, told reporters in Seoul that he could only confirm the rescue of 110 passengers so far.

Photos broadcast on television showed the ferry tilted over 45 degrees on the port side with helicopters flying overhead, and then fully capsized with only its stern visible.

The ferry, bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, send out a distress signal at 9:00 am (0000 GMT) with passenger testimony suggesting it may have run aground.

"We heard a big thumping sound and the boat stopped," one passenger told the YTN news channel by telephone.

"The boat is tilting and we have to hold on to something to stay seated," the passenger said.

The 6,825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble some 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the island of Byungpoong.

It was carrying a total of 476 passengers and crew, of which 325 were high school students on a trip to Jeju island -- known as "South Korea's Hawaii" and one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.

Og said a total of 34 naval, coastguard and civilian vessels were involved in the rescue operation, along with 18 helicopters.

Og said President Park Geun-Hye in a personal message "ordered us to make efforts not to leave a single casualty".

The ferry manifest included 150 cars.

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 02:41:01 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14551-s-korea-ferry-with-450-passengers-sinks
TOLOnews 6pm News 15 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14550-tolonews-6pm-news-15-april-2014 Top news in this Bulletin:

Senate Chair Fazl Hadi Muslimyar on Tuesday urged Afghan election officials to maintain their neutrality in the vote counting process just as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced it would disqualify all result sheets that fail to meet pre-established standards for validation.

IEC officials announced partial results, based on 10 percent of ballots, on Sunday, putting Abdullah Abdullah in the lead for the presidential race. However, the other candidates, and now a number of Senators, have emphasized the importance of cases of fraud being investigated and invalid votes distinguished from the rest before results are established.

{youtube}veJd_nqK_u8{/youtube}

 

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:19:29 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14550-tolonews-6pm-news-15-april-2014
US Awaits New President for BSA Signature http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14549-us-awaits-new-president-for-bsa-signature

At a meeting held in the western Herat province on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham expressed support for the Afghan election process and said Washington looked forward to finalizing the security deal that would allow American troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 with the next executive in Kabul.

The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) has been stalled ever since President Hamid Karzai placed new preconditions on signing the pact back in November of 2013. The U.S. has since welcomed statements from the top presidential candidates looking to succeed Karzai indicating their willingness to ink the accord without any further delay.

The BSA would provide the legal framework for a continued train and advise mission for foreign troops after the NATO combat mission ends in December, as well as ensure future financial support for the Afghan security forces from the U.S. and its allies.

"We have made clear that we are willing to wait for the next President of Afghanistan to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement and I am sure that whoever the next President is he will sign it as one of the first items of business in his presidency," Ambassador Cunningham said on Tuesday.

Negotiations over the BSA have been a major source of tension between the Karzai administration and Washington in recent months. Many experts and political leaders in Afghanistan have derided Karzai for undermining relations with the U.S., which many of them see as being crucial to the improvement of future security and economic conditions.

The top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan on Tuesday also expressed confidence in the processes of Afghanistan's election commissions, which now face the daunting task of filtering out illegitimate votes from the estimated seven million that were cast on April 5.

"This is now the time to let the Afghan process work for the people of Afghanistan, and for the candidates and their campaigns to allow the institutions to announce the results of the elections, and then if there is second round of elections, to began preparing for those," Cunningham said. He encouraged candidates to respect the Independent Election Commission's (IEC) decisions.

Although partial results based on 10 percent of ballots were announced on Sunday, putting presidential hopeful Abdullah Abdullah in the lead, those results were not yet filtered for irregularities. The preliminary results, which are expected to be more accurate and reflect greater scrutiny, are scheduled to be announced by April 24. Final results will not be publicized until May 14, after the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has concluded its investigations.

"The United States and our international partners will continue to do what we can to support the transparent and credible political process that the Afghan people want," Cunningham said. "I repeat that we have not and will not support any particular candidate." He said he was confident the U.S. would be able to work with whoever the next President is.

The Ambassador took time to praise the turnout Election Day saw, which surprised many after weeks of Taliban violence had captured headlines. He said broad participation of Afghan women further symbolized how far Afghan democracy has come.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:35:29 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14549-us-awaits-new-president-for-bsa-signature
Senate Urges Neutrality, IEC Draws Line on Result Sheets http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14548-senate-urges-neutrality-iec-draws-line-on-result-sheets

Senate Chair Fazl Hadi Muslimyar on Tuesday urged Afghan election officials to maintain their neutrality in the vote counting process just as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced it would disqualify all result sheets that fail to meet pre-established standards for validation.

IEC officials announced partial results, based on 10 percent of ballots, on Sunday, putting Abdullah Abdullah in the lead for the presidential race. However, the other candidates, and now a number of Senators, have emphasized the importance of cases of fraud being investigated and invalid votes distinguished from the rest before results are established.

The IEC is expected to announce the preliminary results of the presidential election on April 24. And the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) is to adjudicate the over 3,000 complaints that have been filed since Election Day by May 8, with the final results of the election being announced by May 14.

"We give the IEC and ECC time to ensure fake votes are separated from genuine votes, and not accept pressure from anyone," Senate Chair Muslimyar said on Tuesday. "They must try to focus on what the people want from them."

IEC officials have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to conducting the vote-counting process in a fair and transparent manner. Election Day saw less overt fraud and ballot box stuffing than was the case in 2009, according to observers, but much of the improprieties that did take place were done by IEC personnel. The Commission employed some 97,000 people nationwide to manage the process on May 5.

After Tuesday, all result sheets that lack proper packaging and validation are now expected to be disqualified. The IEC said up to 400 packs of result sheets were brought to the headquarters in Kabul in non-official packaging, without an IEC stamp or endorsement signature from observers. The packs were assessed in an open-door meeting in the presence of media and election monitors.

According to the IEC, special packages had been sent to provincial election offices to be used to contain the result sheets from each polling center, but in some cases they were not used or were clearly tampered with. Each center's package was intended to include the results from two to four polling sites.

A number of observers representing presidential candidates have claimed that even some of the result sheets properly packaged were inconsistent with vote registry numbers, suggesting there could still be illegitimate votes among them.

The presidential candidates and their supporting staffs have been the most outspoken about the vote counting process, and the need for fairness and transparency as results begin to be publicized. Reportedly, hundreds of the complaints filed with the ECC were from candidates.

On Tuesday Senator Khaliq Dad Balaghi recommended that the Upper House summon ECC officials to discuss the complaint investigation process.

"Both commissions must pursue impartiality and announce the election results with honesty," Senator Ali Akbar Jamshidi said on Tuesday.

The senators also called on the presidential candidates to respect the election commissions and their processes for determining results.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:32:58 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14548-senate-urges-neutrality-iec-draws-line-on-result-sheets
ECC Wants to Isolate Votes From Certain Centers http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14547-ecc-wants-to-isolate-votes-from-certain-centers

Based on hundreds of serious complaints lodged against certain polling centers around the country, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has called on the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to isolate thousands of votes from the counting process that is already well underway.

ECC's Spokesperson Nader Mohseni said that 870 serious complaints have been filed against certain polling centers, among the over 3,000 total complaints that have been submitted. Mohseni declined to provide details about the complaints or the centers at which they were directed.

However, 1,000 complaints filed with the ECC were said to be against IEC employees. The IEC has repeatedly restated its commitment to a transparent and fair vote-counting process, but it came under fire this week after announcing partial results that had not yet been filtered for fraud.

On Sunday, partial results based on 10 percent of votes were announced, placing Abdullah Abdullah in the lead of the presidential race. A number of candidates and civil society groups questioned the results on the basis that illegitimate ballots had been counted amongst them.

But this week has seen the IEC try to establish confidence in the vote-counting process. On Tuesday in Kabul, IEC officials announced that all result sheets returned without proper packaging, IEC stamping and endorsement signatures from observers would be disqualified.

The ECC has already begun evaluating complaints in provincial offices and it will begin next week in the central Kabul office. The ECC has said some IEC officials have be uncooperative with their investigations, but IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor maintained on Tuesday that there would be full cooperation.

"The Independent Election Commission is the partner of the Complaints Commission and we can share offices and equipment," Noor said.

Meanwhile, the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) criticized both electoral commissions for reportedly not allowing observers to monitor the vote registration and complaints investigation processes.

"The ECC invites the observers only when they receive the complaints, but when they start evaluating, there are no observers," FEFA spokesperson Mohammad Fahim Naeemi said.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:30:06 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14547-ecc-wants-to-isolate-votes-from-certain-centers
6:30 REPORT: History of Elections in Afghanistan and the World http://www.tolonews.com/en/6:30-report/14546-630-report-history-of-elections-in-afghanistan-and-the-world alt

This week's 6:30 Report, host Anisa Shahid investigates the history of elections in Afghanistan and across the world. Topics covered are the differences of governmental systems, the role of holding elections in democratic countries and the importance of elections are main points of the program.

To watch the video, click here:

{youtube}TZhZMdpOPuU{/youtube}

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:43:32 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/6:30-report/14546-630-report-history-of-elections-in-afghanistan-and-the-world
IEC Plans to Invalidate Votes http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14545-iec-plans-to-invalidate-votes alt

Officials of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Monday said that before the preliminary results of the 2014 elections are announced at the end of the month, ballots from certain polling sites will be investigated and those deemed illegitimate will be removed from the count.

"The ballots will progress through the seven steps, it will take time, but we are determined to announce a percentage of the results very soon based on the Independent Elections Commission's decision," IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said.

The IEC said 94.4 percent of ballots and result sheets nationwide have arrived at the election body's headquarters in Kabul. "Only 5.6 percent of the votes have not yet arrived in the center," Noor said. The materials are said to be under high security in order to keep them from being destroyed or meddled with.

Although the IEC announced partial results on Sunday based on 10 percent of the ballots, which placed presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in the lead, it was noted that those results had not yet been filtered for invalid votes. The process of verifying votes' legitimacy will be completed before the next announcement of results, which is scheduled for April 24.

According to election officials, the verification process for materials will follow a basic, 4-point protocol in determining what merits further investigation:

- Result sheets that were not signed-off on by the site office chief

- Polling centers that opened after 12:00pm at a new site

- Polling sites where the six hundred votes were divided equally between two candidates

- Ballot boxes of centers where IEC staff were beaten or threatened

IEC Chief Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani said the results announced on Sunday count for 26 out of 34 provinces of Afghanistan, representing 500,000 of the estimated seven million ballots.

Abdullah Abdullah was said to be ahead with 41.9 percent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai trailing at 37.6 percent, Zalmai Rassoul in third with 9.8 percent and Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf at fourth with 5.1 percent.

Excluding Abdullah, the presidential candidates criticized the IEC's partial results announcement emphasizing that the valid votes needed to be separated from the invalid ones before any results are publicized.

In addition to the IEC's vetting process, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) still has to wade through over 3,000 complaints of fraud and other violations that have been filed since Election Day.

The IEC on Monday said the elections process will continue according schedule. The preliminary results from the elections are expected to be announced on April 24 and the final results on May 14. If a runoff round occurs, it is tentatively scheduled for May 28.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:34:09 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14545-iec-plans-to-invalidate-votes
TAKANI: Partial Results http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14544-takani-partial-results alt

In this episode of Takani, host Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the announcement of partial results and the reactions received from the presidential candidates with the following guests:

Jamaludin Badar, Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf's representative

Tofan Waziri, Dr Zalmai Rassoul's representative

Abas Noyan, Dr Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's representative

Fazl Rahman Oria, Dr Abdullah Abdullah's representative

Faridoon Barakzai, Gul Agha Sherzai's representative

To watch the programme, click here:

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 07:56:13 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/takani-/14544-takani-partial-results
ELECTION DAY 2014: Election Complaints http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14543-election-day-2014-election-complaints alt

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses election complaints with ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni.

To watch the program, click here:

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 07:53:02 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/miscellaneous-category/14543-election-day-2014-election-complaints
Landmine Kills One and Injures Nine in Khost http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14541-landmine-kills-one-and-injures-nine-in-khost alt

On Monday evening one civilian was killed and nine others were injured in a blast caused by a landmine in southern Khost, local officials said on Tuesday.

The incident took place in the capital of Khost when a vehicle struck the landmine killing one and injuring nine others, said Provincial Police Chief Faizullah Ghairat.

The victims have been taken to the hospital for treatment, he said.

No insurgent group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Insurgents frequently use explosive devices to target Afghan and NATO forces, but the victims in Monday evening's blast were civilians.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 07:06:27 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14541-landmine-kills-one-and-injures-nine-in-khost
FARAKHABAR: 14 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14542-farakhabar-14-april-2014 alt

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses fraud and violations in the election process with the following guests:

Naeem Ayoubzada, head of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA)

Noor Mohammad Noorm, IEC spokesman

To watch the program, click here:

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:58:28 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/farah-khabare/14542-farakhabar-14-april-2014
Deputy Minister Kidnapped in Kabul http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14540-afghan-deputy-minister-kidnapped-in-kabul alt

Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Waheed, was kidnapped by unknown gunmen Tuesday morning in Kabul city, making him the top government official to be abducted in the heavily fortified Afghan capital, officials said.

"Minister Waheed had just entered his vehicle from his home north of Kabul city at 7:20 a.m. to go to work when four gunmen opened fire on his vehicle, injuring his driver in the foot and taking the minister with them," said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

An 18-year-old shopkeeper, Ahmad, witnessed the abduction and told TOLOnews reporter Karim Amini that the kidnappers were in a white SUV with one license plate on the back of the vehicle. He said they fired only two bullets.

"They were in local attire and managed to take the deputy minister in less than five minutes and flee the area," Ahmad said.

Police officials said they have launched a full investigation. 

Kabul city has been relatively safe in terms of kidnapping in the past couple of years, while suicide bombings and tactical assaults have remained more common. But the abduction of Minister Waheed alarmed other government officials and business leaders.

Kidnapping Afghan officials is not a tactic not often used by the Taliban. Experts suggest that it might be criminals who seek ransom. 

A family member of Minister Waheed, who did not want to be named, said they have not been contacted by the kidnappers yet.

Kabul Police Chief General Zahir Zahir told TOLOnews that protecting ministerial level officials is not his responsibility, explaining that protection for ministers and deputy ministers is  provided by the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

Minister Waheed had neither a bodyguard nor an armored vehicle at the time of his abduction. 

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:58:05 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/14540-afghan-deputy-minister-kidnapped-in-kabul
Obama Urges Putin to Rein in Ukraine Insurgents http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14539-obama-urges-putin-to-rein-in-ukraine-insurgents alt

US President Barack Obama urged Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call to press pro-Moscow groups to lay down their arms in Ukraine, as the Kiev government sought UN help to tackle the growing insurgency.

Tensions between the US and Russia were exacerbated by two episodes at the weekend -- a confrontation in the Black Sea in which a Russian warplane "buzzed" a US destroyer and a visit to Kiev by CIA chief John Brennan.

A White House statement said the telephone call came at Russia's request and that Obama accused Moscow of supporting "armed pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilize the government of Ukraine".

Obama told President Putin that all "irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms".

Putin denied involvement with the pro-Russian insurgents, but an unconvinced European Union expanded its sanctions against officials accused of seeking to break up the ex-Soviet country.

Putin told Obama that Russia was not sponsoring the Kalashnikov-toting separatists who have seized a string of key state buildings in eastern Ukraine, according to the Kremlin's account of the phone call between the two leaders.

He urged Obama to "do everything possible to avoid the use of force and a bloodbath", the Kremlin added.

- Call for UN help -

Ukraine's Western-backed interim President Oleksandr Turchynov meanwhile sought a way out of the escalating crisis by proposing a referendum on greater autonomy for the country's regions and seeking help from the United Nations.

The Ukrainian leader's office said Turchynov also asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for help "in conducting a joint anti-terrorist operation in the east".
There was no initial response from the UN, and Turchynov's office did not explain what precise help Ukraine was requesting.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Kiev late Monday calling for a tough response against the pro-Russian insurgents and the sacking of Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

On Sunday the Kiev government had promised a "full-scale" anti-terrorist operation against the separatists, but that has not materialised.

Russia has deployed 40,000 troops along Ukraine's eastern border, a presence the US and EU sought to counter by approving more than $2 billion in aid for Kiev's embattled interim administration.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg announced they were expanding the list of 33 Ukrainian and Russian officials and business leaders hit by asset freezes and visa bans for their role in the Ukraine crisis -- though the bloc stopped short of harsher measures ahead of a Geneva meeting of top EU, US, Russian and Ukrainian officials on Thursday.

Underlining the danger of an escalation into military conflict, the US said a Russian fighter jet had made several low-altitude passes near an American destroyer in the Black Sea at the weekend, branding the flyby "provocative and unprofessional".

- 'People's Republic of Donetsk' -

The White House meanwhile fended off Russian criticism of its own moves in the crisis, acknowledging that Central Intelligence Agency director Brennan had visited Kiev at the weekend but insisting it was part of a routine trip and that claims to the contrary were "absurd".

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified source as saying Brennan recommended Kiev use force against pro-Russian militants in eastern districts.

The pro-Kremlin militias who have seized state buildings in coordinated raids across eastern Ukraine only appeared to be gaining confidence while paying little heed to the "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" announced with much fanfare in Kiev.

Protesters armed with rocks and clubs smashed their way inside a police station in Gorlivka -- a coal-mining town straddling a highway between the regional capital Donetsk and the city of Slavyansk to the north that is now effectively under militants' control.

The unrestrained crowd whistled and cheered as they ripped away metal shields from the visibly frightened local force before raising the tricolour flag of the self-declared "People's Republic of Donetsk".

Armed militants in Slavyansk -- already in control of the local police station and security service office -- took command of its administration building before asking Putin to send in his troops.

"We ask President Putin to help us," rebel leader Vyacheslav Ponomaryov told a group of reporters.

- National referendum -

The spreading unrest is rooted in the deep mistrust in the big industrial cities along Ukraine's Russian border of the new, nationalist government that enlisted Western support in toppling Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in February.

Pro-Kremlin protesters in rundown regions such as Donetsk and Kharkiv are now seeking local referendums on either broader rights or an option to join the Russia.

Turchynov made a dramatic about-face aimed at defusing the tensions by backing a national poll on turning the centralised nation into a loose federation in which regions enjoy broader rights.

Washington has previously advised Kiev to devolve powers in order to avoid eastern Ukraine going the same way as Crimea, which Russia annexed last month.

"We are not against holding a national referendum," Turchynov told lawmakers. "I am certain that a majority of Ukrainians will support an indivisible, independent, democratic and united Ukraine."

The announcement stopped well short of meeting protesters' calls for each Russian-speaking region to stage its own referendum.

Polls show most in Kiev and the Ukrainian-speaking west supporting a strongly unified state.

US President Barack Obama urged Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call to press pro-Moscow groups to lay down their arms in Ukraine, as the Kiev government sought UN help to tackle the growing insurgency.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:40:19 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/world/14539-obama-urges-putin-to-rein-in-ukraine-insurgents
TOLOnews 6pm News 14 April 2014 http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14538-tolonews-6pm-news-14-april-2014 Top news in this Bulletin:

Efforts are underway to detect the location of significant Taliban leader Mutasim Agha jan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mustaghna said on Monday.

Mutasim Agha Jan served as Taliban's chief of political committee and visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) frequently where peace negotiations were being held between the Taliban and Afghanistan's High Peace Council (HPC). Agha Jan, who was one of the few crucial Taliban figures that had direct contact with the HPC, lived in Turkey and recently disappeared during a tour to the UAE.

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Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:48:51 GMT http://www.tolonews.com/en/video/14538-tolonews-6pm-news-14-april-2014