Ballots defy bullets as Afghans make history
Today, Afghanistan had a tryst with history. It was a no-holds-barred tussle between ballots and bullets, between hope and despair, between future and past, between change and status quo. There was an electrifying buzz on the streets, as defiant people marched towards polling stations, braving security threats and inclement weather. It was an exhibition of exemplary courage and resilience that you can only associate with hard-bitten Afghans. They wanted to make a strong, unequivocal statement. They wanted to demonstrate how right can prevail over might, how dreams can translate into reality.
Despite the heavy downpour, people came out in large numbers to cast their votes. It was undeniably a glorious triumph of democracy and disgraceful drubbing of trouble-mongers and rabble-rousers who made all the desperate, cowardly attempts to play spoilsport in the run up to elections. They made dastardly attempts today as well, in many restive provinces, but that did not stop the intrepid voters from heading to polling stations. It was not just a clear verdict for democracy in this beleaguered country but it was a resounding verdict against terrorism, extremism of all shades and manifestations.
It was undeniably a glorious triumph of democracy and disgraceful drubbing of trouble-mongers and rabble-rousers who made all the desperate, cowardly attempts to play spoilsport in the run up to elections
“We have made history today,” said young Amina, flashing victory sign and beaming with joy outside a polling station in Dasht-i-Archi district of Kunduz province. Like thousands of others in this young country with more than 70 percent youth population, Amina was voting for the first time. “It is an amazing feeling to vote and I will cherish this experience forever,” she said. The high voter turnout in Kunduz, especially the female voters, bears eloquent testimony to how people chose ballots over bullets, hope over despair and change over status quo. As a young voter told me, they have grown weary of endless war and whirlpool of violence. And, as they say, democracy is the best revenge.
In Nimroz, people thronged polling stations from early morning and patiently waited in long queues to cast their votes. Maryam came with her two small children to vote at a polling station in Chahar Burjak district. “I wanted my children to see and learn how a vote can make all the difference,” said the mother, flanked by her son and daughter. Like Maryam, many other voters I met at the polling stations expressed hope that peace and normalcy will return to this war-ravaged country.
In Paktia province, which is infested with armed insurgents, something amazing happened a day before the polls. Armed insurgents from Pakistan tried to attack a polling center and the attack was warded off by Afghan Taliban. These developments are significant considering the fact that armed opposition groups here in Afghanistan have been asking people to boycott elections.
In Khost, voters displayed extraordinary courage to come out and vote. “The darkest hour of night comes just before the dawn,” philosophized Baseer Ahmad, a small-time entrepreneur from Khost. He woke up early morning and quite excitedly rushed to a nearby polling station at Lakan, and much to his delight, he found unprecedented rush of people, mostly first time voters. “The writing is on the wall,” he said. “Those who are opposed to democracy in Afghanistan must read it.”
In Baghdis, the enthusiasm was unadulterated and the buzz was loud. The voters, mostly youth, had conquered fears and taken a solemn pledge to vote for change. “We are here to be part of something big, we are here to make history,” said Rehmatullah, a local shop-keeper in Marchak village. The boycott calls, he says, only made his resolve firmer. “Those who think we will be cowed down by threats are sadly mistaken, we are against anyone who is against our country.”
In Herat, it was heartening to see long queues of women, draped in traditional chadari, waiting outside polling stations. “I am here to make a statement,” said Khadijah, an elderly woman from Pashtun Zarghun district. “We are Afghans and we don’t care for our lives. For us, country comes first.” The other women were reluctant to talk but their spirits were high.
The high voter turnout in Kunduz, especially the female voters, bears eloquent testimony to how people chose ballots over bullets, hope over despair and change over status quo
In Faryab, the voting ended a little early but participation of voters, like in other places, was beyond expectations. “There were serious apprehensions about security and transparency in these elections and whether voters would be dissuaded because of the threats issued by armed opposition groups, but we proved naysayers and doomsayers wrong, we have made history,” said a senior official of Independent Election Commission (IEC).
In Kabul, the election buzz was exhilarating. Security had been beefed up across the city in the wake of recent attacks, mostly on civilian installations. Like Mujeeb Hakamzada, most of the voters in Kabul were youth, in their early 20s. And they had a point to prove. “More than anything else, this was a vote against terrorism, against tyranny, against all those forces who want chaos and disorder in this country,” said Hakamzada, who casted his vote at Bibi Mehru High School in Bibi Mehru area of central Kabul.
As the day progressed, there were reports about shortage of ballot papers and ballot boxes in Mazar e Sharif, Bamyan, Badghis, Faryab, Daikundi, which clearly shows the unprecedented response of voters. As media baron Saad Mohseni tweeted, it also deprived the fraudsters of stuffing boxes like we saw in last Presidential elections. The response of voters prompted IEC to extend the voting by one hour. And, despite heavy rain, response was extraordinary.
At the end of day, ballots defied bullets and Afghans made history.
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