ISLAMABAD, 24 Aug 2004 (IRIN) - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is preparing to conduct voter registration for Afghans residing in Pakistan, ahead of Afghanistan's first presidential elections scheduled for 9 October this year.
"The IOM will run an extensive public awareness campaign to inform Afghans of their right to vote - especially encouraging female participation," Greg Bearup, the media officer for IOM's Afghanistan Out of Country Registration and Voting (OCRV) programme told IRIN in the capital, Islamabad on Tuesday.
Close to two million Afghans still live in Pakistan, according to the UN, despite more than a million having returned since late 2001.
The IOM has been assigned the task of registering voters and conducting polling for Afghans residing in Pakistan and Iran, on behalf of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghan government's Joint Election Management Body (JEMB).
In Pakistan, the voter registration will start on 1 October and continue for three days. However, the registration stations will remain open on 4 and 5 October, for supervised public viewing of the registration lists. Those scrutinising the lists would be able to submit a challenge to any name on the list that they believe is registered fraudulently.
Over 1,000 registration and as many polling stations will be established in approximately 300 locations in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan province. Both provinces border Afghanistan and are home to the majority of Afghans in Pakistan.
"The stations will be set up at refugee camps and the urban refugee concentrations of the two provinces in Peshawar and Quetta. However, Afghans living in other areas of the country can travel to any of these centres to enroll for voting," Bearup said.
Those registering to vote would be required to confirm their Afghan nationality and their eligibility to participate in the election. Afghan men and women, 18 years of age and older are eligible to register. Each will receive a registration receipt to be presented on polling day and will be inked on their right hand in order to prevent multiple registrations.
The registration of Afghan voters will only take place in Pakistan. In Iran, where around 800,000 Afghans live, this process was already undertaken in 2003. The Iranian Afghan refugee voter register will be sent to Afghanistan together with completed ballots at the end of the election process.
The IOM OCRV will open seven field offices in Iran, with approximately 1,000 polling stations in some 250 locations across the country.
Through its network of field offices in two countries, IOM will commence local voter education and information services for the Afghan population. It will work closely with the UN and JEMB to develop registration information, including leaflets, flyers, radio and television spots, to ensure that Afghans are aware of the registration process and procedures.
The IOM OCRV will recruit some 1,200 community mobilisers each in the two countries. These teams will assist in the recruitment and training of thousands of staff that will operate the registration and polling stations. The polling staff will be recruited primarily from the local Afghan community including both men and women.
Polling will take place in Iran and Pakistan on the same day as in Afghanistan - 9 October. Registration data and ballots will be transferred to the Afghan capital, Kabul for counting, immediately after the close of polls and under international supervision.
... Payvand News - 8/25/04 ... --