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Afghan refugee register 'going well'


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Afghan refugee register 'going well'

The first day of registering Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for next week's presidential elections has gone well, organisers say.

The three-day process is "a very complex, logistical exercise," the organisers say.

They estimate that up to 800,000 Afghans in Pakistan are eligible to vote as well as up to 600,000 Afghans living in Iran.

Polling stations at refugee camps in both countries are being set up.

A spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration which is overseeing the registration process in Pakistan said he was hopeful targets would be met by the end of the weekend.

"Things got off to a slow start, but picked up later in the day, particularly in Quetta and Peshawar," Jean-Philippe Chauzy, head of media relations at the IOM, told BBC News Online.

"It's a very complex, logistical exercise."


Refugees living in Iran and Pakistan could make up a significant 10% of the total vote, the United Nations said this week.

Reports said hundreds of Afghans, including women, lined up at special registration centres on Friday near the Pakistani cities of Quetta in Baluchistan and Peshawar in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

"We have got this opportunity to vote for the first time in our lives, and we will participate in the election process," the Associated Press quoted an Afghan woman, Sajida Ibrahim, as saying.

Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan to escape the fighting in their country.

At least a million still live in sprawling refugee camps dotted along the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border.

"Now I will have a say in the affairs of my country," another refugee, Saifuddin, said soon after registering to vote at the Chachagari camp outside Peshawar.

The registration process is scheduled to go on until Sunday. Some 1,670 polling stations will be set up in western Pakistan where most refugee camps are based.

However, up to another two million Afghans living in Pakistan will not have a vote.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says the IOM is not expecting anything like the success the authorities experienced in Afghanistan in registering women voters.

In Afghanistan there was time to break through cultural and social obstacles.

The organisation readily admits its operation has been hampered by delays, largely due to a late decision on whether to hold the vote in Pakistan and Iran.

As a result, entire refugee populations in the east and south-east of Pakistan will be excluded.

Afghans living in Iran have already been registered by the Iranian government.


Around 20,000 local and international staff have been employed in both Iran and Pakistan to help organise and facilitate the vote.

UN officials have said that some poll officials have received anonymous phone threats and that pamphlets have been circulated among the Afghan community in Pakistan warning them not to vote.

Late on Thursday Afghanistan's former Taleban rulers urged the country's people to boycott the poll.

"These are not independent and just elections, neither do they reflect the will of the people of Afghanistan," said a statement from Taleban spokesman Hamid Agha, issued in Peshawar.

"The Muslim people of Afghanistan know that the so-called elections are in fact a foreign project to justify the US forces' occupation."

Voting for Afghanistan's presidential takes place on 9 October but it could be weeks before votes are tallied and a result is known.

Interim president Hamid Karzai is the favourite to win and is being challenged by 17 candidates.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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