Electoral commissioners taking oath before the 2018 parliamentary vote

Biased and partial, AGO sums up under uncertainty

This case review, conducted by senior reporters of Etilaat-e-Roz, shows that Afghanistan’s Attorney General’s Office has passed a partial and biased judgment on cases of vote rigging in 2018 parliamentary election in Badakhshan and Kunar provinces.    

Evidences suggest that Afghanistan’s Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has passed a biased judgment against the former commissioners of the electoral commission. Following the disputed 2018 parliamentary election, two of the parliamentary candidates filed suits against the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC) commissioners, claiming that a number of IEC commissioners in line with IECC commissioners were involved in vote manipulation.  

After legal claims launched by a number of parliamentary nominees who ran for 2018 parliamentary election, President Ashraf Ghani, on February 12, 2019, issuing a decree, fired as many as 12 commissioners of electoral commission. The commissioners, who were fired, were accused of vote manipulation, abuse of power, and financial corruption.

Following the move by the president, the AGO assigned a fact-finding committee to investigate the case. ‘To carry out an all-aspect’ probe on alleged cases of vote manipulation by the electoral commissioners, the fact-finding committee imposed travel ban on commissioners, who were fired on charges of vote rigging. A month later, the AGO imposed travel ban on five high-ranking IEC staffs, who were accused involvement in vote manipulation and abuse of authority.           

Later on May 19, 2019, Jamshid Rasuli, the spokesperson for the AGO, speaking in a press conference, announced that cases of 12 commissioners, accused of vote rigging, along with cases of former head of IEC secretariat and head of IT department were referred to a court for further investigation. He clarified that they were accused of ‘financial corruption and vote manipulation’ in 2018 parliamentary election in Kunar and Badakhshan provinces.

Who are accused of vote rigging?

According to AGO, IEC commissioners, who were fired, were involved in depressing vote share of Saleh Mohammad Saleh, a candidate who ran for parliamentary election from Kunar province. The AGO stated that the commissioners were also involved in depressing vote share of Mohammad Islam Yaftali, another nominee, who ran for 2018 parliamentary election from Badakhshan province. The suspect IEC commissioners, in line with suspect IECC commissioners —Abdul Aziz Ariayee, Humaira Haqmal, Abdul Basir Fayez—, and head of IEC secretariat, and head IT department of electoral commission were involved in depressing the vote shares of Mr. Saleh and Mr. Yaftali, the two plaintiffs who were declared winner in the primary announcement of election results of Kunar and Badakhshan provinces, the AGO claimed.    

 In accordance with AGO’s statement, Abdul Aziz Ariayee, Humaira Haqmal, Abdul Basir Fayez, in line with IEC commissioners and IEC’s senior staffs, were accused of involvement in depressing vote share of Mr. Yaftali while recounting the vote. The statement by AGO also accused Ali Reza Rohani and Ghulam Dastagir Hedayat, the two IECC commissioners, of being accomplice ‘for not raising objections against this election fraud.’

According to AGO’s statement, Abdul Aziz Ariayee, Humaira Haqmal and Abdul Basir Fayez, again in line with IEC commissioner, were accused to be involved in depressing vote share of Mr. Saleh.

Statements by suspect commissioners

In response to inquiry by the AGO, Abdul Aziz Ariayee, Humaira Haqmal and Abdul Basir Fayez stated that after the announcement of final result of 2018 parliamentary election of Badakhshan and Kunar provinces, they realized that a vote manipulation— increasing the vote share of the favored candidate or depressing the vote share of the rival candidate— was carried out in ‘recounting result sheet of vote’ in the areas. They also admitted that there were some ‘technical problems’ in database of the IEC when the IECC made final decision about the final result sheets of vote of Kunar and Badakhshan provinces.

According to AGO’s statement, before the finale announcement of vote result of Badakhshan, the three IECC commissioners, Abdul Aziz Ariayee, Humaira Haqmal and Abdul Basir Fayez, officially informed the IEC that the result sheet of recounted votes from Badakhshan looked manipulated. In accordance with the AGO, the three IECC commissioners, in line with the IEC commissioners, were involved in depressing vote share of Mr. Islam Yaftali, who was declared a winner in the primary result sheet of vote of Badakhshan but dropped out of the winning list in the final result sheet of the vote.      

Highly secret observation by NDS

Immediately after the polls closed in Kunar, the provincial directorate of National Directorate of Security (NDS), in a series of confidential reports, informed the IECC office in Kunar that Saleh Mohammad Saleh along with his close supporters—nephews, cousins and relatives—had gained votes in return for cash. In a confidential letter, dated October 21, 2018, no 2599, the NDS noted: “A number of candidates in Kunar buy people’s votes in return for cash, and Haji Mohammad Saleh has subscribed 80 percent of male votes and 99 percent of female vote, paying 1000 to 2000 Pakistani rupias in return for each vote.”

Biased and partial judgment by AGO

Findings show that the fact-finding committee, assigned by the AGO to investigate the cases of vote manipulation, has violated the due process. The AGO has partially reviewed the lawsuit filed by Mr. Saleh and Mr. Yaftali while taking no notice of statements made by the IECC commissioners.

It is notable that as per the law of the country, only a court is authorized to impose travel ban on suspects whilst in this case the fact-finding committee, assigned by the AGO, has imposed travel ban on suspected electoral commissioners and five other senior officials of the IEC.

On April 21, 2019, the fact-finding committee announced its investigation over. Following the announcement, the AGO refused to assure the suspects with the right to appeal, albeit as per the penal code of the country, every suspect has the right to appeal against verdict made by primary court.  

The AGO, in a statement issued on July 21, 2019, declared NDS assessment on case of Saleh Mohammad Saleh as unsubstantiated.

A review of the case indicates that the AGO has passed a biased and partial judgment on the cases of vote manipulation in Kunar and Badakhshan provinces. Despite repeated calls by Etilaat-e-Roz, the AGO, however, refused to comment on the issue.

Most court decisions are cause celebre in Afghanistan.