By : Adil Adalatkhwah

Afghan elections: How North compares to South?


Afghanistan had most of the ingredients for successful elections – people’s war weariness, hope and support. However, manipulations and lack of transparency were too evident to call the process democratic. The extent of irregularities and manipulations can easily be gauged from a sample comparison between the three northern provinces of Parwan, Panjshir and Kapisa with the three southern provinces of Paktia, Khost and Paktika.

The reason for this specific comparison is the parity between the population size of these provinces, based on the census of 1979 and the Central Statistics Office’s adjusted estimates of 2003. However, this comparison by no means discounts the possibility irregularities in other provinces. Comparing all provinces is way beyond the scope of this analysis.

From the
table below, one can see the combined population of the three southern provinces as 727,000 and that of the three northern provinces as 755,000. The population of the northern trio was slightly bigger than their southern counterparts. But for the sake of easy comparisons, we will disregard this difference.

However, despite these statistics, the three southern provinces have been allocated 14 seats in the parliament and their northern counterparts only 12 (ten more seats were also allocated to the vaguely estimated 1.5 million Pushtun nomads
(4) over and above all other figures).

Also, very interesting ballot figures emerged during the 2004 presidential elections, where 714,000 votes were allegedly cast in the southern trio, while only 277,000 in the northern trio. This is despite the Joint Electoral Management Body or JEMB’s claim of some 650,000 votes that were allegedly cast by refugees in Pakistan. Assuming that some 200,000 of these votes represented the refugees of these 3 southern provinces, the total votes from the southern trio reaches 914,000 (more than 3 times that of the northern provinces). How is this possible and what can justify such huge manipulations and frauds?

It is not unlikely that in the presidential election the ink fiasco was intentionally orchestrated to confuse the situation and distract attentions from the massive ballot box stuffing in the South. Using the indelible ink to mark voters’ thumbs is a very basic necessity and test for any elections. How was that possible that, in an election costing over $130 millions, JEMB officials did not test this ink even once? A possible answer is that the massive fraud was not only aimed at bringing Hamid
Karzai to power, but also aimed at inflating the population of the South to justify and sustain their traditional supremacy and lion’s share of power in the government.

In the parliamentary elections there were again disturbing reports that elections were rigged, particularly, in Kabul, Ghazni and in many southeastern provinces. Many candidates were outraged by scale of rigging and irregularities. There had been abundance of evidence whereas election officials were seen adding bundles ballot papers to the piles of particular candidates.


Another example of this fraudulent elections is the average female voter turnout of some 60% in the conservative provinces of Paktika, Khost and Paktika. Whereas in the mainly non-Pushtun and relatively liberal provinces of Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-sharif, the average female turnout is below 40%. How one could justify such a high female turnout in the South where women are hardly treated better than animals.

EU election observers did express concerns over the situation. This even forced Peter Erben, JEMB's chief electoral officer, to criticize the counting process and the women’s turnout, at least in
Paktika province, and called to quarantine many ballot boxes there. He revealed that men used women’s voting cards also during these elections. Some 502,000 voter cards were issued in this province alone, whereas its population, according to the census of 2003, is 352,000 (4). People were again haunted by the scandalous voter turnout, particularly women's turnout, in these 3 provinces - the highest in Afghanistan.

This is only tip of the iceberg. More that 1,240,000 voter cards were issued in these three provinces
(3), whereas their combined population is only 1,067,000 (4). Women’s cards bore no pictures, and 40 million ballot papers were printed for absolutely bizarre or unexplained reasons.

Despite all the wrong-doings in the parliamentary elections, it was mainly because of the very massive manipulation and irregularities during the presidential elections that the turnout in the parliamentary elections now looks so low.


It is a pity that some Afghan politicians have not learned from all these decades of turmoil that in fact came on the heels of a similar type of third rate politics involving ethno-tribal exclusivity and narrowly defined self-interests.

Such injustices and power manipulations have resulted in ethnic tension already simmering under the surface. Should the international community fail to tame the ethnic supremacist circle within the Karzai’s government soon, it could only take an excuse to throw the country back to where it was. Opting for quick fixes, rather than confidence-building through true democracy and social justice, will throw the disillusioned in the trap of the mindful and watchful neighbors. Such an eventuality will neither benefit the Afghans nor the international community, particularly the United States and Britain.
(1) see Afghan Central Statistics Office (CSO) website and UN statistics
(2) See Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) website for 2004 Presidential Elections @
(3) See the JEMB website. @
(4) See CSO’s Afghanistan Statistical Yearbook 2003.



Population in 1979

Population in 2003

Number of seats in parliament

Votes in presidential election

Total voter cards issued


482 000

415 000


230 000

400 000



300 000


216 000

340 000


245 000

352 000


268 000

500 000


727 000

1 067 000


714 000

1 240 000

(*) Khost was part of Paktia in 1979


505 000

726 000


130 000

250 000





48 000

145 000


250 000

360 000


99 000

210 000


755 000

1 086 000


277 000

605 000

(**) Panjshir was part of Parwan until 2004

All figures in this review are based on statistics derived from the website of the JEMB and Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Office. For more information see the JEMB website. Also visit and UN figures for statistics on Afghanistan.