Afghan Election Brings Fraud, Warlords

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
The BBC reported Tuesday that voting cards are being sold in vast quantities and cash payments being used to buy votes ahead of Thursday's presidential election in Afghanistan.

An Afghan working undercover for the British network was offered at least one thousand voting cards for just $10 each, according to the BBC's report.

At left: An Afghan man walks with a donkey carrying ballot boxes to remote areas around Hisarak village, Rokha, Panjshir province, north of Kabul, Aug. 18, 2009.

The BBC's Ian Pannell reported that the voting card fraud included some people being issued multiple cards and cards being issued to children and others who never actually registered to vote.

Pannell said there was no way to estimate how many voting cards had made it illegally into circulation, but that numbers were thought to be huge — with the fraud so pervasive, and exploited by all of the 30 candidates so extensively, that it may actually cancel itself out, lending no great advantage to any one contender.

There have also been questions over official endorsements of candidates by high-profile figures of questionable repute and illegal campaigning by government workers, said the BBC report.

One such high-profile figure, whose endorsement of incumbent President Hamid Karzai has raised further questions over the Afghan leader's interest in improving the country's human rights record, is the notorious warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Dostum (at left) a feared militia leader and one of the most prominent figures among Afghanistan's Uzbek ethnicity, returned from exile in Turkey on Sunday after it was announced by Karzai's office that he would be campaigning for the president.

Dostum still has a huge following in Afghanistan and his endorsement could secure thousands of minority Uzbek votes for Mr. Karzai.

According to an article in The Telegraph, Dostum earned a reputation as a fierce battlefield commander — who fought at various times on both sides of Afghanistan's civil war — after allegedly running over one of his own soldiers for a reported theft and suffocating to death 2,000 Taliban prisoners in shipping containers. He denies the latter charge.

According to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, America has "serious concerns about the prospective role of Mr. Dostum in today's Afghanistan," reported the Telegraph.

"The issues surrounding him become all the more acute with his return to Afghanistan during this period... Among other concerns, his reputed past actions raise questions of his culpability for massive human rights violations," read the Embassy statement.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.