Sajid being interviewed re election work 2014

The author being interviewed while engaged in election monitoring for FEFA. (Courtesy photo.)

Editor’s note: Afghanistan’s transition to democracy has not gone smoothly.  The country has a two stage process for electing a president. During the first round of voting, multiple candidates run for office and all but the top two vote-getters are eliminated. In the next stage, an election is held to choose the president from those two candidates. In the recent election, the two candidates were Mr. Abdullah Abdullah and Mr. Ashraf Ghani. On June 14, 2014, the second round of voting took place with very high voter turnout despite threats and acts of violence by extremist groups opposed to the democratic process.  Some two and a half months later, the election has not been settled, and remains mired in controversy due to allegations of widespread voting fraud. The situation is disappointing and undermines the electoral process. Nevertheless, as disappointing as this is, we must admire those Afghans who have selflessly and courageously worked for the good of their country to monitor the election process, one of whom is Mohammad Sajid Arghandaiwall, who wrote the post that follows. Sajid is a friend of Pax Populi who wrote the last piece on the election and has written for us in the past. Sajid was on the front lines of the election monitoring process as a volunteer with the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA). What follows is a brief report by Sajid on his experience with FEFA.

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 “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” A catchy quote that’s been making the

FEFA domestic volunteer election monitors at work in Afghanistan’s recent run-off election

FEFA volunteer election monitors at work in Afghanistan’s recent election. (Photo: Arghandaiwall)

rounds on Facebook. Inspiring. Challenging. Calling one to do something positive. It is a statement that resonates within me and perhaps many others of my generation. And the reason why a number of us have chosen to do volunteer work with election monitoring groups. Election monitoring groups have been working in Afghanistan in this recent election. I am happy to say that all of them have shown impartiality, aiming only to have a transparent process of election all over the country. Among these groups is FEFA, which stands for Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan. It is a non- profit and impartial institution based in Kabul which aims to ensure that all the democratic processes are implemented transparently through networking, citizen participation and good governance.

Women line up to vote in Afghanistan's recent election. (Photo: Jawad Kia)

Women line up to vote in Afghanistan’s recent election. (Photo: Jawad Kia)

I was attracted to work for FEFA because this organization encourages Afghan youths to take part in all its projects to develop Afghanistan. In addition, one of its sectors focuses on working to empower youths and women through different social projects. I started work with FEFA during the second round of elections. FEFA was one of the best choices for me. Working with them I gained knowledge about the process of election and learned to fight for the rights of others. As a volunteer my main task was to receive reports from the FEFA observers in Paktia province about the whole election process from the time polling stations opened till the time they are closed. Using a list of guide questions that had been given to us, I also inquired from observers in other provinces what took place in their areas. Our work involved finding out if any fraud had taken place, whether there was anything wrong in how the voting was conducted, identifying any issue at the polling stations that we can request the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to resolve and providing assistance to voters at the  polling stations. In addition I worked for about two weeks at the IEC as a representative from FEFA to observe the auditing process of the election.

A woman has her finger marked with ink to confirm she has voted. (Photo: Jawad Kia)

A woman has her finger marked with ink to confirm she has voted. (Photo: Jawad Kia)

Despite the rough experience Afghanistan has had in the recent elections, the people have a deep desire to see democracy become a reality. For that reason millions took part in the first round of the elections to exercise their right to decide who should lead the country. And with it their hopes that peace would return to Afghanistan. Democracy goes hand in hand with peace. I believe one of the most important factors that can promote peace in Afghanistan is education. Education brings with it knowledge and the ability to make sound decisions. With education, people will no longer be mired in ignorance and so easily swayed by competing warlords. With education, Afghans can bring about the change they wish to see in the country. And I will continue to do my part to make this happen.