Millions of Afghans braved Taliban threats Saturday to vote for a successor to President Hamid Karzai in a landmark election held as US-led forces wind down their long intervention in the country.
Polling stations officially closed at 5:00 pm (1230 GMT), officials said, after a day without major security incidents. But voting was set to continue for some time as voters in line at polling stations would be allowed to cast their ballot, a senior official with the Independent Election Commission said.
Security was a major concern following a string of high-profile attacks in the capital Kabul, most recently a suicide bombing at the Interior Ministry on Wednesday that killed six police officers. The Taliban have rejected the election as a foreign plot, and urged their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces.
Afghanistan's third presidential election brings an end to 13 years of rule by Karzai, who has led the country since the Taliban were ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001. The Nato coalition force is pulling out its last 51,000 combat troops this year, leaving Afghan forces to battle the Taliban insurgency without their help.
Stations officially closed at 5:00 pm but voting was set to continue to allow voters in line to cast their ballot.
Polls begin to close in Afghan election: official —AFP
Take a look inside Pakistan: The Afghan refugee perspective
Afghan refugee in Quetta: "I want to go back and play a role in the progress of Afghanistan."
A roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded two others in the southern city of Qalat as they were returning from a polling station.
In the city of Kandahar, the mood is tense. Vehicles are not allowed to move on the roads and checkpoints have been set up at every intersection. Hamida, a 20-year-old teacher working at a Kandahar polling station, says more than a dozen women turned up in the first two hours of voting and adds that she expects more to come despite the threat of an attack by the Taliban. “We are trying not to think about it,” she says.
Pakistan’s businessmen have a number of expectations from the incoming Afghan leadership. Kamran Mirza, Chief Executive Pakistan Business Council, hopes that the new government in Afghanistan will be effective at reducing cross-border smuggling.
Afghans at the polls
Visited a few centers in Chak and Sayedabad, Wardak. Some on main road active, others in villages empty, boxes taken to be stuffed.— Matthieu Aikins (@mattaikins) April 5, 2014
Who is voting?
There is genuine competition, in the sense that the winner of the Afghan presidential election is far from clear. Read today's editorial published in the Dawn newspaper here: http://www.dawn.com/news/1097767
Still catching up on what's happening in the Afghan elections?
Take a look at the presidential contenders believed most likely to emerge victorious in Afghanistan's elections. - Video by Reuters
The interior ministry said two officials were detained for trying to rig the vote, and elsewhere several people were arrested for trying to use fake voter cards.
Police in the northern province of Faryab said they had arrested a would-be suicide bomber trying to enter a polling station, while in Ghazni, in the southeast, a volley of rockets were fired but landed far from a voting centre.
2nd democratic transition in region in a year underway in Kabul; big change ahead 4 region; now wait for what comes out of Indian ballot box— Tahir Mehdi (@TahirMehdiZ) April 5, 2014
Four voters have been wounded in an explosion at a polling station in the southeastern province of Logar. "The blast took place close to a polling station which is a school building and wounded four voters, one critically," Abdul Hameed, governor of the province's Mohammad Agha district, told Reuters.
With the presidential elections, Afghan refugees living in Pakistan are worried about the instability that might follow the polls and the subsequent withdrawal of Nato forces from their home country. Read more on what the Afghans based in Pakistan have to say about their current conditions and about any possibilities of repatriation: http://www.dawn.com/news/1097526/where-do-i-call-home
“I'm not afraid of Taliban threats, we will die one day anyway. I want my vote to be a slap in the face of the Taliban,” Afghan housewife Laila Neyazi, 48, tells AFP.
"I cast my vote, I feel happy and proud as a citizen of Afghanistan," Hamid Karzai says after voting in a school near the presidential palace in Kabul.
Guess how ballot boxes were delivered to one of Afghanistan’s most inaccessible areas!
''The election excitement is being felt all over the place,'' says Aimal Jan Ghafoori, who worked at a voter registration centre in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. ''It's really good to see this change. I hope this change helps in changing the fate of our country soon enough.'' He says barely three dozen people showed up to register each day in 2009, when massive vote-rigging marred Karzai's re-election, while as many as 300 lined up daily to beat Tuesday's deadline to register for this year's elections for president and provincial councils.
With Afghanistan undergoing a historic transition, a number of its citizens reside in Pakistan. Here's what the Afghans living in Peshawar have to say about their living conditions in the host country.
Nazia Azizi, a 40-year-old housewife, was first in line at a school in eastern Kabul.''I have suffered so much from the fighting and I want prosperity and security in Afghanistan. That is why I have come here to cast my vote,'' she says. ''I hope that the votes that we are casting will be counted and that there will be no fraud in this election.''
Vote offers little to Afghan poor | Little has changed for Daro Khan since the Taliban were toppled and Karzai took up office more than 12 years ago. He says he's disappointed the current government hasn't done more to help and it's not clear whether the next one would either.
The capital, Kabul, has been sealed off from the rest of the country by rings of roadblocks and checkpoints.
All there is to know about the Afghan presidential election: http://www.dawn.com/in-depth/afghan-elections-2014-understanding/
The Afghan election chief has cast his ballot, launching nationwide elections for a new president and provincial councils that is taking place amid heavy security. Men and women lined up more than an hour before the polls opened, defying fears of violence. Independent Election Commission chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani urged all Afghans to vote as he marked his ballot live on television. “I call on the people of Afghanistan to prove to the enemies of Afghanistan that nothing can stop them,” he said after he had cast his own vote as a polling station opened in Kabul.
Security has been tightened for the elections. All 400,000 of Afghanistan's police, army and intelligence services have been deployed to ensure security around the country.
Poll security has been a major concern following a string of high-profile attacks in Kabul, most recently a suicide bombing at the Interior Ministry on Wednesday that killed six police officers.
There has been no word of violence as voting got under way at 7 a.m. local time. Taliban insurgents had launched a spate of attacks in the run-up to the vote, which they brand as a US-backed sham.
Eight candidates are in the running for the Afghan presidency and the top three contenders include former foreign ministers Zalmai Rassoul and Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Read more about them and others on: http://www.dawn.com/in-depth/afghan-elections-2014-profiles/#1097069
Polls open in historic Afghan presidential elections. Voters queued in cool damp weather before the start of the ballot in Kabul, an AFP photographer says, with around 13.5 million people eligible to vote from an estimated total population of 28 million. Polls close at 4:00 pm.