Afghans are excited about the upcoming presidential poll. For the first time in history the war-torn country will see the transfer of power from one elected president to another. But for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, the April 5 election will just be another ordinary day as they have been officially disenfranchised. The Afghan election commission says it does not have sufficient resources to make proper polling arrangements for the Pakistani Afghans, most of whom dwell in the refugee camps along the Pakistani-Afghan border. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, there are around 2.6 million registered Afghans in Pakistan, most of whom had migrated to the neighboring Islamic republic during the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviet forces. After the US invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent toppling of the Islamist Taliban government in 2001, many Afghans moved back to their homeland. A large number, however, preferred to stay back in Pakistan. Afghanistan allowed its citizens in Pakistan to vote in the 2004 presidential vote, but in the 2009 election, they were excluded due to security risks. Incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai was successful in both elections.
There are eight candidates running for president with former government ministers Abdullah Abdullah, Zalmai Rasool and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai seen as front-runners. The Afghan constitution bars Karzai from seeking a third term. Thirty-two million people live in the South Asian country; however, only 12 million are eligible to cast votes.
Pakistani authorities say it is a mere excuse that it was not logistically possible to allow Afghan refugees to vote. “We can make all the arrangements for Afghans residing in our country,” Shah Farman, the information minister of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told DW, adding that it would be the prerogative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s central government now to take up this issue with Kabul.