Khadija Ghaznawi says she knows exactly how to end the long-simmering conflict in Afghanistan: build more factories. A logistics company owner by profession and peace activist on the side, Ghaznawi says that if the government had been diligent about creating more jobs for Afghans, militants would have laid down their arms already. “The Afghan Taliban are also sick of fighting,” she says. “They haven’t gotten any of the opportunities from aid money that came into this country. If we provide work and education for their kids, they’ll stop.” That was one of the causes Ghaznawi was planning to champion as the only woman running for president in Afghanistan’s upcoming national elections — that is, until she was disqualified a few days ago. In 162 days, Afghan voters will choose their next president, in an election that stands to shape the future of this troubled nation in the year the U.S. completes its withdrawal after more than a decade-long occupation. But Ghaznawi will most likely not be on the ballot. On Oct. 22, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that over half the candidates who had put their names forward for the job did not qualify to run. Ghaznawi says she has no idea why she was booted off the list. “The elections commission didn’t tell me why,” she said. “I haven’t received one phone call… I’m very angry with the decision.”
This fall, a motley cast of characters threw their hats in the ring to take over from President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally banned from running again in the polls scheduled for April. Twenty six candidates, with two vice presidential running mates apiece, formally submitted their names to the IEC, saying they had come up with, among other requirements, the compulsory amount of cash and 100,000 voter signatures required from across the country to run.
Evidently not. A little over two weeks after registration closed, IEC chief Yusif Nuristani told reporters in Kabul that after reviewing the candidates, the elections body deemed only 10 to be eligible for its preliminary list. The frontrunners remain, including Abdullah Abdullah who ran against Karzai in 2009, Karzai’s brother Qayyum Karzai, former minister of finance Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former minister of foreign affairs Zalmai Rassoul.