People queued for hours to cast their votes on April 5. (This and main photo: Zafar Shah Rouye)
Waiting in lines has always been difficult, even if just for a few minutes. Last Saturday's wait was a different experience. Despite two hours of constant standing, I felt no pain or numbness in my legs. Everytime I nudged closer to the poll station I touched my voting card in my pocket.
Around 12 pm, I finally reached the polling table where I was given two ballots; each was for the presidential and provincial council election respectively. As I ticked the box for my favorite candidates, I felt really proud to be entitled to elect among the list someone whom I deemed to best serve me and my country.
From trigger to inked-finger
There were around 500 people waiting in the queue and still people were rushing to join it. Regardless of their arrival time, elederly voters were given priority to pass and enter the polling site. If anyone objected, the next person standing in line would call on others with a loud voice:
“We are building our country. We are not fighting, today is not a day to fight, but rather a day of happiness. We should bear any kind of hardship to succeed. We should be happily adaptive to rain, wind and fatigue. Those fingers that once were used to shoot rifles against each other today are collared to peacefully and democratically elect our leader”.
Despite sharing the same umbrella, people independently and freely chose to vote for their own preferred candidates.
There was an atmosphere of synergy and openness among the people as they conversed with each other. Despite sharing the same umbrella, people independently and freely chose to vote for their own preferred candidates.
Voting patterns already show that ethnic votes were diminished. People cast votes for candidates in areas where that candidate had no or limited ethnic following: people voted for Ashraf Ghani in Mazar-e-Sharif, for Sultanzoy in Herat, Rassoul in Bamiyan or Abdullah in Kandahar.
No one had thought that hundreds of voters - in some polling stations there were thousands - would show up to take part in the election. The Taliban had conducted a campaign of violence and fear in the pre-election season hoping to deter voters but the turnout was far greater than it was expected to be. While the winner has still not being declared, the real winners were the Afghan people who have shown the world that they are strong supporters of democracy.
Peacekeepers don't sleep
Independent Election Commission (ICE) officials begin the process of counting votes in Kandahar on Sunday April 6, 2014. (Photo: Nang Durrani)
The security forces also came out winners in the end. According to the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA), more than 140 attacks were thwarted on election day alone. In Kandahar, the police hardly slept in the build-up. “I haven’t slept for a week now, but if my duties ever demanded of me to keep doing this for years more, I would," said Lala Shah Zrawar, a police officer protecting a polling station in Kandahar City's 9th division. Zrawar said he had slept two hours in the week before the elections.
The media should also be given a winner's medal for not reportingTaliban threats and propaganda and unfounded claims on election day.
The election, especially the campaign season, was a golden opportunity for strengthening our national unity. In most of the debates that were organized and hosted by different TV stations, a person from the Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, or Uzbek ethnicities - who once killed each other based on such difference - spoke in support of each other while preserving the very core principals of freedom of speech and democracy.
In Afghanistan, it rarely happened that the incumbent president left the palace and welcomed his replacement of his own will. Most were killed in the palace while the newcomers entered with tanks and an army. But today, it’s not like that anymore. By casting his ballot, President Karzai showed that he believes in and supports the democratic transfer of power. The Taliban, Al-Qaida and foreign agencies had wanted to destabilize Afghanistan. With tears of joy in his eye, President Karzai with his vote put the crowning seal on our democracy.