Afghan tribal elders warn gov’t of election boycott if security not assured

By Xinhua,

Kabul : Chieftains and tribal elders in Afghanistan’s southern province of Zabul have warned that they would boycott the upcoming presidential polls if the government fails to protect civilians from being harmed, a local newspaper reported on Saturday.

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“Tribal elders in southern Zabul province warned Thursday to boycott the upcoming presidential elections unless foreign forces halt irresponsible military operations,” Daily Outlook writes.

The criticism and stern warning came amid operations launched in the province against militants and the reported killing of non-combatants.

“Military operation against undesirable elements is underway over the past two days during which according to locals both civilians and police have been killed and injured,” the newspaper further said.

A tribal elder and member of Musrano Jirga or the Upper House of Afghan parliament Dr. Zalmai, had stressed that NATO troops should coordinate their operations with national forces to reduce civilian casualties.

He also said that harming civilians would damage the popularity of government among the people.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly criticized harming civilians and appealed for avoiding non-combatant casualties during operations of international troops against the insurgents.

Thousands of Afghans have been killed mostly in air strikes during operations against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents in Afghanistan since the launching of U.S.-led war on terror seven years ago.

The bloodiest incident of this year came on Aug. 22 as more than 90 people lost their lives in U.S. air raids against suspected militants in Shindand district of Herat province in western Afghanistan.

Spiraling insurgency and conflicts have claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people with some 2,000 civilians so far this year in Afghanistan.