TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Saturday’s parliamentary election in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar will be delayed by a week after the assassination of one of the country’s most powerful security chiefs dealt a stunning blow to the Western-backed government.
General Abdul Razeq, the Kandahar police commander, was killed outside the provincial governor’s office on Thursday, when a bodyguard opened fire on a group of officials as they left a meeting with General Scott Miller, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Miller was not injured but the regional intelligence agency commander was killed and the provincial governor severely wounded, decimating the leadership of one of the country’s most strategically important provinces.
Although nominally a provincial police chief, Razeq was one of the most powerful political figures in Afghanistan and a formidable opponent of the Taliban, with unchallenged authority across the volatile south of the country.
The decision to suspend the vote in Kandahar province was taken over the objections of some officials who warned that any delay would threaten the whole process and hand the Taliban a major propaganda victory, according to Reuters.
Saturday’s election had been seen as a major test of the government’s credibility and ability to organize a nationwide ballot ahead of the more important presidential election next April.
But the shock of Razeq’s death meant the people of Kandahar were “morally not ready to vote”, Hafizullah Hashimi, spokesman of the Independent Election Commission, said.
The Taliban issued a fresh warning not to take part in the election on Friday, telling people to stay at home and saying it would shut down roads and would be “closely monitoring all developments”.
On top of the mounting security concerns, the elections were already dogged by serious technical and organizational problems, notably around the use of untested biometric voter verification equipment rushed in after allegations of widespread voter fraud.
Thursday’s attack underlined how precarious the situation remains in Afghanistan after more than 17 years of US military presence in the country.