Global rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on Afghanistan’s hard-line Taliban to refrain from acting on its threat to target the ongoing presidential election campaign for the upcoming September vote.
“These threats demonstrate a chilling disregard for human life,” Zaman Sultani, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said on August 6. “At a time when the Taliban claims to be pursuing peace, it is threatening to carry out war crimes by attacking civilians at election rallies.”
Earlier in the day, a Taliban statement warned Afghans to stay away from the presidential election planned for September 28.
"To prevent losses ... from being incurred by our fellow compatriots, they must stay away from gatherings and rallies that could become potential targets," the Taliban statement warned. "This election process is nothing more than a ploy to deceive the common people ... for satisfying the ego of a limited number of sham politicians."
Sultani said the Afghan authorities have a responsibility to protect civilians during the election campaign season. “The Afghan people must have their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression respected and protected,” he said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said their compatriots had the right to choose their leader and Kabul was ready to ensure transparent elections across the country.
"They should show peace through their actions and not threaten people," a presidential statement said on August 6.
"They are created and backed to suppress a nation, bring about medieval system in the name of religion to feed the greedy beast of Pakistani establishment," Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh, tweeted.
Islamabad, however, denies supporting the Taliban and claims to be helping Washington in negotiating with the Taliban. Saleh survived an assassination attempt on July 28. The former Afghan spy chief is known as an ardent critic of the Taliban and Pakistan.
The insurgent statement comes a day after U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban reported progress in their bilateral talks.
In a series of tweets, Khalilzad said they had made have made “excellent progress” in a potential deal with the Taliban.
“I’ve spent the last few days in Doha, focused on the remaining issues in completing a potential deal with the Taliban that would allow for a conditions-based troop withdrawal,” he wrote.
"Extraordinary progress has been made,"said Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban political office in Qatar.
He, however, reiterated that "a complete Islamic system" had been the goal over 40 years of war and the question of elections would be discussed in so-called intra-Afghan dialogue. The negotiations between Afghans is supposed to begin after the deal between the Taliban and Washington concludes.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, there was no respite from violence.
On August 6, authorities in Kabul said that two people were killed and seven more injured in a bomb attack on a government vehicle in the Afghan capital.
– With reporting by Reuters