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New Recording Alleges Order To Cover Up Afghan Election Fraud

Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's campaign has accused his opponent of foul play.
Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's campaign has accused his opponent of foul play.

KABUL -- Presidential candidate Abdulah Abdullah’s campaign has released a new secretly recorded telephone conversation that appears to show complicity among electoral and government officials in carrying out vote fraud during Afghanistan's June 14 presidential runoff.

The recording, released in video format during a press conference on June 26 and distributed to journalists, purportedly took place between Wardak Province Governor Attaullah Khogyani and an unidentified Afghan National Army (ANA) commander two days before the election.

Abdullah's campaign team claims the conversation, along with an accompanying video, provides further proof of systemic fraud that favored rival candidate Asharf Ghani. The claim comes less than a week after the Abdullah campaign released audio of a conversation involving Ziaulhaq Amarkhail, the head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission's secretariat, who has since resigned.

The material received by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is an audio recording dubbed over an image of Governor Khogyani, accompanied by poorly translated English subtitles of the conversation. According to the introduction, the conversation took place "around June 12, 2014."

It has since been released on YouTube.

In the course of the 4-minute Pashto-language conversation, a man identified as Khogyani tells an apparent Afghan National Army officer he calls "commander" that he is upset about his presence at a polling station in Wardak.

The speaker identified as Khogyani indicates that he is calling the officer after receiving complaints "from the Independent Election Commission." In an apparent order for the officer to stop investigating possible electoral fraud, he is told that what he is doing is the job of the "observers and the Independent Election Commission." The speaker identified as Khogyani tells the officer that "every person must know his duty."

The officer initially protests, saying the ANA has the "authority to intercede and interdict" if it sees any fraudulent behavior or irregularities at polling centers. He also adds that both candidates, Abdullah and Ghani, are "people of Afghanistan," suggesting that one should not be favored over the other.

The speaker identified as Khogyani responds by telling the officer that, "I'm well aware of the difference [between candidates]. I am a Pashtun and a Muslim." However, he adds that "neither candidate makes a difference to me, but you must sit and cover up the issue and solve the problem." The speaker identified as Khogyani tells the officer that he needs to "bring a veil to the issue."

By the end of the conversation the officer says he will do as ordered. The speaker identified as Khogyani replies by saying, "So you are a Pashtun, a Pashtun!"

Ethnicity is frequently mentioned in the conversation, and the speaker identified as Khogyani says the officer must bring "honor" and not "bring a bad name to the area."

Wardak is a predominately Pashtun area, as is Governor Khogyani, who is heard saying that Pashtuns are in “bad shape” and that the officer should fulfil his duty.

The implication is that Khogyani supports presidential candidate Ghani, who is Pashtun, over Abdullah, who is half Tajik, half Pashtun.

Khogyani also urges the officer to talk to "Kalimzai, who is described in accompanying video footage as Kalimzai Wardak, a lawmaker and “high-ranking member of Dr. Ghani’s campaign in Wardak."

Ballot Box Stuffing Allegations

The accompanying video purports to show ballot boxes being stuffed by a group of men in a poorly lit room in Wardak Province "the night before the Second Round of Election."

The group is being instructed by a man who appears to be wearing an ANA uniform, who tells them: "Don't be afraid of the district official."

Wardak was among a handful of southern and eastern provinces where turnout was unusually high. In Wardak, Khost, Paktia, and Paktika provinces, turnout doubled and sometimes tripled from the first round on April 5.

Abdullah has said the higher than expected turnout is due to fraud, while his team has said that overall turnout estimates of 7 million voters are "inflated."

Amrullah Saleh, a prominent Abdullah supporter, told RFE/RL in a June 26 interview that turnout was no more than 5 million. Saleh said Abdullah "won the election," adding that if all fraudulent votes were thrown out he would be ahead by 1 million votes.

Prominent Abdullah Supporter Speaks On Afghan Election Controversy
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WATCH: Prominent Abdullah Supporter Speaks On Afghan Election Controversy

Unofficial returns currently indicate that Ghani, not Abdullah, is ahead by more than 1 million votes. Ghani won 32 percent in the first round vote in April, while Abdullah took 45 percent.

Abdul Jabar Shalgari, a member of Abdullah's campaign team who showed the video to reporters on June 26, said they were releasing phone conversations and videos to the media in order to reveal "a big network of fraudsters that worked in favor of Ashraf Ghani."

Governor Khogyani was not immediately available for comment.

Ghani, in a press conference with foreign journalists on June 26, said he "didn't accept" that "widespread fraud had been committed on our behalf." Ghani said he did not have a "relationship" with Khogyani. "It cannot be that he is committing fraud on our behalf," Ghani added.

Ghani reiterated that he would "disown" any fraudulent vote cast in his favor.

The tape is the second released since the runoff. Abdullah’s campaign released an audio recording on June 22 of the IEC’s chief electoral officer Amarkhail purportedly conspiring to stuff ballot boxes in favor of Ghani.

Amarkhail can allegedly be heard talking to a member of Ghani’s campaign staff, as well as electoral officials. The release of the video led Amarkhail, who denies the allegations, to resign just a day later.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is the editor for Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.