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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 October 2004, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Reporters' log - Afghan vote

The BBC's team of correspondents log their impressions, reports and pictures as they watch events unfold in Afghanistan's landmark presidential election.

Most recent entries are at the top.

Sanjoy Majumder :: central Kabul :: 1600 GMT

People have been streaming back home from what many here describe as one of Afghanistan's most remarkable and historic days ever.

President Karzai's thumb
Hamid Karzai's thumb and the controversial ink

But what has been most remarkable is the large scale participation of women. In the northern Balkh province, women came out in their bridal finery - with beads around their necks and henna on their hands - to vote.

In Kabul, at the end of the day, emotional women told the BBC that it had been the most memorable day in their lives. Some of them were in tears. One old woman said she'd woken up early in the morning and then woke up her sisters saying: "We have to get out to vote. The future of Afghanistan is at stake."

Noor Oghli :: Shibergan :: 1540 GMT

Voting was very good in Shibergan with large numbers of people turning out to vote. There was tight security and in general the day was very peaceful.
A woman votes in Shiberghan
A woman votes in Shiberghan

Here too people complained that indelible ink could easily be washed off their fingers.

General Abdur Rashid Dostum voted in his home town. Later he complained that an election official was persuading people to vote for a particular candidate.

In neighbouring Maimana, people complained that there were not enough observers. They said that the town was completely managed by local residents since there were no representatives of Isaf and no foreign troops. A large number of women voted in this northern town.

Monica Whitlock :: Mazar-e-Sharif :: 1420 GMT

A few here complained about voting irregularities, but on the whole the mood has been very positive and cheerful.

If Hamid Karzai's rivals reject the election now, the thousands of men and women who voted for them will be bitterly disappointed.

Saeed Haqiqi :: Herat :: 1335 GMT

Voting has ended here in Herat and while there was some disappointment about the use of washable ink to mark voters' hands, the majority of Afghans have been content with the process.

But other voters expressed concern that the officials who were monitoring the polling stations were standing beside voters when they cast their ballots, not providing them with enough privacy.

And in a district south of Herat there have been reports of two people injured in a shooting incident. It is believed they were shot by gunmen on a motorcycle who subsequently escaped.

Paul Anderson :: Kandahar :: 1239 GMT

We've been told here in Kandahar that the gates to polling stations have been closed and that they closed on time at 4pm Afghan time. I haven't been told that anybody has been let through.

Kandahar voting station
Kandahar, the old heartland of the Taleban, was peaceful

So perhaps this information that polling has been extended by a couple of hours hasn't filtered through to Kandahar. They're certainly wrapping up here.

And the mood here wasn't tarnished by the problem with the ink. It was a celebration today. There was a tremendous buzz of excitement at the polling stations.

I genuinely got the feeling that this was the people's opportunity and that's why in Kandahar the problem with the ink is being laughed out of town.

People here believe that it was no massive fraud but either incompetence or confusion.

Crispin Thorold :: Kabul :: 1234 GMT

The electoral authorities haven't rejected the complaints from other candidates about the vote. They stressed repeatedly that all complaints raised will be thoroughly investigated.

What that means in practise really depends on the margin of victory. If this irregularity is felt to have made a difference to the overall result, then they will take this into account.

Andrew North :: Kabul :: 1229 GMT

Ray Kennedy, a senior official with the joint Afghan UN election commission said halting the vote at this point would be unjustified, and would deny people their fundamental right to vote.

But the fact remains that a serious shadow has been cast over this process, before it's even over.

Saeed Haqiqi :: Herat :: 1221 GMT

People are still voting in Herat. The voting time has been extended by two hours and Afghans are still arriving at polling stations to cast their votes. But it is no longer very busy. The queues have disappeared.

The security has been tight in the city but complete calm, and voting has gone ahead without any problems.

But some people have been very disappointed that the ink used to mark people who have already voted can be rubbed off.

They say that alot of people have two or three election cards and they would be able to vote for their favourite candidate.

In general Afghans in Herat are happy with the process and pleased to be voting.

Frances Harrison :: Tehran :: 1115 GMT

There's a large crowd outside the Shahre Rey voting station in south Tehran, men and women queuing separately.

Voters came before the polling station even opened at seven in the morning. By noon, all the available ballot boxes were full, and the organisers were wondering what to do as hundreds of people waited patiently outside.

Some refugees complained they were not being allowed to vote, even though they had Afghan birth certificates.

One man said the local police had treated him disrespectfully, pushing him around, even though he'd been in Iran for 20 years, and had done the dirtiest jobs in this country.

But most said how happy they were to have a chance to propel their country towards peace and democracy.

Crispin Thorold :: Kabul :: 1049 GMT

Afghans may still be voting in large numbers across the country, but with the apparent boycott of this election by all the remaining candidates but Hamid Karzai, the legitimacy of the poll has already been called into question.

The leadership of the Joint Election Management Board, which is running the ballots, is now discussing what action they will take.

A spokesman for the UN said that the JEMB takes the views of all candidates very seriously.

Monica Whitlock :: Mazar-e-Sharif :: 1036 GMT

Women have been turning out in especially large numbers. At one polling station, officials told us there had been more than 600 women through, and only 500 men.

Most voters have the same priorities: "We want peace, security, jobs and schools," people told us, from young students to elderly farmers.

There are some complaints about multiple voting. Voters showed us how the ink used to dye their thumbs had washed off, making it possible to cheat.

But by and large, the election here has gone well and peacefully.

Paul Anderson :: Kandahar :: 1021 GMT

The voting here in Kandahar is continuing without incident. Voters have experienced the same problems with the ink as the rest of the country. But this has not obstructed the process so far.

Afghans in Kandahar celebrate the presidential elections
Afghans in Kandahar celebrate the presidential elections

People are now waiting to hear from the authorities managing the election. But they've been very keen to get in and vote, and defy the threats from the Taleban to those participating in the electoral process.

And women voters have been present too. For people here the election has presented a development following years of conflict.

This is something new and it's a change which has not been lost on the Afghan electorate here in the south.

Babrak Miakhil :: Jalalabad :: 1008 GMT

Voting started briskly at 0700 Afghan time and continued until 1200. There was a lot of interest as enthusiastic queues formed outside polling stations. But after 1200 the queues thinned down.

There were lot of complaints about the indelible ink rubbing off. Many women voters, especially from the countryside, said they were unsure about how to cast their vote.

One woman told me that she dropped a blank ballot into the box because she did not know she had to mark it. By and large, fewer women took part in the voting in this part of Afghanistan.

But the security in this troubled province was good and there were no major scares as feared.

Haroon Rashid :: Peshawar, Pakistan :: 0928 GMT

Polling is continuing peacefully in over a thousand polling stations set up across the North West Frontier province. No major incident has been reported from any of these stations.

Reports from Balochistan province also speak of peaceful polling.

Polling stations for refugees were also set up in rural areas. Vehicles decorated with tri-colour Afghan national flags were seen ferrying voters to cast their ballot.

Some nationals registered in Afghanistan have complained of not being allowed to vote in Pakistan. But United Nations officials have stated Afghans registered at specific polling stations must come back to vote there.

An Afghan cleric Maulvi Sultan Mohammad told the BBC he would only vote when the American forces are gone from his country: "This is not only my decision, but I think the decision of all Muslims of Afghanistan."

Andrew North :: Kabul :: 0912 GMT

Fifteen candidates have issued a joint statement saying the election should be suspended because of the use of ink at polling stations. They also talk of other irregularities across the country.

Among those signing up to the statement are Younis Qanuni and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the two most important challengers to president Hamid Karzai.

But the ink issue is something which emerged this morning when voters demonstrated that the ink could be scrubbed off. We know that there are many Afghans out there with more than one voter registration card.

But for now the election organisers have said polling will continue.

Sanjoy Majumder :: Macrorayon, Kabul :: 0745 GMT

Orders have come to the poll officials at the Abdul Hadi Dawi school - they are to make sure they are using the right indelible ink pen.

One official decides to take matters into his own hands. Dispensing with the pen altogether, he pushes a bottle of ink at a voter and invites him to dip his thumb into it. "Now let's see how they can wash it off," he says grinning.

An Afghan voter is marked with ink
Some officials have started applying the ink liberally

Outside, the earlier mood of scepticism has been replaced with a sunnier, more festive spirit.

A group of Qabaili tribals - largely Pashtun - have taken out an impromptu victory celebration at the Great Masood Way - a major intersection in memory of the slain Northern Alliance leader.

Despite being weeks away from a result, they are confident that the man they support - President Hamid Karzai - has already won.

Singing and dancing they march through the streets as a group of Isaf soldiers look on, amused.

At least some Afghans have decided to wholeheartedly embrace the democratic spirit.

Monika Whitlock :: Mazar-e-Sharif :: 0728 GMT

There's a cheerful, holiday mood in Mazar - schools and shops are closed and children are out flying kites.

There are no reports of violence here, but basic security measures are in place. Some roads are blocked off, and motorcycles are banned for the day.

People are not allowed to carry guns in the city unless they're part of the official security apparatus.

Crispin Thorold :: Kabul :: 0706 GMT

In the tranquil setting of the former prime minister's palace, Afghanistan's president, and some of the leading members of his cabinet, have cast their ballots.

Speaking to reporters after voting, Hamid Karzai said that this is a great day for the Afghan people. "I hope this day will stay with us forever," he added.

Immediately outside American security contractors carrying machine guns were on patrol. Security in Kabul is very tight and few drivers have ventured on to the roads.

Paul Anderson :: Kandahar :: 0624 GMT

I'm in one of Kandahar's female voting centres and the women who are emerging have been saying they are extremely happy to be taking part in the process.

Afghan women in Kandahar
Afghan women outside a polling station in Kandahar

There is also concern here the procedure of marking people's thumbs with ink has broken down.

Some voters have washed off the ink. And I've seen one or two step back into voting lines clearly with the desire to cast another ballot.

They won't be able to do that because the voter registration cards are punched and that will be seen easily.

Haroon Rashid :: Peshawar, Pakistan :: 0602 GMT

During a visit to a refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, a number of eager Afghans were seen gathering well before the start of voting.

A bearded 60-year-old Baba Gul was one of them standing outside a male polling station in the dusty Kacha Garhi camp. "I have come early to avoid rush and also to get back to my work in time," he told the BBC.

In a nearby school for girls, Afghan refugee women were turning up in bigger numbers then men. A female polling staff member said around 800 women were due to cast their ballot here.

Most of the camp's inhabitants are ethnic Pashtuns from Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar.

Sanjoy Majumder :: Macrorayon, Kabul :: 0440 GMT

Farook Wardak, head of the election commission, has turned up to investigate the reports of faulty ink - used to mark voters' thumbs to prevent multiple ballots.

Voting at Abdul Hadi Dai school in Macrorayon, Kabul
Officials expect problems with ink to be sorted out
"Look," it can be rubbed off," cries one voter as Mr Wardak is surrounded.

"They're using the wrong pen," groans Mr Wardak as he reaches for his mobile phone. "They're using markers."

Voting is suspended temporarily while the problem is sorted out.

"It shouldn't be a problem," says another of the election heads, Reg Austin.

"The identity cards are punched so they cannot be produced again."

But there have been concerns that many voters have multiple identity cards which means they could quite easily vote more than once.

Andrew North :: Kabul :: 0410 GMT

Voting has been suspended in some polling stations in Kabul after problems emerged with indelible ink designed to prevent multiple voting.

It's a key part of the protection measures set up by election organisers to prevent fraud. After each voter casts their ballot their thumb is marked with ink but many voters are finding they can remove it easily.

Every voter the BBC talked to at one polling centre showed they can remove the ink that's been placed on their thumb. Reports are coming in of similar problems elsewhere.

Paul Anderson :: Kandahar :: 0352 GMT

Large crowds gathered at Kandahar's polling stations clearly excited at the prospect of voting. One old man I spoke to said he had been waiting since his youth to see such scenes. Another said the vote represented a new era in Afghanistan's history and that the situation in the country could only get better.

Officials are hoping for a high turnout although not many people are expecting that to include women. The proportion of female voters in the south is a fraction of the national average.

Security is also tight with people being body searched before they go into polling stations. The authorities have closed Kandahar and other major centres to commercial traffic to try to prevent any attack by Taleban insurgents.

In the run-up to the voting the feared attacks by the Taleban failed to materialise.

Monica Whitlock :: Mazar-e-Sharif :: 0330 GMT

Here at the Fatima Balkhi High School the voters were lining up well before the doors opened, men on one side, women on the other.

"I have to use my vote, it's my responsibility," said Musal, a girl of 19, one of the first to go through the doors.

Inside each receives a huge voting card with the photos and names of all 16 candidates, plus their electoral symbols. Hamed Karzai's is a weighing scales. General Dostum's a running black horse.

The first voters we met seemed to support a variety of candidates. One shopkeeper told us, Karzai, because he's restoring the reputation of Afghanistan. Some of the women though are with Masooda Jalal, the only female candidate.

Sanjoy Majumder :: Macrorayon district of Kabul :: 0315 GMT

I'm at a school where about 200 people have already cast their votes. Nine of the voting booths are for men, two for women.

Men queue to vote at Abdul Hadi Dai school in Macrorayon, Kabul
Men queue to vote at Abdul Hadi Dai school in Macrorayon, Kabul
Abdul Razak was the first person to cast his vote. "It was very easy," he said, beaming.

A dust storm overnight discouraged many early voters, but queues are picking up now.

Polling officials say things are going smoothly so far. There is huge enthusiasm among voters, although some of the men are cross they had to wait for an hour to cast their vote.

Andrew North :: Kabul :: 0240 GMT

Polls opened a few minutes ago. A queue of some 50 voters, most of them men, was waiting outside the polling station I'm at before voting officially started.

Every polling centre is guarded by police who search each voter as they arrive.

But after a campaign that saw less violence than expected, hopes have risen that today's vote will be relatively peaceful.

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