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Anti-govt. protests spread to Balkh; IEC office shut

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AT-KABUL: Fierce anti-government and pro-Dostum protests that began with the arrest of Faryab’s Qaisar police chief days ago have spread across the north, as hundreds of protesters shut down on Friday provincial office of the Independent Election Commission.

Nizamuddin Qaisari, a close aide to the exiled First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, was arrested along with his security forces last month over claims of humiliating and threatening to kill officials at a security meeting in Maimana city. Ever since his arrest, protests have erupted in Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Jawzjan, Balkh provinces, with fears violent protests may spread even more in the northern region.

Protesters have shut provincial election offices in Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Jawzjan and Takhar provinces over the past days and wrote on the wall of Balkh’s election commission office “We do not want elections without Gen. Dostum.

Demonstrators demand Commander Qaisari be released from incarceration and General Dostum be allowed to return from exile, warning they will boycott the upcoming ballot if their demands remained unmet. This is amid reports that the vice president is set to return soon from Turkey.

Government forces surrounded the election office after protesters closed it. This comes as six local forces belonged to Qaisari were freed on Friday.

Reports indicate that the first vice president is set to return home from Turkey in the near future.

The protesters said they have voted for Ghani and that they ask him to be accountable for those votes. They also called on the president to resign.

“We want you (President Ashraf Ghani) to be accountable to every single votes of us,” Nusrat, a protester, said.

“Why our soldiers were killed, why bullets were shot in their mouths?” asked Behroz, a protester.

The decision was followed by widespread protests in northern provinces.