JALALABAD, Afghanistan —The Taliban have launched a campaign to disrupt this weekend's presidential election in Afghanistan, but in a restive eastern corner of the country they are paying villagers to surrender their voting cards.
Residents in Nangarhar province, which lies on the border with Pakistan, said local Taliban militants have been offering
voters 500 Pakistani rupees - the equivalent of just over $5 - to opt out of the election.
"At first we thought the Taliban were trying to trick us and wanted to find out who had voter cards, but later we found out that they were honest and paid money," said Ahmad Shah, a youth in a village just outside the city of Jalalabad.
The Taliban did not respond to a request for comment.
Saturday's election will bring the first democratic transfer of power in war-torn Afghanistan and an end to the rule of President Hamid Karzai, who has led the country since the ouster of a Taliban regime in late 2001. The Taliban have branded the election a Western-backed sham.
The Independent Election Commission has said at least 10 percent of polling stations will not be able to open due to the threat of violence, the majority of them in the east where the insurgents are most active.
"When the Taliban are in control and warn people not to vote, and instead pay money for your voter card, it's not a bad thing," Haji Khan Wali, another man in the village, where the Pakistani rupee is more commonly used than the local currency, the Afghani.
"People here have to think more about finding bread to feed their families than the election. To tell you the truth, half the people here don't know anything about the election," said a local man.
About the author
Research Associate at Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University