KABUL -- The Taliban issued a threatening statement Monday (October 8) demanding that Afghans boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20. The pronouncement exposes their eroding political standing in the country and their fears of legitimate polls.
The statement comes after months of urging by Afghans from across political and religious spectra for the Taliban to enter into peace talks and negotiate a political deal to end the conflict.
The group has been intransigent and reluctant to formally engage in peace talks.
Instead, the group called on the Afghan public, as well as on election candidates, in the Monday statement to "completely boycott the whole electoral procedure" -- a crucial poll that the Taliban has shunned.
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan believes that the present circumstances of our country do not allow such election processes to take place from either a logical or religious point of view and nor are they in favor of our broader national interests," said the statement, referring to what the Taliban formally calls itself.
The Taliban also threatened to increase violence and spill blood to prevent the election, instructing "all its mujahideen to halt this American-led process throughout the country by creating severe obstacles for it," according to the statement.
"Those people who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted," it said.
More than 54,000 Afghan security personnel will be deployed across the country to provide security and protect the polling stations on the election day.
In a statement released Monday, the Interior Ministry said it is ready to ensure security for the upcoming vote.
"Elections are one of the pillars of democracy, and the people of Afghanistan are well aware of democratic and national values," said the statement. "[Afghans] will participate in the election, and security forces will provide [the] security."
The Taliban's statement represents their latest justification for continuing the 17-year-long brutal war, condemned by nearly all segments of Afghan society.
"The Taliban and their ideology are not in line with any political [and religious] system. The base of their ideology is radicalism, extremism and tyranny, which is why the group rejects elections and democracy," Farhad Hashemi, a Kabul-based political analyst, told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban know that [Afghans] are not with them under any circumstances, so [the Taliban] are afraid of democratic and popular processes like the elections," Hashemi said.
"If the current situation in Afghanistan is bad, it is because of the Taliban," he said, adding that "the Afghan people are not afraid of the Taliban and their warnings. They have registered to vote in the upcoming elections."
More than 8 million Afghans have registered to vote on polling day.
"Afghans believe that the election is the only option for bringing democracy to the country and to reject the Taliban's [perverse] ideology," Hashemi continued.
"Elections legitimise the government and the system. The members of the parliament and the president are elected based on the people's will and [popular] vote," Naim Nazari, a Kabul-based civil society activist, told Salaam Times.
"It is obvious that when the elections take place, the Taliban group [fear that] they will become further isolated [from the Afghan mainstream], which is why they do not want the elections to happen," he said.
"The Taliban make excuses. When they controlled over 90% of Afghanistan's territory [in the 1990s] and Americans were not in the country, they did not believe in the people's choice ... and did not hold elections, because they were afraid," Nazari said.
"Elections are not against Islam. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, all the Islamic caliphs were elected through an election (consensus) process. Now, the only difference is in form and method," Sadeq Jafari, a religious scholar based in Kabul, told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban's decision to disrupt the elections is illegitimate and has no Islamic basis," Jafari said.
[Sulaiman from Kabul contributed with this report.]
How likely is it that current peace efforts will be successful?