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JALALABAD: Dwellers of the earthquake-hit Sherzad district of the eastern Nangarhar province said they were participating in the upcoming presidential polls despite the fact that pledges made with them were not fulfilled by the government.
They believe that in using their right to vote, they would be able to elect a president who could pay attention to bringing a positive change in their lives.
Sherzad district is located 50 kilometres west of Jalalabad close to Speen Ghar. A strong earthquake hit the district in March of this year, killing 20 people, injuring 52 and destroying around 300 houses. Around 600 cattle also died in the earthquake.
People of the district are mostly poor because there is so little agricultural land. The government pledged reconstruction of houses and provision of food to the people, but nothing has been done so far.
This report about the upcoming presidential polls is prepared on the basis of interviews with eight dwellers of the district. One of them is a woman.
Soldier: We want shelter
Ismail, 22, resident of Mirgatkhel area, said his eight-year-old brother Samiullah was killed in the earthquake. Ismail, recently married, said his own house was destroyed.
He said the government officials made many pledges but none was fulfilled and his house was still collapsed.
Living with a 23-member family, Ismail says he managed to reconstruct only one room and rest of his family members are still living in tents. Only medicines were provided to them so far, he added.
His first demand from the future president is the provision of shelter.
Housewife: Construct my home
Shah Bibi, 48, resident of Koodikhel area, who lost two grandsons in the earthquake, said no one had supported them so far.
Living in a 13-member family, Shah Bibi says their house is still in the same condition as after the earthquake, and they are staying in tents.
She voted in the previous elections and is determined to vote this time as well, but wants to elect such a person to construct their demolished houses ahead of the winter season.
Shah Bibi's first demand from the future president is to provide shelter to them.
Farmer: Not participating in elections this time
Misri Khan, 40, resident of Koodikhel area, says his house was destroyed in the earthquake and two of his children were injured. He said his children are still in trauma.
He is not going to participate in the elections this time and it was because the pledges made with them in the past were not fulfilled – even after they stopped poppy production.
"I participated in the previous elections for the reconstruction of the country. But there is no change in our life and the lawlessness has further increased. No one is supporting us although we stopped growing poppies," said the farmer.
Tribal elder: Restore peace
Zabit Zahir, 62, a tribal elder and former jihadi commander, says promises made to them after the earthquake were not fulfilled. His own house was also destroyed.
According to the elder, the provincial government and some other organisations promised reconstruction of their houses, but nothing had been done so far.
He said President Karzai, during the commemoration of Mujahideen Day, directed the officials to spend the amount intended for celebrations to the earthquake and flood victims. However, it was not provided to the deserving people.
“No one pays attention to our life,” he said. “We had so many difficulties [passed hot and cold times] living in the tents.”
Zahir said he had participated in the previous elections and would do so this time to decide his own fate. His demand from the president is to ensure security and peace in the country.
He said, “Lack of security is responsible for the trouble in our lives. If there were any security, the organizations would come and work for us without any trouble.”
NGO worker: Pledges must be given practical shape
A resident of Koodikhel village of the district, 28-year-old Yar Muhammad is working with a foreign NGO. He is the father of three children. He says he cannot go to his house without fear because of security problems.
He complained that his house, destroyed in the earthquake, was still in the same condition and no government official turned up to reconstruct the building.
He said he was participating in the polls to help elect a fair and powerful government to ensure security in the country. He said he had taken part in the previous election for the same purpose but none of the pledges made with them were fulfilled. He wants to vote such a candidate who could fulfill his promises.
A teacher: Restore peace
Thirty-year-old Sher Hassan Kamalzai, resident of Marakikhel area, said pledges made to them were not fulfilled. Kamalzai's house had been destroyed in the earthquake.
He says he is participating in elections to decide his future. Peace is more important than other things, he said, and this is his foremost demand from the future president.
People had lost confidence in each other because of insecurity, he added. Neither the government, nor NGOs can work in Sherzai or other areas because of lawlessness.
Father of nine: Not safe to go to mosque
Mukhtar, 54, resident of Marakikhel area and father of nine children, says no one paid attention to their problems. His house was destroyed in the earthquake and he is living in another village now.
He complained that the present government did not pay any attention to Sherzad district. The people of this area would vote for such a candidate who would be able to solve their problems, he said.
He also complained about the insecurity and said people could not pray the night and morning prayers in the mosque because of lawlessness. He said armed men were present in the area and people were scared of their presence.
This is why, he said, he was demanding durable peace from the future president.
Malak: Basic problem is shelter
Malak Saleem, resident of Koodikhel area, is now living in a tent. His house was destroyed in the earthquake and his two grandsons and a 22-year-old son were killed.
He said only tents, some medicines and a little amount of food was provided to them but the basic problem was the reconstruction of their homes.
He is taking part in the upcoming presidential polls and demands from the future president to pay attention to people hit by the calamity.