UK & World News

  • 4 April 2014, 6:21

Afghan Voters Vow To Defy Taliban Threat

Mirrored wrap around visors, head-to-toe body armour and machine guns held prone for fighting. Gloved hands directing cars and trucks into security search areas. No talking, no discussion. This is the street outside my hotel. This is security in Kabul.

It doesn't matter where you go in this city, you will be confronted by security at a level never seen here before.

It doesn't mean it is safe of course, the Taliban have infiltrated Kabul, by-passing the so-called "Ring of Steel", carrying out a number of deadly attacks in recent days.

But the checks and body searches go on and they are getting more intense as polling day nears.

The Taliban threats against the public wanting to take part in the presidential election are real, but joining just a few of the campaign rallies it is clear that people are not being put off.

They have turned out in their thousands to listen to the would-be leaders, ignoring bomb warnings and actual attacks across much of the country.

The Afghan population wants change and voting is being seen as the way forward.

The election is hugely significant on a variety of levels but that it will be the first democratic transition of power in the country's entire history is in itself both remarkable and a sign of progress - well, sort of.

The fact that all the front runners have been involved in politics and government in one form or other for decades hardly indicates a radical change any time soon.

And given the terrible security threat from the Taliban and the grinding poverty that depicts normal life for the vast majority of the population, whoever wins can hardly promise a new life overnight or probably over years.

Hunched over a gas flame, Ghandi Gul heats water to make tea for her five children in the one room where they live.

Her husband died in a rocket attack so she makes a living washing clothes for her neighbours while her children sell street rubbish as scrap.

In good times the six of them live on £17 a week. They want more money for sure, but above all they want more security.

"The only thing we can expect from the election from whoever wins is security," she told me.

"We know that poverty will not change. The only thing we are concerned with is security."

That is an overriding sentiment here. Basically if there is better security then prosperity will rise as there will be more work.

As one man told me as he stopped to ask why we were filming: "You can't look for work if you get blown up waiting at the factory gate."

President Hamid Karzai's days are over, but will the years ahead see major changes, better security, more prosperity?

In truth nobody knows and many doubt it. But they have an opportunity to vote in a new government.

For Afghanistan that is a new luxury and there aren't many luxuries here.

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