Hindu and Sikh citizens across Afghanistan participated in the April election and now eye this month’s runoff with anticipation. On Tuesday, leaders from the groups came forward to urge the two presidential candidates to consider minority rights a larger part of their platforms.
The Afghan Hindu and Sikh Council has estimated around 5,000 Hindu and Sikh voters went to polls for the first round of this year’s presidential election. And top council members are confident their voters will turnout for the runoff.
“We voted for a better future in the first round of the election,” Hindu and Sikh Council Deputy Rahul Singh told TOLOnews on Tuesday. “We have voting cards and will vote again,” he added.
With just over a week left in the runoff campaign period, the two presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdulla, have begun touring the country and promoting policy promises to key constituents.
Without having received such attention yet, Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan asked candidates to formulate clear positions on minority rights.
“We are asking for clear plans on various matters, but particularly addressing the rights of minorities and the return of Hindu and Sikh refugees to the country,” Afghan Hindu Senator Anarkali Kaur Honaryar said.
While Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani’s stances when it comes to minority and refugee issues may not be entirely distilled, what is in front of their eyes is a significant, politically active portion of their constituencies looking for representation.
“We are going to vote,” the head of Hindu Temples in Kabul, Meyar Singh, said. “We all – old and young – registered and got voting cards.”
Meyar Singh’s wife said “we are voting for the future of our children.”
After decades of war in Afghanistan, as well as the repressive regime of the Taliban, the quality of life for many Hindu and Sikh Afghans is desperately low. Many have had land stolen from them without the ability to seek legal redress.
“We will vote for a person who can ensure our rights and give back our homes and lands that were grabbed,” a Hindu trader in Kabul named Rawunder Singh said.
Afghanistan has around 7,000 Hindu and Sikh citizens living various regions of the country. Roughly 5,000 of them are eligible to vote.