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August 18, 2009

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Donkeys haul election papers

A LACK of decent roads and its towering, craggy mountains are leading Afghanistan to turn to an age-old mode of transport to ferry ballots to remote regions ahead of Thursday's election- the donkey.

About 3,100 burro handlers have been hired to carry the poll materials, underscoring the logistical difficulties facing election officials in one of the world's poorest countries, where a violent insurgency also threatens the vote.

Yesterday, donkeys loaded with election materials made their way through a washed-out road winding through the towering Hindu Kush range north of Kabul.

"Now we use the animals to transport the election materials," said election worker Abdul Hashim, who oversaw the transport of the items to Baba Ali village of Panjshir Province.

The animals carried the materials in blue plastic boxes tied to their backs. Armed policemen walked alongside.

Some 17 million registered voters are eligible to cast ballots on Thursday to choose Afghanistan's next president and provincial council members.

Aside from a lack of infrastructure, the threat of Taliban insurgency is rattling the vote. Authorities have been forced to abandon plans to open hundreds of polling stations because of security concerns.

Of 7,000 polling centers originally planned for across the country, voting can take place in 6,600 of them, Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said.


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