Fake voter cards seized ahead of key Afghan vote

image captionMore than 2,000 candidates are vying for 249 seats in parliament

Thousands of fake voter registration cards have been seized ahead of Saturday's parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, election officials say.

The head of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) said 3,000 forged cards were confiscated in the central province on Ghazni.

The elections are seen as a test of stability in the conflict-torn country.

Last year's presidential poll - won by President Hamid Karzai - was marred by widespread fraud.

Mr Karzai - under strong diplomatic pressure - eventually accepted that irregularities had occurred but his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew from a run-off saying the vote could not be free or fair.

'Not perfect' poll

The IEC head in Ghazni, Waheedullah Osmani, told the AFP news agency that Afghan intelligence agents "seized 3,000 forged voting cards" on Tuesday.

He added that the cards had been "printed in Pakistan", without giving further details.

However, IEC officials stressed that they had taken a number of measures to prevent fraud in the upcoming elections.

They said that the genuine card would have special security features which made it easy to distinguish fakes.

"I want to assure you that no such fraud will take place. It will not be possible to use them," IEC head Fazal Ahmad told reporters.

Officials also said that voters would be required to dip a finger into an indelible ink to avoid double voting.

The UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, acknowledged that the election "will not be perfect".

But he added that "based on preparations by the Afghan government, I feel assured this election will be better that last year's election".

More than 2,000 candidates are vying for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.

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