KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is systematically rigging the Aug. 20 presidential election in his southern home base, witnesses claim.
Some local leaders in war-torn Helmand province say Karzai's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is orchestrating electoral fraud in the unstable region, fearing that threatened Taliban violence may dampen turnout among some of the president's strongest supporters, The Times of London reported Wednesday.
An unnamed tribal elder in the Marja district of Helmand told The Times the vote rigging was being organized by Karzai's family and his local tribal allies, particularly former provincial governor Sher Mohammad Akhundzada.
"In Marja and other districts we can't vote because of security problems," the elder reportedly said. "Behind the curtain it is the brother of Mr. Karzai and Sher Mohammad Akhundzada who are working on this."
The newspaper noted that Wali Karzai and Akhundzada have been repeatedly accused by Western officials of involvement in drug smuggling.
Wali Karzai, however, firmly denies the allegations. He is serving as the head of the provincial council of Kandahar province, while Akhundzada is a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament.
The Times said neither could be reached for comment.