ISLAMABAD             -         Pakistan yesterday vowed to work with the new Afghanistan government after the final results are announced in the near future.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said: “Pakistan welcomes the announcement of preliminary results of Afghan presidential elections held on 28 September 2019.”

It added: “We note that the final results would be announced after completion of adjudication process within the stipulated time as per Afghan electoral laws. We support Afghanistan’s democratic process and acknowledge that completion of Afghan presidential elections is a crucial step for political stability of Afghanistan and South Asian region.” Afghanistan’s incumbent President Ashraf Ghani has apparently won a second five-year term based on preliminary results announced Sunday for the disputed September 28 presidential vote.

The head of the country’s Independent Election Commission Hawa Alam Nuristani released the long-delayed outcomes at a news conference in Kabul, noting that Ghani secured 50.64 exact figure of the more than 1.8 million total votes.

Nuristani said Ghani’s main challenger and governing partner in the outgoing unity government, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, received 39.52% of the ballots. The rest of the votes were shared among other candidates, she said.

She added: “We have accomplished our task with honesty, responsibility, transparency, faithfulness and courage, respecting every single vote to ensure that democracy continues and endures in our country.”  President Ghani later thanked the election commission, the Afghan nation, particularly national security forces, for helping to organise the polls under challenging circumstances. But Abdullah swiftly rejected as “fraudulent” the initial results, fuelling concerns the fallout from the bitterly contested Afghan presidential polls is far from over and a final outcome could still take weeks.

“We would like to make it clear once again to our people, supporters, election commission and our international allies that our team will not accept the result of this fraudulent vote unless our legitimate concerns are addressed,” Abdullah’s office cautioned in a statement.

Abdullah has from the outset questioned the validity of around 300,000 ballots and demanded their exclusion from the recounting process. He accused the IEC of trying to deliver the election outcome favouring Ghani, charges Nuristani has repeatedly rejected.

Even before the polls, Pakistan had assured Afghanistan it will work with the winner of the Afghanistan presidential elections without any bias. Ahead of the polls, Pakistan had closed all crossing points along the Afghan border. Later, however, Pakistan reopened the points on the request of the Afghan government.

The people of Afghanistan cast votes on September 28 to pick their next president, even as the threat of violence and concerns over electoral fraud could lead many to stay home.

The vote, the fourth since the Taliban’s removal from power by a United States-led coalition in 2001, came as heavy fighting between the armed group and government forces led to a spike in the number of civilians killed.

President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, have shared power since the 2014 presidential elections in a compromise negotiated by former US Secretary of State John Kerry.  In that race also, Abdullah had accused Ghani of rigging the election, citing an alleged million fraudulent votes, and again warned of a possible illegitimate Ghani victory in the latest election.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump have held two meetings in the recent months to discuss Afghanistan among other issues. They had agreed in July to bolster cooperation on Afghanistan to pressure Taliban militants to reach a peace deal.

This year, Pakistan had decided to extend the stay of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan till June 30, 2020. The decision by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions came during Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and just before the June 30, 2019 deadline.