The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Wednesday warned that if disagreements and tensions between the electoral teams and election officials persist the vote audit process could face weeks of delays.
The comments came after a brawl broke out between representatives of Abdullah Abdullah's camp and IEC employees at the audit center on Tuesday night. The incident, in which knives and scissors were reportedly wielded as weapons, left seven people injured and caused the audit process to be delayed three hours on Wednesday.
The United Nations, which is helping oversee and mediate the audit process, has condemned the clash and called on the two candidates to keep their observers in line.
"A guy who was working as a daily wager asked not to have his picture taken, a dispute occurred, he was alone, and later on the issue grew," said IEC Chief Ahamd Yousaf Nuristani, recounting the brawl that took place on Tuesday.
Abdullah's team has claimed that the incident occurred when IEC staff members were found trying to steal the locks off ballot boxes.
"Obsevers of the Reform and Partnership team saw that they broke two ballot box locks and put hands on another, then an observer of the Reform and Partnership team asked them to be careful with the ballot boxes," claimed Amrullah Aman, a member of the Abdullah technical team.
At the IEC's audit center on Wednesday, tensions were still simmering, forcing officials to delay the start of the process and bring in extra staff to breakup any confrontations that might occur.
Although the two camps have been largely positioned against one another when it comes to matters of the vote audit, following Tuesday's incident, they were united in their criticism of the IEC.
"I condemn the mismanagement of the election commission, the election commission must take control of this institution, it should be asked how the weapons managed to enter the IEC," said Dawoud Sultanzoi, the head of Ashraf Ghani's technical team.
The IEC has maintained that the weapons that were used and caused injury on Tuesday night were smuggled into the center by the campaign teams.
"It seems that the knifes, gun and other items were transferred to the commission inside the cars of high ranking electoral team members who we have allowed to enter the IEC premises," Nuristani said on Wednesday.
The IEC has said if the delays continue, the auditing process could be prolonged another few weeks.
In a press release on Wednesday, the UN said it would welcome the establishment of a committee to investigate the incident that occurred on Tuesday.
According to the UN, more than 12,000 of the 22,828 ballot boxes have been audited so far.
After writing an article on August 18 discussing the current election and rumored talk of the formation of an interim government, Matthew Rosenberg, a senior reporter at The New York Times, was told by the Afghan Attorney General's office on Wednesday to leave the country within 24 hours.
Mr. Rosenberg, who has been based in Kabul for The Times for three years, was initially, on Tuesday, called in for questioning and then later issued a travel ban by the Attorney General's office. According to staff of the country's top prosecutor, the decision to have Mr. Rosenberg leave the country came after he declined to reveal the sources he used in his story.
"After investigation, the Attorney General's office has come to the conclusion that Rosenberg's presence in Afghanistan will endanger the national interests of Afghanistan, so the Attorney General's office has decided that he [Rosenber] should leave Afghanistan within 24 hours," spokesman for the Attorney General Baseer Azizi said. He added that "any Afghan journal publishing such things would face the same consequences."
Officials at the Presidential Palace have also spoken out on the issue, criticizing The New York Times' coverage of the presidential election as baseless and divisive. The story Mr. Rosenberg wrote that has gotten him in trouble quotes anonymous ministry sources discussing the possibility of threatening to form an interim government in order to break the election stalemate.
Afghan media advocacy groups, along with the U.S. State Department, have criticized the decision to question and expel Mr. Rosenberg.
Nai, an Afghan media watchdog, has vocally defended The Times reporter's rights, and said that any issues must be judged within the parameters of Afghanistan's Mass Media Law.
"A reporter has the right to access information, and whenever there is a complaint against a reporter, the complaint must be reviewed on the bases of the Mass Media Law and not in a selective manner," said Sediqullah Tawhedi, the head of Nai.
Rosenberg is the first foreign journalist forced out of Afghanistan by Afghan legal authorities since the 2001 invasion.
The lack of laws against Bacha Bazi in the Afghan criminal justice system has led to significant growth in the horrific practice.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), in a recent report about the Bacha Bazi tradition, said that a number of amendments must be made to the criminal law, asserting that the responsible institutions should act accordingly in bringing justified changes.
Bacha Bazi is an old Afghan tradition that involves young boys—AIHRC report indicates victims are between the ages of 10 and 16—that are taken and dressed as girls and are made to entertain older men.
These boys are "owned" by the perpetrators who, according to the report, are between the ages of 31 and 50, stressing that 78 percent of these men are married and "own" two to five boys that are kept as their courtesans.
The Afghan criminal law has declared sexual harassment a crime; however, the law does not explicitly cover Bacha Bazi. AIHRC stresses that laws against all forms of Bacha Bazi—including forcing young boys to cross-dress and dance—should be explicitly included in the criminal justice system.
"The criminal laws in Afghanistan only identify rape and pederasty as a crime," AIHRC Chairperson Sima Samar said. "According to our findings there are several types of Bacha Bazi where they are kept as slaves and forced to dance at marriage parties and much more. All forms of Bacha Bazi need to be considered a crime."
The AIHRC report includes interviews with 31 victims of Bacha Bazi from 14 provinces as well as 36 men involved in the practice. The analysis indicates that most of the victims are kids working on the streets, factories and bakeries and have been forced into Bacha Bazi because of poverty.
Meanwhile, most of the perpetrators are said to be wealthy, illegally-armed and known as local law-breakers.
"Those involved in Bacha Bazi are mullahs, commanders, rich men and the list can go on, but those involved are lawbreakers," AIHRC commissioner Suraya Subhrang said.
Boxing competitions were held in Kabul on Wednesday to identify 52 superior boxers for the national boxing team. The competitions were held at Kabul University with the participation of more than 100 boxers.
"Such competitions are important in identifying superior athletes and paving the way for them to join the national team and participate in international competitions," the national boxing team coach Mohammad Maroof said.
Manager of the national team, Nisar Ahmad Qarizada, stated that such competitions are necessary, but should be planned in advance so that the winners are prepared for international competitions.
"Competitions must be planned in advance so that the boxers can prepare well for the international competitions."
The competitions held 11 different categories.
"I participated in four games so far and won the first one with a knockout and the three others with good titles," boxer Hasibullah said.
The boxers believe that the competitions were held at a high professional level.
"The level of the competition was very high," another boxer Faisal said. "But I was still able to defeat my rivals."
Competitions were held for the first time after three years. According to the national team coach, certain technical and professional issues had prevented the federation to organize the competitions in the past years.
Boxing was first introduced in Afghanistan by Master Abdul Rashid Begham who had pursued his physical education in Germany and returned to Afghanistan in 1944. The first boxing competition of its kind was held in the country in 1975 at Ghazi Stadium in Kabul after which the first national team was formed.
Aziz Ahmad Akhtari, Azizullah Azizi, Jailani, Faiz Mohammad Karmand, Salahuddin Sediqi, Abdul Ghafor Raghbat, Najibullah Hussaini and Ustad Arif are among Afghanistan's most renowned boxers.
Afghan government officials said that international aids for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are not enough emphasizing at a meeting on Wednesday in Kabul that the officials must propose a new set of recommendations at the NATO summit in Wales to increase aids.