SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK:The announcement by the Independent Election Commission  comes after speculation that the vote would be postponed to create space for US-led efforts to end the 17-year war with the Afghan Taliban.

The presidential ballot was originally scheduled for April 20, then delayed to July 20.

Many observers had considered both dates unrealistic given the IEC is still finalising results of October’s shambolic parliamentary elections.

The IEC said in a statement on Wednesday that the vote had faced “numerous problems and challenges … therefore holding the elections based on the timelines previously announced is not possible.”

“In order to better implement the rule of election law, ensure transparency as well as voter registration, the presidential election, provincial council election as well as the parliamentary election of Ghazni province, will be held on September 28,” the statement said.

The election should go ahead, it added, “provided all relevant sides, especially the government and the international community, provide the IEC with the required budget on time”.

A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, who plans to seek re-election, said the government respects the decision and is “fully prepared to cooperate with the IEC”.

The statement did not mention the ongoing talks between the US and the Taliban, which have caused unease in Kabul as Washington seeks a way out of its longest war.