By Zabihullah Tamanna
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – A rally held by the Afghan Hazara ethnic minority in Kabul ended peacefully after a group leader convinced thousands of protesters to return home.
The demonstrators, who mostly came from central Afghanistan, were angry about perceived unfairness in the execution of the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TUTAP) electricity project, which is set to connect Central Asia to South Asia.
They demanded that the government execute the project through the Afghan central provinces of Bamyan and Maidan Wardak, instead of the Salang Pass, in order for their region to benefit.
“The protesters want justice,” Mohammad Karim Khalili, the group’s leader, said on Monday. “They are out there to remind the government that execution of development projects is the right of every region.”
On May 1, the Afghan government approved a plan allowing TUTAP transmission lines to go through the central part of the country, including through the provinces of Parwan, Baghlan, Kabul and Logar.
The government said the decision to implement TUTAP through the Salang Pass had been taken during the administration of former President Hamid Karzai in 2013, adding that the current government had delayed the project to ensure the supply of electricity to Bamyan.
“Funds to ensure the execution of a 300-megawatt electricity project from TUTAP had been arranged, which will be completed by 2018,” a statement from the presidential palace said.
The Hazara minority strongly disapproved and demanded the government to push the project through the central provinces of Bamyan and Madian Wardak.
According to experts, the execution of the project from the northern part of the country would be quicker and less costly. Both Bamyan and the central and southeastern parts of the country would still receive electricity from TUTAP.