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Thousands march through Kabul

Thousands march through Kabul
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By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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Protesters have climbed barricades and thrown stones in a pipeline protest some say poses a major challenge to the Afghan government

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Thousands of people from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority have marched through Kabul.

Some protesters have thrown stones and tried to climb over shipping containers that had been stacked up to block the roads leading to Kabul’s government and diplomatic neighbourhoods.

What are they angry about?

Hazara people march on Kabul in power line protest https://t.co/4hxhUvmLSM

— Guardian World (@guardianworld) May 16, 2016

The Berlin's wall of Kabul by ashrafghani</a> to blocked roads to protesters <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TUTAP?src=hash">#TUTAP</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EnlighteningMovement?src=hash">#EnlighteningMovement</a> <a href="https://t.co/fzXzK9Tg76">pic.twitter.com/fzXzK9Tg76</a></p>&mdash; Hedayat Osyan (amirosyan) May 16, 2016

Protestors chanting “Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah! What happened to your promises” “we are brothers” #Kabul#TUTAPpic.twitter.com/aJfEsaeE5h

— Ehsanullah Amiri (@euamiri) May 16, 2016

They are protesting against the planned route of a multi-million dollar power transmission line.

They want the route for the 500kv transmission line linking Kabul with Turkmenistan to be changed to pass through two provinces with large Hazara populations.

Hazara leaders, including senior government members, say the chosen route discriminates against their people who will need access to the supply.

They want an earlier version of the plan implemented that would see a longer route from the northern town of Pul-e-Khumri through the provinces of Bamyan and Wardak to the west of Kabul.

According to the current proposal, due for completion in 2018, the line would pass from a converter station in Pul-e-Khumri through the mountainous Salang pass to Kabul.

Some say the protests pose a major challenge to the Afghan government.

What has the government said?

The National Unity Government respects people's views & demands. We remain committed to balanced development & growth in the country. (2/n)

— ارگ (@ARG_AFG) May 16, 2016

Officials say the changes would cost millions and delay the badly-needed project by years.

President Ashraf Ghani and DABS, the national power company, deny the Hazara are being discriminated against.

DABS says the current plan guarantees that Bamyan and Wardak will receive enough electriticy.

The company says switching the route would add tens of millions of dollars to the cost and delay the project by as much as three years, leaving millions without a reliable supply.

The Hazara community

  • Mainly Shi’ite
  • Politically well-organised
  • Claim they have faced long-term persecution

Electricity in Afghanistan

  • Only 30% of the country connected to the grid
  • New line intended to provide power to 10 provinces
  • Forms part of the TUTAP project linking Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What they are saying

“We will no longer accept discrimination and there is no way the government can ignore us this time,” – Abdul Rauf Safar from Ghazni, a central Afghanistan city with a large Hazara population.

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