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Thousands march through Kabul

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Thousands march through Kabul

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

There is no way the government can ignore us this time

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?

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?

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.