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The Killid Group

Vested Interests in Kuchi-Hazara conflict

Written by
Saturday, 29 May 2010 14:58

Vested Interests in Kuchi-Hazara conflict

Killid commentary

Temporary solutions collapsed and by taking sides officials have escalated tensions. The ongoing violence between Kuchis and Hazaras in the Behsud and Day Mirdad district in Wardak province highlights once again the complex issues related to landownership and economic tensions following years of protracted conflict.

Displacement, economic migration and the refugee exodus as well as the subsequent return of 5 million refugees to Afghanistan have led to serious tensions over landownership, leading to eruption of hostilities. These have been exacerbated by the absence of certifiable ownership, rule of law, a weak government and politicians playing games.

In Afghanistan, where society is still governed by social relations, tribal allegiances and local relations rather than established systems of governance and rule of law, ordinary disputes have become mired in the complexities of the conflict as well as political interests of powerful individuals with vested interests. Unless Afghanistan has a strong government to deal with this, it cannot be reversed.

Frequent clashes

In the last two years there have been frequent clashes between the Kuchi and Hazara communities in the Behsud and Day Mirdad districts of Wardak Province. Though such conflicts are not unprecedented, in the past such clashes have been solved with the intervention of tribal leaders and elders who have prevented them from becoming violent. However those natural processes, which restored the social order, have been now vitiated by the protracted conflict leading to increasing problems.

The Kuchis claim that residents of Behsood and Day Mirdad districts have occupied their pastures and built their houses over their grazing lands even though they have legal documents from previous governments granting them the rights to these lands. On the other hand, the residents of these two districts say that Kuchis are forcibly entering these areas, setting fire to their houses, crops and trees.

The government commission, headed by Wahidullah Saboun, an advisor to President Karzai and a former senior commander of the Hezb-e-Islami only provided a temporary solution to the problem. Kuchis were asked to leave the area in exchange for the promises of other grazing areas and financial compensation. However, in the absence of a substantive solution, the problem has flared up yet again.

Kuchis returned to this area in large numbers earlier this year. Even before there was any violence between the two groups, a number of officials started escalating tensions by taking sides, shouting slogans and rhetorical outbursts, inflaming the parliament as well as the media. Instead of initiating steps for reconciliation and solving the problems peacefully, they deepened the conflict. It was clear that the issue was being used, particularly at the time of registration of candidates to the parliament to in order to gain political leverage.

Temporary solution

With the increase in tensions all the focus turned toward the President's office, to see how he would solve the problem. On May 22, President Karzai issued his six-article order, and called for its speedy implementation.

Under this order, Kuchis were asked to withdraw from Behsood and Day Mirdad districts not later than June 20, paving the way for the return of the displaced Hazara families to return to their homes; both parties were asked to return the dead bodies of the other community, and the government promised to compensate for the damages sustained by both sides.

The order further stated that after a period of three months lands would be distributed to the Kuchis. The President also directed the special commission to implement the order and the Ministries of Interior, Defence and the National Intelligence Directorate to monitor the issue.

However from the nature of the dispute it seems to be clear that a number of foreign hands are involved in the clashes. The solution therefore also needs to take this into consideration and should address the dispute in a substantive manner.

The order however does not consider the issues of criminal responsibility or identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators who instigated and carried out the acts of violence. By compensating the groups for the violence the government is actually sending out a signal which may result in violent settlement of disputes in other parts of the country especially the more unstable areas. A number of innocent people were killed in these clashes and action needs to be taken against those responsible. Undoubtedly, a number of foreign hands are involved in these clashes and fueling the fire between the two sides behind the scenes, particularly the neighboring countries which needs to be looked into.

Since the Kuchi are nomadic, it is not clear how giving them land for settlement will solve the problem. It is also not clear how the government will apportion lands to them or whether it will turn out to be yet another example like Khak-e-Jabbar, where lands were given out in the name of the Kuchi but subsequently sold to others with no questions asked.


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