Friday, September 17, 2010

Is Afghanistan Keeping some Ethnic Groups From Voting?

Quick note about Afghanistan and how their upcoming round of elections is promising to be just as fraudulent (if not more so) than last year's presidential ones.  It's already expected that because of the deteriorating security situation in much of the country there will be fewer polling stations open for the parliamentary elections this weekend than there were for last year's presidential election, especially in Taliban strongholds in the south of the country.  But according to MSNBC, there will also be fewer polling stations open in the relatively peaceful north as well, and this has members of Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic group angry.

If you read the wildly-popular novel The Kite Runner, then you are likely familiar with the Hazaras; the protagonist Amir's childhood friend/servant Hassan was a Hazara, and as you may also recall from Hassan's treatment in the book, the Hazaras traditionally makeup Afghanistan's underclass.  But thanks to the parliamentary government installed after the United States-led invasion in 2001, the Hazaras have managed to carve out a small niche in the Afghani government – 30 Hazara candidates are running for seats in the 249-member wolesi jirga (the Afghan parliament). 

But their chances for success are now being compromised by the government's decision to close polling stations across the Hazara homeland in the northern part of the country, according to the Hazara's political leader Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, even though the part of the country dominated by the Hazaras has been relatively peaceful, unlike the predominantly Pashtun lands to the south.  And that gets to the heart of the problem, according to Mohaqiq; the predominantly Pashtun and Sunni government of President Hamid Karzai (himself a Pashtun) has been upset by the small, but growing, influence of the Shiite Hazaras in the national government.  Even though the Hazaras themselves could not challenge the dominance of the Pashtuns in the national government, they could if they allied with other minority groups in Afghanistan, like the Uzbeks or Tajiks.  It seems Karzai's Pashtun government is taking steps, using “national security” as a shield, to prevent this.

Mohaqiq told a rally of Hazaras he would not let them go unrepresented. Stay tuned, it's looking like another disastrous election for Afghanistan's "democracy".

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