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Cablegate: Hazara-Kuchi Dispute Goes National

VZCZCXRO7563
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #1948/01 2101056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281056Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4912
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001948

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/A,
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-101 POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV AF
SUBJECT: HAZARA-KUCHI DISPUTE GOES NATIONAL

REF: A. KABUL 1818
B. KABUL 1008

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. President Karzai's effort to make peace
between Hazaras and Kuchis engaged in a dispute over grazing
lands is not meeting with early success. The largely Pashtun
Kuchi nomads say they are considering temporarily pulling
back from disputed grazing lands in central Afghanistan at
President Karzai's request, but local media report continued
violence. A Karzai success would have eased ethnic tensions
that have the stalled National Assembly debate on electoral
reform (ref A). Karzai,s inability to deliver a permanent
solution may harm his credibility among both Pashtuns and
Hazaras before next year's presidential elections.

Karzai Speaks, But Did Anyone Listen?
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Karzai ordered the evacuation of Kuchis from Bihsud
district in Wardak province July 20, although reports from
nearby Bamyan province say hundreds of displaced Hazaras are
still fleeing from Kuchi raids and seeking refuge deeper into
Hazara territory. Kuchi leaders say they are confident of
their legal claims to the land and will respect Karzai's
order, but many Hazaras doubt the president's sincerity or
effectiveness in negotiating a fair compromise and say Kuchis
are still occupying their land. For centuries throughout
Afghanistan, ethnically Pashtun Kuchi nomads have brought
their herds in the summer months into land occupied
year-round by other groups, often triggering resentment and
occasionally violence. A severe drought in central and
northern Afghanistan this past year has severely limited
available forage. Local news media report armed Kuchis
killed more than a dozen Hazara villagers in Bihsud this
month and displaced thousands more from their villages.

3. (SBU) Kuchi MPs told PolOff Karzai had promised them a
legal resolution in the country's court system next year in
return for their sQnding down this year. MP Haji Mullah
Tarakhel (Kabul) said Kuchis held legal documents confirming
their easement rights to Wardak grazing lands and were
confident they would prevail in a fair legal battle. "Kuchis
will never leave to others what is within their rights to
have," Tarakhel said.

4. (SBU) Hazara MP Ustad (Professor) Mohammad Akbari (Bamyan)
said Hazaras recognized the government's constitutional
obligation to provide for Kuchi nomads, but any claims to
land rights disqualified a group from the constitution's
definition of a nomad. Akbari thinks most of the Kuchis in
Bihsud are settled Pashtuns looking to claim Hazara land and
are ignoring Karzai's order.

5. (SBU) When Hazaras and other non-Pashtuns lashed out
against Kuchis last April, angry MPs walked out of the
National Assembly's lower house in protest at the nomads' 10
reserved parliamentary seats (ref B). The dispute deadlocked
parliament for more than a month and stalled attempts to
re-write election laws ahead of next year's presidential
elections. Hazara leaders said they would block action on
the new electoral law and would take up arms to defend their
territory if the government does not find a solution soon
(many Hazaras living in the central highlands have largely
given up their weapons under the GIRoA's Disbandment of
Illegally Armed Groups (DIAG) process, while Kuchi nomads
have yet to do so.)

Hazara Tempers Running High
------------------------------------

6. (SBU) At a July 22 protest in Kabul attended by more than
10,000 Hazaras, MP Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq (Kabul), a former
Hazara warlord who is reputed to have visited extreme
brutality upon Pashtuns during the civil war, accused Karzai
of trying to downplay Kuchi violence against Hazaras in order
to hold on to Pashtun support for next year's election.
Several thousand Hazaras also demonstrated July 24 outside of
UNAMA headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif, asking for
international help to convince the Karzai government to take
a stronger stand against Kuchi encroachments in Bihsud.

KABUL 00001948 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) Hazara leaders have exploited the conflict to rally
support to their own powerbases. Mohaqeq, who played the
most visible role at the Kabul protest, earlier went on a
week-long hunger strike over the issue and Vice President
Khalili boycotted Cabinet meetings for nearly three weeks.
Both ended their personal protests this week, but along with
Akbari, have been jockeying for more than a year for
leadership of the splintered Hezb-e-Wahdat party, the center
of Hazara politics. Shia Ayatollah Muhammad Asif Mohseni, an
ethnic Pashtun from Kandahar influential with the Shia
Hazara, appears to be trying to moderate the competitive
chest-thumping of Mohaqeq, Khalili, and Akbari.WOOD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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