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By Jawad Zeerak

Hazaras have been either one of the most neglected and ignored, or at other times one of the most oppressed minority groups in Afghanistan. Regardless of what happened in the past, tired after years of war and destruction; Hazaras were the first to cheer at the outcomes of the Bonn conference in 2001—the establishment of the so called democratically elected government of President Hamed Karzai. Participation in the presidential elections in the Hazara majority areas, especially the level of women’s participation, was the highest in the country.
Hazaras actively joined the efforts to rebuild their country from a few high level government officials (however symbolic), to lower level civil servants. The first vice president of the country was a Hazara woman who served in the interim administration immediately after the Bonn conference. Bamyan, a province high up in the Hindu Kush ranges where the two giant Buddha Statues once stood, is the first province in the history of the country to have a woman as the head of the province.

These people have shown that they have talent and potential in other walks of life as well. The first Afghan Star (Afghan Idol—a reality TV show similar to Australian Idol) was a young Hazara boy. Recently another young man of the same ethnic group won the first ever Olympic medal for his country in Beijing 2008. There has been no or very little poppy production in Hazarajat. Despite all the enthusiasm and the level of support shown by the Hazaras, unfortunately the central government has done little to help these people whom, according to Phil Zabriskie of National Geographic Magazine, could be Afghanistan’s best hope!

With billions of dollars in aid money, no noticeable work has been done in Hazarajat. People are still suffering from poverty, lack of medical facilities, poor roads, poor education etc. In fact, a great amount of the aid money is flowing to the unsafe regions of the country where poppy production is on the rise and insurgency is a great threat to the stability of the state and President Karzai’s administration. Some have sarcastically termed this as an “Insurgency Premium” which Hazarajat is deprived of! Recently we have witnessed armed attacks by Kuchis (a term used for nomads) on Hazara people in the provinces not far from the capital Kabul leaving hundreds dead, injured, unsheltered and displaced. No action has been taken by the government to stop this, or if anything very little and most of the time not at the right time.

Like many other Afghans, Hazaras are losing the hope that they had once tied to this government’s promises. If the government wants to continue to have the support of this part of Afghan society, which I believe is what they currently need the most, the government should take immediate action to encourage Hazaras to continue their support of the central government and cooperation. In fact, the government could use the talent, the capacity and the will of these people to bring a positive change in the war torn country, for a better tomorrow.

Similarly, if the International community (Including Australia) want to succeed in their mission of rebuilding Afghanistan and bringing stability & democracy to this country and the region, then they have to start with the people who are most in need and most enthusiastic about it. They can help make Hazarajat a success story and an example for other parts of the country to follow.

(Title picked up from an article on Hazaras by Phil Zabriskie, published in National Geographic Magazine in February 2008).

 

 

 

 

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