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 Introduction:

Afghanistan’s rugged central mountainous core of approximately 50,000 square kilometers is known as the Hazarajat, Land of the Hazara. Physically the Hazara are Mongoloid, possibly of mixed Eastern Turkic and Mongol origin, although numerous contradictory speculations exist. Scholars agree that the Hazara were established here since the beginning of the thirteenth century. However some believe they first settdled in Afghanistan about 3,000 years ago. Hazara speak Hazaragi, a Persianized language with a large mixture of Mongol words. A majority are Imami Shia; fewer are Ismaili Shia; while others, particularly in Bamiyan and the north, are Sunni.

The Hazarajat has been continued to be a neglected area. Services and physical infrastructure were practically nonexistent. Farming and animal husbandry are the principal occupations; there is no industry. Because of their meager resources, the Hazara seasonally sought work and services in other areas as low grade civil servants, shopkeepers, artisans, urban factory workers, and unskilled labour. In the 1960s an estimated 30-50 percent of Hazara males migrated to the cities where they were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social scale. During the 1960s and 70s their economic and political status improved remarkably.

 

The Hazara land:

Hazarajat (also referred to as Hazaristan) is the land or the provinces (states) in Afghanistan which have historically been inhabited by Hazara people. It was believed that the area of Hazarajat was larger than now. According to H.W.Bellew the area was ” from the border of Kabul and Ghazni to those of Harat in one direction and from vicinity of Kandahar to that of Bulkh in the other. It may be noted that after the complete defeat of Hazaras in 1983 Afghan ruler adopted a policy to plant Pushtun nomads in green land of Hazara territory.

 

The Hazara Population:

According to the Hazara sources, the population of Hazaras is believed to be around 6 to 7 million including Shia, Sunni and Ismaili but Askar Mousvi in his book “The Hazaras of Afghanistan” page no: 64 mentioned says that the population is over 4 million. Author Ahmed Rasheed (of Pakistan) says that it is around 3 to 4 million in his English book by the name of “Taliban, Islam, oil and new great game” translated in Persian published in Iran Page no:117.

 

Habitat and economy:

The Hazarajat is a land of high mountains and narrow valleys. It is estimated that the average elevation of the peaks is around 10,000 feet.. In the northeastern corner of Besud, narrow rapid streams drain eastward into the Ghorband, a tributary of the Kabul River. In the Dai Zangi territory, just north of the Kohi Baba ridge, rise some of the sources of the Heri Rud. Much of the Hazarajat, however, is oriented toward the Helmand River and its tributaries, which flow in a long, sweep southwestward toward the Sistan border of Iran. In the lower reaches of the rivers, the valleys are deep and marked with frequent gorges. The upper valleys are usually shallower and more open.

In this high, interior area the winters are severe. The first slight snows begin in October, and heavy snow lies on the ground from December into March or April. During this time many communities in the upper valleys are snowbound. In April the snows begin to melt and for the next month or six weeks heavy rains swell the rivers. During the summer months no clouds dim the bright sky, and warm days are followed by cook, brisk nights. Except for an occasional wild almond in some of the upper valleys, no trees break the naked sweep of mountain and valley and only grasses and scattered shrubs soften the contours of the mountain slopes.

In such a habitat the Hazaras must painstakingly utilize every resource in order to survive. The narrow level floor of valley which can be irrigated are intensively cultivated. In some places, where the mountain slopes rise directly from the riverbanks, the lower slopes are terraced for crops. Irrigation channels, carefully banked with stone, are laboriously constructed, sometimes over a course of several miles, in order that unwatered level areas may be cultivated. Dry farming is practiced on such upper meadows as are available, but for the most part the vast stretches of mountainside are suitable only for grazing.

As a consequence, the Hazara economy is carefully balanced between agriculture and stockbreeding, with the latter playing a major role in the less fertile regions. The staple crops are barley, wheat, several kinds of legumes, and, in some regions. Maize. Cucumbers and melons are often raised, and poplar or fruit trees are sometimes planted along the edges of the fields. Rotation of crops is practiced, and alfalfa or clover is planted when needed to enrich the soil. Great flocks of sheep are kept some of which are sold or bartered for additional grain or for commodities not available in the Hazarajat. Where the grass is rich, horses are raised for riding, and in the south, toward Ghazni and Kandahar, camels. A few cows and oxen are kept for milk and for drawing plows, ponies or mules serve as pack animals, and goats are also found, but the animal wealth of the Hazaras do not raise fodder for their animals. In the late summer, men and boys may be seen scattered about the mountainside for miles around every village, gathering wild grass and shrubs for use as winter fodder. Other plants and shrubs are collected for use as fuel. Hunting is unimportant in the economy.

In spite of the most careful utilization of resources, the Hazaras cannot always obtain a living from the land. Many Hazaras go every winter to seek employment at Kabul, Kandahar, and Quetta, returning home in the spring.

The Hazaras live in fortified villages called qale set on the lower slope of the mountain just above their cultivated fields. Until the twentieth century many tribes spent the summer with their flocks in pastures a short distance from the villages, leaving only a few workers to look after the fields.

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