Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Demonstration in Kabul

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans marched through Kabul streets on Monday demanding the government to route a power line through Bamyan province – which has been deprived of electricity for years despite cherishing ancient and cultural monuments in its heart. Roads leading into central Kabul’s commercial district were blocked to all vehicles and foot traffic by police, who used stacked shipping containers to prevent the demonstrators reaching the presidential palace. Authorities told protest organizers that the march would be confined to a specific route that would not take them near the palace.
The TUTAP power line, which would connect the energy-rich Central Asian nations of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with Afghanistan and Pakistan, is regarded a crucial project in the electricity-starved region.
The line was originally set to pass through Bamyan but the government decided to reroute it through the mountainous Salang pass north of Kabul, saying the shorter route would expedite the project and save millions of dollars in costs. Demonstrators, however, want the earlier version of the plan that want intended to route the line through Bamyan and Wardak provinces.
The protestors chanted the slogan of “justice” and “equal development” in the peaceful demonstration. “We want the power line to cross through Bamyan, which has seen no development in 15 years. We are demanding justice, not charity.”
Hazara leaders, who include senior members of the government, say the route chosen for the transmission line discriminates against their people, something Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani denies.
Bamyan is poverty stricken, though it is largely peaceful and has potential as a tourist destination. Not surprisingly, a number of people live in caves in the current century and some children abandon the idea of going to schools due to poverty. The Bamyan residents suffer from lack of electricity and water shortages. Moreover, the residents carry water on their backs or on animals from long distances. University students also wrestle with the same challenges there. They used to stage demonstrations against the Bamyan provincial governor to provide them electricity. In a nutshell, Bamyan, which lies on the Silk Road, is a historical city with historical places but suffered much, mainly during the Taliban regime. As a result, the twin Buddha statues, which were highly significant for absorbing tourists, were destroyed in March 2001, by the Taliban following a decree issued by Mullah Omar. The destruction of those historical heritages was irreparable loss to that province and a strong blow to the entire country.  
Afghanistan is desperately short of power, with less than 40 percent of the population connected to the national grid, according to the World Bank. Almost 75 percent of the country’s power is imported.
Afghanistan is in the grip of many challenges such as political economic and security crises. There is not a gap only between state and nation but also among the political figures in the machinery of the National Unity Government (NUG). The mass unemployment, exodus and brain-drain could not galvanize the NUG to create job opportunities or tackle the issue. Moreover, insurgency and frequent terrorist attacks take heavy toll of the nation across the country. The security situation in the country is worsening, with firm foothold of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group and Taliban’s Omari Operation. Swathes of territory have fallen to the insurgents and attacks on the capital, Kabul, take place with increasing frequency.
Similarly, corruption has also plagued the country, especially the judicial system. Transparency International, which monitors corruption worldwide, said in its most recent index, published in 2015, that Afghanistan was the 166th least corrupt nation, above only North Korea and Somalia. Nigeria was in 136th place. Before attending to anti-corruption summit, which was held on Thursday, May 12, 2016, British Prime Minister David Cameron called Nigeria and Afghanistan “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”. And while delivering speech in the summit, Ashraf Ghani was heckled by four Afghan individuals – this circulated widely in national and international media.
Regarding TUTAP project, Ghani’s office released a statement saying he had worked tirelessly in recent weeks to resolve the issue through negotiations with community and protest leaders. “The important point of these dialogues was to find means and resources to provide electricity to Bamyan,” it said. The statement said Ghani had appointed a 12-member team to investigate the viability of rerouting the line through Bamyan and suspended work on the project until the commission reported its findings later this month.
The peaceful demonstration, attended by men, women and childern, staged for demanding justice, equal development and citizens’ legal rights reflect people’s political maturity. Based on the freedom of expression, every citizen has the right to voice their demands and ask the government to tackle their challenges. Constitutionally, discriminating one on the basis of his/her race, sex, color and beliefs are not acceptable and against law. Therefore, government must struggle to address the challenges in any province, be it Bamyan, Helmand or Nangarhar, and provide them not only electricity but also security and job opportunity – as it has been considered the state’s duty in the Constitution. Turning a blind eye to nation’s legal demands will not lessen the challenges.