Afghanis protest Govt powerline plan

  • 16/05/2016
Afghanis protest Govt powerline plan

Stacked-up shipping containers are blocking the streets leading to Kabul's government and diplomatic area as Afghan authorities prepare for a rally by thousands of members of the Hazara minority over a multimillion dollar powerline project.

Demonstrators are demanding that the route for the 500 kV transmission line linking Turkmenistan with Kabul be changed to pass through two provinces with large Hazara populations, an option the government says would cost millions and delay the badly needed project by years.

The protest on Monday follows one in November against the murder of a group of Hazara people that became the biggest anti-government demonstration in Kabul for years.

Organisers have urged protesters to "shake the palace of despotism".

Authorities have closed access to the presidential palace, fearing a repeat of last year's violence, when demonstrators tried to scale the walls.

Hazara have long faced persecution but they are politically well organised and thousands of demonstrators are expected.

Hazara leaders, who include senior government members, say the route chosen for the transmission line discriminates against their people, something Ghani and power company DABS deny.

Only around 30 percent of Afghanistan is connected to electricity. Modernising the creaking power system, which is subject to frequent blackouts, has been a top priority.

The transmission line, intended to provide secure power to 10 provinces, is part of the wider TUTAP project backed by the Asian Development Bank to link the energy-rich Central Asia republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Under current plans, due to implemented by 2018, the line would pass from a converter station in the northern town of Pul-e-Khumri through the mountainous Salang pass to Kabul.

Demonstrators want an earlier version of the plan featuring a longer route from Pul-e-Khumri through the provinces of Bamyan and Wardak to the west of Kabul.