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Tens Of Thousands Of Hazara Rally In Kabul Over Power Project

Members Afghanistan's Hazara minority protesting in Kabul on May 16.
Members Afghanistan's Hazara minority protesting in Kabul on May 16.

Tens of thousands of minority Shi’ite Hazara have marched in the Afghan capital to protest the path of a multimillion-dollar power-line project.

Police blocked main access roads into the center of Kabul to prevent the protesters from getting near the presidential palace.

Many of Kabul's stores were closed and there was an increased police presence in the capital in case the demonstration turned violent.

Despite the measures, the protest passed off largely peacefully with just a few reports of trouble during the march.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani thanked the protesters for not resorting to violence.

Hazara leaders are demanding that the planned 500-kilovolt transmission line linking Turkmenistan with Kabul be routed through the central province of Bamiyan, which has a large Hazara population.

The power line was originally set to pass through Bamiyan, but the government decided to reroute it through the Salang Pass north of Kabul, saying the shorter route would expedite the project and save millions of dollars in costs.

It was also announced that a commission reviewing the plan will present a report on the project by May 26.

The line, intended to provide secure power to 10 Afghan provinces, is part of the wider TUTAP project to link Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Only between 30 and 40 percent of Afghans are connected to the electric grid.

There are an estimated 2.8 million Hazara in Afghanistan, which has an estimated population of some 33 million.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters