Monday, April 07, 2008

Afghanistan's Wild, Wild West

Farmers versus Ranchers, a common theme in the Westerns. Played out in Afghanistan, it's Hazaras versus Kuchis.

The Hazaras are a large and powerful tribe whose homeland is carved out of central Afghanistan. That's their turf. They play the Farmers in this movie. On the other side are the Kuchis, predominantly Pashtun nomads who, along with their herds, play the evil Ranchers.

The Kuchis have historically moved their herds of camels, sheep, goats and donkeys around in search of fresh pastures for grazing. Part of that migratory route has run through Hazara territory. This year the Hazaris are saying "no" and threatening to take up arms to drive the Kuchis off should they try to come through.

"Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the Independent Directorate of Kuchi Affairs (IDKA) are concerned that clashes between Hazaras and Kuchis could be worse than in previous years. "Given that both parties lack confidence in the government's ability to solve their disputes they may try to defeat each other by violent means," warned the AIHRC's Hamidi.

The AIHRC warning was echoed by the director of IDKA who said grievances on both sides had become "dangerous". "There are strong possibilities that a future conflict could turn into a widespread battle with devastating results," said Daudshah Niazi, the head of the IDKA."

Now that NATO has shown the first signs of a plan to bail out this sort of sectarian squabbling may become a feature among Afghanistan's tribes.

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