KHOST CITY — Civil society activists, tribal elders, youth, businessmen along with thousands of common people gathered on Sunday, May 15,to add their voices to the protests surrounding the TUTAP power lines. They asked the government not to let political leaders take advantage of the situation to create serious problems.
The Khost protesters want to keep the power lines routed through Salang, as is currently the plan. If it is changed, they warn, they will continue their peaceful demonstrations, using every legal means to force the government to give them their rights.
TUTAP has become an explosive issue, leading to massive protests in several provinces. On one side are those who want the power lines routed through Bamian Province. On the other are those demanding that it go through Salang.
At stake is much more than electric power; Bamian is a heavily Hazara province; Khost is mainly Pashtun. Hazaras are claiming that the decision to take TUTAP away from Bamian is ethnic discrimination; Pashtuns complain, with equal heat, that the Hazaras are just stirring up trouble.
The demonstration in Khost, which drew about 10,000 people, started in Khost’s playground and continued to Adalat square.
Abdul Wali Wahedzai,head of Khost’sProvincial Council and one of the organizers of the protest, said that servants of foreign countries want to create problems to achieve their political aims.
“A change in the route of the power lines will cause a long-lasting problem to the government,” he said.“Unless our voice is heard, we will pitch tents in front of the presidential palace and will continue the demonstrations until our demands are accepted.”
Protester Haji Rasool Mohammad Tanaycomplained that Paktia province, which borders Khost, is always kept in seclusion, with little attention paid to its development. In many cases, he said, it has not received its legal rights.
“If the route of the power lines changes, it will have adverse consequences,” he said. “Those who spread disunity among people and take advantage of the situation to achieve their political goalswill be responsible.”
The protesters carried the photos of those Hazara leaders who, they say, are trying to cause disunity among the people, and were chanting slogans against them.
Besides demanding their rights regarding the TUTAP project, the protesters condemned the insult to President Ashraf Ghani in London. On May 13, hecklers interrupted Ghani’s press conference at the Royal United Services Institute, calling him a liar and protesting the routing of TUTAP through Salang. At least one was forcibly ejected from the hall.
Protests over TUTAP have reached Helmand, Paktia, Paktika and Logar provinces, where protesters are also asking the government to implement the TUTAP project through Salang, warning that there would be more demonstrations if any changes were made.