It’s a bitter pill that Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities find themselves increasingly obliged to swallow: marginalization from the political mainstream and an upswing in suicide-bomb atrocities and massacres that the Pashtun-dominated government stands accused of either ignoring or addressing with indifference and incompetence.
The latest outrage occurred last weekend in Mirza Oleng, a remote, mostly Hazara town in the north. After weeks of begging Kabul to send help — several nearby villages had been overrun by the Taliban — Mirza Oleng was assaulted by gangs of heavily armed men carrying the flags of the Taliban and the Islamic State’s Khorasan wing. At least 50 townspeople were slaughtered.
Afghanistan’s Hazaras have long been subjected to discrimination, pogroms and genocidal violence, most viciously during the five years of Taliban rule that ended in 2001. But even with the presidential election that brought the cosmopolitan and forward-thinking Ashraf Ghani to power in 2014, Afghanistan’s minorities are chafing against what Ghani’s critics call his “Pashtunization” of power.
Ghani’s government is fast losing favour with the country’s minority Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaqs, Turkmen and Baloch, who comprise about 60 per cent of the population.
Like every Afghan leader over the past two centuries, Ghani is a Pashtun — the ethnic bloc that has produced everything from enlightened monarchs and quick-witted statesmen to the murderous pro-Soviet thug regime of the late 1970s to the leadership of the Taliban.