Hazara elders pledge to support Taliban rulers

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Kabul: More than 1,000 Shia thousands pledged their support to Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Thursday, saying the “dark period” of previous Western-backed governments had ended with the return of Islamists.

Thousands of Afghans have long been persecuted by Islamists, but community elders gathered in Kabul on Thursday in a show of support alongside Taliban leaders.

Senior Hazara leader and former legislator Zafar Mahdawi, who organized the gathering, said the previous government of President Ashraf Ghani was the “darkest point” in Afghanistan’s history.

“Afghanistan had no independence and (foreign) embassies ruled every aspect of the government,” he said. “Thank God, we have gone through this dark phase now.”

Afghanistan’s new rulers have ended the war, stopped corruption and increased security, a community leader says

Mahdavi said that since the Taliban came to power in August, the new rulers have ended the war, curbed corruption and increased security.

But he called for a more inclusive government from the Taliban and urged the new rulers to reopen schools for girls.

“In the coming weeks or months, we expect to see an inclusive government that is representative of all the people,” Mahdavi said.

The current government, which the Taliban call an interim government, is made up almost entirely of Pashtun veterans of the group and does not include any women.

Taliban leader and spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the gathering that rebuilding the country was a priority.

“Our jihad against foreign invaders is over and now we will start jihad for nation building,” he said.

Senior Hazara cleric Ayatollah Vezada Behsudi called for reconciliation among all ethnic groups in the country.

“Let’s forgive each other…if the present government wants to be sustainable, it must get the support of all the people,” he said.

Thousands, who make up 10 to 20 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million population, have long been persecuted in the Sunni-majority country.

Islamists have carried out several mass killings of thousands, including in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, where Human Rights Watch says at least 2,000 mainly Hazara civilians were executed. In recent years, several bomb attacks have also killed and injured thousands in the country.

Some of the thousands who attended Thursday’s gathering expressed fear that members of the militant Islamic State (IS) group would carry out attacks against them.

“In these three months we have seen many explosions and suicide attacks,” said Qari Mohammad Reza Hydari.

“People are concerned about Daesh’s influence and they could gain control of parts of the country or challenge the (Islamic) emirate,” he said, referring to IS with its Arabic abbreviation.

Published in Dawn, November 26, 2021

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