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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Afghan Hazaras Emerge as Power Brokers in President Elections

Major Candidates Courting Votes of Important Ethnic Minority

By 

NATHAN HODGE and  EHSANULLAH AMIRI CONNECT

Updated March 7, 2014 7:55 p.m. ET



Workers from Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic minority chat while waiting for customers at a market in the capital, Kabul, in September. Associated Press

KABUL—Afghanistan's once-persecuted ethnic Hazara minority, which has made strong economic and political gains since the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001, has emerged as a formidable power broker in the April presidential election.

The mostly Shiite Muslim Hazaras are estimated to represent 9% of the nation's population, the third largest ethnic group, and they have a high level of participation in elections, which is one reason presidential candidates these days are busy courting their vote.

Four of the six leading candidates have selected Hazara running mates in their bid to succeed Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who must step down this year, and who has a Hazara vice president himself.

Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, one of the most likely candidates to make it to a runoff, is running with Mohammed Mohaqeq, a Hazara and prominent former warlord.

Mr. Mohaqeq heads a faction of Hezb-e Wahdat, an armed party that fought against the Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1980, and clashed with other ethnic militias during the civil war in the 1990s. Hundreds of Hazara civilians were killed in the so-called Afshar massacre, a 1993 looting spree by a rival militia in western Kabul during the civil war.... Continue Reading... 

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