1 September 2016
Clashes broke out on Thursday in Kabul at a rally to celebrate Habibullah Kalakan, a Tajik bandit, whose brief reign as king of Afghanistan in 1929, now risks fuelling tensions that could threaten government stability.
Known as Bacha-i Saqao, “the water carrier’s son’’, Kalakani, a Tajik army deserter from a village north of Kabul, seized power from the modernising King Amanullah in 1929.
Nine months later, after a short and brutal reign, he was executed when the old Pashtun dynasty returned to defeat him.
Officials of the Interior Ministry said on condition of anonymity in Kabul that the rally, to rebury the remains of Habibullah Kalakani, had stirred fears it could exacerbate rivalry between ethnic groups.
They said this also fed the instability that has dogged the unwieldy government of President Ashraf Ghani.
The officials said that the organisers had intended to remove the remains from an unmarked grave to Shahrara, a scenic hilltop in the city.
They said that clashes broke out after a standoff between the mainly Tajik demonstrators and supporters of Vice-President Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek.
Salem Wahdat, a member of the group that organised the rally, said that demonstrators said they were fired on after objections from Dostum’s supporters that the proposed reburial site had connections with the Uzbek minority.
He said that “Dostum’s men fired first and did not allow the group to carry out the burial.
“Hundreds of demonstrators took part in the rally, called after Ghani’s government rejected requests to provide state honours for the remains of Kalakani, the lone Tajik exception in a long line of Pashtun monarchs.’’
Wahdat said that the clash underlined the tense political mood in Kabul, where Ghani and his former rival, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, lead a government that has been bitterly divided since its creation after a disputed election in September 2014.
He said that Abdullah’s support is drawn heavily from among northern Tajiks, Afghanistan’s second largest ethnic minority, who have been largely against Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun.