Several ethnically Pashtun residents who live in the border area of Gilan district, Ghazni province, have launched a legal case to seize agricultural land of Jaghuri residents at the Hotqol area.
Court documents, seen by Rukhshana Media, show that the Taliban primary court in Gilan district of Ghazni has decided in favour of the Pashtun residents, despite legal documentation and evidence that the property belongs to the the Jaghuri residents, who are ethnically Hazara.
The Jaghuri residents believe the court’s decision was ethnically motivated and biased.
The legal claim started by Pashtun residents is for two areas of Alaghzar and Hotqul, both of which are inhabited by Hazaras.
According to legal and official government documents and interviews with at least five elders of the Jaghuri district from Alaghzar and Hotgul neighborhoods, Rukhshana Media was able to verify that the disputed areas in Alaghzar village belong to the Hazara residents.
The Taliban primary court has issued a verdict giving part of the agricultural land to claimants living in villages of Otla and Kulukhsha in Gilan district, who are also ethnically Pashtun.
In a separate case, ethnically Pashtun residents of Rasanah of Gilan district have claimed ownership of agricultural land, gardens, pastures, and heights dominating the south side of Jaghuri district and several Hotgul areas. These areas have been owned and inhabited by Hazaras for generations.
Residents living in the contested area fear another decision from the Taliban’s court in Gilan that will force them to lose land and ancestral homes, and be forced to leave.
Neither the Pashtun claimants of the disputed land nor the Taliban court responded to Rukhshana Media’s attempts to ask for comment.
History of Alaghzar area
The Jaghuri district, Ghazni province, is bordered by the Otla, Kolukhsha, and Rasana areas in Gilan district of Ghazni province from the south. The border residents are Hazaras who live in Hotqul area, which is part of Jaghuri.
About 117 years ago, the residents of Hotqul bought the lands that are known today as Alaghzar from the people of Anguri area of Jaghuri district. This purchase and sale were done in the presence of the Jaghuri district’s primary court at that time, and the document was written by Musa Shafiq, the clerk of Jaghuri district of Ghazni.
According to the people, 40 years after the land purchase, several residents of Anguri villages in Jaghori and Otla and Kolkuhsha in Gilan claim ownership of a part of Alaghzar lands. But at the time, the dispute remained unsolved. Until 1999, during the first Taliban regime, the conflict started again over a part of the lands of Alaghzar village.
The Taliban divided the disputed lands into three parts. One part they gave to the Pashtun claimants from the residents of Otla and Kolkuhsha villages and gave two separate parts to the residents of Alaghzar village and the residents of Anguri. But the decision was not enforced and the land remained in the hands of Alaghzar residents.
Residents of Alaghzar told Rukhshana Media that they have been guarding the forests and bushes of the disputed area for many years.
Last year, when the Taliban regained power, the residents of the villages of Otla and Kolkusha of Gilan district found the situation in their favour and demanded to take over and implement the previous decision of the Taliban.
Taliban in Gilan district support the decision of their previous government. According to the people, with the declaration of support for the Taliban, in the first months of the Taliban’s rule, hundreds of Pashtuns moved into the area with cars, motorcycles and on foot, and in a short period, they looted the plants, bushes, and forests of the disputed area.
The use of the bushes for fuel is prohibited because those vegetation and bushes prevent flooding.
The decision of the Taliban primary court of Gilan district
In the decision letter issued by the Taliban primary court for Gilan and Jaghuri regarding the disputed lands of Alaghzar village on March 25, 2022, it is clearly mentioned that the decision was issued in favor of Gulab, son of Jalat Khan and Abdul Halim, the son of Mohammad Hakim. It is said that the decision was issued in the presence of Mohibullah and Mohammad Aslam, residents of Otla village.
The decision was issued based on the testimony of Mohammad Yosuf and Ghulam Subhani, who are Pashtuns, and the decisions and dividing lines were made in the absence of the residents of Alaghzar village, according to the documents obtained by Rukhshana Media and the statements of Hotqol residents.
The documents show that 65-year-old Chaman Ali and 69-year-old Ali Ata, residents of Hotqol of Jaghuri, testified completely contrary to what Pashtun witnesses said. The Taliban court has not given a reason for its verdict finding in favor of the Pashtun claimants.
Mohammad Juma Rezayi, one of the two lawyers elected by the residents of Alaghzar village, told Rukhshana Media that during the court session, Mohammad Yosuf and Ghulam Sobhani, who were present as witnesses in the Taliban court, were not even able to state the boundaries of the disputed land, yet their testimony was accepted by the Taliban judge.
According to the Taliban judge’s decision, the disputed land between Hotqol residents in Alaghzar village is divided into three parts, one part is given to the residents of Anguri, the other part is given to the residents of Alaghzar, and the third part is given to the Pashtuns of Gilan district.
According to people in Hotqol, when Mohammad Juma and Mohammad Naeem, official and legal lawyers of the residents of Alaghzar, presented their official documents to the Taliban judge in Gilan district, the Taliban judge behaved in a biased and harsh attitude toward them.
“I filed a petition on the same document, the judge threw my petition away with two fingers and said, no matter where you go in 34 provinces, you will still have to come to me,” Mohammad Juma said. “If you come again, I will issue the same verdict”
So far, their official and legal documents have been dismissed and ignored.
Mohammad Juma and Mohammad Naeem were compelled to file their complaint in the Taliban provincial appeal court in Ghazni province. According to Mohammad Juma, until now that more than a month has passed, and they still do not know whether the work was arranged according to their request or not.
“Even before we were asked by the court, Gol Habib, Mohammad Hashim, Abdul Halim, and his brother were threatening us,” Mohammad Juma told Rukhshana Media. “They said you are not one of us. If you do not give up, we will show you someday.”
Juma said they were threatening them directly.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Juma and Mohammad Naeem, representing Alaghzar village, are very worried that this time, the document that shows that the disputed area belongs to them and their clients will be ignored in the Taliban courts.
Rukhshana Media has obtained many tax fees that have a long history. These records show that the ancestors of the current residents of Alaghzar village have paid taxes for the disputed lands for many years.
Alaghzar residents said that if tax collection from agricultural lands is resumed, they will have to pay the disputed land taxes again because the land is still registered in their name in the government archives.
Dispute in Hotqol
The war and conflict in the border region of Rasanah of Gilan district and Hotqol area of Jaghuri district has a long history. In the past century, there have been at least three bloody conflicts in the border area of Gilan and Jaghuri districts.
The first skirmish took place in 1954, another one happened in the 1970s, and the final one happened on November 7, 2018, that left 65 people killed in the Hotqol neighborhood of Jaghuri.
There are stories among the residents of Hotqol that say that Rasana, that now belongs to Pashtun, once belonged to the Hazaras and they lost it after Abdul Rahman’s aggressive attacks. A part of the Rasanah is still devoted to Hassan Beg which does not have any sign of Pashto in its name. According to the residents of Hotqol, Hassan Beg area was the last part of the properties of the Hazaras of the Jaghuri border, which became the property of the Pashtuns.
Several Hotqol elders believe that their fathers retreated after the Pashtun invasion and lost a large part of their land until they reached the current position of Hotqol, which they were able to stay in due to the mountainous area and the presence of heights dominating the area.
They said that the neighbouring Pashtuns have a political motive for starting lawsuits in Taliban courts. The Pashtuns want to “legally” cut off their lands from a part of the Hotqol and the hills that dominate it so that they will not face any resistance or issue in the future to dominate the Jaghuri people from the south side of the district.
The Qarshinia and Siahboom villages of Hotqol are located on the same heights, and one of the elders of Hotqol, who preferred not to name him in the report due to security reasons, told Rukhshana Media that in 1954, he witnessed the life of the people of Hotqol.
“In 1954, there was a war between Pashtuns and Hazaras, which I remember very well,” he said. “A person from Qarshinia was killed in his village, and that war is called as Jawri war.”
Hotqol residents say that the soldiers of the previous government, who were moved to the heights related to Hotqol, killed about 300 Taliban fighters in two wars with the Taliban, and in the last case, when the Taliban took over the country, two hours later after the fall of Kabul, after the disappointment of the soldiers and the evacuation of the trenches, it fell into the hands of the Taliban.
According to the statements of Hotqol residents and the evidence left from the past, at least in the last century and a half, the ownership of those areas was in the hands of Hotqol residents. Several Hotqol elders have said in an interview with Rukhshana Media that the documents left by their grandfathers show that they have been the owners of the lands claimed by the residents of Rasanah since a century ago.
Haji Asif Hatami, the head of Hotqol area, said that Pashtuns of Rassnah have been occupying common pastures between the residents of Hotgul and Rasanah for many years, and now that they have reached the agricultural lands and houses of Aliabad village of Hotqol, they have started a lawsuit to get part of the houses, agricultural lands, and hills which has been a part of Jaghuri soil for many years.
Furthermore, the architectural style of the houses show that residents of Hotqol have been living there for about a century and a half.
Several interviews with some elderly people of Jaghuri district state that the distinctive houses are between 100 to 150 years old.
The residents of Hotqol, who are all ethnically Hazara, are not surprised by the claims of the Pashtuns of Gilan district over their areas. They believe that the Pashtuns now have the Taliban’s power, they are claiming whatever they want.
Previously, in a legal dispute between Hazaras and Pashtuns in Malestan district of Ghazni province, the Taliban unilaterally settled the dispute and forced the Hazaras to pay compensation.
Complaints about the lack of neutrality of the Taliban courts in legal disputes are growing. There are many claims that the Taliban take ethnic sides in judicial verdicts. So far, there have been complaints about the land grabbing of Hazara people in Daikundi and Maidan Wardak provinces, which Rukhshana Media is still to verify.
People under the threat of the Taliban
Some of the elders of Jaghuri district say that even those who dare to demand their legal rights in the face of these Taliban courts are arrested or detained. Two elders of Jaghuri district, who do not want to be named for security reasons, told Rukhshana Media that the Taliban governor in Ghazni province had ordered the arrest of Sayed Abdullah Sajjadi, one of the Jaghuri elders. This prompted Mr. Sajjadi to flee the country.
“I heard that the governor of Ghazni ordered the district governor of Jaghuri to arrest Mr. Sajjadi,” One of the sources said. “As soon as I left the district governor’s office, I told Sajjadi to get out of Afghanistan.”
According to the sources, Mr. Sajjadi played an active role in solving the fundamental problems of the people and fearlessly rejected the unjust decisions of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the residents of Hotqol have many complaints about the looting of mosques, shrines, and a number of their houses by the Pashtuns who live next to them. They told Rukhshana Media that even the gates and windows of shrines and mosques have been stolen lately.
Elders of Hotqol said that after the theft or looting of houses or shrines when they ask the Taliban to follow up on the case, they ask the people to hand over the thief to them.
With the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, several Afghan ethnic groups are more worried than ever. According to the report of international institutions, Hazaras in particular have been the target of persecution in history.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is an independent government organization based in the United States, has said that after the Taliban took over, Shiites, especially the Hazara people in Afghanistan, are at greater risk.