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Former Soldiers Unpaid and Angry

By Hafizullah Gardesh

While some have been paid since November's violent demonstration, when at least one protester was fatally shot as demonstrators stormed the defence ministry building, many others say they are still owed up to 14 months salary. (See: Sacked Soldiers Vow to Fight On

A spokesman for the laid-off soldiers, Major Ainuddin, told IWPR that the continuing problems would mean that the thousands of laid-off soldiers – and their families – would not be voting for President Hamed Karzai in the election scheduled for this June.

The most recent demonstration occurred on March 10, when hundreds of former servicemen filled Chaman Huzauri Park, next to the Olympic Stadium, in a peaceful protest.

Mohammad Sayed, a former major who attended the demonstration, told IWPR that his family has gone hungry since he had been laid off. "Death is better than this life,” he said.

The soldiers were dismissed as part of an effort to create a smaller, more ethnically diverse Afghan National Army to replace the current regional and ethnic battalions under factional control.

Defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said the government was attempting to solve the problem, but that any solution would take time.

"We will not just solve their problems 100 per cent; we will solve their problems one thousand per cent,” he promised: “Their problem is our problem, and if it is not solved we will not move ahead."

Hafizullah Gardesh is an IWPR staff reporter in Kabul.

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