Pashtuns Of Afghanistan

The PATHAN (Pashtun) people form the dominant ethnic and linguistic community, accounting for just over half the population. Tribally organized, the Pathan are concentrated in the east and the south. As they gained control over the rest of the country in the 19th century, however, many of them settled in other areas too. The Pashtuns mostly speak Pashtu (although some residing in Kabul and other urban areas speak Dari) and are generally Sunni Muslims. They are divided into tribal and sub-tribal groups to which they remain loyal. These tribal divisions have been the source of conflict among Pashtuns throughout their history. Even today, the Pashtun parties are divided along tribal lines. The majority of Pashtuns make their living off of animal husbandry and agriculture as well as some trade. In Afghanistan, Pashtuns have traditionally resided in a large semi-circular area following the Afghan border form north of the Darya-e-Morgab east and southward to just north of the 35' latitude. Enclaves of Pashtuns live scattered among other ethnic groups in much of the rest of the country, especially in the northern regions and in the western interior due to the resettlement policies of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, who ruled Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901.

From its founding in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Durrani, Afghanistan has traditionally been dominated by the Pashtuns, who before 1978 constituted a 51% minority in the country. However, as a result of the 1979 Soviet invasion the population distribution in Afghanistan has changed. About 85% of the 6.2 million Afghan refugees who fled to Iran and Pakistan and around the World due to the Russian invasion and the war that followed it are Pashtuns. This, accordingly, lowered the percentage of Pashtuns inside Afghanistan temporarily and raised the percentages of the country's other ethnic groups. By the mid-1990s many of the refugees returned restoring the Pashtuns to their status of the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan constituting about 45% of the population.

The Soviet invasion of December 1979 has been the major determining factor in Afghanistan's ethnic relations since that point in time. From that time Until mid-1991 the various factions of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, all dominated by Pashtuns, controlled the country's government. All other factions either opposed or aligned themselves with the PDPA (with most in the opposition), including several Pashtun factions. It is not within the scope of this chronology to document the constant shifts in alliances between various factions, both between the opposition and government camps and within them. However, it should be noted that most of the factions were ethnically homogeneous and were engaging in a constant shifting of alliances worthy of traditional balance of power theory and continue to do so today. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 has only affected the power relations among the country's various factions but has not changed the fact that they are in constant competition with each other.

The Dari-speaking TAJIK are the second-largest community, accounting for approximately 25% of the population. They are strongly identified with sedentary farming and town life, mostly in the fertile eastern valleys north and south of the Hindu Kush. Some 11% of the population are Turkic, mostly UZBEK and TURKMEN, who live in the northern plains as farmers and herders. The central mountains yield a meager living to some 1.1 million HAZARAS, a Mongoloid people who mostly speak Persian. There are many smaller communities, the most important of which are the NURISTANIS of the high mountains of the east and the BALUCH of the desert south.


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