Ethnicity and Politics in Afghanistan: How a 23 year war affected the society


Afghanistan was the centerpiece in America’s war on terrorism because it is considered an example of rescuing a failed state. This chapter focuses on the critical question of ethnicity and politics in Afghanistan by examining current conceptual models of ethnicity and their application to handle day-to-day political affairs in the country. The research also presents no ethnic groups that consider violence or instability, but civil society is absent, democratic governance and their norms. Afghanistan is a neighbor to the North. As a result, the Central Asian Nation describes the case related to the emerging civil societies that are fragmented and strongly influenced by the donor community. This chapter also presents that after the 23rd year of a war in Afghanistan, repression and neglect have had a devastating effect on society.


Ethnicity and Politics in Contemporary Afghanistan

Most of the writings on Afghanistan’s ethnic conflict are dominated by newspaper reports, and some are one-sided. However, some tangible research studies on Afghanistan have been done in other countries, including India. Louis Dupree’s book titled Afghanistan brings to light the geographic, sociological, ethnographic, and political accounts of Afghanistan. It shows that ethnic conflict is not a novel phenomenon in Afghanistan, but research studies on these themes are hardly available. Ethnic conflicts emerged in Afghanistan because of the structural changes brought by colonialism and the cold war (Carment, 1993:138).

This work seeks to understand by examining the Security crisis in Afghanistan and will focus on domestic affairs. Mahbobullah Afkhami (1394), in a book titled “A Nation That Was Not Made”, emphasized that nation-building was the best way to solve the political issues of the multicultural countries, especially about the postwar countries, after the crisis of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe. The nation-building in multicultural countries, mainly based on ethnic and religious, state-building has at times failed. Therefore, the Afghan policymakers had to engage in a more dynamic form of nation-building which would prevail under pressure. Many issues like nation, national identity, etc., became a problem in the process. The nation can be created when its fundamental elements exist, such as unity, morale, development, commitment, etc. Also, it has been examined that there is a relation between the nation and National Identity. Therefore, the nation is built when fragmentation is united to aid the nation. To combine it, a phenomenally national identity, having the cultural property of all ethnic groups, preserving common history, everyday victories, sadness, and happiness were used. However, common failures arose. The nation has not yet been formed in Afghanistan.

The issues related to ethnic policies arose due to a vague and loose national identity. The Afghan national identity disrespected the multiplicity of identities in the country. It neglected the non-Pashtun groups and coerced them to navigate themselves under the Afghan identity they did not belong to. It is indicated that there is a strong relationship between ethnicity and the concentration of power. Thus, it weakens ethnic relations. Therefore, the intensification and propagation of ethnicity have negatively affected the nation-building process, as nation-building with a democratic array reduces ethnic conflicts. From the link between the idea of nation• building and ethnicity, we conclude that the existence of various ethnic groups does not lead to more people being driven away, which means that the use of this historical idea will lead to a crisis in the country. In a country, the existence of ethnicities is a logical and natural thing, Afghanistan (1394:115).

Mohammad Akram Arefi’s book (written in Persian in 1393), Obstacles and Challenges Political Development in Afghanistan, defined the word “tribe” and how it originated in the political order of the Afghan community. He points out how the boundaries of tribes, clans, and groups have always played an essential role in the socio-political scenario of Afghanistan. Further, he also analyzed the questions such as the stance of tribal elites on crucial topics, the relationships between one tribal community with other tribal communities concerning geographical lands, culture, politics, economy, social affiliations, etc. He indicated that the tribal system of the Afghan community has contributed to preventing the Government’s approval of modernization in Afghanistan. This structure, within the community, has been instrumental in triggering ethnic conflicts between Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbeks, and social cohesion breakdown over the last century. The aspects such as local, kinship, and racial interests encouraged by traditional elites have delayed the formation of national sentiment and delayed the emergence of a comprehensive or inclusive macro-identity. This trend, in turn, has begun to pave the way for the political participation of citizens in civil decision-making and formulation, which has been established at a grassroots level with a professional interest in the cause. However, with the lack of civil society foundations, the political system has also lowered the chances (Arefi, 1393:56).

Mojib-ul-Rahman (1390), in his book entitled “Critique in Afghanistan structure system” (Persian), portrays Afghanistan’s ethnic conflicts and hegemony. This work highlights the reasons for ethnic conflicts, the roots of their formation, and the origin of the groups like the Pashtuns, Tajik, Hazara, and Uzbek. The Afghani is a multi-ethnic one; it consists of various ethnic groups such as the Pashtuns, the Tajiks, the Hazaras, the Uzbeks, the Baluchis, the Turkmenis_, the Nuristanis, the Arabs, the Hindus, and many more. To explore a solid presidential system and the power phenomenon in Afghanistan, in his study, he focuses on four main themes: first examining theoretical foundations of constitutional choice for multicultural societies; second, analyzing the social structure and ethnic complexity in Afghanistan, and questioning whether Afghanistan is a tumultuous society or a continuous colonial society; third examining the structure and design aspects of the constitution of Afghanistan; and fourth critically evaluates and analyzes the election process under the new constitution in the Lower Jirga. Further, he examines and delineates how and why it is implemented and its suitability for Afghanistan. However, he failed to respond to the ethnic groups’ desires based on their experience of the present-day centralized presidential system. Thus, he concluded that creating an “inclusive and non-centralized parliamentary system” is inappropriate for a society like Afghanistan and indicates the possibility of a consolidated democracy and the rule of law (Rahman, 1390: 19- 208).

Dr. Ali Karimi (2011), in “Introduction on Political Sociology, indicates that ethnic dynamics and conflicts” occur due to the existence of specific conditions Like the problem of the acquisition, distribution, or redistribution of interests, privileges, power, and gain of domination in the public domain, as such it provides a platform for conflict. The primary reason is that domination holds power exploited by privileged groups that align with their line of interest. The domination that leads to exploitation and discriminatory behavior does not solely arise from power and force upon oppressed or marginalized groups. It also emerges from the combination of popular beliefs and intellectual discourse, serving the interest of the dominant, which has been accepted as the truth over the years. He pointed out that the privileged group believes that their well-being is good and that excluding the minority is also justified. There is a period when the dominant and minority groups are different in appearance, ethnicity, language, religion, customs, and lifestyles. Experience has depicted that the probability of violent encounters between minority groups and the ethnic majority increases in three contexts: when minority members seek to liberate themselves from the domination of majority are neglected or rejected; when a conflict and confrontation are initiated by a majority group toward the ethnic minorities; and finally, change of the political arrangement between political and social forces like the days of perseverance, the weakness, and ineffectiveness of the government structure force groups to create opposing demands for power (Karimi, 2011, 83:84).

Abdul Qayum Sajjadi (2012) believes that the major point in the political sociology of Afghanistan is the negative influence on security in this country. It returns to this subject that the Government and the administrative powers have stabilized their strength grounded on the ethnic. Foundation and gradually involved the issue of ethnic demands. In some third-world societies, governments may be placed in the center of various ethnic groups during their formation, but they gradually get an independent identity from ethnicity. They are placed in an umbrella, more extensive and inclusive, over and above the various ethnic groups. In Afghan society, the governments have taken part in ethnic and national identity. Therefore, the political power would not present a true consolidated narrative on the socio-political differences between the native communities. Their opposing viewpoints towards the ruling ethnic groups and power owners consequently internalize the different methods for transferring the power. It has led to an increase in these differences (Sajjadi, 2012:79).

A Persian scholar, Abdul Hafiz Mansoor (1392), in his book, “Obstacles to Political Development in Afghanistan”, emphasizing socio-cultural factors, pointed the issues in Afghanistan society into five categories: the first category blames the underdevelopment of the tribal and traditional Afghan culture; the second category points to the absence of harmony between the social and the political system as the leading cause of political underdevelopment in Afghanistan; the third part blames the political underdevelopment on the attitude of Pashtuns for dominance. This portrays that some politicians in the Pashtun ethnic group give the title of “big brother” to the ethnic group of Pashtun and consider such privileges as national leadership. Thus, they considered imposing the Pashto language and Pashtun culture on all citizens of Afghanistan as their right. Seeking such privileges has created hostility among people and prevented the creation of a nation. The last part indicates political underdevelopment on acute poverty and disapproval of Pashtuns claimed by other groups (ibid., 161:1.)

Yuri Tikhonow (1945), in his book, “Stalin’s Afghan fight (the policy of great powers in Afghanistan and Pashtun tribes”), mentioned that 40 percent of Afghanistan population are Pashtuns who have been gathered in two large unions. In the southern part of Afghanistan is Durani, and in the Kabul area, Ghazni. The origin of Afghan Pashtuns was basically from the south of the Hindu Kush area, the natural border between northern and southern Afghanistan. However, due to the minority policy of the Afghan Government, numerous Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan’s northern side also have land and pasture. Therefore, the tribe’s relations were very complex, and it can be said more hostile than friendly. However, they always fought together at moments of danger or threat against the enemy. Three factors contributed to integrating the Pashtun into an external enemy: reciprocity, Pashtunwali, and ritual. In addition to the coexistence of Pashtuns, the first factor is that all of them are descended from Qais Abdul Rashid (Patan). The great significance of Pashtun life is played by Pashtunwali traditions, whose basic concepts are disgrace and exchange. Shame and defamation are transcendental values in the lives of every Pashtun. Leader and disgrace are ordinary warriors for the tribe of equal value. The Russian researcher has given the exact definition for the term disgrace: “The unwritten rules of the brave warriors who are convinced of the mission and honor. Also, violent condemnation, any form of fear, chill, and betrayal form the nature of the disgrace” Tikhonov,  (1945: 47).

Michael Rush (2011) indicates that political participation, like the person’s involvement at various levels of the political system, is possible for any individual and tribe, and it is a significant element. He divided the political participation forms into three, like the active group or the group which is constantly engaged in political activities and represents the functional role of the political community’s writing. The second group is the group of spectators. This group only watches the political games and political battles, and they have no role in determining the political fate of society. A third group is composed of indifferent people. They are not enthusiastic about political participation, do not relate to the community’s political fate, and are entirely indifferent to changes in their society. He also deals with the scope or extent of political participation in society, to what extent people enter political discussion and participation in society, to what extent are the political freedoms in society, and whether people have the right to attend in the determination of their fate as community or political party. He asserts that looking at multi communism from a Weberian perspective would make it look like an ideal case, a set of characteristics defining the configuration type of societal arrangements (Rush, 2011: 35-36).

Ahmad Shah Farzan (2004) asserts that the tribe’s role in the systems cannot be ignored. He indicates that ethnologists have recognized more than 55 ethnic groups in Afghanistan, the larger section of whom are the Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, and the Hazara. Also, they are involved in Government, and it is most potent in the rule of the Pashtuns, the Hazara. The Tajiks Uzbekistan has a role in Afghanistan’s political structure, and other ethnic minorities have a small percentage of political power (Farzan, 2004:37).

Another Persian scholar, Mohammad Qasim vafaeezada (1393), wrote in his book “Ethnic politics and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan” about the issues, such as the concept of ethnicity, ethnic groups, politics, ethnic, challenges of Pashto-Persian, boundaries that break the process of nation-building of Pashtuns, parties, ethnic and so on. The book seeks to enhance the role of ethnic politics in Afghanistan and whether it could be the ground for peace and tranquillity in Afghanistan (1993:76). The current study is more of an extension of this book by analyzing the aspect of ethnicity, ethnic politics, and conflict in Afghanistan in more detail.

Hossein Bashiriah’s (1392) work on the political aspects of the Afghan people indicates that Afghanistan’s major ethnic groups are Pashtun, Tajiks, Hazara, and Uzbeks, and all of them are actively involved in political power struggles. Political nationalism is also associated with citizenship, equality, fundamental rights, democratic participation, and ethnic nationalism. Also, it is grounded on history, language, and culture (1392: 287). Finally, it also indicated that numerous scholars’ writings are based on ethnic and tribal peoples, ethnic cleansing, ethnic clefts connected to tribes and clans. However, the works delving into the importance of ethnic identities in making a political structure in Afghanistan, spanning from King Abdul Rahman Khan to Karzai and Ashraf Ghani, were incomplete. The main emphasis of this study will be to fill this research gap by adopting ethnographic methods to gather or collect data. In his article Ethnicity and politics in Afghanistan, Manmath Narayan Singh (2002) ‘depicts the Tsar in Russia, British occupied India, the Soviet–USA Civil War. He also asserts that the recent ethnic battle of Afghanistan originated due to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Moreover, Najibullah attempted to include various groups, but the post-Najibullah regime faced multiple crises, and their supporters sought ethnic realignment of political forces. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported the ethnic coalitions to control Kabul for Sunni Pashtun Islamists. The CIA played a role, whereas Iran helped Shia Hazara and Tajiks. Finally, because of Sunni Tajiks with Persian speaking, Turkrnens received support from Central Asia. However, smaller ethnic groups waited for U.N. resolutions or interventions.

The Mujahedeen regime was opposed by the Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in the country, as they could not accept power being in the hands of the Uzbeks and Tajiks. Pashtun felt alienated from the lack of representation in the Government, but Pakistan strategically shifted to support the Taliban, the religious and powerful military force. It also highlights the main power after 9/11 and Al-Qaida found in Pakistan by the ISI. Furthermore, the great game between the U.S. became Partner of India after Trump took over the U.S. administration. Secondly, China took an interest in Afghanistan after the death of the ex-communist leader, Najibullah. The recent raid over the Pakistan Afghanistan border by the U.S. proved that a new ethnic problem has emerged in Afghanistan, which may further escalate ethnic tension in the future (Warikoo, 2002: 16, 39).

In his book “The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: Government Creation and fall in The International System” (1995), Rubin, Barnett R offers a descriptive history of Afghanistan’s division. It deals with the idea of the prestige of the state, society, politics and ends with the Soviet invasion and the retreat of the Soviet armies. He also dealt with the collapse of the international system. In Ethnic Differences and International Relations (1990), Stefan Ryan portrays the impact of international politics on ethnic relations and the challenges that ethnic differences bring to the international community system. This book mainly focuses on the international system and its aid in abating ethnic clashes. It also describes the role of the United Nations in ethnic conflicts resolution and support of ethnic groups. It deals with several contemporary ethnic conflicts, including Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestine, Sri Lanka, and Northern Ireland.

In his book “The Ethnic Conflict Explained by Ethnic Nepotism” (1999), Tattoo Van Hannan explained the ethnic differences throughout the world using ethnic unconsciousness. In this book, he has attempted to demonstrate helpful ideas for eradicating ethnic disputes. Frederick Forsyth Afghani is an interesting novel, which depicts terrorism and Islamic extremism as the subject. He has argued that Islam is a religion in the real sense. This novel also depicts a scenario of 2001 and the terrorist attack and attempts to elucidate how the international community was united in its struggle against terrorism. Dennis L. Thompson and Dov Ronen (eds) “Ethnicity, politics and development” (1986) deal with ethnicity and politics in developing countries. This book discusses the Iranian uprising and ethnic issues in Nigeria. It highlights the problems facing the Punjab government.

In his book, “Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace” (2004), Ahmed Rashid describes the current condition in Afghanistan. It presents an actual image of Afghanistan in a novel global order. It asserts that the critical issue in Afghanistan is the effect of drug trafficking and corruption in the Government. In his article Afghan ethnic conflict, Amin Saikal (1998) shows how the crisis in Afghanistan during the Cold War has changed into a racist ethnic problem after the Cold War. He asserts that conflict has become a significant aspect of Afghanistan society, exacerbated by the intervention of foreign players.

The foreign countries interfering in Afghanistan include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran; they are its neighbors. Besides, the United States of America has tolerated the Pashtun, whereas the Supremacist Islam has aided the Pashtun Taliban militancy. Countries like Iran, India, and Russia need to look for non-Pashtun anti-Taliban to make their presence felt in Afghanistan. Consequently, citizens composed of trans-nationals or ethno-nationals have appeared to be a significant obstacle in achieving peace in Southwest Asia, including Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. The Afghanistan republic comprises diverse ethnic-nationalities, where state-nationalism is quickly overthrown by loyalty to ethnonationalism leading to disintegration and fragmentation. It is strategically located in the international geopolitics, due to which external interventions have always been a presence in a guise to solve the problems facing Afghanistan under the leadership of the United States. Like Pakistan, the external force has backed the Taliban against a conciliation resolution through a federal scheme. In a diverse ethnic population, compromise alone in sacrificing for a larger cause can only protect Afghanistan from these ethnic conflicts. This article has attempted to reveal Afghanistan’s neighbor’s position, most importantly Pakistan, in the battle in Afghanistan (Amim, 1998, 26, 114).

Anwar Haq Ahadi (1995), in his work, ”The Decline of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan”, mentioned five main factors that led to the decline in Pashtuns. The first was the situation that led to the downfall of the Marxist Government in 1992 and led to an increase in ethnic minorities. Kannel’s PDPA faction played a significant role in changing Afghanistan’s conflicts from belief (religion) to ethnicity. Karmel, an absurd planner, felt that the communist rule would fall without Russia’s backing. With the departure of Russia, it attempted to hold its own and its faction with the Afghanistan policies based on ethnic affiliations. Karmel and his team sought to become members of the non-military commanders, military officers, non-Pashtun communists, and bureaucrats. Therefore, since 1989, ethnic hostility in the PDPA has become acute among leaders. They were on the People’s Front and essential in the People’s Democratic People’s Party (PPP) faction, and although Khreshayev lost political leadership after the Soviet conquest of Parcham, they continued in the armed forces. After the Soviet troops’ withdrawal, the ethnic disputes increased, and Pashtun-e Khalq fans (for example, Defense Minister Shah Nawaz Tani) along with the resistance group, the Islamic-Islamic Party of Pashtun, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and in March 1990, a military group attempted to strike against Najibullah’s Government. It failed, and as a result, many Pashtun-khaki were lost in the armed conflict. This occurred from the Pashtuns side because Najibullah, the Pashtun himself, could no longer trust his officers and upgraded some non-Pashtun secular generals to more critical positions. PDPA encouraged some of its officers to form an anti-Pashtun alliance with the non- Pashtun mujahedeen officers. Najibullah did nothing even when he realized that the Afghan war had turned into an ethnic conflict and attempted to make Pashtun generals more responsible for major military units. At the end of 1991, Abdul Momen, the General Secretary, and Tajik avoided Najibullah’s orders. On the other hand, the United Nations Peace Program for Afghanistan was rapidly improving. Till early 1992, Najibullah approved a temporary administration of neutral technocrats. Conflict and hostility took place within the Pashtuns Community; the factors behind this are the increase of Pashtun tribes; also, they have been rioting and conflicting. The article expresses concern that “unless the two issues of legal equality and equality of opportunity for all its citizens and acceptance of the Afghan identity and the state are dealt with openly and resolved satisfactorily, political stability will be destroyed in Afghanistan.

James Dobbins (1393), in his article entitled “Nation-building in post-Taliban Afghanistan,” indicated that when the US-led coalition’s 9/11 attacks were to enter Afghanistan. They would create a whole new government in Afghanistan, mainly after the Taliban, and build up Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan insists that the Pashtuns group should have a larger share in the Afghan Government. Pashtuns always hold power in Afghanistan and have had control of power since the eighteenth century after the emergence of Afghanistan as a nation-state. Eventually, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun, was an acceptable option for leadership, and it was suggested that Afghans were volunteers. It further indicated that ethnicity and power were closely related to Afghanistan. With the domestic supporters and the support of the foreign countries, the Pashtun had the power to control the head of the Afghan governments.

Statement of the Problem

The issue of ethnicity is constantly prevailing in Afghanistan after the decline of Najibullah, which created opportunities and threats for both Afghanistan and other countries. The most significant ground of conflict in Afghanistan is ethnicity, religious sects, or both. When it comes to the conflict based on ethnicity, it could be among the Pashtun, Takic, Uzbek, and Hazara, whereas when it is based on religious sects, it could be between Shia and Sunni. However, the successive Mujahedeen government did not maintain stability in Afghanistan, and consequently, there was a power struggle among the Mujahedeen groups of Afghanistan. Conflict among the Mujahedeen groups mainly was over the problems of identity, ethnicity, beliefs, and religious issues or even over the control of some territories. These developments drove the Afghan people away from each other. Thus, Afghans’ national identity, which had just started taking shape, was severely undermined due to armed conflict between different groups. Roads were not secure, and the connections between dwellers of other areas within Afghanistan were severely reduced or dropped. Consequently, regional or ethnic identities became stronger, and gaps widened among different ethnic groups.

The various identities and their assertion disturb the peaceful coexistence among the Afghan population and threaten Afghanistan’s Security. The Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazaras, and   Uzbeks all have different expectations and interests, and each of them had claimed power without any consideration of sharing. For example, the Tajiks led by Burhan Uddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Masoud showed no tolerance to other ethnicities and vice-versa. Consequently, armed conflict erupted in several cities, particularly Kabul, and destroyed those regions. Trade was disrupted due to the unavailability of secure roads, and the agricultural sector was poorly damaged. These developments undermined the early image of the holy warriors, a Western description of the Afghan Mujahedeen. There is a credible link between the Taliban and Pakistan-based similar groups because of the closeness of the Taliban with Pakistan, especially the Country’s Islamic groups like Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Maulana Fazlur Rehman lead the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jami at Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). Besides, the Pakistani Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) impact on the Taliban was visible in their actions and the religious and political beliefs of Taliban leaders. The ISI connects with the Jamaat-Islami. The Hezb-i-Islami (Islamic Party) of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan has become the major tool of Islamabad for governing the armies given by the U.S. and other Arab states towards the Ghalzai offshoot of the Pashtun tribe living in northeastern and central Afghanistan. This favoritism toward certain Afghan ethnic groups directed to a chasm and led to conflicts.

Women suffered a lot during the Taliban regime: they were not permitted to go out without being accompanied by male family members; it declared a religious ban for women to go to school or bathhouses; they were not given access to their basic needs. Thus, security for women was not making the environment secure for them, instead of controlling them. It is understood that security comprises a feeling of safety, physical peace, a feeling of spiritual and psychological tranquility. However, the people of Afghanistan under the Taliban were deprived of such a situation and instead suffered the absence of all such things. The Taliban only recognized one identity, and other ethnic groups and religious minorities were not allowed to hold religious rituals and cultural festivals. For example, celebrating the advent of spring called Nowruz in the Persian-speaking world, or observing the Day of Ashura, was banned and considered haram. People who came from tribes other than Pashtun (and even the Persian-speaking Pashtuns) and followers of other faiths had no right to take any measures to safeguard their religious and cultural identities. As Barry Buzan (1991:432) states, security is about the pursuit of freedom from threat and the ability of states and societies to maintain their independent identity and functional integrity against forces of change, which they see as hostile. The bottom line of security is survival, but it also reasonably includes a substantial range of concerns about the conditions of existence. Therefore, Buzan considers security as a status and is no threat to the identity of a group or a society. So, this study deals with the dynamic of ethnicity and conflict among the multi-ethnic Afghan society. It delineated the economic situation in terms of resources distribution by analyzing the endogenous factors responsible for the conflict that has deteriorated the security scenario in Afghanistan. Emphasis is given to the internal factors of the problems facing Afghanistan with due consideration to the significance of external factors’ impact. Further, it analyzes the issue of Afghanistan’s ethnic plurality at a micro-level and the ethnicization of politics.

Nationalism arose in Afghanistan out of the interaction between the centralized state, the patterns created due to the mobilization of the ethnicities, and nation-building after the withdrawal of Soviet Union forces. In the post-cold war era, the world has faced challenges from various dimensions such as ethnicity and nationalism, which create a vacuum between the secessionist movement and nationalism. Understanding ethnicity and ethnic politics are essential, and it cannot be neglected in the case of Afghanistan being a multicultural society. The unstable nature of the country is because of the divisive ethnic politics played out in the country. Conflict politicizes ethnicity and the leading ethnic-based politics, which weakens the solidarity of the Afghan as a nation. The dominant group controls the state and plays a pivotal role in encouraging and disseminating ethnic conflicts. The ethnic conflict surpasses its conventional meaning of conflict among ethnic groups and includes its conflict within the state. So, the state must respond to the ethnic crisis on a priority basis through the institutional framework. If the state fails to react to the conflict, the rise of a dominant ethnic group could pose a severe threat to nation-building. Ethnicity is a significant feature of human identity that commands its members’ loyalty. It plays a crucial role in a diverse society like the Afghans. Accommodating it in a manner fit to include all the diverse groups is essential for maintaining the country’s harmony. The pluralistic framework comprises constitutional patterns which guarantee the protection of ethnic identity, particularly ethnic minorities’ identity, with the state’s intention to create such institutions, leading towards such conditions in which ethnic minorities feel secure against the domination of others. However, if the state propagates the spirits of antagonism towards ethnic minorities, ultimately, ethnic groups will be compelled to pursue their political demand of autonomy.

Giddens and Tilly (1993:217) associate the cultural accounts to nationalism, whereas Hroch (2008:76) argues that nationalism results from seeking expression in histories by elites. They tried to constitute the idea of nations without assigning a political purpose to those identities (Calhoun 1993: 219). Haas (1995) indicates that nationalism was a double narrative. It was helpful when applied in a modernizing state but detrimental when applied in ethnicity. Thus, the incorporation of ethnicity in the idea of nationalism is ambiguous. It could easily be turned into an aggressive policy in state boundaries. Thus, it could be incorporating and inclusive; on the other, it could become fascist and create trouble.

Kohn (1939), Hechter (1975), Breuilly (1993), and Ernest Gellner (2006:49) believed that the state executed a vital role in the growth and propagation of nationalism. Their theories describe politics as power and authority and how the political viewpoints of nationalism lead to the mobilization of ethnic groups. This approach looks at the ethnic groups as inclining to gain political power. These political rights are described as an inflamed representation of ethnic groups in political and executive institutions. They control and share local resources and use a common language as an identity marker. In denial of these aspects, authorities develop into a conflict for which the ethnic groups are politicized. While discussing the politics of ethnicity, Kaufmans (2009) highlighted that group membership was the basis that determined the importance of group members and the participation of ethnic members in a conflict, not economic interests (2009: 204). In contrast, Varshne (2005) looked at the role of economic and cultural issues as the cause behind an ethnic crisis. He pointed out that ethnic conflicts were common in a pluralistic society. Culture is concerned with religion and language, whereas the economy is concerned with resources (2005:185).

According to Paul R. Brass’s elite competition theory, the competition between communities led to conflicts, aided by the elites. He believes that ethnic conflicts arose because of ethnic self-awareness. They were caused by the differences in foreign, native, authoritarian elites, etc. Brass thought it could have resulted from an unequal distribution of resources, socio-political factors, and an innate will to survive. While these internal factors are essential, it would not forget the state and the governmental policies, which also play an essential role in incensing conflicts related to ethnicity.

Ethnic conflicts could not arise without the presence of two or more groups. They were either within the groups or with the state. Brass believes that the densities of political systems are enormous and that it oversees ethnic groups that threaten state power (Brass, 1991: 13-17). In this strain, he talks about the instrumentalists, who believed that promoting socio-political status was one of the main causes of a person developing associations. They look on at ethnicity as a method to achieve the desired result.

There are different political factors for ethnic conflicts, and the Government needs to respond to such conflicts. Scholars have identified specific developmental markers to identify the state’s role in conflict management. According to Migdal (1994), society and state are intimately connected, and they both struggle to manage control over one another. In this context, Migdal believes that ethnic conflicts – built battles and alliances. These coalitions were important in the transformation of ethnic conflicts to preserve the dominance of the state (1994: 9-12).  Jackson (1990: 40-41) shows the role played by third world countries in conflicts. He looks at them as quasi-states, states that came into existence after the decolonization process. In the beginning, they tried to work together and bring about prosperity. However, this idea could not work in a post-colonial context. Independence only meant a new kind of oppression for the minority ethnic communities in the country, with the dominant group assuming the role of the colonizer then (ibid.). Jackson believed that post-colonial countries had weaker institutions and could not aid the deprivation of their marginalized communities. This is where ethno-nationalists’ sentiments take root.

Linguistic aspects accompanying ethnic localization have prevented the integration of Afghanistan into a national entity. There are 30 languages in Afghanistan, including viz., Indo- Aryan, Nuristan, Iranian, and Turkic languages. Two main languages, Pashto and Dari, were spoken from the border to the Hindu Kush points (Ladygina, 20 18). Another variant of the theory of ethnicity is the modernist theory. According to Gunnam Singh (1998), “modernization means achieving relatively high levels of elements, such as education, per capita income, urbanization, political participation, industrial employment, media participation, secularism, gender equality, etc.…” He indicates that through phases of development, ethnic identity will be eroded. Carl Deutsch suggests that people will lose their local and native identity and faithfulness to identify with the country’s greater economic and political division.

Problems of ethnicity rise due to the unequal distribution of resources, profit, and influence among different ethnic groups (Upreti 2002). Glazer and Moynihan (1975:10) state that “the strategic efficacy of ethnicity as a basis for asserting a claim against the government has its counterpart in the seeming ease whereby government employs ethnic categories as a basis for distributing its rewards.” At the same time, Paul Brass’s critique is because the behavior of the ethnic group as another type of favorite group is a problem (Narang, 1995). According to External Factors theory, various clashes that are ethnic give themselves up to external instabilities. It must be noted that with the aid of foreign powers, groups that operate in these activities gain access to ammunition and weapons. In addition, these powers give them economic aid to maintain them. However, internal factors lead to conflict, only raised by foreign powers. Afghanistan is an excellent example of this. Cultural deprivation theory indicates that many ethnic minorities fear losing their identity to their great culture or dominant cultural collectivity. Thus, such ethnic groups feel separate, turning against their governments.

In dealing with the crisis facing Afghanistan, Gramsci’s concept of hegemony and Althusser’s two types of state apparatuses – Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) and Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) – are borrowed to delineate the nature of Taliban in Afghanistan. They use Islamic ideology as cultural hegemony and RSA through violence and coercion. Cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced mainly by the Taliban, a dominant ethnic group, through the institutions. The word Taliban is delivered from “Talib,” meaning “student,” founded by Mullah Mohammad Omar by interpreting Tafseer and Sharia of Islam. After the Soviet Union withdrawal, Afghanistan faced long civil wars. The Taliban members began to capture the power and fought against the Mujahedeen in the name of making Afghanistan safe but not for nation-building.

After the Soviet Union’s departure, Afghanistan faced a security dilemma, and the ethnic conflict began. The study of the Afghanistan conflict using the neo-realism theoretical frame would point to specific barriers to upholding peace and reconciliation in Afghan Politics. It will explore the role played by external powers in Afghanistan politics. Afghanistan has witnessed many political actors, including the Taliban, who initiated the ethnicization of politics, leading to a situation of irreconcilability among the numerous ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Max Weber (1920) pointed out the importance of the common historical experience as the strongest bond between communities. This is not the case in Afghanistan, as cultural aspects like religion and language form the basis of different ethnic groups, which have a much stronger bond than their historical experiences. The multiculturalism theory emerged as a new idea emphasizing honoring minority rights among the multi-ethnic population in a state with equal citizenship status. The multiculturalism theorist has rejected the melting pot idea because minority groups uphold distinctive collective identities and practices. However, in Afghanistan, the Pashtun, an ethnocultural community, has assimilated other ethnic minorities without considering minority rights. Forty percent of Pashtun live in the countryside, whereas Persian ethnicities populate Afghan cities. The issue of ethnicity in Afghanistan has been more vibrant as a state populated with multi-ethnic communities. Kalathas (1995 and 2003) explored the minority groups’ struggle and lack of state interference in these problems. Kymlicka has called group differentiated rights and theorized multiculturalism, as Afghanistan has been facing identity politics issues – the politics of differences and the politics of recognition – among the Shia, Suni, Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbeks (Kymlicka, 2003, Taylor 1992, Young 1990).

Ethnic Group and National Identity

Ethnicity has become a significant problem in Afghanistan, and it has shaped every facet of People’s lives. It may be understood as sharing the feeling of oneness emerging from sharing common culture, history, language, and religion. Sharing such distinct features has become the anchor of group solidarity for a human population group. During the Afghan war of 1839, mobilization and competition among numerous ethnic groups emerged. The Pashtun ethnic became the dominant ethnic group in the country, having   44%   of its population, followed by the Tajiks, the Hazara, and the Uzbeks. So far, the inter-community interaction is concerned; the Afghan history seeks both co-operative and conflict of social reality. The ethnic groups within the areas of cohabitation establish amicable relationships and have proved to be accommodative. However, intolerance is sometimes disturbed as they are distinct social groups and have unequal access to existing opportunities and facilities. The social interaction in terms of intermarriage among ethnic groups has been encouraged for social harmony. Such intermarriage is more common in cities than in rural regions, where there is a very cordial relationship between the original inhabitants and migrants. However, it can be observed that leaders have instigated ethnic competition and conflict for their political gains, which pushes ethnic groups to go against each other by disseminating messages like a specific ethnic group dominates access to opportunities. Such a campaign has brought a sense of marginalization and exclusion among the other groups. It has indicated that there are two levels of identity in Afghanistan – the supranational and the infra-national. The supranational is the state of belonging to a Muslim group, so to deal with external hostility by the intruders, the Afghans have turned towards Islam for national unity (Bijleveld, 2005). This indicates that even though the state failed to forge a national identity in Afghanistan, the perception of being an Islamic community has primarily dominated the Afghan region.

The issue of ethnicity in Afghanistan is complex, and various factors further complicate conflict among numerous ethnic groups. No initiatives have been taken to solve the ethnic conflict, as patriotism is almost absent among Afghan citizens. The Pashtun is the main ethnic group, and it has the lion’s share in the country’s resources. They dominate the other ethnic groups because of their numerical strength and leadership quality. Since 1947, the Pashtun leaders have been ruling the country. However, the Tajik rulers have ruled the state for only nine months in the year 1929. The Pashtuns had not participated in the Mujahedeen attacks only twice.

The constancy of the patriarchal life endorses the firmness of the local forms of identity. It does not provide a place for the manifestation of independence, creating a social infant personality that is powerless to take accountability for itself. The patriarchal dominations are a significant factor in the conflict and dominations in Afghan society. With social infantilism, conflict relates to everything that goes outside the community boundaries and prevents the establishment of civil identity. In Afghanistan, despite the pleasant welcome Pashtuns have provided to the visitor in their home, the same visitor was assaulted outside of his village (Ladygina, 2018). This portrays the constant conflicts in Afghanistan. The plans and programs were favorable to the Pashtuns; the non-Pashtuns developed a sense of being subjugated by the Pashtuns, particularly in all the critical decision-making processes of Afghanistan. Abdul Rahman Khan’s idea of centralizing the state is an important aspect, which resulted in the settlement of the Pashtuns in the North. However, the divide and rule policy of the Government empowered the Pashtuns to oppress the Hazara ethnic group. The open discrimination of the Hazara’s carried on, and the Hazara felt excluded and alienated. The Pashtuns’ dominance became prominent, and they ruled the country by capturing all critical ministries in the Government. The minorities did not get any opportunities in politics, education, etc.

Trans-border Identity

Ahmed Shah Durrani ruled the Afghan state in 1747, and he was a Pashtun leader. It was an exception that Tajik had ruled Afghanistan during 1929 for nine months. The Mujahidin, known as holy fighters, fought against soviet occupations and controlled Kabul from 1992 to 1996. Britain tried to take the country but failed. Tsarist Russia captured Central Asia and invaded northern Afghanistan. British India faced significant challenges from Tsarist Russia. It contested to capture Afghanistan and transform the region into a client state through demarcation of Afghanistan border in the east with India, west with Persia, and north with Russia. The treaty of Gandamak of May 1879 demarcation formed the Durand line with British India in the east. In 1895 Russia drew a border in the North, whereas various tribes and ethnic groups ruled the frontiers. Abdul Rahman, a British soldier, established a powerful army, established centralized administration, and suppressed various other ethnic groups like Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Nuristani, who mostly ruled central states. Afghanistan is a gateway for Central Asia and China and a warm water port through Pakistan and Iran. For many decades, various external players have been active through their rival political groups, creating insecurity and combating foreign forces in the geopolitical context. That policy is known as “strategic depth,” founded by Zia-Ul-Haq, the Pakistan Chief of Army, in 1988. It provided a haven for the militants to act against India. The formation of Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen (H.M.) and the demand for Kashmir to access Pakistan was the turning point of Afghanistan’s policy towards India and Pakistan. The arms race in South Asia raised concerns for the international community, as India and Pakistan are countries with nuclear power.

In the late 19th century, Afghan borders were artificially drawn because of the policies of Britain and Russia. Therefore, in the 1980s, the Wakhan corridor was added to Afghanistan to confirm that the British and Russian territories were not adjoining. Until the 1960s, Afghanistan’s border with China endured unmarked. Across Afghan borders, the shared nature of the ethnicity makes the Afghani people easier to incorporate with their neighbors. The North in the country shared ethnic identities, while the central portion allied with other groups instead of their communities. Their Pak neighbor looked on at the brotherhood among the Pashtuns as a disturbance. The hazard imposed by narcotics smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the shared Sunni belief across the Iran-Afghanistan border signifies a supplementary professed threat to Tehran (Price & Hakimi, 2019). The inhabitants of the borderland constantly undergo a crisis over their identity. Pakistan instigated cross-border coercion to Afghanistan in the border areas.

A large Pashtun community inhabits the border area, and the Durand Line legally separates it. However, in practice, no such border exists. This type of condition has occurred between Pakistan and Afghanistan ever since modern Afghanistan. Furthermore, it was fortified by a ‘selective Afghan nationalism’ strategy, which esteemed active cross border contacts with Pakistan for tribal and ethnic tactical reasons, although firmly controlled borders with the neighboring countries (Gharji, 2012).

In February 1999, the Lahore Declaration was signed. However, the Pakistani army had begun infiltrating the Indian part of Kashmir. Thus, the Kargil war was fought in May/June 1999 (Wagner, 249). However, the two nuclear powers engaged in conventional military war, and Pakistan hoped to internationalize the Kashmir issue. That situation compelled India to engage with the Northern alliance. Moreover, the Taliban and Mujahedeen’s engagement against India reduced the influence they claimed over the Identity of Pashtun in Pakistan. Finally, it turns to be religious Identity rather than ethnic Identity.

The challenges and difficulties of the people living in the borderland are enormous, particularly in the region where extensive networks of socio-cultural influences with overlapping identities. In the Afghan State, it is a confluence of numerous civilizations; as a result, its border areas have unique political problems as the region is culturally and historically interconnected with other regions. At present Afghan borders with neighboring countries appeared due to imperial contracts in the I9th century. Contemporary Afghanistan developed between the Russian and the British territories; Afghan borders mainly cut through communities throughout the land, and it shared culture, history, tribal ties, and ethnic origins. It is noticeable that drawing borders between these groups and handling these borders continued to be a huge task for the nation-Building in Afghanistan (Gharji, 2012). Afghan-Tajik border markets are created next to Langar, Shurobod, Darvas, and Ishkashim. The market rules are similar. The Afghani people needed to have documentation that stated their identity. Traders were not allowed to engage in commerce outside the market complex. This also indicates the loss of freedom in Afghanistan (Price & Hakimi, 2019).

The impact of war in Afghanistan has many facets. In the post-war period, many problems emerged, and not a single field remained untouched by the impact of war. The war derailed the lives of the Afghan people, and no innovative measure to build the nation is possible. Afghan’s polity, the electoral process, the administration, the judiciary system, security services, social life, the system of marriage, the kinship system, performance of religious rites, land inheritance, census survey, the relationship of states with the center, inter-community group interaction, citizenship, etc., have undergone tremendous changes. Prime Minister Mohammed Dauod demanded greater autonomy for Pashtuns in Pakistan to counter the situation created by Pakistan by supporting the opposition of Afghanistan and giving shelter to King Zuhair M 1973. Ethnic identity was the central conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Socio-economic and Political Culture

During the war, many groups based on ethnic background emerged in the country; they started claiming rights and fought among themselves on ethnic grounds. As a result, ethnicity or feeling on the culture line emerged and took such a shape that day-by-day it was firmly incorporated in the society, as some groups became more potent under their numerical strength and political participation and started dominating other ethnic groups. These ethnic groups started their dominance spreading permanently in many important fields and took part in the decision-making. As the formal controlling system became weak and each stakeholder focused on his gain rather than fulfill the national interest, in this process, the existing system of legal, political, defense, security, media, etc., got damaged. The defunct system reached such an extent that no measure could support the situation, and the whole system in the country was rooted. The elites became more attentive to accumulating black money, and corruption of various forms reached its severity with the absence of law and order demolished.

The country stood in such a position that nothing could stabilize the crises generated at various levels within the Afghan society. For the sake of the nation-building and building of the State, the Bonn Agreement (2001) adopted some policy choices to integrate the society. By building new political institutions, planning for betterment, making law and order, strengthening security, and rebuilding Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s population consisted of many communities; the Pashtuns assert themselves to be the majority; most political analysts believed that Pashtuns only constitute 40 percent of the total population counts. Again, though, each ethnic group creates the majority in Afghanistan’s regions. The regional distribution is divided among the Pashtuns, Uzbeks, and Tajiks. Afghanistan’s ethnicity is descriptive; most individuals’ primary loyalty is to kin, valley, village, or region. There is political cohesiveness in large ethnic groups, excluding an opponent ethnic group. Crosscutting bonds of political alliance, bilingualism, and intermarriage frequently transcend ethnicity. Among non-Pashtuns, the commonality in ethnicity determined the friendships between groups. The singular identities hold more power than the common nationality in the country. Furthermore, the multi-ethnic state had acknowledged norms in Afghanistan, and it was not some irregularity that required rectification. In Afghanistan, ethnic conflicts are historically centered, and groups would control the State and subordinate others, and groups would have limited control of territory (Barfield, 2011).

It is indicated that ethnicity has become more salient in Afghanistan from the decline of the Taliban regime. Also, ethnic identity and divisions must be considered when developing Afghan government institutions (Lamer and Foster, 2011. It also portrayed that the ethnic division in Afghanistan is not permanent. Most of the conflicts in Afghanistan have not commenced as a disagreement over issues like religious belief, social class, the direction of development, and constitutional rights. Instead, the conflicts have stemmed from the desire to achieve a greater power with the aid of foreign patrons by the dominant forces. Dupree believes that the new mode of ruling in the country is only a transformed form of the older established rules (Depree, 2008).


As per the detailed information, the study focuses on the ethnic conflict in Afghanistan dominated by a newspaper report. This chapter focused on various domestic affairs considered a security crisis in Afghanistan and reviewed several authors. It examined the obstructions and challenges, political development in Afghanistan, including the critique system in the country, and examines Stalin’s Afghan Fight by considering the policy of Greta Power in Afghanistan and the Pashtun tribe. Moreover, the study also indicates political participation, like the involvement of a person at various levels of the political system for any individual and tribe. This chapter also focuses on ethnic politics and peacebuilding in Afghanistan by indicating the issues such as the concept of ethics, ethnic group, politics, and challenges of Pashto-Persian, etc. The fragment of Afghanistan, the focus on government creation, and fall in government creation are also examined in the study that provides a descriptive history of Afghanistan division. Apart from this, the ethnic conflict also explained by Ethic nepotism, and nation-building in post-Taliban Afghanistan examined in the study which highlighted U.S. Led Collision 9/11 attack were to enter Afghanistan. Ethnic groups and national identities are also discussed in this chapter, and ethnicity is considered the biggest problem in Afghanistan because it has shaped every situation in people’s lives. Furthermore, this chapter also examines trans-border identity by considering Pahastun leader, Ahemd Shah Durani, who ruled the Afghan state in 1747.  The impact of war in Afghanistan is also discussed in this chapter and shows socio-economic and political culture by indicating the population of Afghanistan that many communities consider.