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Anti-Pashtun sentiment

Anti-Pashtun sentiment refers to fear, dislike, or hostility towards Pashtun people or anything related to Pashtun culture in general. It can sometimes be broadly construed as a subcategory of anti-Pakistan sentiment or anti-Afghan sentiment as Pashtuns are the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan and the largest in Afghanistan. Anti-Pashtun sentiment has been present in South-Central Asia among different non-Pashtun groups for various political and historical reasons.


There is a traditional rivalry for power and influence between the Pashtun majority in Eastern Afghanistan and the Persian Majority Northern and Southern Afghanistan. About 77% of Afghans speak and understand Persian language Dari.[1] Dari-speaking ethnic groups of Afghanistan such as the Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Turkmen, have often stirred anti-Pashtun sentiments against the Pashtuns. In 1975, an uprising broke out in Panjsher Valley against the rule of Afghan prime minister and Pashtun nationalist Daoud Khan, which was believed to have been "sparked by anti-Pashtun frustrations."[2] The uprising was led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, an ethnic Tajik. The Settam-e-Melli, led by Uzbek activist Tahir Badakhshi, has been described as "an anti-Pashtun leftist mutation."[2] According to Nabi Misdaq, the Settem-e-Melli "had an internal programme of provoking minorities to armed resurrection to stand up to Pashtuns."[3] The Shalleh-ye Javiyd, a Maoist political party founded in the 1960s that predominantly drew support from Shi'a Muslims and Hazaras, was also similarly opposed to Pashtun rule in Afghanistan.[citation needed]

However, Misdaq notes that these anti-Pashtun stances were usually engraved more in a "Shi'a-versus-Sunni Afghan", "Dari-speaking-intellectuals-versus-Pashtun-rulers" and "majority-versus-minority" context rather than resentment on misrule or mistreatment by Pashtun kings and dynasties.[3] This could be because Afghan dynasties such as the Durrani Empire, although Pashtun by origin, had been considerably Persianised and had even adopted the Dari language over Pashto; this cultural assimilation made the Durranis culturally familiar to Dari-speaking non-Pashtuns and neutralised any ethnic hegemony.[citation needed]

The Rabanni government which ruled Afghanistan in the early and mid-1990s was viewed by the Taliban as corrupt, anti-Pashtun and responsible for civil war.[4]

A Human Right Watch (HRW) report published in 2002 stated that, 'following the collapse of Taliban regime in Northern Afghanistan in 2001, a rise in Anti-Pashtun violence was reported in Northern Afghanistan. Ethnic Pashtuns from that area were subject to widespread abuses like killings, sexual violence, beatings, extortion, and looting'.[5] The Pashtuns were particularly targeted because their ethnicity was closely associated with Taliban. The HRW report held three ethnically based parties like Uzbek Junbish-i-Milli Islami Afghanistan, Tajik Jamiat-e Islami and Hazara Hezbe Wahdat responsible for the abuses against Pashtuns in Northern Afghanistan.[5] Many Afghan Pashtuns also held Northern Alliance responsible for the abuses committed against the Pashtuns communities in rest of the Afghanistan.[6]

Pashtuns are also stereotyped as 'wild and barbaric' in Afghanistan by non-Pashtun Afghans.[7]

Many Afghan Pashtuns view Afghan National Army (ANA) as being dominated by Tajik-led anti-Pashtun ethnic coalition. The Tajiks, on the other hand, view Pashtun population as largely aligned with Taliban. This in turn as created a civil war like situation in Afghanistan.[8][9]


Following independence, one of the factors of resentment among Pashtun population was the British-inherited name of the North-West Frontier Province, which did not represent Pashtuns as compared to other provinces e.g. Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan which were all named after their resident ethnic groups. Rajmohan Gandhi mentions that "persisting with the imperial name for a former empire's frontier province was nothing but anti-Pathan discrimination."[10]

Voicing similar concerns, in an interview with DW, Saba Gul Khattak, a renowned Pakistani researcher and activist, states that the "ethnic profiling" of Pashtuns is a very dangerous trend for the country. She goes on to explain that:

[...] the profiling is being carried out mainly in Punjab province - and to some extent in the capital Islamabad [...] the police in Punjab and Islamabad began ethnic profiling of Pashtuns in low-income areas prior to these [terrorist] attacks, and there were reports that the authorities blocked the national identity cards of Pashtuns settled in Punjab. Khattak also notes that In short, this is not the first time systematic surveys targeting Pashtuns have been conducted. In tandem with profiling is the decision of the Punjab government (and often the central government as well) not to allow internally displaced Pashtuns to enter the province.″.[11]

In 2015, after the then government of Pakistan Muslim League decided to send back Afghan refugees as part of the national action plan, which had been instituted after deliberations with Pakistan's powerful military, the process of demolishing 'katchi Abaadis'(slums) began with Capital Development Authority taking the charge and started with evicting the Pashtuns from Katchi Abaadis (slums) in sectors I/11 and I/12 in peripheries of Islamabad - Pakistan's capital city in the foothills of Margalla hills. The issue was widely discussed on social media, however, it made no headlines in Pakistan's mainstream media, as noted by Ammar Rashid, a researcher and teacher at the Quaid-e-Azam University who works with the All Pakistan Kachi Abadi Alliance, “This is a clear case of the rampant demonization and dehumanization of an entire population on the basis of non-existent facts,” further adding that “Much of Islamabad now regards this slum as an ‘Afghan’ area, populated by terrorists that present a critical security threat to the Capital. The fact that the vast majority of people living here have Pakistani ID cards, birth certificates, B-Forms, etc., seems to have ceased to matter, [...] “The authorities have successfully recast a community of displaced and destitute people as aliens who are poised for a violent invasion of Islamabad,” He goes on argue that “This is calculated disenfranchisement and institutional racism [against Pashtuns].[12]

Over the growing concerns among Pashtuns in Pakistan about the blocking of their identity cards by National Database and Registration Authority, The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Asad Umar stated in Pakistan's National Assembly in March' 2018, that the profiling of Pashtuns is a serious issue. He said the complaints were increasing and it was his observation too, that the profiling of Pashtuns as terrorists was increasing in the country. He was quoted as saying that Recently, I went to the Nadra for the renewal of national Identity cards for two of my voters, the Punjabi voter got the card instantly but the Pashtun was sent for unnecessary verifications and procedures, despite the fact that he provided residency and nationality proofs and was in possession of a card earlier. He said likewise, to show a terrorist, media always show a Pathan. The PTI MNA said that the media too was perpetuating negative stereotypes about Pashtuns. He said that when a terrorist was shown in media, a Pashtun would be shown. A similar observation was made by PTI lawmakers from Khyber Pakhtunkwa, namely Shehryar Khan Afridi and Shahram Khan, have said in the parliament that the racial profiling has turned Pashtuns into an easy target for the military, paramilitary and every other law enforcement agency who pick them up without thinking about repercussions.[13]

Discrimination Against Pashtuns in Karachi

During the 1980s, anti-Pashtun sentiments were present in Karachi among some sections of the Urdu-speaking Muhajir community.[14] These sentiments became manifested in the form of anti-Pathan riots in Karachi in 1986 One of the factors which may have contributed to this was the growing economic influence of Pashtuns in the city, with the "blessing of the Zia regime."[15] According to Maya Chadda, increased Pashtun migration to Karachi, which included Pashtun migrants from neighbouring Afghanistan due to the Soviet war, disturbed Karachi's sensitive demographics and brought about an "increasingly violent competition for land, jobs, and economic control of the city."[16]

See also


  1. ^ "The World Factbook:Afghanistan". CIA.
  2. ^ a b Arnold, Anthony (1983). Afghanistan's Two-Party Communism: Parcham and Khalq. Hoover Press. p. 39. ISBN 0-8179-7792-9.
  3. ^ a b Misdaq, Nabi (2006). Afghanistan: Political Frailty And External Interference. Routledge. pp. 105–106. ISBN 978-0-415-70205-8.
  4. ^ Katzman, Kenneth (2017). Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF). Congressional Research Service. p. 4.
  5. ^ a b "Paying for the Taliban's Crimes: Abuses Against Ethnic Pashtuns in Northern Afghanistan". Refworld. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  6. ^ "Pashtuns face post-Taliban anger". Christian Science Monitor. 12 April 2002.
  7. ^ "How can we negotiate with the Taliban? Afghan women know". United States Institute of Peace (USIP). 7 February 2019.
  8. ^ "POLITICS: Tajik Grip on Afghan Army Signals New Ethnic War". IPS News. 28 November 2009.
  9. ^ "Afghan Army Struggles With Ethnic Divisions". CBS News. 27 July 2010.
  10. ^ Gandhi, Rajmohan (2008). Ghaffar Khan: nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns. Penguin Books India. p. 243. ISBN 978-0143065197.
  11. ^ []
  12. ^ []
  13. ^ []
  14. ^ Akmal Hussain (1990). "The Karachi Riots of December 1986". Mirrors of Violence: Communities, Riots and Survivors in South Asia (PDF). Delhi Oxford University Press.
  15. ^ Rais, Rasul Bux (1997). State, Society, and Democratic Change in Pakistan. Oxford University Press. p. 122.
  16. ^ Chadda, Maya (2000). Building Democracy in South Asia: India, Nepal, Pakistan. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 100. ISBN 978-1555878597.