Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, May 24th, 2020

Ethnic Groups and Conflict

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Ethnic Groups and Conflict

Afghan ethnic combination has often stoked socio-political antagonismas well as severe arguments within the civil society. Using theissue, particular circles and Afghan rulers during history have triedto strengthen the pillars of their power. Recently, the issue onceagain appeared in bold lines in domestic and international media asAfghanistan Academy of Science released a report about the percentageof ethnic groups in the country.

According to the report, Pashtun isthe largest ethnic group, consisting of 62 percent of total population;Tajik is the second largest, 12 percent, Hazara third, 9 percent, andUzbek only 5 percent.
The report fuelled severe reactions by officials as well as civilians,and there was no document to approve the report too. How theAfghanistan Academy of Science has reached to such a conclusion is notclear, but many view it as an institution justifying communitydominance over all social and political establishments.

Here in Afghanistan, more than any other standard and condition, beingpart of a particular ethnic group defines your status in thehierarchical political establishment. Your ethnicity in effect tellsyou where to stand and measures your distance from the keyadministrative and political posts.

It has been more than two and half centuries that other ethnic groupswere out of the political mainstream. Right after the end of AhmadShah Abdali, the first king from Pashtu speaking community, therivalries broke out among his inheritors and since then politicalstability has remained as far reaching dream for Afghan people.However, there are exceptional cases, for example, in 1929 AmirHabibullahKalakani from Tajik ethnic group captured power and ruledthe country for a very short time or during communist era as keymembers of both communist parties were not restricted to a particularethnic group.

But, the ethnic balance terribly suffered during Mujaheedin era asHazara ethnic group was completely marginalized which finally led toHazara opposition to the government. Perhaps, if the rights of Hazaracommunity were considered in the famous Peshawar meetings ofMujaheedin leaders, Afghanistan might not have fallen to followingcontinuous disaster.

The main problem was lack of a communal statistics. Mujaheedin leaders divided political and civil servants post on the basis of populationpercentages. Since there were statistic of population in general andethic groups in particular, leaders of each community was claiminglarger share for his own communities.

Such a circumstance led to conflict and ultimately violent civil warwhich left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions forcedrefugees. Arguments and controversy among Jihadi leaders paved the wayfor emergence of more radical group, Taliban regime, which finallycould eliminate its rivals and captured major part of thecountry in no time.

However, all armed groups had Islam as suffix orprefix to their names, but all were clearly built up on lines ofethnicity, not necessarily religion. No doubt, the policy of Talibanregime was based completely on marginalizing and even uprooting otherethnic groups from Afghanistan. As it was said Taliban leaders hadtold that Tajik should go to Tajikistan, Uzbeks should go toUzbekistan and Hazaras should go to Goristan (Graveyard).

Additionally, the psychological impacts of civil war have beenhorrifying. Perhaps, it may last for generations to get rid ofcommunal antagonism as massacres have left deep scare on the hearts ofeach Afghan citizen. Even after 11 years of full internationalcommunity's engagement and expense of millions of dollars on thenational building project, yet there seems no promising future fornational building process. The only thing which is the cause of optimism inthis case is that that civilians are tired of domestic war and tryingto avoid any actions winding the stench of those wounds.

Right after 2001, though Taliban were ousted by the help ofNorthern Alliance the government was formed on the basis ofperceived communal population. The entire structure of the governmentbuilt on the account that Pashtun is the largest, Tajik the secondlargest, Hazaras and Uzbeks are the third and fourth respectively. Butmeanwhile the differences about the population percentages haveremained vague and unfortunately the civil and political officesare divided on the basis of first round of presidential election.

Inother words, the percentages of vote casted for the candidate of aparticular ethnic group that informally became as standard forsharing public positions with a department. Though the election wasnot transparent and there were reports that some ballot boxes were neveropened, yet President Karzai was announced as an unbeatablewinner, gaining more than fifty percent of total vote that alsolabeled that only the largest ethnic group casted vote. Consideringthe rivalry within the ethnic groups, how much would be itspopulation?

Such conclusion bears similarity with report of Afghanistan Academy ofScience. The vote casted for Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader ofHizb-e-WahdatIslami in the first presidential election was around 13percent of total vote and for YonusQanoni it was around 19 percent.Anyhow, considering the above issues, again can votes determine thepercentage of an ethnic group? The question looks ridiculous in thecase of Afghanistan where it was the first presidential election inits history. Fraud was prevalent and ballot boxes were filled byPresident Karzai's supporters.

Moreover, it is confusing for me why the government does not allow theCentral Directorate for Statistics to resolve the issue for once andever. If a body established where all ethnic groups have arepresentative and start counting population, communal conflicts maydecrease.

Here the population is an advantage and ministriesdivided on that account. For example, according to authentic reports,Hazaras can be recruited more than 9 percent in defense ministry,while, the community consists of more than 20 percent of totalpopulation.So, such differences obviously lead to conflict and ethnic disputes.

Masood Korosh is the staff writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmial.com

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