Pashtuns strength in Afghan parliament diminished

Pashtuns in Afghanistan suffered serious setback after September 18 parliamentary elections.

Qaiser Butt November 08, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pashtuns in Afghanistan have suffered a serious setback after the September 18 parliamentary elections that has reduced their presence in the Afghan National Assembly, preliminary results of the poll show.

According to the results of the second national polls of the Wolesi Jirga – the lower house of parliament – the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan, Pashtuns, have lost their dominance in the parliament.

During an interview with The Express Tribune, Deputy Speaker of the Afghan National Assembly Mirwais Yasini admitted that barely 100 Pashtun candidates could make it to the house of 249 members, which was lower than the 115 members who were elected following the first parliamentary polls in 2005.

Yasini is a Pashtun legislator from the Afghan province Nangarhar that borders Pakistan. He was also one of the candidates who contested the presidential elections in 2004 against Hamid Karzai.

He believes that the war in the Pashtun provinces led to a low voter turnout. As a result, other ethnic groups such as the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who are otherwise a minority, won more seats than the Pashtuns in the assembly.

Tajiks and Hazaras inflicted defeat on Pashtuns even in the populated provinces such as Ghazni, Qudooz, and Nangarhar, where they secured more combined seats than the Pashtuns. The Persian-speaking Hazara tribe also won in many constituencies where the Pashtuns have an overriding presence than other minorities.

In the Pashtun-populated provinces, the voter turnout was less than 25 per cent, said Yasini, adding that it was the highest in the Turkmen, Uzbek and Tajik-populated provinces in the north – generally between 50 and 60 per cent. Surprisingly, the turnout also remained low (34 per cent) in the capital Kabul, which is dominated by Tajiks.

According to Yasini, Pashtuns in Afghanistan constitute over 50 per cent of the population, while Tajiks are 25 per cent followed by the Hazaras who are 15 per cent. In terms of the population size, Uzbeks are the smallest. The remaining population comprises Muslim ethnic minorities Turkmen, Baloch, Gujar and Nooristanis and non-Muslim minorities Christians, Hindu, Sikhs and three Afghan Jew families.

Yasini, however, is hopeful that the Pashtun presence may rise in the National Assembly with the ten seats reserved for Pashtun Kochi (nomads). “The Kochis will help maintain a balance in the assembly,” he said, adding that they will be a source of strength for Pashtuns in the lower house.

Until then, political analysts fear that the insufficient numbers of Pashtuns in the assembly may cause problems for President Hamid Karzai, who has been pursuing his ambitious plan to integrate the Taliban in the democratic setup of the country.

Karzai and Taliban represent Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group of Pashtuns and their recent peace talks have been opposed by the Hazara tribe who were subjected to large-scale bloodshed during the Taliban rule in Kabul. The tribe also suffered during the recent clashes with the Kochis.

However, Yasini does not agree with the perception that the defeat of Pashtuns will make Karzai weak.

Afghanistan is still largely divided on ethnic lines and although candidates stand as individuals, some blocs in the parliament are formed by regional power brokers based on their ethnicity.

Others belong to various political parties and factions, many formed by warlords who fought for and against the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and in the subsequent civil war.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2010.

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COMMENTS (19)

Sarwar | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend None of the above wrote inclusive of a yasini tend to be on factual ground in terms of ethnicity. The statistics of population regarding tajiks and pashtoon has always been disseminated by paid writers either by locals or foreigners. Ghazni has always been the land of Mughals like Hazaras who are also Mughals which has ever been predominantly in most provinces of Afghanistan like Ghazni. The day will come soon and world will see who is in majority.
khaled | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend dear friends, there is no practical statistics on afghan populations since daudkhan's regime. and the statistics which you could find on the net,which in last years took place by indians and americans,which shows pashtuns are between the 40%-45% of the population. but this statistics or based on languages,while there are non-pashto speaking pashtuns,which makes 10 to 15% of the pashtuns.beside this,they count kuchis in a separate category,while 90% of kuchis belongs to the pashtuns(mostly ahmadzais). another fact the statistics about the tajiks are misused by india which is in favore of tajiks. tajiks makes less than 25% of afghan population and the number of hazaras are more closer to tajik population of afghanistan. but they rised there numbers and count the dari-speaking pashtuns as tajiks and another fact which no one hear about it,is the fact about gujars,shari and people of dare noor in eastern afghanistan which according to statistics belongs to the tajiks....there tribal leaders came with the issue to afghan leaders about there national position...they want to be registered as gujars,shari and not as tajiks. and we are all talkin about researches which never took place or they always took place in favore of some ethnicity's. but something we could find easily when we think about it and take a look to the afghan society. i can feel in afghan society that pashtuns make the majority. take a look to our media,to our entertainment...in any place you ll face more pashtuns. tv comentators are mostly pashtuns,even the dari speaking comentators are pashtuns. afghan singers are mostly pashtuns.while most of them are singing in dari or mostly dari but theey have pashtun origins,an example of (famous afghan singers)dari singers; ustad sarahang (panjabi from pakistan,british india) ahmad wali (mohamadzai pashtun) ahmad zahir (from laghman,son of famous dr zahir) haider salim (mohmadzai pashtun,cousin of ahmad wali) farhad darya (kharotai pashtun,grandson of nasher of kunduz) ustad khyal (mohmadzai pashtun) ustad zaland (mohamadzai pashtun) najim nawabi (nawabi pashtun) naim popal (popalzai pashtun) parastu (from laghman) mehryar (from laghman) salma (mohmadzai pashtun) rahim jahani (pashtun of nangarhar) nashenas (pashtun) now a look to the same generation singers who are of tajik or non pashtun-origin. Zahir huwaida (tajik qazelbash) faiz karezi (tajik) ustad mahwash (tajik) waheed saberi (tajik qazelbash) ahmad mureed (tajik not sure) and maybe some i forgot,but these are the most famous afghan singers categorised to there ethnicity...and this is the reflection of afghan society...and some non famous are not noted which you could sort like this. the most famous dari poet ustad khalili is of pashtun origin of safi tribe. so what i want to say is many pashtuns speaks dari, and many people see them as tajik and these famous personality's is an example of this. and the afghan society is a reflection of the real statistics.
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