Pashtuns strength in Afghan parliament diminished

Published: November 8, 2010
Only 100 Pashtun candidates could make it to the house of 249 members

Only 100 Pashtun candidates could make it to the house of 249 members

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.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (19)

  • Sabir H
    Nov 8, 2010 - 12:39PM

    One thing you correct Hazara population in Afghanistan is more than 20%.
    In recent parliamentary election Hazara has taken more than 50 from 249 seats.
    Tajik has taken more than 80 from 249.
    A nice sign for democracy in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • thai lan
    Nov 8, 2010 - 4:55PM

    we agree that pashton is a majority but they are no wear near 50% or beyond this is absolutely incorrect ur report is based on a pashton men lie thoughts, u shod have made the research ur self
    At the maximum they are about 35 to 40%. thank you. hope u research before u upload ur reports about a country.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 8, 2010 - 10:05PM

    Way off.. Pashtuns make up for 42% of the population. They are the biggest ethnic group but not the majority. Recommend

  • A.S.
    Nov 9, 2010 - 8:43AM

    All reliable sources agree that Pashtuns are less than 50%. That means that they are not a majority, but merely a plurality. In fact, the most recent numbers from Afghanistan – including representative polls – prove that Pashtuns are somewhere between 35-45% while Tajiks are 30-40% and Hazaras 10-15%. I also think that it is very undemocratic to reserve 10 seats for Kuchis. This group has not done anything for Afghanistan, their way of life is even a greater danger to the stability of the country. Instead of favoring this group only because they are Pashtun, the government should finally force them to settle, the best location would be the Pashtun south. Be it so, the current election results are a great success for the Non-Pashtuns who are being systematically disadvantaged by the Pashtun-centric government of Karzai. Recommend

  • shlombay
    Nov 9, 2010 - 11:47AM

    To those who are arguing that Pashtuns are less than 50 percent – stop deceiving yourself. Pashtuns easily constitute over 50 percent with nearly 5 million Pashtuns who have in the past decade moved to Pakistan, even with that, they are still a majority. According to WAK FOUNDATION, they are 60 percent. Also, this election means nothing at all. Tajiks or Uzbeks will never have the ability to rule Pashtun dominated Afghanistan. Kandahar, Helmand, and many of the southern and central provinces are not in government control regardless, so these elections play no role. Stop inflating ethnic numbers and take a look at the research of WAK FOUNDATION.

    Just because Pashtuns are bi-lingual and can speak Dari, does not mean they are Tajik, Pashtuns speak Dari and Pashto.Recommend

  • Sabir H
    Nov 9, 2010 - 12:44PM

    For those who think that pashtuns are more than 50% population than they must read about the populatin of Afghanistan than they will come to it is opporimately 40%. Internationallly recognize by the world. Tajik more than 27%. Hazara more than 20% & other population is belong to other tribe.Recommend

  • abdali
    Nov 19, 2010 - 2:56PM

    Dear Qaiser Butt, the normaly correct way about statistics is to refer to a source, which is will-known and reconized.
    My first question is where do you have the percentage of the afghan population?
    My second question, could you tell me the last census in Afghanistan, which is also known internationally, and it is not just a publication of Qesa Khwani Bazar from Peshawar?

    With regardsRecommend

  • Nov 26, 2010 - 10:02PM

    thru out the history of afg, election results were always suspected. as usual this time the same thing again, but in reverse order. previously it was the other ethnic groups who complaint, but this time it is the pashtuns. this election is the true reflection of the ethnic composition of afg. if it is 100 pashtun seats it is that they are 37 % of the population, so still more seats then there %. why have they Kapt 10 kochi seats for pashtuns, there are aimaq nomads also, what abt them. mr butt, in political science, majority means 51%, pashtuns are 37%, therefore not the majority, but largest ethnic group. making up one third of afg and skiming 100% of afg.Recommend

    Nov 28, 2010 - 8:35AM

    Hazara people are a marginalized ethnic group which during centuries cruel rulers from Abdorahman to evil Taliban mass murdered them in hundred thousands.
    Even now they are racially discriminated against for example their ministers did not pass parliament. kuchis every year attack their houses and destroy and burn everything.
    Now they have gained majority only in one province which most of population are hazaras. they can not tolerate it because they want everything for pashtuns.
    all of the money for reconstruction goes to pashtun areas, despite hazara people have no taliban members among them, they do not plan suicide attack on foreign forces, and because they like peace and democracy. if they were fighting the government probably more reconstruction would be done in their areas.
    70% of Ghazni province are hazaras, if all of the winners from this province were pashtuns no one would make an objection but now government wants to change the results of a democratic action by fraud.
    I should mention that mr. yasini has not conducted a census to talk about the population. the government intently prevent census because real population of hazaras is 25 %Recommend

  • Balkhi
    Dec 4, 2010 - 11:25PM

    The issue of Pashtoon majority or Pashtoon as largest ethnic group either in whole Afghanistan or Ghazni province is continuation of a political myth. This is been fed to the world and our layman inside Afghanistan by ruling Pashtoon elite over last half a century facilitating their political dominence. In most recent census President Karzai ordered removal of ethnic profiling of population to prevent unravelling of this long-imposed myth.

    What is painfully surprising is the prolongation of this myth ruling our lives even as far as affecting peace prospects for the country and beyond in this time of rather heavy international presence on the scene. The myth, for instance, has continually created an inflated expectation in Pashtoon land where masses largely remained less willing to embrace and fully accept any government in Kabul which they could not regard as Pashtoon enough over last decade and early 1990s (then against pre-Taliban government) aggrevating the armed rebellion and fueling the war in the South. It also casting a shadow on more liberal and anti-Taliban Non-Pashtoon majority Persian speaker population (known as Tajiks and Hazaras) morale and confidence of their political leaders and movements to sort out the mess by themselves.
    This pro-myth attitude has been used by Kabul regime to systemically eliminate once powerful anti-Taliban Non-Pashtoon regional leaders who used to hold Taliban at bay for years with hardly any international support during pre-9-11 era. The most recent example is removal of Amrullah Salih and the continual attempt by is being made by Kabul to remove the most successful governor Atta Mohammad of Balkh Province who failed to go along with the myth.

    The the truth is Afghanistan is a majority Persian-Speaking nation who are ethnicised and divided into two smaller groups by the state to Tajiks and Hazaras to help facilitate the emergence of Pashtoon as a larger group instead. The fact remains as blunt as ever: wherever you go, whatever business, political and intellectual discussion you hold and whatever you study is has to be in Farsi (Persian) or as politically renamed Dari language.

    As long as CIA Factbook remain as a main source of ill-information about Afghanistan to the West, I am afraid to say that the West will continue to suffer serious and painfull setbacks.

    We firmly believ that we can not and will not have real peace until the truth are uncovered and our political system and leaders have not come to term with the blunt truth.

    Please help us in this struggle for justice and truth by avoiding to use the term “Pashtoon Majority”. Recommend

  • Balkhi
    Dec 4, 2010 - 11:51PM

    I would like to add that there is PR (Proportional Representation) system in place in Afghanistan parliamentary election where a specified number of representatives seats are allocated to individual 34 provinces. Even with low turn out in Pashtoon-dominated provinces the PR system will prevent them suffer an under-representation in lower house.

    I and many others in sound mind Afghanistanis believe that the results of this election has been ever closest to the real ethnic demographic picture of Afghanistan. Results like this, is one of many reasons, making people of Afghanistan to favour democratic process hence they chose to stand up against Taliban evil by their active participation in the election in vast areas of country. Recommend

  • Aref Gardezi
    Dec 5, 2010 - 1:35AM

    Dear all
    let me please inform you before we tend to judge about an important issue such as Afghanistan’s population, an issue (census) never experienced in Afghanistan and statistic regarding population is Imaginary. However, Afghanistan is country of Minorities, there is not majority or largest group. but Pushtoon is a group which supported for centuries and dominated group and motivated by western media and press based on inaccurate information. Anyway for more information you can use this survey which took place on 2006.

    According to a representative survey, named “A survey of the Afghan people – Afghanistan in 2006”, a combined project of The Asia Foundation, the Indian Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and the Afghan Center for Socio-economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR), the distribution of the ethnic groups is :
    40.9% Pashtun
    37.1% Tajik
    9.2% Hazara
    9.2% UzbekRecommend

  • Parviz
    Dec 5, 2010 - 4:44PM

    Asia Foundation’s survey of 2006 called “A survey of the Afghan people”

    Ethnic group “Afghanistan: Where Things Stand” (2004-2009)

    **Pashtun 41%

    Tajik 37%** Recommend

  • rastgo
    Dec 5, 2010 - 7:24PM

    Hi dear all,

    Mirwais Yasini is a conservative Pashton and that is why he is feeding the readers of this esteemed paper with wrong statistics and figures. Never and no one claimed that Pashons are more than 50 percent. Even the sources that are favoring Pashtons give them not more than 43 percent. The fact is that that Afghanistan is a land of minorities. No one has the absolute majority. Still there wasn’t and isn’t any fair and balanced census on Afghanistan population. All the statistics by different sources are biased and politically charged. But it is also true that Tajiks and Hazaras and Uzbeks are more than what Yasini claims. Though Yasini is a deputy speaker, but still his mind is tribal and thousands of miles far from the modern world and modern values. He is more proud to show that Pashtons are majority and have more numbers! Has he ever thought about what other achievements have Pashtons. Are they realists, tolerant, open-minded, non-tribal, liberal and pro women rights, non religious, etc.? Yasini shoud think about these things instead of being proud because of some false numbers and statistics.Recommend

  • Doost
    Dec 7, 2010 - 12:29PM

    this is a fact that pashtuns are not a majority in Afghanistan because they never let a free organization to take statistic information regarding population, because minorities unity will take the leadership in Afghanistan the always stay on previous information which has been collected in the past by pashton leaders , like Ahmad shah baba , Davod , and Najib…or Zahir khanRecommend

  • Sabir H
    Dec 7, 2010 - 6:59PM

    Specially @Aref Gardezi & @Parviz,
    The Hazara have taken more than 59 seats in recent lower house parliament. According to the result it will be 24% of seats in parliament is taken by Hazara.
    Than how could you say that Hazara belong to only 9% of Afghanistan.**Recommend

  • khan
    Dec 14, 2010 - 2:49PM

    let me to tell to all Afghans, first we are muslims and than Afghans, we must not discuss this issue which leads to wars and conflict, but i will recomend pashtons as our big brother ethnicity more than 60% of total populations, dear brothers Hazara and Tajiks and all other, please see and observe the facts if pashtoons can win 115 seats in frist elections and 100 plus 10 of kuchis with are 110 in the war and conflict areas than absoutly when there is no war than can cover almost 200 seats of the parliment, which shows their majority,


  • khaled
    Dec 14, 2010 - 11:25PM

    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.Recommend

  • Sarwar
    Dec 31, 2010 - 7:49PM

    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. Recommend

More in World