Discrimination Against Pashtuns

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


An Open Letter from Pashtun Intellectuals to President Obama

The following letter was composed by a group of Pashtun nationalists, some inside Afghanistan, and some abroad, who are unhappy about the presence of other ethnicity in the Afghan government. They collectively call them northern alliance, a term that was associated to a strategic alliance between minority groups to fight against the Taliban. Names of individuals who sign this letter are mentioned at the bottom, some of whom are famous for their ultra-Pashtunist mentality through their TV appearance and commentaries on the Internet. 

Discrimination against Pashtuns: Letter to President Obama

Letterr from: Dr. Nabi Misdaq, Dr. Zirakyar, Dr. Miraki and Dr. Burhani

This letter was sent to U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry and Ranking Member Richard Lugar, German Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, editors of major U.S. newspapers and other important personalities.
June 12, 2010.

Pashtuns are the founders of modern Afghanistan and are the main group, which has been defending the country over the past two and half Centuries. It is unfortunate that through misinformation and internal ethnic jealousy they are discriminated against both from within and from without. Pashtuns make up 62 per cent of Afghanistan’s population (see Wak Foundation, The Ethnic Composition of Afghanistan 1998; Dr. Misdaq, Political Frailty and External Interference, 2006) and yet they are treated like outcasts by the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran and also, after the fall of Taliban, by NATO and Coalition Forces. Over the border in Pakistan, Pashtuns make 13 per cent of the 180 million population of Pakistan (not counting the autonomous FATA tribal region). And yet this population of about 50 million has been treated as if they are all Al-Qaeda or Taliban; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Right now, millions in Pakistan are rising in opposition to Taliban in Swat and in FATA regions. It is worth mentioning that not one educated Afghan Pashtun went to serve in the Taliban government that was in Power for six years. However, thousands of Pashtun women, children and elderly, (Prof. Marc W. Harold, University of New Hampshire) who had nothing to do with any resistance group (s) have been bombed by the coalition forces in Afghanistan in the name of terrorism. Similarly thousands were made refugees and their houses destroyed in Pakistan under the pretext of being Taliban.

The repeated bombings of houses and villages in Kandahar, Farah, south and east of Afghanistan killing women and children have been abhorrent not just to the Afghans but for people around the world. Professor Seddieq Noorzoy encapsulated this revulsion in his article in WWW.M.E.I.EDU.COM in December 2009, highlighting the murder of Pashtun children between the ages of one year and 16 years. The source of the present war on Afghanistan goes back to Taliban turning away from the American Oil Consortium UNOCAL in favour of the better terms offered by Bridas an oil and gas company of Argentina to pipeline Central Asian oil and gas through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean.

At an UN-sponsored conference on Afghanistan (Berlin, Germany, July 2001) U.S. officials advised Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik that “we will attack Afghanistan before snow falls in October”. According to Bruce G. Richardson, author of two books on Afghanistan, Naik’s “impression was that the U.S. sought regime change [in Afghanistan] to advance the UNOCAL pipeline project.” The American journalist, Richardson points to a former CIA officer, Christine Rocca, who “told Taliban official when the negotiations in favor of the US-led consortium were faltering that ‘you either accept our offer of gold or we will bury you in a carpet of bombs’.” Also, “U.S. ‘Planned Attack on Taliban”, /BBC News, World: South Asia, (Tuesday, 18 September 2001, 11:27 GMT/U.K. Qtd. in Zirakyar, Strategic Perspectives on Afghanistan, May 2010).
This was also broadcast by CNN. The Guardian newspapers also published the interview.

Another similarly serious discrimination against Pashtuns is practiced by the Northern Alliance which has monopolized important ministries and governorships and Afghan embassies posts abroad.
In the past nine years the war has continued in the Pashtun areas. Limited numbers of schools are open to students in these war-stricken provinces; nonetheless, despite the insurmountable difficulties, the students have continued their schooling. However, in Kabul, fewer and fewer of them have been allowed to pursue their education at higher level for example:

Last year from the four Pashtun provinces of Kandahar, Zabul, Orezgan and Helmand only 727 students were allowed to pass the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education Exam while at the same time from the Shiat Hazara province alone 1056, from the under populated Badakhshan province 2305 and from the much smaller province of Juzjan 943 students “passed” the university entrance examination.

Students in these war-zones have been taking their life in their hands to attending schools. Yet instead of giving them priority to take advantage of scholarships offered by friendly countries, they are discriminated against. The two ministries of Foreign Affairs & Higher Education have vowed not to allow any Pashtun to go abroad for higher education, Instead less qualified students from the 9 per cent Shiat Hazara and 12.5 Tajiks (see Wak Foundation and Misdaq above) are the one taking all the scholarships that are offered by India, Russia, Iran, Egypt and even US and UK. Dr. Miraki who comes from a prominent Afghan family went to observe the recent “national election” in Kabul highlights such discrimination:

A group of Pashtun students from Maidan-Wardak province went to the ministry of higher education and sought scholarships abroad. These students were all A grade students with superb academic achievements, however, they were told to go to Quetta (in Pakistan) and get scholarships there. The students told them they are Afghans, why should they go to Pakistan, but the officials laughed and said "may be Mullah Omar can get you some scholarships".

Another group of students from Kabul that included Pashtuns, Tajik and Hazara went to the ministry of higher education to apply for scholarships. All of the non-Pashtun students received scholarships but even though most of the Pashtuns were more qualified than the minorities they received none.

Another group of Pashtun students from Baghlan province (in central Afghanistan) attempted to come to Kabul to participate in the entrance exam to the University, however, a local Tajik warlord found out about it; the warlord ambushed the students bus all of them were beaten and injured. None of them made it to Kabul.

We are not saying that Pashtuns because they are the majority of the population should be the one getting most of these scholarships; we want an academic merit-based criterion that should be the basis for awarding such scholarships. In no country the majority can be discriminated against for long. Such narrow mindedness will sooner or later have serious repercussions.
Zirakyar with a Ph. D. in Political Science from the Free University of Berlin, Germany, who taught at Afghan, German and American universities, has already spoken against such discrimination:
I want to underscore an important issue: The majority student population of Afghan society which happens to be Pashtuns is not receiving its fair share of the scholarships offered by countries friendly to Afghanistan. This counterproductive policy affects all Pashtuns by category-irrespective of where in Afghanistan they domicile-and it is sabotaging any last hope of the process of peace building and nation building in war-torn Afghanistan. I am concerned that this type of discrimination in education will further create social and political instabilities down the road. As information about the corrupt structures of the system in Afghanistan reveals, a small minority connected to foreign powers gain disproportional chunk of political, military and economic power in the country and in its foreign service. This minority power elite will be moving like hand in the glove of socio-economic and political agenda promoted by foreign ethno-cultural ambitions. This new power structure can impose, with or without foreign support, their will on the majority Pashtuns. For more than 30 years of violence in Afghanistan, the country urgently needs expanding peace-time economy and nation building, not an anti-Pashtun ruling circle and not a classroom for developing an ideology of hatred and intolerance. Researcher Jeannine Spink affiliated with Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, writes: “Teachers continue to teach ethnic hatred and intolerance,” and the textbooks “continue to be highly politicized, promoting social divisions and violence, seemingly unnoticed by the International Community, whose expensive investments fuel rather than restrain this problem.” Also, I want to highlight another issue. The World Factbook (1992) by CIA considerably lowered the statistical significance of Pashtuns. (See Zirakyar, “Pashtun-Bashing in Kite Runner: A Psychological Operation?”, December 9, 2009; and Bruce Richardson, Afghanistan: A Search for Truth., 2008-2009, p. 275). What is the purpose of inflating the population size of non-Pashtun minorities while downgrading the majority Pashtun demographics? This deliberate undertaking by the CIA is indicative of a public relations ploy for a world-wide support for an unjust war, which was given the appearance of a just war: to free the majority (minority non-Pashtuns) from the so-called oppression of the minority (majority Pashtuns).

We welcome anyone to look at these scholarship figures over the past six years witch represents an utter injustice in rendering scholarship awards solely on the basis of ethnic and linguistic affiliations. Thereby, depriving Pashtun students from higher education, this injustice is practiced by the narrow minded officials of Northern Alliance in the above ministers. For each Pashtuns of exceptional ability, 80-90 non-Pashtuns have been sent overseas on these scholarships.

Incidentally, the majority of these non-Pashtuns are academically unprepared compared to the small number of Pashtuns who make it to the Kabul University entrance examination.

For example, India offered 2500 scholarships for the year 2006-7 in different fields including 50 in engineering. To date no one has graduated from the engineering faculties in India. The reason is that these students are not qualified to be selected for such a demanding and technical field. They neither speak the level of English required for these subjects nor are equipped with the level of sophistication in mathematics, trigonometry and physics that are necessary for an engineering degree. Some of these students had come back to Kabul while others are shifting from one subject to another in India over the past four years. Prof. Khaleq Rashid, education attaché at Afghan embassy in Delhi says that unqualified students are sent to India while such selection on narrow ethnic politics deprive other well qualified students to take advantage of such opportunities. The Indian Education establishment also sent a delegation to Kabul asking for better qualified students to be sent as the quota of Afghan students remains unused.

We are asking you to consider the long term implication of such discrimination and exert your influence over the Karzai Government that their shortsightedness is not in the interest of Afghanistan. Pashtuns are the founders and defenders of the state. They will not tolerate being ruled by the minorities whether or not being discriminated for Higher Education. However, by such blatant discrimination the Karzai government and its northern alliance supporters are seeding the seeds of future conflicts. The question is what will the present ruling clique do when they no longer have the support of 150,000 foreign troops? The history of Afghanistan is full of resistance to foreign imposed and minority control regimes. The international community should treat everyone in Afghanistan from a standpoint of equality and fairness. Such discrimination against the future leaders and generation should be stopped at once. All scholarship giving establishment have to make sure that their aid and assistance to the people of Afghanistan is not abused.

Nabi Misdaq, B.Sc. (LSE) London University, PhD (Sussex University) UK
Author and Journalist.
Rahmat Rabi Zirakyar, PhD in Political Science, Free University of Berlin,
Independent Scholar.
Mohammad Daud Miraki, 2 MAs and PhD, Chicago University
Author and Academic.
Ubidullah Burhani, PhD, University of Tunis,
Academic and Analyst of Arab Affairs.

From: Dr. Misdaq, Dr. Zirakyar, Dr. Miraki and Dr. Burhani


July 2010  

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