Many Reasons Why the Pashtun Can’t Embrace Democracy and Don’t Believe in Elections

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A good news indeed when we hear that finally the Pashtun, as one of the major ethnic groups in Afghanistan are tending towards civil movements instead of cheering up for insurgency in the south of Afghanistan. Lately they have rallied for peace in Hilmand, a province which has been the main base of the Taliban and their richest center of Narco-economics in the last twenty years; this province is a long suffered one, for bloodshed and insecurity. It’s good and surprising news but this movement doesn’t seem to last long because it doesn’t have real social basis among the Pashtuns yet. It is just a symbolic promotional and propagandic purposes to label the Pashtun unrealistically as a Democratic Society which they are no because the reality appears to be totally different if we have a look into the Pashtun society with a deeper insight from a clear angle.

Based on the demographic patterns and social facts about the Pashtun population, this ethnic group has strongly maintained its nomadic and primitive social structures in which the whole society is run under the forms of tribes, clans and sub-clans and everyone is obliged to obey the Tribal Code of Ethics which is a bunch of non-written primitive ethical codes, rather than any civil code or modern laws in force in the country. In such a closed society, Western terms and forms of socio- political way of living, such as Democracy and Open Society nor have a meaning neither a space of application as they are in contradiction with the existence of tribal societies.

Even in younger democracies, the basic necessity of a political form called Democracy is an arena of participation for different voices and opinions which should be inclusive, while in Tribalism system, although a tribe itself is consist of a group of specific people who come under a common shelter for common interests, but each voice and opinion does not have a role, it is the head of the tribe, in most cases a man, that has to decide everything and the members should obey him blindly. In this case, diversity does not exist or if exists so, it means belonging to the other clan or tribe, which is considered a threat or cause of fear.In a tribal society like the Pashtun, patriarchy is the foundation that means, in its essence, “the women” as half of the society remain without a voice and the effects of denial of women’s role and identity in such a society may not be visible in short term, but if you experience this process for a long time, in generations for instance, the consequences are horrific; as a result, women remain as objects and possessions of the men, which reduces the dynamism of a society into half, on the other hand the growing children become part of the continuity of patriarchy machinery and without women’s participation and reduction of their importance in training the children, this machinery could even turn into a war machinery which we face in the actual Pashtun society nowadays.

Children are born in a strictly closed society, where the presence of women are only in the backdoors of houses or in the kitchen and being a woman is like a crime; these children if male go to madrasas or schools where they are only in interactions with men, the same on the streets, so they grow without love of their mothers who are already considered cheap objects of their fathers. They do not have even the possibility to think about the position of their mothers other than a household servant who has to prepare food and wash clothes; this is the most tragic part of the fact. This way, they grow as warriors as they’ve never felt the tenderness of love.

With a short glance to an Afghan National ID card or the so called Tazkera, which is based on Pashtun Tribal Tree of Identification (because the Pashtun have been ruling on Afghanistan since 1747), on which you find Name, Father’s Name and Grand Father’s name. There is no place for Family Name, neither for Mother’s Name. The lack of family name on Afghan National ID card comes from the fact that the Pashtun use their Tribe Names as their Family Names and thus this rule should be applied for the entire nation they think; the nation that is multiethnic and multi-culture but is under the control of Tribal Pashtun leaders. Only this very simple fact shows how exclusive the tribal system is, and the question of Afghan ID card which is based on Pashtuns’ tribal system has been problematic for most citizens of Afghanistan in different parts of the world because it’s very primitive and doesn’t match with any International ID Standards.


The enigma of the long war in Afghanistan could be resolved if we analyze the strong ties of the Pashtun as a major ethnic group on power, with Tribalism in a multiethnic Afghanistan that is going forward.

We could also see the serious threats and challenges Tribalism could create against the coexistence of other ethnicities; that could cause even an ethnic clash, as well as it is against the progress and development of the whole country. With this foreword on how Tribalism can affect the lives of millions of citizens in today’s Afghanistan, we could also study its roots and contexts and the way how to overcome it.

For example, based on statistics and classified documents of the (NDS) National Directorate of Security or the Afghan Intelligence Agency, 98 % of all insurgencies and suicide attacks taken place in Afghanistan since 2003 are carried out by Pashtun youth, although the Afghan Government denies the fact in public by a huge campaign to amend the Pashtun’s image and reputation to hide the real grade of growing Fundamentalism and Radicalism that has rooted among the Pashtun. They do it for political purposes and ethnic ties while in reality these facts shouldn’t be concealed from the public opinion but rather it should be worked on to resolve it soon, because the insurgencies and terror machines among the Pashtun youth is still in its climax on real grounds even today.

Unfortunately, it’s dealt with in a tribal way, while in a democratic system, culprits are being treated with as equal human beings as everyone else, and trialed based on what they’ve committed through a judicial system.

Here again, we see that the Pashtun politicians, who run the country try to use the Tribal Code of Ethics which obliges them to defend their tribesmen as brothers in any condition, rather than dealing with it with a vaster aspect and by referring to the laws that are in force in the country.

The Tribal Code of Ethics of the Pashtun is called Pashtunwali, which means “The Essence of Being Pashtun” and is based on a few simple rules like the Ten Commandments which are respected and implemented strictly by the Pashtuns instead of all other laws in force.

Pashtunwali has 10 to11 non written principles with a few good ones such as; Hospitality, Bravery, Homeland and some bad ones or dangerous ones such as; Hostility, Revenge, Protection and Sword that are sometimes being misused invisibly by the actual Pashtun politicians who run the country.  They use the bad ones for their political purposes and for saving their culprit Pashtun tribesmen from trials regardless of gravity of their crime.

The negative effects of Pashtunwali on the lives of millions of citizens in Afghanistan are more visible when some former Pashtun ministers who are accused of fraud, money-laundry and corruption during their mandates, still enjoy a kind of immunity from trials because of this tribal Code of Ethics.

To be precise, in the case of Farooq Wardak, a Pashtun former Minister of Education who is accused of embezzling 750,000,000 USD$, during his mandate (from 2008 to 2015) in the ministry under the name of imaginary schools, but then enjoyed immunity after his dismissal from the ministry and now serves as President Ashraf Ghani’s Minister of State for the Parliamentary Affairs.

Mr. Farooq Wardak is not the only Pashtun minister who is accused of corruption but enjoys immunity under the shade of Pashtunwali; there are at least three other former Pashtun ministers who are all accused of corruption but still enjoy freedom without being trialed because of the immunity Pashtunwali guarantees them as a privilege. Namely they are Hanif Atmar, a former Pashtun Minister of Education and former Minister of Rural Development who is accused of hiring dozens of his family members in the ministry as advisors with high salaries heisting millions of USD$, but he not only still enjoys freedom but a tremendous promotion; he serves as the Senior Security Advisor for President Ashraf Ghani who is Pashtun too.

The two other former Pashtun ministers are Omar Zakhilwal and Anwarul Haq Ahadi who both served as Ministers of Finance and are accused of corruption but they still enjoy freedom without being trialed.

Apart from abovementioned cases, Pashtunwali has softened the war against terror, by giving immunity to the Taliban terrorists or the so called ISIS in Afghanistan, because they are Pashtuns and based on Pashtunwali, they deserve forgiveness or asylum, and therefore they are forgiven.

This policy of forgiveness to the dangerous terrorists has lowered down the morale of the Afghan National Army soldiers throughout the country who do not have permission to fire directly on Taliban in most cases in combat fields. It has decreased the efficiency of the war against terror, because by the order of their superiors including the Chief of Command of the Armed Forces, President Ashraf Ghani Taliban are his dissatisfied brothers, because they are Pashtuns and based on Pashtunwali they deserve immunity. It was mentioned in a recent comment by the Baghlan Governor Sultan Mohammad Ebadi, who said, he didn’t let the soldiers to kill Taliban because they are his Pashtun brothers.

The worst effects of Pashtunwali are seen in security sector with a voluntarily breach for the infiltration of the Taliban terrorists into the ANA the Afghan National Army. The most famous effect of such breach is the growing number of attacks known as GREEN on BLUE ATTACKS.  The infiltration of the Taliban in the army is based on Brotherhood code of Pashtunwali through which the Pashtun Soldiers in the Army let the Taliban infiltrate in as brothers, and then these Taliban terrorists carry out those attacks. So far hundreds of Afghan soldiers of other non Pashtun ethnicities and the NATO soldiers are being killed from behind through these “Green on Blue Attacks” as a result of Infiltration of the Talibans into the ANA.

Taliban keep killing civilians, beheading soldiers and putting in fire villages and schools, but still President Ashraf Ghani forgive them, calling them his dissatisfied brothers, because Pashtunwali permits it. .

Gulbudin Hekmatyar, a Pashtun terrorist leader, better known as Butcher of Kabul, who has been fighting against the Afghan Government and the NATO forces since 2001, killing thousands of civilians and soldiers, has been forgiven and brought to Kabul as a winning hero with a lot of rewards and privileges, just for Pashtunwali.

TORA or Sword is another dangerous part of Pashtunwali, which allows the Pashtuns carry guns. This code threatens the coexistence of different ethnicities in a multiethnic country like Afghanistan. This code encourages the Pashtuns to carry guns and be armed. This means, by carrying guns in any condition, you support the warlords, encourage irresponsibility and a cause a chaos for the country. The clear example of its effect is seen when the sky of Kabul is full of bullets at nights when the Afghan Cricket Teams wins a match.

It means based on Tora code of Pashtunwali, most Pashtun inhabitants in Kabul city and rural districts are fully armed.

TORA code of Pashtunwali has planted long ago another dangerous seed; on the other side of the Durand Line border, only a few hundred kilometers from Kabul, there is Darra Adam Khel in FATA of Pakistan, one of the world’s largest illegal markets of arms, run by the Afridi and other Pashtun tribes and sell arms to the Taliban, to the so called ISIS and export arms to war zones of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This market is created based on the idea of Tora or the Sword code of Pashtunwali and as long as Pashtunwali exists, such markets would also continue to live.

And the last thing is the legitimacy of the parliamentary elections ahead which could be questioned if it’s going to be managed with a huge fraud as four years ago. The Presidential Elections of 2014 reached to a dead-end after a huge fraud which took the country into a political crisis, and then by the direct intervention of the US Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry the current National Unity Government was born with participation of both candidates.

No to be forgotten the negative effect of Pashtunwali on presidential elections in 2014.

Mr. Zia Ul Haq Amarkhel, the Pashtun secretary of Afghan Election Commission of the time, who was accused of a huge fraud by filling the ballot boxes with millions of fake votes in Pashtun provinces, he not only was not fired and trialed but also rewarded based on Pashtunwali. He was given a medal as a hero in an official ceremony to have made Ghani win as the president.

In the Pashtun areas, based on Pashtunwali, women are not given freedom to move alone outside home; therefore, a lot of Pashtun women remained without ballot papers and could not vote. In this regard, Mr. Amarkhel’s phone conversation was intercepted when he was encouraging people to vote instead of their women and children as many times as they can.

Conducting healthy and fair elections is the concern of many in Afghanistan, considering insecurity, target killing of the minorities, fraud and forgiveness and immunity for the fraudulent factors based on Pashtunwali.

Considering the attack of suicide bombers on the electoral registration sites, as it took place in the West of Kabul last Sunday, millions worry about their safety during the polling.

Based on all above-mentioned specifications of the Pashtun Society today, we can not ignore the realities that Tribalism and Democracy are two different forms of socio-political lives of human beings on two opposite sides. The fact is that they are the two totally different things; “we can not expect the flavor of strawberry from a banana or an apple”, so when two things are totally different we can not consider them the same by coloring them one as the other! Democracy brings representation, responsibility and accountability while Tribalism brings muteness and obedience, thus they are on the two opposite sites.

However, the Pashtun ethnic has been on power in Afghanistan since the 18th Century, this time as well, they will remain on power regardless of winning or losing the elections as the world needs Tribalism as well; Vintage is the new tendency once again nowadays!


Darra Adam Khel

Green on Blue Attacks:

Farooq Wardak:  Former Education Minister Denies ‘SIGAR Report on Ghost Schools’

Hanif Atmar:  4GB USB Flash Memory Costs $100 in Karzai’s Administration

Omar Zakhilwal: EXCLUSIVE REPORT: U.S. Probe into Missing Afghan Aid Funds Blocked

Anwarul Haq Ahadi: One million dollars embezzled from Kabul hospital project?

Zia Ulhaq Amarkhel: 



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