Pakistan and Pushtun Nationalism, Separating Myth from Reality – by Arif Hassan Khan Akhunzada

Pakistan and Pushtun Nationalism, Separating Myth from Reality – by Arif Hassan Khan Akhunzada

Pashtun nationalist youth of the Facebook variety, labor under the illusion that if and when Pakistan breaks, “Afghan nationalism” (whatever that infers) will benefit. No, I am afraid not!  The Afghan nationalism they mention, exists only in talk on Facebook and internet forums. It isn’t there on the ground.


What would happen if Pakistan were to break somehow…is just an intensification and worsening of what is going on now around us. In this, Pakistan has (or rather, had) a hand no doubt – but it now has dynamics of its own: a seething sea of tribal chaos and corruption, in which rival warlords, gangs and tribes faithfully uphold the best Afghan tradition – of never ending internal warfare.


If the conditions of the Pashtuns of the Pakistani side held it out peacefully till now, it was thanks to the British Indian system’s structures…if “Afghanistan”, i.e the state originally founded by Abdali – seemed peaceful over the last century till 1978…that was because it was a weak and artificially sustained “rentier” buffer state, that depended on aid flows from other states, smuggling revenues – and whose borders were guaranteed by its neighbors’, including Pakistan, for their own interests. Inside, Afghanistan was like one huge tribal village wasteland…with Kabul being the only place worth the name displaying the trappings of modern urban infrastructural characteristics, and from where a nominal watch was maintained over a country that was largely living in the Stone Age, and certainly not under central control. One can compare this control to less than what a Pakistani PA exerts in a Tribal Agency.


It was when the “forces of progress” erupted in that insulated urban cocoon in 1978 that the status quo was challenged, and that the constant and grueling fight which has yet to end, began. The reason for this result proves abundantly, that the paradigm of “progress” as conceived by twentieth century politics – especially the “democratic” variety — does not apply to Pashtun tribal society.

Leave aside the negative influence of Pakistan, its Western overlords and its Jihadi proxies: does anyone care to remember that the primary reasons for the Soviet intervention was the fact that in addition to its stupid policies, the ruling PDPA had split into warring factions, and that the so-called Afghan “communists” were killing each other like dogs?

First, the Khalq faction itself split into the Taraki and Amin groups….this was apart from the traditional Khalq-Parcham rivalry since their very beginning. Afghans love to fight. They are proud of it.

Those who cite Bhutto’s backing of the 1975 Panjsher rebellion against Daud by Rabbani and Masood, should know that this was not a Jihadi adventure, and was very much localized – in effect only something to irritate. Moreover the Pakistanis were doing it because Daud was doing the same regarding Pakhtunistan in the tribal territories…as well as aiding the Baloch insurgency. So it was a tit-for-tat matter…


The concept of Afghan nationalism is sadly very weak, and is only embellished in the hyperactive minds of intelligent but immature youth, who tend to see things through the blinkers of their otherwise sophisticated Western education…the reality on the ground is very different. To paraphrase the slang that such youth speak, it “sucks”.


The idiotic myth of “Afghan invincibility” that so many Pashtun political practitioners like to bandy around, and puff themselves up with – was a myth created largely by the Anglo-American lobby…it was derived mostly from British nineteenth century experiences, and was later twisted to serve US propaganda needs during the Soviet intervention.

At this point, an intellectual clarification is in order herein what now comprises “Afghanistan”, the Mughals (Turko-Mongols) ruled all the areas right upto Kabul; Ghazni and Ghor were ruled by a variety of Turks – the Yaminis, Ghaznavids, Seljuqs, and later Mongols…Kandahar was held variously by the Saffavid Turk rulers of Iran and the Mughals….Herat remained a separate Persian dependency most of the time.

Previously, the Uzbek Turk Ulugh Beg, who was the “mama”(maternal Uncle) of the Mughal Babur – was the ruler of Kabul in 1481, when he instigated the Gigyani Pashtuns to massacre the (Khakhay Khel) Yousafzai chiefs there, driving them eastwards through Ningrahar, onwards to Bajaur and then to the Peshawar and Swat Valleys, where they now have been for the past 500 years.

Later on in 1739, Nader Shah Afshar received the submission of the Yousafzai chief in the Peshawar Valley, Nazo Khan, after the latter had been defeated by him.

Nazo Khan then sent his men as part of Nader Shah’s army, to conquer Delhi. In the end, I will also point out that the “Afghan state” founded by the Pashtun Abdali, was heavily Persianised rather than “Pashtunised” in character – as opposed to its name, and Pashto was made the second state language only in 1936. It should also be recalled, that Abdali himself, to use Persian phraseology, was “Bacha e Nader”


Coming to more recent times, it is less commonly known that after the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1879 – and the famous Maiwand Battle in which the Pashtun female heroine Malala featured, the British commander of the Afghan Expeditionary Force, Lord Roberts (“of Kandahar” as he was later titled), returned next year and crushed the Afghan army…but this time instead of occupying the place, he withdrew, but only after exacting a promise that the British would conduct Afghanistan’s foreign policy.

Then the British installed Amir Abdur Rahman in 1881, securing from him the Durand Line with which to guard their territorial limits in 1893….the buffer status of Afghanistan was confirmed, and the British dominated Afghan foreign policy right upto 1919, when they “gifted” it back to the young Amanullah Khan as a conciliatory measure, and because they were now geopolitically strong enough in the area.


Coming to the Soviet defeat in the Afghan wasteland, that was due more to the joint US-NATO + Saudi + Pakistani conspiracy more than anything else…and because the “liberal” global political opinion of this modern age prevented the Soviets from the use of proper measures to suppress the “mujahideen”.

If the British were defeated in Afghanistan during the nineteenth century, it was because they didn’t have the requisite air power, chemical or bio weapons, or tactical “nukes” needed to deal with wild ‘fanatics’ who are not quite human…like the Afghans, they too were armed with swords and muskets. I wonder who could be “invincible” in the face of proper measures like those described above…


I am no supporter of Pakistan. I am working for a “modern ‘Mughal’ empire” which has its obvious benefits…but it is sad to see intelligent youths hell bent on some “Afghan national identity”, even if it is of a “Khargaday Watan” quality……they should remember, that Pashtuns flourished perfectly…nay, also evolved from…..for 2300 long years, in a Scytho-Turkic dispensation. And if the boot of the modern nation-state concept doesn’t fit the Afghan foot, then it is because of the character of the Afghan (tribal) foot, and nothing else…….

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