What the Taliban regime means for Afghan ethnic groups

What is the future of ethnic groups in Afghanistan now that Taliban is back in power?

Here's a look at the major ethnic groups in Afghanistan and what their future looks like in the Taliban-ruled country

Credit: AFP Photo

In the process of forming a government in war-torn Afghanistan, the Taliban have promised a regime representative of all ethnic groups. However, on the basis of the previous Taliban regime, civilians are not quick to believe the militant group's claims.

Here's a look at the ethnic composition of the country and what the Taliban rule will mean for them.

Major ethnic groups

According to the Afghan composition, present validity of which is in question due to the Taliban takeover states that the nation is comprised of "Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Baluch, Pashai, Nuristani, Aymaq, Arab, Qirghiz, Qizilbash, Gujur, Brahui and other tribes".

According to US data on Afghanistan from 2010, the Pashtun, including the Kuchis, is the largest ethnic group in the country, making up 42 per cent of Afghans. The Tajiks are the second largest at 27 per cent and Hazaras (9 per cent), Uzbeks (9 per cent), Aimaq (4 per cent), Turkmen (3 per cent) and Baluch (2 per cent).

A report by a research group in 1992 shortly after the Soviet forces left called Afghanistan a 'nation of minorities' as no single minority group makes up more than 50 per cent of the population.

Who are the main groups vying for power?

The Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks are the main contenders for power according to the numbers. Pashtuns are mainly based in southern and south-eastern parts of the country and some even across the border in Pakistan. The Pashto-speaking group has historically been the most powerful in the country. Two presidents during the US occupation belonged to the ethnic group.

The Dari-speaking Tajiks are found to inhabit the northern and western parts of the country, mainly in Panjshir valley, and have played a key role in the power struggle. Even currently, the Northern Alliance is putting up a fight to resist the Taliban regime led by Ahmad Massoud.

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Found in the northern parts of the country, Uzbeks are a tricky group as their warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum is known to switch sides frequently. He fought on the Soviet's side during the war and then sided with mujahideen. When the US invaded, Dostum went on to become the vice president of the country during Ghani's first term.  

The Hazara community for years has suffered some of Afghanistan's most violent assaults.

Now, with the Taliban back in control, the majority Shiite Muslim group fears the Sunni hardliners may again turn on them -- just as they did during their last regime in the 1990s.

And even as the Taliban have pledged a softer rule this time, a statue of a prominent Hazara leader was vandalised just days after the Islamists swept back into power.

What does the future look like?

The Taliban mainly comprises Pashtun clerics, who are inexperienced in governance. When the group came to power in 1996, they ruled with strict interpretations of Islamic Law. The smaller ethnic groups also resent the fact that the leadership of the militant regime is primarily made up of the Pashtun clerics. 

The Taliban have promised amnesty for all and said that they will protect life and property to create a peaceful environment, adding that there will be no discrimination against Shia people as they are "Afghans".

Civilians would want to see these promises on the ground before they believe any of it.

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