Taliban Vs Pashtuns

by Ali Arqam

Taliban are not by any means a representation of Pashtuns as what we are witnessing today in the shape of the barbaric Talibanized militant values are not of hospitality and sanctuary as well as regard for women, children and family

Antonio Gramsci, an Italian (1891-1937) Marxist thinker, has defined the term hegemony as “the predominance of one social class over others (e.g. bourgeois hegemony). This represents not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as ‘common sense’ and ‘natural’.”

This can be seen in the writings of certain “secular” Pakistani nationalists and religious multiculturalists these days, while expressing their views on Afghanistan situation they are obsessed with the dominant discourse.

Pursuing the fallacies of strategic depth the Pakistani state has been disseminating a particular rendition of Afghanistan situation through a variety of means ranging from the blatant lies of the religious right to the more elusive tactics of the allied experts, Journalists, Ex- Generals, Ex-Army Chiefs and Ex-Ambassadors strategically deployed here and there.

Among the strident series of prevarications is construction of the opinion that radicalization and Talibanisation are consequences of US intervention in the region and Taliban are an expression of Pasthun nationalist resistance.

To analyze this lets have a look to the near past. Afghanistan has a long history of foreign interventions, resistance, victories and defeats. It was a bone of contention between the Russian empire and British Raj. British administration had successfully installed a subservient regime here in the late 19th century.

The Afghan ruler Emir Abdul Rehman Khan was assisted by the British Raj in establishing his rule and received an annual subsidy of 1,850,000 rupees from the British government for some restrictions on his dealing the external matters. His son Emir Habibullah Khan also continued these relations and signed a treaty of friendship in 1905 and paying an official state visit in 1907. During the World War One he strictly maintained the country’s neutrality despite strenuous efforts by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the spiritual ruler of Islam, and avoided the Pan Islamist approach.

Emir Amanullah Khan fought the British, got freedom, and started a comprehensive process of social, political and economic reforms and modernizing Afghan society and every aspect of Afghan life. He initiated a free and neutral foreign policy by starting a dialogue and friendly collaborations with the revolutionary Bolshevik leadership. The situation was alarming for the British Empire and it had started a well orchestrated defamation campaign against him, resulting in Amanullah Khan abandoning the throne and installment of a new pro British ruler in the next phase.

Another prominent figure was Bacha Khan, a Pasthun leader in the Pasthun territories of British India, who joined the mainstream Indian nationalist and secular party, the Indian National Congress, to fight for independence from British rule. He founded a social movement, the Khudai Khidmatgars – the red shirts. Bacha Khan, also called the Frontier Gandhi, too believed in nonviolence as the most effective weapon against colonial rule, and although he was a devout Muslim, he mistrusted the political influence of the mullahs, or Islamic clerics. The reforms he promoted—education, sanitation, road building—were secular.

In the first Indo-Pak War (1947), when the tribal Pashtuns were used to attack Kashmir and stories of their brutalities, rapes, loots and plunders broke out, it was Bacha Khan who regretted  and said that we have spent years to reform Pashtun socially and morally but they have created such a mess by using them in Kashmir in greed of loot and plunder, who have looted Hindus as well as Muslims and brought their women here to sell them in Bazars, and all this happened in the name of religion and the under sacred terms of Jihad. He burst out against brutalities in the name of religion.

The same mantra of perverting religious sentiments was applied again by Pakistan and his western masters in Afghanistan when the Saur Revolution challenged the status quo, the rotten and archaic tribal traditions and their guardian mullahs.

A massive process of social and economic reforms was started but the Imperialist designs, the Soviet intervention, the Pak-US-Israel proxy war with the assistance of European countries, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The revolution was killed (with the consent of Soviet Union) in Pakistan.

The massive propaganda for the Imperialist War in the whole world attracted Muslim youth from all over the world and they gathered on the Afghan soil under the umbrella of various Mujahideen organizations, each supported by a Muslim country for their particular brand of Islam and their interests. Even China contributed in the war with its own militant Maoist segment Shola E Javed funded heavily through Pakistan.

All the militant segments were painted as Freedom fighters and moral equivalent to the American founding fathers, as they were fighting against the Soviet invaders. But when the Soviet left, another tug of war started among these Mujahideen costing millions of lives.

These all were offered reconciliation by  Dr. Najibullah, the president of Afghanistan after Soviet exit, but he was denied and forced to abandon. And once again a sincere Afghan leader was treated in the same manner as Emir Amanullah was dealt by mullahs of his times.

Due to the imperialist war strategy in Afghanistan, which supported the non Pasthun tribes, when Taliban came to the fore they appeared as representing a pasthun cause of a sort against the Tajiks. This whole perspective was built by CNN, Fox and other major news organizations who always disguised the imperialist war in Afghanistan as an ethnic conflict between pasthun and non pasthun tribes of Afghanistan. The delusion soon elucidated when their collaboration with Pakistan security operatus revealed and later Dr. Najibullah and his brother were barbarically killed by them after capturing Kabul.

Taliban rule was a nightmare for the art, music and dance loving Pashtuns and all Afghans. As they were divested of their rich culture renditions. The centre of Afghan religious lives, the shrines were deserted over the charges of anti-sharia practices, the people were forced to pray at mosques and grow beards of a fist length – practices strongly associated with the old and aged people of above 60 or 70 years. Taliban tribal code of conduct was ravaged by the strict religious versions.

The Emirates established by Taliban came along as ultra reactionary, following the strict salafi religious traditions, hence demolishing every aspect of Afghan society, their history and cultural traditions. The gender discrimination, selling and purchasing of women as commodities (in the name of Walwar), depriving girls from schools and education, preventing women from working, free trade and smuggling of timber and narcotics, lack of justice etc, were blotted out  in Pakistan. Stories of unprecedented peace and harmony  under the Taliban rule were propagated to build up a romance.

This romance was shattered by the post 9/11 scenario, the alleged U-turn of the Pakistani state and the new phase of war and terror under the Bellum Justum to preserve the post-enlightenment Western civilization from barbarians.

But the mullahs and fanatics and their fellows, the militants, irrespective of their ethnicity, are pursuing the romance, their lost paradise, and demolishing everything coming in their way, including non combatant civilians of any ethnicity or sect, with the tagline “If you are not on our side, you are an enemy.”

The strangulation and segregation of the secular-socialist pasthun nationalism by the British administration into Afghanistan, Pakistan and Balochistan set the stage for this hogwash. The strong Salafist version is an alien idea for the Pashtuns of both sides of the Durand Line. Pasthuns have immensely suffered at the hands of these monsters. One can mention thousands of Pashtuns that have perished in suicide bombings, crossfire between state and non state militants, and hundreds of thousands of them that have been displaced.

Pashtun Nationalism has served always in the secular, progressive ideals of Emir Amanullah, Bacha Khan, Samad Khan Achakzai, Noor Muhammad Tarahkai, Dr Najibullah, Afzal Khan Lala, all the Pashtun elders, policemen and soldiers who sacrificed their lives to defend their people and the peace loving Pashtuns fighting the forces of despotism and aspiring to modernize and reform Pashtun society as per the requirements of modern age. Taliban and their apologists have tried to play pasthun nationalist card but they are not pasthun nationalist in the classic sense.

Taliban are not by any means a representation of pashtuns as what we are witnessing today in the shape of the barbaric Talibanized militant values are not of hospitality and sanctuary as well as regard for women, children and family. Killing and abduction of women and children, entering into houses to kill family members of the opponents, and attacking funerals, Mosques and Imam Bargahs has become commonplace in the Taliban culture. As a result, Islam as well as Pashtunwali have been raped by the Taliban-ISI alliance.

Today, the epicenter of Taliban has shifted to Punjab and Punjabi chauvinist (like LeT and SSP) are its allies. Here it may start appearing as “Punjabi nationalists” of a sort especially if one looks at rise of SSP in Jhang against the Seriaki-shia aristocracy. This is actually a result of a lack of genuine nationalist socialist tendency that its slogans and politics appear in an alien tendency.

While their vindicators whether religious mullahs, the illusionist leftists or the security establishment, having a stake on them will be meddling in fabrications to legitimize their acts in the name of Anti-Americanism, Anti-imperialism or Nationalism with prefixes of their choices.



Filed under Afghanistan, Taliban, Terrorism

27 responses to “Taliban Vs Pashtuns

  1. YLH

    Bacha Khan’s links with Faqir of Ipi are well known. Faqir of Ipi was the original Pushtun nationalist. He is also the grandfather to a very famous TTP leader. Ipi led a revolt against Pakistan in 1947 by saying that Pakistani government was godless.

    I don’t have time right now to write a full rebuttal but the claim that Taliban are an expression of Pushtun Nationalism is an accurate one whether some people admit it or not.

  2. bciv

    is bacha khan a true expression of pashtun nationalism?

  3. Dear YLH,
    Do write a post also on Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the true expression of Punjabi chauvinism, as he has excluded almost everyone having a dissenting view of his version of Islam.

    If Pashtun nationalism is the stereotype, which is seen by some people in archaic tribal traditions, he surely was not.

  4. I am amazed by the responses from both of my friends BC and YLH. They came with the same set of ideas often repeated against a Pashtun political icon Bacha Khan, He was a politician first and foremost, anyone can agree or disagree to him. But raising weird questions and repeating the same faqir of Ipi allegations is very sad.
    The article has dealt many issues, deconstruct many myths as Afghanistan was not ruled by any foreign power, and many other issue as well, but “aap Hazraat Ki Soi Bacha Khan Pe hi Atak jaati hei”

  5. Raza Raja

    Excellent article Ali

    I think it is a very rational and mature defense of Pustun nationalism.

    It does not rely on rheotric and tackles each argument in a sensible manner. A very good read.

  6. bciv


    my question was in response to and addressed to YLH.

    as for “soi bacha khan per kyun attaktee hai”, well if the taliban had to adopt him as one of their icons, they would find plenty to like him. in fact, if they had the slightest rationality and some kind of pragmatic objectives – instead of mindless, endless cruelty – they could have done worse than appropriating bacha khan. they couldn’t try and do that to dr najibullah or emir amanullah though.

  7. Thanks Raza for the appreciations. You are really a source of inspiration for your objectivity and wide ranging research based articles. Thanks for posting the article here, as I have said earlier, you participation via your articles and editorial choices have made PTH a balanced platform and indeed strenghten its secular and progressive credentials.

  8. khursheed ahamd


  9. Harriss Khan

    Well, With space limit i may not be able to give a response but my brother Ali Arqam i am a pathan and hail from a very pathan oriented background.
    Emir amanullah was killed by his own general, was it ISI? why did not you mention that episode? President Daud was the one who initiated and used PASHTUNISTAN card through out his reign. Who was he to claim the land Ahmed shah masud, prof. burhanidin rabbani and gulbadin hikmatiayr and millions and millions opposed communism. When Nur muhammad tarkai and hafizullah amin fought for the throne HERAT mutiny happened where 5000 people lost their lives, was it ISI? we PAKISTANIES took the burden of over 5 lack afganies when hafizullah and tarkai were fighting for power.
    And now BACHA KAHAN, the one who eat in pakistan did politics in pakistan had pakistani nationality in the end when his death came he said , i don’t want to get burred in pakistan, why? its an irony that literates have shut thier eyes…..

    Pakistan paindabad!!!

  10. YLH


    My issue is with your statement vis a vis Bacha Khan alone. That is it.

  11. Hola

    Taliban are an expression of Pakistani imperialism .

  12. @Harris Khan
    Read the article and then respond, and no need to remind me that you are a Pashtun and proud Pakistani, and as for as your remarks on Bacha Khan are concerned, you may agree or disagree him, he is not a sacred Cow, but why are you advocating ISI, is not understandable.

  13. YLH

    “Taliban are an expression of Pakistani imperialism .”

    More appropriately… it is the expression of Pushtun Nationalism exploited by Pakistani imperialism.

  14. Humane

    Pathans are too diversified to be collected under a single, secular ideology. “Pashtun nationalism” does not express the views of all pathans as a single entity. Some pathan tribal regions did give support the taliban fighters on both sides of the durrand line while others wholly opposed it.

    “Pashtun nationalism” is the creation of idealists who seek to express their views as those of all pathans.
    Many pathans living in karachi do subscribe to the views of Salafi and deobandi movements especially in the areas of
    “katti pahari” and “guru mandir.”

  15. Qudsia Siddiqee

    @Ali Arqam,
    Thanks for your informative article and for the historical research. Would love to see more of this on PTH.
    Ignore the negative comments. For these ultranationalists the only true secularist is Jinnah and the only real Pushtun is Imran Khan. Their chauvinism stems from the typical Punjabi-Immigrant dominance over the other groups in Pakistan. Bacha Khan, like Bizenjo and GM Syed are viewed as traitors and fifth columnists for their refutations of the myth making that centers around poor Jinnah.
    Bacha Khan lives on in his work and his philosophy of non-violence and education that are couched in clear secular terms and not the confused ramblings of Mr. Jinnah where he manages to sound like Thomas Jefferson (August 11 speech) in one instance and like Maudodi (Islam taught us democracy) and Mussilini (Dhaka address) in his other lectures.
    The Taliban are the destroyers of Pushtun culture and even their secular nationalist aspirations. First the Mujahideen and then the Taliban were constructed by an establishment dominated by Punjabi and Urdu generals and bureaucrats. These people are very insensitive and do not realize their bully mentality when they thrust their warped views on everyone and completely ignore their version.
    Ultimately, these ultranationalist yuppies can never accept a leader who takes his case to the masses like Bacha Khan, ZAB, BB, Bizenjo , Haider Bux Jatoi and GM Syed. On the other hand, they would love to hangout with corrupt, greedy, inebriated and back stabbing lawyers like Aitzaz and Iqbal Haider and their pit bull, the corrupt, compromised, closet Taliban, establishment boot licker Chaudhary Iftikhar. From their angle, Jinnah is an angel!
    PTH is so much better without the verbal diahorria that comes out in the shape of the same comments “faqir of Ipi-Majlis-e-Ahrar-Jinnah” obsessions. Nonetheless, it is a free world, atleast on PTH…

  16. ash

    Taliban are an expression of Pakistani imperialism against Daud’s Pashtun nationalism.

  17. Perspective

    The evidence of Bacha Khan’s links with the Fakir of Ipi is a claim from July 7, 1947 from Col Shah Pasand Khan that Bacha Khan’s son had given the Faqir of Ipi 7 lakh rupees to support “Pathanistan”. But prior to that, April 5, 1947, the local Muslim League was perfectly happy to read out a letter from the Faqir of Ipi supporting them in their effort to dislodge the Congress ministry of Bacha Khan.

    Ultimately the truth is the hostage.

  18. aliarqam

    I dont know the source, you have provided the above news about Faqir Ipi, though the source of the first one as Ghani Khan providing money to faqir of Ipi is Jinnah papers.
    In my article, I have written what Bacha Khan said about the tribals used to infiltrate Kashmir.

  19. HonestlyC

    @ Qudsia Siddiqee,
    When facts change, I change my mind.Great comments and for sure knowledgeable.

  20. bciv


    “it [taliban] is the expression of Pushtun Nationalism”

    bacha khan’s stupidities and history aside.. where’s your evidence for saying this today?

  21. @BC
    ”Bacha Khan stupidities and history aside”
    where is your evidence for saying this today?

  22. bciv


    just to quote one small example for now: BK’s glorification of and insistence upon sharia.. whatever it might have meant to him.

  23. Yeah, I agree using ‘religious rhetorics’ is indeed a stupidity, whether by Bacha Khan or anyone else….
    And it is more stupidisit to call someone ‘Smart Politician’ for such manipulations..

  24. bciv

    ali, i agree. those stupid mistakes too have proven to be very costly.

  25. Once I asked a learned friend about MK Gandhi, he said, “Gandhi Azeem admi tha laikin Un ki non-violant freedom struggle k elawa baqi cheezein bekar hein”.

    As for as ANP politics are concerned, my views are much in accordance with late Dr. Feroze Ahmed, I partly disagree.
    Recently Pakistan Study Centre has published his commentaries of late 70’s and 80’s politics of his Urdu leftist magazine “Siasi Forun”.

  26. Err. “Siasi Forum”

  27. bciv

    “…baqi cheezein bekar hein”.

    if only they had been no worse than “bekar”.

    bacha was only too happy to “chaapi” the feet of the other badshah of “religious rhetoric”. to whatever extent jinnah and AIML went gandhian in an attempt – desperate or not – to counter congress (and its gandhi and gandhianism), they were gravely mistaken, and there was a high price to pay for these mistakes.