The Ghilzai Factor

Afghanistan Table of Contents

Such issues were also related to the demographics of Peshawar politics. A case can be made that the politics of the Afghan war was a virtual Ghilzai affair. Khalq's Ghilzai leaders, Hafizullah Amin and Muhammad Taraki, began the process with the 1978 coup. The Afghan military forces were dominated by Khalqi officers, many of whom were Ghilzai. Babrak Karmal (with Durrani connections) was replaced by Najibullah, one of the few Parchamis with Ghilzai roots. On the opposing side Hekmatyar, Sayyaf, and Nabi are Ghilzais; Khalis is from a neighboring eastern Pushtun tribe (the Khugiani); Gailani and Mujaddidi are from immigrant Sufi families whose religious and political links are largely with Ghilzais. Only Rabbani has no intimate connection with Ghilzais.

Except for Babrak Karmal, the great Durrani Pushtun confederation had little representation on either side in the conflict. Gailani's party has stood in for the royal family, partially because of the anomalous position of Zahir Shah.

The Ghilzai factor had major implications for the Kabul and the Peshawar sides. Both--for very different reasons--were committed to a break with an established tradition of Durrani rule. Some spoke of the Marxist usurpation and the war as Ghilzai revenge against Durrani dominance. Ethnic rivalry, perhaps more than Islamic ideology, was responsible for the refusal of the Peshawar parties to accept Zahir Shah into mujahidin politics.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress