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    Pakistan and Afghanistan

    Read this article yesterday: http://online.wsj.com/news/article_e...MDIwODEyNDgyWj

    And it highlights something I've always been curious about, political/tribal allegiances and movements across the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Sein, perhaps you can shed some light? Have the Pakhtun and Pashtun historically been politically divided?

    Does Fazlullah (Yusufzai from Swat) have any local support in Nuristan/Kunar where he's allegedly been holed up? How do the Afghans view him? On political/religious lines alone I bet the Afghan Taliban aren't thrilled, especially since it seems there is some American/Afghan intelligence support for him.

    Is the split between the original Afghan Taliban group and the Pakistani Taliban group as related to ethnic divisions as it seems on a superficial glance? It seems the Afghan Taliban mostly draw their support from Pashtun from the south (also perhaps related to their leadership being in Quetta) while the TTP from the tribes in northwestern Pakistan.

    In any case, this is good news for Pakistan overall. But it's still a very weird situation with Pakistan and Afghanistan/America harboring each other's Taliban groups' leadership. I think this is the first time one of those insane Al-Qaeda franchises (the TTP might be considered the first) has direct state support and that state is ironically the United States no less! I'm pretty surprised that this is getting such little play in Western press but at least the WSJ covered it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr_McNinja View Post
    Read this article yesterday: http://online.wsj.com/news/article_e...MDIwODEyNDgyWj

    And it highlights something I've always been curious about, political/tribal allegiances and movements across the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Sein, perhaps you can shed some light? Have the Pakhtun and Pashtun historically been politically divided?
    Etymologically they are the same.
    In the east (Prakrit) kh sound in used more often, which becomes sh in Sanskrit and in Avestan.

    Other examples:
    (Field) khet - (k)shetra
    (Student) sikh - sishya
    (Mountain people) khakh - khasha
    (Caste) khatri - (k)shatriya
    (Learned) rikh - rishi
    (Fly) makkhi - makshika

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr_McNinja View Post
    Read this article yesterday: http://online.wsj.com/news/article_e...MDIwODEyNDgyWj

    And it highlights something I've always been curious about, political/tribal allegiances and movements across the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Sein, perhaps you can shed some light? Have the Pakhtun and Pashtun historically been politically divided?

    Does Fazlullah (Yusufzai from Swat) have any local support in Nuristan/Kunar where he's allegedly been holed up? How do the Afghans view him? On political/religious lines alone I bet the Afghan Taliban aren't thrilled, especially since it seems there is some American/Afghan intelligence support for him.

    Is the split between the original Afghan Taliban group and the Pakistani Taliban group as related to ethnic divisions as it seems on a superficial glance? It seems the Afghan Taliban mostly draw their support from Pashtun from the south (also perhaps related to their leadership being in Quetta) while the TTP from the tribes in northwestern Pakistan.

    In any case, this is good news for Pakistan overall. But it's still a very weird situation with Pakistan and Afghanistan/America harboring each other's Taliban groups' leadership. I think this is the first time one of those insane Al-Qaeda franchises (the TTP might be considered the first) has direct state support and that state is ironically the United States no less! I'm pretty surprised that this is getting such little play in Western press but at least the WSJ covered it.
    These are very interesting questions. Politically speaking, unity has never been much of a cultural strong suit among Pashtun people, simply due to the fact that division and bifurcation are inherent social processes in the Pashtun weltanschauung.

    But before trying to answer these questions, I would like to explain that the difference between Pashtun and Pakhtun is rather forced (even awkward). In fact, I would argue that the "difference" isn't even real. Most Afghan Pashtuns are actually Afghan Pakhtuns. In Afghanistan, the core Pashtun region consists of Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Logar, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Zabul, and Kandahar. Pashtuns are to be found in other provinces, often constituting a considerable % of the population, but other provinces are outside Kabulistan (the old name for the Pashtun region stretching from the Helmand river to the Indus river, including old Pashtun areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan). Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Logar, Khost, and Paktia are home to Pakhtuns, not to Pashtuns. Paktika is 50% Pakhtun, 50% Pashtun. Zabul is approximately 20% Pakhtun, 80% Pashtun. Only Kandahar is 100% Pashtun. Basically, numerically speaking, the majority of Afghan Pashtuns are Pakhtuns. Pakistan is more difficult to breakdown, because Pashtuns have only one province. Regardless, a breakdown by district is possible. Karak is Pashtun, not Pakhtun. Bannu is Pashtun, not Pakhtun. Lakki Marwat is Pashtun, not Pakhtun. Tank is Pashtun, not Pakhtun. Finally, Dera Ismail Khan is Pashtun, not Pakhtun. Looking at FATA, North Waziristan and South Waziristan are Pashtun, not Pakhtun. The Pakistani Pashtuns of northern Balochistan are also Pashtuns, not Pakhtuns. If I were to roughly estimate the proportion of Pashtuns and Pakhtuns among Pakistani Pashtuns, I'd say that 40% of Pakistani Pashtuns are Pashtuns, while 60% are Pakhtuns. The same goes for Afghanistan. As is quite obvious, the difference isn't mapping onto anything important. It really boils down to an exceedingly minor phonological variation, which isn't distributed across the Durand Line, but across an irregular cut of territory roughly south of Kohat in Pakistan, and across an irregular cut of territory roughly south of middle Paktika in Afghanistan. The TTP and Afghan Taliban were both driven by Pashtuns, rather than Pakhtuns. The Afghan Taliban's leadership is mostly Kandahari Ghilzai. The TTP was, until this May, a Mehsud and Wazir driven organization. The Mehsud and Wazir are also Pashtuns, not Pakhtuns. If Fazlullah is holed up in Kunar/Nuristan, he is among Pakhtuns, not Pashtuns. The whole point of this is that the question of whether the Pakhtun and Pashtun have been politically divided doesn't really mean anything. This is evident from my use of Pashtun and Pakhtun in the same sentence to describe the same people. Among Pashtuns/Pakhtuns, actual socio-cultural differences involve confederacies, like the Karlanri, Batanri, Gharghast, and Sarbanri. The Durand Line is the first time in history that Pashtuns have been divided on an east-west axis. The Durand Line's position has nothing to do with inter-Pashtun cultural differences. Rather, it is wholly due to the fact that the British wanted a robust buffer zone against Czarist Russia, the fact that a border at the Indus wasn't tenable, the fact that they couldn't annex all of Afghanistan, and the fact that the presence of large, uncontrolled, volatile, predatory tribes near the Punjab made them exceedingly nervous.

    The split between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban really boils down to their aims and histories. The Afghan Taliban has actually received logistical support from the Pakistani Taliban (especially in Paktika), and the Afghan Taliban intervened when the TTP was splintering over the question of whether Hakimullah Mahsud or Wali-ur-Rehman would lead the organization. But the Afghan Taliban wholly concerns itself with fighting NATO, as well as Afghan security forces. Yet, as a matter of principle, they refuse to target Pakistan, under any circumstances. In fact, they have a very "warm" and positive attitude towards the Pakistani state. By contrast, the Pakistani Taliban explicitly aims to overthrow the Pakistani state, and to establish their warped interpretation of Sharia in it's place across all of Pakistan (which is quite funny, because the Pakistani Taliban has as much a chance of controlling Lahore or Karachi as any random individual armed with a pencil. The group can't survive outside of FATA).

    But the TTP has finally broken down due to tribal differences. Until now, the Pakistani Taliban has wholly been in the hands of Mahsud tribesmen. But with a Yusufzai leading things, the most important faction of the organization has splintered away. There is a world of difference between a Yusufzai and a Wazir/Mahsud, and it was always unlikely that the Mahsud would take a Yusufzai leader seriously. Of course, that's not the reason they've provided for walking out on the TTP, but that's the truth of what's going on. There are reports that the militants have been fighting each other for months now. The death of Hakimullah Mahsud was decisive in this respect. All of this is great for peace in Pakistan, since the group will be considerable weaker from now on. I think it is best that they turn their guns at each other, rather than on innocent Pakistani civilians. In fact, it seems scores of militants have died in the infighting.
    Last edited by Sein; 05-31-2014 at 02:09 AM.

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    That was an awesome and informative post, thanks!

    More good news for Pakistan today, Altaf Hussein arrested in London.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr_McNinja View Post
    That was an awesome and informative post, thanks!

    More good news for Pakistan today, Altaf Hussein arrested in London.
    Thank you!

    I must say, it's great that he'll finally face justice. Although, I'm worried about how this will impact turbulence/volatility in Karachi.

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    There is a world of difference between a Yusufzai and a Wazir/Mahsud, and it was always unlikely that the Mahsud would take a Yusufzai leader seriously.
    Could you expand more on this? What are the major cultural differences at play here?
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    So much for good news for Pakistan. Though I suppose this siege of Karachi's airport can finally lead to a military action to clear remnants of TTP. My family lives near the airport and could see the smoke and hear the firing.

    The Rangers initially said the attackers were using Indian arms/munitions, whatever that means, and now it's being reported that the dead fighters "looked Uzbek".

    06:34: An army spokesman (ISPR) said the dead attackers looked Uzbeks in appearance, but would be DNA-tested for verification.
    Do you think this is the remaining faction of TTP which still uses foreign fighters? Most people I know figured they were attacking the cargo headed for Afghanistan which lands at the airport but the ensuing chaos still makes it look like an all or nothing war against Pakistan and its population. There are people clamoring for military action in Waziristan on Pakistani social media now.
    Last edited by Dr_McNinja; 06-09-2014 at 09:33 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr_McNinja View Post
    Could you expand more on this? What are the major cultural differences at play here?
    I'm truly sorry for taking so long to discuss this, this question just came to my attention.

    The Yusufzai and the Wazir/Mahsud represent, in a rather stark manner, the extreme poles of Pashtun socio-political structure. Although all Pashtun tribes are very democratic/anarchic in comparison to most socio-cultural groups of comparable size+complexity, one may, for the purposes of sociological analysis/description, divide Pashtun tribes into two broad categories. One category would encompass the Wazir/Mahsud, Afridi, Mohmand, Bangash, and similar Pashtun tribes which occupy isolated/inaccessible eyries (not to mention the vast highlands stretching across the Durand Line). The Wazir/Mahsud are almost the "archtype" for these sorts of Pashtun tribes. These tribes have always (as a matter of principal) lived in a state of complete socio-political anarchy (for as long as they can remember). There is simply no robust political leadership, and no real differentiation between socio-economic classes. In fact, their cultural identity as Pashtuns is fundamentally contingent on this independence/freedom from both external authority and internal hierarchy. There is a saying in Pashto to describe such tribes, "har saray Khan day", "every man is a Khan". The great Akbar S. Ahmed coined a special term for such groups in his sociological/anthropological analyses of Pashtun tribes, "nang" tribes (nang being the Pashto term for honor). If we were to generalize/summarize, all nang tribes share specific cultural/historical/geographical characteristics. Namely, egalitarianism, a lack of political leadership, a lack of political unity, a lack of socio-economic classes, a strong emphasis on "traditional" Pashtun values like hospitality/generosity/honesty/vengeance, a tendency towards inter-tribal warfare, a history of resistance towards external political control, a history of being free from taxation, a history of being free from military conscription, residence in inaccessible highland areas, and residence in agriculturally unproductive regions+a strong pastoral component. Most scholars think these tribes have preserved the "ancestral" Pashtun social structure.

    But there are Pashtun tribes with very different social systems, tribes that invest far more political authority in select families/lineages or select individuals. Examples would be the Yusufzai (the "archetype" for these sorts of Pashtun tribes), the Pashtuns of Bajaur, the Khalil, the Khattak, the Marwat, and the Kakar. But the largest, and most important, hierarchically organized Pashtun tribe would be the Abdali/Durrani of southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistani Balochistan. Ahmed called these Pashtun tribes "qalang" (the Pashto term for rent, in reference to how these tribes have traditionally extracted rent from non-Pashtun hamsayah groups). These tribes also share specific cultural/historical/geographical characteristics. Namely, a reasonably well defined political leadership, fairly robust political unity, an openness towards Persianate or Indian culture, the presence of relative peace and security in their regions, a history of being well-integrated into various Iranian or Indian empires/states on a fairly recent timescale, a history of paying taxes to whomever has had control over their regions, a history of military service for neighboring Iranian or Indian empires/states, residence in easily accessible valleys or plains, and residence in agriculturally productive/rich regions+a minor pastoral component (the Khattak are an exception to living in an agriculturally rich region, as the land of the Khattak is depressingly bare and burnt). Although the Abdali/Durrani are the most important/largest Pashtun tribe of this nature, they are aberrant in some respects. They don't neatly fit into the qalang categorization. As I mentioned earlier, it is really the Yusufzai that epitomize this category. In fact, they provide the concrete foundation/justification for this theoretical category! The Yusufzai have been described as Pashtun "blue aristocrats", and unlike most Pashtuns (who aren't very good at forging robust political arrangements, or maintaining tribal unity), the Yusufzai have always had fairly stable mechanisms of internal tribal hierarchy, and a cooperative attitude towards whomever happens to control the plains of neighboring Punjab. The last bit is in great contrast to the Wazir/Mahsud, who have always maintained aggressive/antagonistic relations with whomever happens to control the plains of neighboring Punjab. Also, the Wazir/Mahsud, like the Afridi, can recall a fairly recent history of raiding and robbing in the lowlands, and a recent history of attacking the frontier cities adjacent to the Indus. The Yusufzai have never raided in the Punjab, and they most certainly have never attacked Peshawar, at any point in their recent history. To be frank, the notion of being a highland people who rob the plains and act as highwaymen, just doesn't play any part in the tribal ethos of the Yusufzai. They are a people who have always inhabited rich/agriculturally productive valleys, and have never felt a need to pillage the lowlands.

    These are the deeper cultural divergences, but there are other more minor differences which non-Pashtun scholars don't emphasize as much as they should. Pashtuns tend to see each other as close relatives, a huge extended family of sorts, despite the differences in local traditions/customs, food, clothing, external cultural influences (Persianate or Indian), and even physical appearance/facial features. But Pashtuns tend to gauge relatedness within the larger Pashtun family via dialectal differences. How one speaks Pashto is very important to Pashtun identity, and to how Pashtuns construe intra-Pashtun cultural differences. The Yusufzai speak hard Pukhto. Their dialect of Pashto is basically the "gold standard" when it comes to northeastern dialects of Pashto. In fact, many Pakistani Pashtuns use the Yusufzai dialect when talking to other Pashtuns (whether Afghan or Pakistani), even if neither they nor their Pashtun interlocutor use the Yusufzai dialect at home. This is due to the fact that whatever one's original dialect, one can be confident that other Pashtuns from Afghanistan and Pakistan won't have any trouble understanding the Yusufzai variant of the language, while they might have trouble understanding the dialect you use at home. Yusufzai Pashto is often described as "clear", or "unambiguous" Pashto. Now, as a speaker of Pashto, "clear" and "unambiguous" are not the first words that come to mind when thinking of Wazir/Mahsud Pashto! They speak soft Pashto. But it isn't the sweet, gentle Pashto of Kandahar and Quetta. Rather, it's an exceedingly rustic, wild, somewhat guttural/harsh, and very difficult variant of Pashto with a lot of archaic linguistic features retained, and quite a few recent linguistic innovations born of isolation. It is very hard to fully understand what they are saying the first time one encounters their dialect, it really takes a few conversations to get a feel for things. In terms of linguistic affinity, their dialect resembles the Pukhto spoken in Khost, with every kh converted into a sh. As an example of the affinity between Khostwal and Wazir/Mahsud Pukhto/Pashto, the term for we/us. In Kandahar/Quetta, they say muzh. In Nangarhar/Peshawar, they say mung. But the Wazir/Mahsud say mizh, and the Khostwal say ming.

    For what it's worth, Wazir/Mahsud and Yusufzai have encountered each other in various contexts, and their assessments of each other have often been harsh. I was reading an account of this the other day, and it stated that many Yusufzai who encountered Wazir/Mahsud thought they were "crude, brutal, even boorish". It is also written that many Yusufzai individuals would ask, in a very uncomfortable tone, "are these Pashtuns?", which is quite unprecedented. Pashtuns rarely (if ever) question each other's ethnic identity as Pashtuns, no matter how great the cultural differences may be. The fact that such doubt was even expressed is a clear indication of profound cultural shock, and a feeling of intense foreignness. The Wazir/Mahsud had an equally distasteful reaction towards Yusufzai visitors. It is written that many couldn't believe that these visitors were Pashtun. Many Wazir/Mahsud described the Yusufzai as weak, "soft", "effeminate", and scarcely Pashtun in any substantive sense.
    Last edited by Sein; 06-16-2014 at 04:51 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr_McNinja View Post
    So much for good news for Pakistan. Though I suppose this siege of Karachi's airport can finally lead to a military action to clear remnants of TTP. My family lives near the airport and could see the smoke and hear the firing.

    The Rangers initially said the attackers were using Indian arms/munitions, whatever that means, and now it's being reported that the dead fighters "looked Uzbek".



    Do you think this is the remaining faction of TTP which still uses foreign fighters? Most people I know figured they were attacking the cargo headed for Afghanistan which lands at the airport but the ensuing chaos still makes it look like an all or nothing war against Pakistan and its population. There are people clamoring for military action in Waziristan on Pakistani social media now.
    I think Fazlullah's faction of the TTP does rely heavily on foreign fighters.

    Unfortunately, I think this faction of the TTP does think of itself as being in an almost "apocalyptic" war against Pakistan.

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