US policy towards Pushtuns

This is a very thought-provoking column by Khalid Aziz:

Many Pushtun intellectuals believe, wrongly, I think, that the Pushtun has been a peaceful rustic who has been transformed into a fighting machine by the Afghan jihad. They fail to understand the basic cultural and religious drivers within Pushtun society. The US has no problems with the Tajik or Uzbek or other ethnic groups inside Afghanistan. However, with the Pushtuns the US faces a unique cultural difficulty. The problem is that the Pushtun is prone to religious extremism and readily accepts membership into millenarian movements to resist reform of a centralising state which externalises Pushtun governance and politics; he cannot live with the transfer of his management to a larger entity like a modernising state. This is because he fears that his social conduct, “Pushtunwali,” will be endangered and he will lose his identity. For a Pushtun, whether he is supporting Mulla Umar in Afghanistan, Fazalullah in Swat, Maulvi Faqir in Bajaur or Baithullah in Waziristan – he is fighting a war to preserve his identity.


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