Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Afghanistan: The Management Challenge of Ethnic Diversity

Ethnic diversity is one of the main characteristics of the Afghan society. It is both the strength and weakness of our society. And it depends on the government management approach how to define and use it. Unfortunately, the creation of a sense of national unity among the diverse people of Afghanistan has long been a challenging issue to its rulers. Afghanistan is a tribal society, consisting of about 20 ethnic groups having different backgrounds and cultures. And what tie up all these ethnic groups is their observance of Islamic law and martial tradition. Some scholars hold that there is a third common element among them: A distrust of government.
In Afghanistan, issues of identity, economic and social marginalization of ethnic minorities and discriminatory practices in the past have fueled conflicts between ethnic groups and government since the time the country has been created.
In the context of history, this trend has witnessed a paradoxical approach; during the reign of Abdul Rahman Khan, Afghanistan witnessed the worst ethnicity marginalizing policy, while during the reign of Amanullah Khan it witnessed one of the most liberal and democratic approach in term of government measures to ensure ethnic diversity in the country.
Since the formation of the New Afghan Administration based on the Bon Agreement, the Afghan government has made bold decisions including the approval of the new constitution, formation of democratic institution, conducting presidential, national assembly and provincial council’s elections. These initiatives are the means to ensure public participation in decision making and realizing the ethnic equal inclusion in the broad national and international decision making processes affecting the Afghan citizens in terms of policy making. However, the origins of conflicts and their drivers have remained more or less the same in practice and they require to be addressed in a more comprehensive manner considering the complex ethnic politics in Afghanistan.
The ethnic conflict management initiatives including the national reconciliation process supported by international, regional and internal actors to put an end to the internal conflicts and secure sustainable peace in the country have not achieved much. According to the experts, the conflict resolution efforts have failed because they have mainly focused on conflict control rather that conflict elimination. Unfortunately, research findings show managing the Afghanistan conflict has been scattered and weak.
To address the ethnicity diversity and managing it in a sound manner to ensure the national interests of Afghanistan, it is crucial to devise methods, strategies and mechanisms not to falter in these pursuits.
In managing ethnic conflicts, according to Mansfeild and et all, an increasing number of studies conclude that political institutions of fairness and participation are crucial for mitigating conflict situations. Institutions are generally explained as formal and informal behavioral rules for social integration. As puts them, institutions are the rules governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human collectivity.
The first step to broad based conflict management, is accepting ethnicity not to be blocked from politics consociation. Blocking or denying members of an ethnic group to articulate their interests leads to marginalization. According to the history of Afghanistan and many other countries, this is not the solution to the problem, but a strong force to ignite ethnic tensions. Because, this approach will make the other ethnic groups to resort to violent and other extra-legal forms of articulation. To avoid such responses, the Afghan government shall focus on guarantying fair and adequate representation of ethnic groups in the government and ensure they can enjoy their legitimate power according to the constitution.  Further, recognizing that repression of identity often leads to violent conflict, particularly in tension between minorities and majorities, domestic institutions must be backed by strong minority right regime, including effective discrimination free laws-citizenship, language, religion, educational policies, and effective and efficient mechanisms.
Ethnic conflict management is one of the vital issues that require to be addressed in a comprehensive manner by the Afghan government. It is  both a strength and weakness point in the context of conflicts in Afghanistan. The past ethnic conflicts in Afghanistan show that the Afghan governments have not addressed this issued in many cases based on a political consensus and as a result it has fueled a resilient cycle of conflicts in the country. Therefore, the Afghan government shall manage this issue through effective anti-discrimination mechanisms to create a fair condition for political participation of  all citizens of Afghanistan in a manner that the rights of all ethnic groups of the country is ensured according to the constitution.