Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, June 17th, 2019

Ethnic Politics: The Cause of Ethnic Violence

In Afghan Politics, ethnicity is a salient cleavage within the political spheres of the nation. In our politics, where ethnic parties dominate, this is the case. Despite the differences in the salience of ethnicity, our country has had multiethnic coalitions following post 9/11 attack of the United States for elections and before it for fighting with the Taliban or other ethnic groups in the country. Our country has had different levels of successes and failures with multiethnic coalitions in the past.
Ethnicity is a highly salient cleavage in Afghanistan. Political leadership is based on ethnic identity, and those who become political leaders are expected to serve their ethnic communities, which results in zero sum game for those who are involved. There is no agreement about the percentage of the ethnic groups, especially the four main ethnic groups namely Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbics in the country. However, based on some assessments Pashtuns make up around 40% , Tajiks make up around 39%, Hazaras account for about 15% of the population , and The Uzbek and Turkmen minorities in Afghanistan make up about 10% of the population of Afghanistan.
The formation of multi ethnic coalition sometimes has resulted to success such as 2004 Presidential election that Hamid Karzai won the election and most often has failed in Afghanistan as different ethic coalitions were formed during 90s.
Despite the success of forming a coalition government (NUG) in 2014, the success of the multiethnic coalition was short-lived. Different partners began to promote hysteria and allowed their supporters to issue warnings of the dangers of ethnic conflicts in the country. This had very negative impacts on the public perception in the country and weakened the public trust in the government. This situation finally led to the formation the Afghanistan Grand National Coalition of those opposed to the president Ashraf Ghani and his team. Sadly, the language of the ethnic groups’ leaders against the president is similar to the 90s, a period that Afghanistan witnessed its harshest civil conflict.
This zero sum mentality matches with the violence that erupted following Najib was ousted from power in 90s. Both sides erupted in ethnic violence against each other. And the main cause of zero sum mentality is favoring one ethnic group over others, that results in great animosity from other ethnic groups. In such case, members of other ethnic groups feel that their ethic group is economically, politically and socially disadvantaged, both before and after the violence.
According to studies, the mechanism at play in Afghanistan is zero sum ethnic politics and institutionalized violence.  Presence of politicized ethic parties has led to ethnic outbidding in Afghanistan. This ethnic outbidding looks to be largely responsible for the ethnic violence. It also seems that institutionalized violence relates to the presence of political ethnicity in Afghanistan.
In a nutshell, political ethnicity can be used to institutionalize violence, as was the case in 90s in Afghanistan. Afghanistan government shall be very cautious of consequences of political ethnicity and shall conduct researches into the relationship between politicized ethnicity and the institutionalization of violence, which could help multiethnic communities and policy makers in their management of multiethnic issues. Also, further research requires to be conducted into the relationship between a lack of politicized ethnicity and a lack of institutionalized violence to determine whether this is a pattern or not. Social scholars hold that ethnicity is not salient because it is non-issue, politically. The research findings show that ethnicity may be salient to one’s personal identity, but it is not salient in the public realm likely because it has not been politicized. It is necessary to conduct research whether or not ethnicity does matter in one’s personal life in Afghanistan, and if it does, how people are able to keep it separate from political issues. Let us not be burden by the weight of past, but let us not forget its lessons. The last four decades have given us considerable experience in confronting and coping with inter-ethnic issues. Based on these lessons, Afghan leaders must seek to build a country open to diversity, rooted in a strong foundation of democratic governance and respect for human rights, and co-operative in its neighbored relations.