Avtar Singh Khalsa: Lion of Afghanistan

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, holds a meeting in his office, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

The Lion of Afghanistan, Avtar Singh Khalsa, serves as a representative in the Afghan Parliament. This Afghan hero fought for ten years in the ANA (Afghan National Army) and is reaching out with love and heart to the Taliban to negotiate peace; but willing to fight if Taliban refuses: “I sacrifice myself for those of my brothers who have been through all kinds of pain and suffering,” he said. “I don’t care if I lose my whole family and I get killed for this cause. I will struggle until I get their rights.”

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, studies with his grandchildren at home, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, prays, inside a colorfully decorated gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

In this May 30, 2018, photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, gives an interview to the Associated Press, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, stands in front of a display of photographs at home, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

“The 52-year-old father of four, originally from the eastern Paktia province, has lived most of his life in Kabul . . . “I don’t only want to serve my Sikh and Hindu brothers. I have to be able to serve all the Afghan people, no matter which ethnicity or group they belong to. Our services must reach everyone,””

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, leaves a gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, after praying, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

Please visit Avtar Singh Khalsa’s Gurudwara in Kabul on your next visit!

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, prays, inside a colorfully decorated gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

One of the obstacles to peace is Taliban fears of Kabul’s perceived licentious LBGTQ free wheeling night life:

Here in Herat, a prosperous western province, government officials traveled to a rural Taliban compound Sunday morning, where they made impassioned pleas for peace, repeatedly calling the insurgents fellow Afghans and Muslims.

More than 100 local Taliban members met the arriving officials with hugs and smiles. One provincial security official later described encountering an insurgent there who had threatened to kill him barely a week before, but who greeted him warmly at the meeting. Yet many of the insurgents carried assault rifles and rocket launchers, and some had their faces covered with scarves.

After the officials made their appeal inside a mosque, the insurgents responded coolly. The local Taliban leader, Ghulam Sakhi, murmured a few words about obeying the orders of the group’s national leader, then brought his teenage son to the floor. The boy stood and strongly denounced the Ghani government as un-Islamic, while the gathered fighters raised cheers of “God is great.”

“This is not an Islamic government,” declared the boy, identified as Omid.

“Islam says that the hand of a thief should be cut off, that people who have illegal sex should be lashed, but this is not done. There are commanders who drink alcohol. President Ghani has brought an apostate to Afghanistan,” he said, referring to Ghani’s Christian wife, Rula. “We all want to see peace, but we want our government to be Islamic.”

As the meeting dispersed, one Taliban member left the mosque on a motorbike, his face hidden behind a scarf and an assault rifle cradled in his arm. “Until the day a bullet hits me in the forehead, I will fight for Islam,” he said.

This said I am more hopeful about a peace agreement now than any time since 2001. While the above quoted teenage Herat Taliban boy is very conservative in his interpretation of the holy Koran, Hadith and Sura; my sense is that teenage Taliban are starting to become more broadminded in how they interpret Islamic scripture and Sharia, which opens the possibility of peace.

 

PS.

Avtar Singh Khalsa is no more. May we never forget this brave hero of Afghanistan and the world. May his love, blessings, teachings, inspiration live forever. In us, our children, their children, their children’s children, their children’s children’s children in an infinite beauteous tapestry until this multiverse transforms anew. Heroes never die. Heroes are the best part of us when all thoughts fade. Heroes are the true lovers.  Heroes love all and hate none. Heroes are what Russell Brand calls the grace that comes when  cosmology, fleeting morality, chaos, vastness and patterns (female, male, love, beauty) are in melody and harmony. What Jordan Peterson calls the pattern that is composed of all other patterns. Heroes are the bliss of the seven Jannah, the interior castle through the narrow gate Isha (Jesus) spoke of (Mathew 7:13-14) so long ago:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

We will remember Avtar Singh Khalsa in the light beyond light, music beyond music, art beyond art, sound beyond sound, breath beyond breath, silence beyond silence and love beyond love. Now and forever more.

All are welcome to share their thoughts on Avtar Singh Khalsa in the comment section below.

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Author: AnAn

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65 thoughts on “Avtar Singh Khalsa: Lion of Afghanistan”

  1. Attacks on Rula Ghani (or “Bibi Gul” as she is called in Afghanistan) because of her religion are not on. However, it does seem obvious that as someone who wants to rule a Muslim country, President Ghani would have found his wife’s background a bit of a liability. Half the people already don’t like him because they are supporters of Abdullah Abdullah. I believe they need to hold a new election and are delaying doing so for some reason having to do with internal Afghan politics.

    Total disclosure: We were Mr. and Mrs. Ghani’s neighbors when we lived in Bethesda, Maryland and (now) President Ghani worked for the World Bank and taught Anthropology. Obviously, since he’s gone on to rule Afghanistan, we’ve lost touch.

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    1. Mr. Ghani is a genuine friend and well wisher of Pakistan. Pakistan may never find a better Afghan leader with which to negotiate peace. Please encourage Pakistan to do whatever she can to help President Ghani and Afghanistan succeed. This will require the Pakistani Army to attack the Taliban inside Pakistan. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of brave Pakistani soldiers will likely be martyred. Doing what is right is hard. But doing what is right is what being a good country and being a good muslim people means. Doing right is the meaning of Pakistan. Pakistan needs to follow Pakistan’s own values and do right.

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      1. Let’s agree to disagree on what is best for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. As a Pakistani, I think I am in a better position to judge that than you. President Ghani continually says nasty things about Pakistan and is clearly on India’s side. He’s a nice guy and as I mentioned he was our neighbor in Bethesda. However, as President of Afghanistan he has certain political compulsions and has to take an anti-Pakistan line. The Afghan people are not a fan of the Pakistani people and the Pakistani people aren’t fans of them either. Pasthuns on both sides of the Durand Line obviously like each other, but since Pakistan is a Punjabi-majority country, that is neither here nor there. The Afghan refugees hanging around in Pakistan need to go and Pakistan is working with the UNHCR to get them to leave. Pakistan belongs to Pakistanis, not to outsiders.

        Pakistan cannot and never will allow India to encircle us on both sides using Afghanistan. This is why we supported the Taliban government as opposed to the Northern Alliance (not that that was a good strategy). But we need a government in Afghanistan which appreciates Pakistan’s interests and not those of Bharat. They are Sunni Muslim and we are Sunni Muslim. One would think they would find more common ground with us than with the Indians with whom they don’t even share a border. But ironically, they don’t.

        I don’t know why you think I am in a position to make Pakistan’s foreign policy. Foreign policy is made by GHQ and I have no power over GHQ. They will do what they perceive to be in the country’s interests.

        “Doing right is the meaning of Pakistan”–Where did you get this frankly bizarre idea? The only point of Pakistan was to free the Muslims of British India from Hindu domination. We’ve achieved that quite nicely, thanks very much.

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  2. There are many reasons for optimism in Afghanistan. One of them is collaboration between Uzbekistan, Putin and Trump to link all northern Afghan provinces to the global railway network:
    http://afghanistan.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_st/features/2018/06/14/feature-02
    To that end, Uzbekistan will contribute $500 million to building the Afghan railway, Minister of Finance Eklil Hakimi tweeted March 26.

    The funding came after Mirziyoyev met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the “Peace Process, Security Co-operation and Regional Connectivity” conference in Tashkent March 26-27.

    That said, $1.8 billion is needed to construct the railway to Herat, TOLOnews reported March 29, citing the Afghanistan Railway Authority (AFRA).

    The railway will bring Afghanistan $40 million per year and create 30,000 jobs, according to AFRA.

    “Uzbekistan Railways will be able to build this railway efficiently and quickly, if proper security exists in the area of construction,” Oibek Mamadaliyev, a spokesman for Uzbekistan Railways, told Caravansersai.

    “Uzbekistan is building more railways than any other country in the region,” he said.

    “Over the past few years, it has successfully executed the ambitious projects of a railway tunnel through Kamchik Pass — the longest one in Central Asia — and the connection of major tourist centres by high-speed Talgo trains,” said Mamadaliyev.

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    1. More power to them. But if they work against Pakistan’s interests, we will make sure they suffer the consequences. The national security interests of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan trump everything. We can at least make sure that there is no overland trade with India through Pakistani territory. The Afghans either play ball with us or we treat them like an enemy state. No country can play ball with Pakistan and with our arch enemy at the same time.

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      1. Lol, these pakistanis have grand delusions. Pakistan is such a horrible state that it trains its own poor and impoverished children to go for jihad in kashmir. Well, nobody takes them seriously. Their economy is failing, foreign reserves are too low, passport is second worst and talk like they r superpower already.

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        1. India is such a horrible state that Muslims are lynched for eating “beef” and Kashmiri Muslims are crushed under Indian Army vehicles.

          If you find what I have written distasteful, I would advise you to desist from bashing Pakistan. The more anti-Pakistan comments you make, the more anti-India comments I can make. Two can play at this game.

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          1. Pakistan is much much worse. Atleast indian muslims r not fleeing india unlike your minorities who flee to india or west. And its not just one community, hindus, sikhs, shias, ahmediyyas r killed just for practicing different faith. Our treatment of minorities is far from perfect but still eons times better than pak. I don’t care if u eat beef inside your own home and some of our states allow cow slaughter while pakistan actually has death penalty for blasphemy. In india, there r people from muslim minority who r big gangsters and leaders. In pak, 14 year old girls r kidnapped and married to already married 50 year old man after forcing her to convert and court and media says it is love marriage.

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          2. Pakistan has its problems but a country which elected the Butcher of Gujarat as Prime Minister has no room to talk. What you people do to Kashmiri Muslims is disgusting.

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  3. Of course, we have no room to talk. Still, we have not got jinnah, the bigot as father of the nation who called for direct action day and responsible for killing thousands of hindus and fought the case of a man who killed an innocent hindu man for publishing a book. A father of nation who made his much younger wife convert to islam but disowned his daughter when she dud for her own love. And jinnah is considered pak liberal. Well tge term liberal for any Pakistani nationalist is oxymoron.

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    1. The chief of most liberal party in pak’s history, benazir called for genocide of kashmiri hindus by ghazi(kashmiri muslims). She also said that we will cut Jagmohan in 6 pieces and showed how she would do it personally. We haven’t managed that much amount of liberalism in indian politics till now.

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      1. Where did Bibi Shaheed call for genocide? Please cite sources.

        In India, you had a pogrom against Sikhs after Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination. You had a pogrom against Muslims in 2002 under Modi. Your own record is not very good.

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        1. You can always google, can’t you? Its a fact. Khalistani militants killed thousands of hindus but they were militants, not innocent sikhs which were killed by congress goons and criminals with the help of rss. Still, pak would have exterminated sikhs if they would have dared to kill sunni muslims. After one babri, thousands of temples and gurudwaras were destroyed in pak. Our record is not good at all but we have a thriving minority which is not fleeing to pak or west for asylum unlike minorities of your country.

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          1. Many bramhins were killed when gandhi was assasinated, does that make bramhins a poor persecuted minority?

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          2. You are fast turning into a Hindu version of Pakistan. If that’s what you want, go for it, but then don’t claim the moral high ground.

            Before you accuse Bibi Shaheed of things, you must cite your sources. That is what I demand from my undergrads.

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    2. Jinnah was the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” for decades. Perhaps you should think about what changed his mind.

      As for “liberal”, there is the August 11th speech. Anyway, he died within a year of Pakistan’s creation. We are living in General Zia’s Pakistan not Jinnah’s Pakistan. But that is our internal problem.

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      1. 😂😂😂Modi also calls for hindu muslim unity after becoming pm and has eulogised prophet Mohammad many times despite getting abuse from hindu nationalists, doesn’t mean he has turned liberal.

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        1. Let’s not even discuss Lord Voldemort. I can’t do this today.

          I agree with you that neither India nor Pakistan understand what liberalism is (if that is the point you are making). India was something Pakistan could aspire towards but under Lord Voldmort it is becoming a mirror image of the Islamic Republic.

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          1. India is probably one of the most classically liberal (European Enlightenment liberal) countries in the world. Most but not all European countries and Canada have become less liberal in recent decades and more post modernist.

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          2. India is “classically liberal”. LOL. Muslims are being lynched and there is a full on Occupation in Held Kashmir. What are you talking about?

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          3. Socialism is written into India’s constitution. What the hell do you mean by classical liberal?

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          4. Thanks Mir for reminding is that India is a “secular socialist” republic. Anan has some unique definitions of words that only he–and not rational people–understand.

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  4. Standards are always relative. When your country crawls with jihadist suicide bombers, a Kabir is certainly a liberal. A Hindu who holds exactly same mirror-views like Kabir(in India) would be considered a rss extremist.

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    1. You don’t know me so I would appreciate you don’t decide what my political views are. I can’t vote in Pakistan as I am a foreign citizen.

      For what it’s worth, I’m a centrist and if I could vote, I would vote for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

      In the US, I always vote for the Democratic Party.

      Many Hindu Indians voted BJP and claimed it was for “vikas”. Not all of them are RSS extremists.

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    2. Secular Indian, I thought the RSS don’t put up with vitriol against the prophet pbuh and holy Koran? The RSS is allied with Sufis and Shia and are Dara Shikoh shippers. The RSS are also supportive of Indian friendship with Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia . . . or what they consider good muslims. Many RSS have a much more favorable view of Jinnah than Congress or the late PM Nehru did.

      PM Modi probably won the support of about 40% of the muslim vote in Gujarat in the last election. PM. Modi might yet become the greatest PM in Indian history. PM Modi is friends or has reached out to many Indian muslim leaders, albeit these are more likely to be Sufi, Shia, or liberal Sunnis. But then again, collectively these may represent over 40% of Indian muslims.

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    3. By RSS extremists you mean people who end up being made Chief Minister like Yogi Adityanath?

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      1. Exactly, when they make someone like the Yogi CM, they have no business claiming to be a “liberal” “secular” country. He is a total fascist.

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    1. I can ask about this report.

      I would note that many of the listed objections to peace negotiations by factions in the Taliban (Taliban have many factions) relate to interpretation of the Holy Koran, Hadiths, Sura, Shariah, gender/LBGTQ issues, marriage/divorce, alcohol/drugs, freedom or art/thought, democracy. In practice the Afghan Government quietly isn’t executing a lot of atheist/ex muslims for apostasy . . . another difference in perspective. Another problem is that the Taliban believe that they won’t do well in national Afghan free elections. These are difficult challenges to solve since the majority of Afghans have a different perspective on these issues than the Taliban.

      Kabir, what would you say to the Taliban about these issues? What would everyone else say about these issues? Assume that you are speaking to leaders and influencers of the Quetta Shura Taliban council.

      The foreign troop issue is much easier to solve. The foreign ANSF combat enablers (trainers, advisors, maintenance/supply/transport, ISR) and can be reflagged as diplomats with diplomatic visas. The UNSC can unanimously end the UN mission in Afghanistan as part of a deal with the Taliban. Taliban soldiers can join the formal ANSF.

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      1. It’s not my job to say anything to the Taliban. I am a performing artist not a diplomat or a politician. I don’t represent the government of Pakistan.

        I do believe that the Taliban have a significant constituency. There are lot of people who want more Islamic rule. In the end this is an intra-Afghan issue and they will have to solve it. As long as they don’t mess with Pakistan, I don’t really care what they do in their own country. But for the war to end, these people must be given some sort of a stake in power.

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        1. The GIRoA position since 2001 is that the Taliban can contest free and fair elections. The Taliban want more power and influence than their share of the Afghan electorate would give them. This is the crux of the problem.

          Would a deal that gave Taliban voters twice as much influence as non Taliban voters work? In other words if the Taliban won 10% of the popular vote they would get 20%/110% of electoral vote?

          The Taliban have until now not been enthusiastic about an approach like this in the past. Hope they are more open to it in the future.

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    1. No Pakistani politician has ever conducted a pogrom against minorities. Lord Voldemort did when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

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      1. Because pak has not got minorities. Even when riots take place, casualties r on both sides except in 1984 which i consider genocide of sikhs. In india, minorities have bombed majority’s religious temples and shrines and killed many people. So, there is no parallel in minority of india and pak as minority in india hold much more power. Indian minority is not scared like pak’s and is not being persecuted. Even Gujarat riots started because 59 hindu pilgrims were burnt alive. Still riots caused deaths of both hindus and muslims(though much more muslims were killed). In revenge, muslims formed simi and caused bomb blasts throughout India. Do hindus, Christians, sikhs, shias form militant groups in pak? They r actually scared in pak. In aftermath of 1992,there were riots in pak and many hindus were killed and their temples destroyed. And pls dont ask me for source again, use google.

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        1. “Pak has not got minorities” What a stupid statement. Most Pakistani Hindus live in Sindh.

          “Based on the 1998 Census as well as stabilization of Pakistan’s Hindu population since then, Pakistan would, today, have roughly 3 million Hindus. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, there are 1.49 million Hindu voters in the country. They are mostly concentrated in Sindh where their number comes to over 1.39 million.[20]

          As per the data from the Election Commission of Pakistan, as of 2018 there were a total of 1.77 million Hindu voters (1.40 million in 2013). Hindu voters were 49% of the total in Umerkot and 46% in Tharparkar[21][22].”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in_Pakistan

          Asides from Hindus, we have Christians and Sikhs.

          When you make a claim it is your responsibility to cite sources, not your interlocutors’. This is a basic fact.

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          1. You didn’t get my point, they r too small to matter and are scared forever and continue to flee to west or India.

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    1. Saurav, wouldn’t any such Sikhs keep their Pashtun ancestry secret? Otherwise might they not be labelled an apostate and possibly subject to capital punishment? Is this even a safe question to ask?

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    2. Saurav,

      No sir. But as already noted, Afghanistan and the tribal areas have long been home to Pashto-speaking Sikh communities.

      There are even Sikhs in the wild country of Tirah, a place where Muslim Pakistanis never dare to travel. Those Sikhs are a “protected minority”; Afridi and Orakzai elders act as their “nayikun”.

      Generally speaking, Pashtuns are almost completely Sunni Muslim, with the exception of Shia Turi, Bangash, and Orakzai. In their case, the distinction is a holdover from the Roshaniya movement.

      (And just to clarify: Pashto speaking Sikhs are old migrants to Afghanistan/KPK from the Greater Punjab. Obviously endogamous)

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      1. Some international advisors after 2001 were adopted by Pashtun tribes, which became their nayikum. However Karzai was furious about this and wanted these advisors pulled, which they were.

        Can the ANA, AAF, ANP and NDS as institutions become nayikum to their attached international trainers? This might not work since nayikum is a Pashtunwali concept related to tribes.
        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
        This is a response to Mir from another article thread:
        It is an overstatement or only partly accurate to say that Pashtun Afghans support the Taliban. In national polls over 80% strongly oppose the Taliban. About 10% strongly support the Taliban. However, many who strongly oppose the Taliban might admire and have good relations with specific factions inside the Taliban.

        The Taliban are very diverse and have conflicts within their movement. Some Pashtun tribes have relationships with specific Taliban factions. At the same time some Pashtun tribes contribute heavily to specific parts of the ANSF. Including the NDS, different parts of the ANP, ABP, ANCOP, different ANA Corps. My information about this is a bit dated and I would be curious to get an update on which tribes are associated with what specific parts of the ANSF. The NDS–at least until recently–were very particular about which Pashtun tribes they allowed into their ranks and which Pashtun tribes they were suspicious of. I would rather not name what tribes these were–especially since the NDS might have become more professional now.

        Commentator, hope there are many articles more articles on Afghanistan. Can we get in touch offline?

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        1. >It is an overstatement or only partly accurate to say that Pashtun Afghans support the Taliban. In national polls over 80% strongly oppose the Taliban. About 10% strongly support the Taliban. However, many who strongly oppose the Taliban might admire and have good relations with specific factions inside the Taliban.

          Yeah, Ghani also opposes the Taliban as long as they continue to fight him. When they agreed to a ceasefire, he was perfectly fine with Taliban fighters wandering around cities, chanting ‘Death to America’ with ANA troops. That’s not the point here though. You won’t see non-Pashtun leaders like Dostum or Atta Noor call Taliban their brother like Karzai would, because they have no affinity to them like Pashtuns do.

          >The Taliban are very diverse and have conflicts within their movement. Some Pashtun tribes have relationships with specific Taliban factions. At the same time some Pashtun tribes contribute heavily to specific parts of the ANSF. Including the NDS, different parts of the ANP, ABP, ANCOP, different ANA Corps. My information about this is a bit dated and I would be curious to get an update on which tribes are associated with what specific parts of the ANSF. The NDS–at least until recently–were very particular about which Pashtun tribes they allowed into their ranks and which Pashtun tribes they were suspicious of. I would rather not name what tribes these were–especially since the NDS might have become more professional now.

          I mean there obviously the situation on ground is more complex, but we’re talking about general trends here.

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          1. Mir if we are being honest, the Taliban fighters were chanting death to Pakistan more than they were chanting death to America. And the ANA soldiers got quite enthused when they heard death to Pakistan.

            Even Taliban fighters in Afghanistan widely believe that America is backing the Taliban through Pakistan. They say this openly. Within the ANA the meme that America (and the UN and international community as a whole) backs Taliban is conventional wisdom.

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          2. >Mir if we are being honest, the Taliban fighters were chanting death to Pakistan more than they were chanting death to America. And the ANA soldiers got quite enthused when they heard death to Pakistan.

            I mean when I talk about ‘Death to America’, I’m talking about the widely circulated clip which appeared on social media. Maybe I missed the Talibs doing the same for Pakistan, but I’m familiar with the fact that there are also anti-Pakistan Taliban fighters. Though once again, that’s besides the point.

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      2. Hi Commentator,
        Do you have any knowledge about the pre-Islamic history of the Pashtuns. They seem to appear out of nowhere in medieval history as Muslims during the Ghaznavid and Ghurid dynasties.

        The origins of Jats and Gujjars in India are shrouded in mystery as well and these groups adapted the dominant religion and culture of the areas they settled in. Very similar to Pashtuns I believe.

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        1. Do you mean pre Qais Abd ar-Rashīd Pashtun history? I am deeply interested in this too.

          Qais Abd ar-Rashīd is the 37th descendant of Jewish king Saul (who mentored a young King David and later transferred power to him).

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        2. Hi Janamejaya,

          You are absolutely correct; the topic of Pashtun origins and pre-Islamic history is essentially terra incognita. One scholar compared the study of Pashtun origins to finding the true source of the Amazon river.

          Funny enough, I think that Pashtuns are perhaps the only ethnic group to have been simultaneously heralded as “true Central Asian Aryans” by Germans during the dark days of National Socialism, and as “true Israelites” by many Israeli nationalists! It’s a dubious position to be in, but just goes to show the deep uncertainty, and lack of real knowledge.

          As AnAn noted, all Pashtuns (from Herat on the Iranian border, to Attock on the Punjabi border) like to claim descent from the “Lost tribes of Israel”. It’s an ancient notion within the collective folklore of Pashtuns, and the presence of tribal Pashtun elders who look like they rose straight from the pages of the Torah really doesn’t help with the disabusal of this idea, lol.

          That’s the folklore, but western scholars have mostly gravitated towards the view that Pashtun ethnogenesis was attributable to the steppe Iranic confederations of the historical era. There is no “consensus” on this, since there is very little in the way of serious academic research on these matters, but that is the general tendency. Although, I’ve read some authors who claim to see a far older Iranic history: these scholars have drawn associations with the producers of the Avesta.

          I gravitate towards the former view. It’s explains much of the cultural patterns, and the fact that Pashtuns are still organized by lines of patrilineal descent into four large tribal confederations.

          Furthermore, the genetic data is a perfect fit. I’ve analyzed quite a few Pashtun samples from Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, and some patterns are perfectly clear.

          For example, unlike the peoples of northern South Asia, but just like the people of the Pamirs, Pashtuns can’t be fit with only Sintashta_MLBA, plus some extra Botai. Rather, they have a strong attraction to much later putative Iranian populations of the steppe, like the Kangju and Wusun.

          In fact, Karlani Pashtun from the central highlands can be modeled as 40%-45% Kangju+Wusun+Sintashta_MLBA+Scythian_Pazryk/Chlikta! In addition, Pashtuns lack much in the way of R1a-L657. Instead, nearly all of Pashtun R1a falls under Z2124.

          When it comes to pre-Islamic Pashtun religion, it’s complicated. I know that in the Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam it is stated that the King of Nangarhar had “Muslim, Afghan, and Hindu” wives, which indicates that Pashtuns at that time were neither Hindu nor Muslim, but must have had their own unique folk religion.

          That being said, Buddhism was long ascendant, and there were always Hindus, in what is now the northeastern Pashtun quadrant. But it must be remembered that Pashtuns are recent transplants to that area (they’ve only been there for around 800-600 years).

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          1. Thanks Commentator.
            “Pashtun ethnogenesis was attributable to the steppe Iranic confederations of the historical era.”
            This does seem to be the most logical explanation IMO. Could conversion to Islam also might have something to do with the formation of Pashtun identity. The arrival of Islam and the Pashtuns as a people seems concurrent and Pashtun culture seems inseparable from Islam in a way that Jat culture or Gujjar culture is not.

            BTW here is a Bollywood tribute to Pashtun culture 🙂
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAdeqOrfzPA
            This is from the movie Kabuliwala, based on a short story by Tagore. The song is sung by Manna Dey, an Oriya I believe.

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      3. Always fascinated why sikhism never had non punjabi converts. Met few years ago someone who was a sindhi sikh, but i think even he was a punjabi who family have been living in sindh for years.

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        1. Sikhism is very much a Punjabi religion and more specifically a Punjabi Jatt religion. Most of their liturgy is in Punjabi and the shared history and culture is Punjabi as well. It will never transplant as a religion onto a different culture because unless you share the history of the last 400 years you will never have that emotional bond with the traditions.

          A lot of Jatts from the Doaba region in Punjab (Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur are Hindu dominated cities) actually were Hindus till the British times. British policy of offering military service to Amritdhari Sikhs induced conversion amongst Jatt Hindus of Doaba since they anyways shared kinship and caste bonds with Sikh Jatts.

          Sindhis Hindus and many punjabi Hindus traditionally have GGS in their temples and homes. I feel Sindhi Hindu and Punjabi cultures are generally very similar as well.

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          1. Yes Sindhi Hindu and Punjabi Hindu cultures are very very similar but that’s also because the former derive from the latter (late medieval migration).

            Hoshiapur was also a locus of Qaqazai settlement (the Afghans of the Punjab) and is where my late grandfather was born.

            Off the top of my head I can’t remember if Hoshiapur was that disputed district that was awarded to India so that it could retain access to J&K

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          2. Gurdaspur was the disputed district that should not have gone to India. All of it did, except for Shakargarh Tehsil which went to Pakistan.

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          3. At that point nobody knew what would happen on Kashmir, the lines were drawn before the Kashmir conflict

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          4. The lines were drawn exactly so that India could have direct access to Kashmir through Pathankot. All other routes to Kashmir go through what is today Pakistan. This is an established fact.

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  5. Saurav,

    I find the Zunbil religion exceedingly fascinating. It seems to have been a syncretic fusion between Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hindu, and some deeply rooted local traditions. Very interesting stuff.

    Janamejaya,

    Absolutely; it really does explain the bigger picture.

    Personally, I think Pashtuns are connected to the Hepthalites. In fact, there seems to be a very tight connection between the dissolution of the Hepthalite Confederacy and the emergence of the Pashtun “cultural package”.

    Interestingly, it is also thought that the Zunbils and Kabul Shahi were “epigoni” of the Hepthalites.

    With regard to Islam, I think it’s a function of how Islamization occurred in the context of Pashtun history. I mean, the first taste of Islam for Pashtuns came via the Kharijites (!), who seem to have won quite a few converts among the Pashtun tribesmen around the country of contemporary Gardez.

    At the end of the day, Pashtuns have long been integrated into the broader complex of Islamicate civilization, which makes the ethnic identity seem very closely tied to the faith.

    That being said, Pashtun highlanders forgot all about Islam, and rather quickly at that, when “Pīr Rōkhān” came around.

    Also, there is a rather curious joke among eastern Pashtun highlanders, one that dates to around the 15th century or so, which has some relevance…

    In the olden days, the land of the Mohmand Pashtuns was home to many small shrines/sacred sites of pilgrimage. Naturally, this made Afridi Pashtun blood boil with anger, since they are a jealous bunch (lol).

    So, the Afridi invited a famed/renowned saint (from the lowlands) to their isolated abode, with the promise of great hospitality and honor. Even then, the Afridi country was closed off to outsiders, due to the “dangers”. But rather paradoxically, the tribe was also famous for its boundless sense of hospitality and generosity. Furthermore, this saint was a brave man.

    So, he took them up on the offer, and they made sure he had an enjoyable stay; lavish feasts were held in his name. There was constant fighting over who would get to provide him lodging for the night. Constant praise was being showered in his direction. There were incessant public displays of personal devotion from both children and elders alike. Tons of hand-kissing. The works.

    They did this for a couple of months, until they finally undertook the task which constituted the very reason for his invitation: murder. They killed him, after an exceedingly extravagant, but by now completely standard, meal. After which he was promptly buried in a pretty shrine on a high hill.

    So, considering the sacredness and fame of the saint that they had just killed, they now had a shrine that beat any of the competition on offer in the Mohmand country…

    Just an incredibly old joke, told by the very same people who are the butt of it (and rendered rather poorly by me, in a language foreign to the people who produced it, and without proper setup or context). But I think it says something, lol.

    Also, a beautiful song! A very calm and melodic voice, coupled with great lyrics.

    I fully understand Urdu/Hindi, and was surprised at the fidelity of this song to its source material; Pashto “wataniyya” poetry is filled with lines that are identical in meaning to those lyrics. Not to mention countless Pashto folk songs.

    Also, they nailed the clothes perfectly; traditional Ghilzai attire was just like that. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words abut the Zunbils. They had many tirthas (or holy places) and much wisdom for Hindu/Buddhists. Much that was is now lost. There is a reason for the name Hindu Kush.

      Zorastrians/Parsis and Zarathustra have a special place in the hearts of Hindu/Buddhists. They are a sister Arya faith.

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  6. How can the comment section for this article be reopened?

    Thanks,
    AnAn

    [let me look into it; looks like the plugin automatically overrules open attempts]

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  7. “The Jalalabad blast is extremely tragic. And for IS to go after the only religious minority group in Afghanistan is just evil. I believe Sikhs were chanting anti-Ghani slogans afterwards (understandable since he totally failed to protect their community).”

    President Ghani didn’t kill Avtar. Why blame President Ghani?

    Is it confirmed that Daesh rather than ISI linked Taliban were behind the attack on Avtar?

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    1. IS has claimed responsibility. Take that for what its worth. They said they were explicitly targeting “polytheists”.

      I read that the protesting Sikhs were chanting “Death to Ghani”. He obviously isn’t directly responsible but he did fail in his duty to protect a vulnerable minority. I don’t think people should be wishing him dead, but the Sikh community is rightfully very angry right now.

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