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The Pashtun (or Pathan) people are the dominant linguistic and ethnic group in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. Organised by tribe, the Pashtun are concentrated along a semicircular area following the Afghan-Pakistan border from north of the Darya-te Morgab, east and southward to just north of the 35' latitude. Although the dominant language is Pashtu, many in Kabul speak Dari.

The origins of the ethnic group are hotly disputed due to the complex melange of South and Central Asian, Turkic, and Persian influences. Some argue the group are descendants of one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel whilst others believe they are descended from stranded soldiers of Alexander the Great, who spread Hellenic influences to the banks of the Indus River 2,300 years ago.

Following the resettlement policies of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan in the late 1800s, Pashtuns were scattered into the northern regions and western interior, and consequently now make up part of the Northern Alliance. Whilst united by Islam, intertribal conflict between the Pashtun has often been exploited to political ends. Indeed the only recent group attempting to unify the Pashtun has been by the Taleban. Pashtun tribal nationalism has been a recurring problem for Pakistan.

About 85% of the 6.2 million Afghan refugees who fled to Iran, Pakistan, and further afield during the previous war in Afghanistan were Pashtun.

  • http://www.strategicnetwork.org/index.asp?loc=pe&pe=1977
  • http://www.d-n-i.net/charts/pashtunistan.htm
  • http://www.afghan-network.net/Ethnic-Groups/pashtuns.html

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