Social & Political Background
ETHNICITY IN AFGHANISTAN
- Ethnic boundary markers for the Hazara
Ethnic boundaries activate traits to distinguish between populations. This section will introduce five central features of the Hazara. Ranked by assumed degree of permanence, these features are phenotype, territory, religion, social status and dialect.
The strongly Mongoloid appearance of the Hazara makes it easy to distinguish them from the neighboring populations. Most Hazara have broad faces with flat noses and narrow eyes, scant facial hair, and are shorter of build than their neighbors. It remains unclear what their origin are, but Eastern Turkic or Mongol descent have been suggested.
Hazarajat, the land of the Hazara, comprises the mountainous central areas of Afghanistan. Its has distinct boundaries; a traveler knows when Hazara territory is entered. While other areas of Afghanistan are multiethnic, only Hazara live permanently in Hazarajat. While other ethnic territories extend into neighboring nation-states, Hazarajat is landlocked in the middle of Afghanistan. The geographical boundary arguably coincides with a political boundary between distinct populations.
The overwhelming majority of Hazara are adherents of Imami Shi’ism, although a few are Ismaili Shia, or Sunni. Ethnic boundaries are qualified by membership in religious sects, so that Imami Shia Hazara would often deny their ethnic affiliation with the Ismaili Hazara despite their shared language and phenotype. Sunni Hazara in Bamiyan reportedly describe themselves as Tajik, and to convert is described as to become Tajik. As a religious minority in Afghanistan, the Shia have oriented themselves towards Iran, particularly for religious guidance. Institutionalized in Islam, but most frequently practiced by Shia Muslims, is taqiyyah, the dissimulation of one’s religious beliefs to avoid persecution. The distinct phenotype of the Hazara has hindered widespread use of taqiyyah, however. Religion and politics are closely intertwined in Afghanistan, and the boundaries between religious communities have far-reaching effects. Disputes frequently revolve about questions of legal application. Islam, in its several varieties, is a law code. The law of Afghanistan refers to Islamic law, of the hanafi Sunni variety. Any court decision will potentially actualize the sectarian domination, so law application becomes a major arena for boundary demarcation.
In the case of the Hazara, the implications of a social boundary are so severe as to function as an ethnic marker: “(… ) there was the thoroughly effective subjugation of one ethnic group by another, and of one religious sect by another – a situation which, I suggest, progressively appears more like the social distinction between group in a caste hierarchy”. The social boundary in itself has been nearly inescapable for the Hazara; even those who have managed to transcend it are constantly reminded of it. A good indicator on inter-ethnic status relations is marriage preferences. The Hazara intermarry with most groups, but mainly as wife-givers, not wife-takers. A Pashtun never gives wife to a Hazara, and when a Pashtun marries a non-Pashtun woman, it is hardly ever his first wife.
Language is less distinctive, as the Hazara speak Persian, the lingua franca of Afghanistan. The dialect called Hazaragi contains, unlike Persian, many words of Turk and Mongol origin. Urban Hazara and those who frequently visit towns or markets have adjusted to Dar, the Afghan variety of Persian. Dialect boundaries do not necessarily coincide with ethnic ones: “What did seem to correlate with Hazaragi was the speaker’s place of residence” and “(…) Hazaragi correlated with restricted contact with the central plains and the national society”.
Phenotype, territory, religion and social status distinguish sharply between the Hazara and neighboring ethnic groups, whereas dialect is easier to overcome. While each of these features are important, the effect is multiplied when they act together. Especially the distinct phenotype acts as an hindrance to detachment from any of the other features.
- Ethnic Identities in Afghanistan
The three major ethnic identities in Afghanistan are the Pashtun, Tajik and Uzbek. I will also have a look at those particularly targeted by recent governmental nationality policies, the Turkmen, the Baluch and the Nuristani, as well as three categories that are significant to the boundaries of the Hazara: Aymaq, Farsiwan and Qizilbash.
The Pashtun dominate in the southern and southeastern parts of the country, and constitute about half of the population. An equally large Pashtun population lives across the Pakistani border. Many Pashtuns are nomads. Pashtu is a distinct language, which has lost out to Farsi as the lingua franca of Afghanistan. Tribal belonging is the primary loyalty of most Pashtuns, but historically they have formed strong tribal confederacies in response to outside threats. Different levels are valid in different contexts. The royal family of Afghanistan belongs to the Mohammadzai clan of the Barakzai tribe, within the Durrani confederation the Pashtun. Political power in Afghanistan has always been in the hand of the Pashtuns: in fact Afghan means Pashtun, and Afghanistan means the land of the Pashtuns. However, whether the ruler ship was regarded as Pashtun, Durrani, Barakzai or Muhammadzai would depend on the context.
Tajiks are found primarily in the rural northeast, mostly as mountain farmers. Many have now settled in the cities, where they play important roles in business and in state administration, and are the only non-Pashtuns to have a position with in the upper middle class. They have no tribal organization, but normally refer to themselves by valley or region of residence.
The Uzbek live largely in the same areas as the Tajiks in the north, as farmers, traders or craftsmen. They maintain tribal designations for them selves, but defend their Uzbek identity in dealings with for example Tajiks. Many Uzbeks have fled Russian or Soviet expansionism. Uzbek is a distinct language, but most Uzbeks are also fluent in Farsi.
A third group of North-Afghanistan are the Turkmen. Like the Tajik and Uzbek, they have their designator population in a republic across the border. They have retained a semi-nomadic economy and a tribal organization. Their role in national politics has been very limited.
The Baloch live mainly in the southwestern part of Afghanistan, and larger Baluch populations are also found in Pakistan and in Iran. Most of those in Afghanistan are nomads, adept at exploiting their semi-arid environment. Organizations tribal, but unlike the Pashtun principal egalitarianism, Baloch organization is hierarchical, with powerful leaders who are not easily displaced.
The Nuristani of the mountainous eastern terrain, live from irrigated agriculture. They are still frequently described as kafir, infidels, as they were forcibly converted to Islam in the late 19th century. While their primary loyalty group is the village, they will present themselves as Nuristani to any outsider. The small Kalash population of Pakistan, still non-Muslim, originally belonged to the same people.
The Aymaq are Sunni, like the other groups introduced above. Rather than an ethnic designation, Aymaq names a loose confederation of numerous, relatively independent tribes, defined in contrast to the non-tribal Tajik population. In the present context, the so-called Aymaq Hazara tribe is particularly interesting. Being Sunni Muslim, the population is defined as Hazara, neither by themselves nor by others. This underlines the extent to which religious differences mark the boundary of Hazara identity.
The Farsiwan are by many authors regarded as Tajiks, while others see them as a distinct group. The major distinction is that they are Shi’ia. They primarily live in the western parts of the country, or in cities in the south. Their impact on national politics has been negligible.
The Qizilbash are a small group of urban Shi’ia, who came to Afghanistan while the territory was ruled by the Persian king Nadir Shah in the mid-18th century. Late they have played important roles in state administration and in business. They have frequently been discriminated on religious grounds, and taqqiyah has been widely practiced.
This attempt to present the major ethnic identities of Afghanistan highlights the ambiguity the concept of “ethnicity”. Designations have varying contents, implying different things in different contexts. Of particular interest here are those ethnic identities that contribute to draw up the line of Hazara identity, Sunni Hazara are defined as Aymaq, underlining the centrality Shi’ia religion for the definition of the Hazara. The Shi’ia Farsiwan, however, have little to do with the Hazara, even though they are co-religionists. The Shi’ia Qizilbash have maintained a good social standing in Afghanistan: they can offer goods in demand, namely knowledge, and partly overcome the religious difference.
This section will survey resources crucial to the Hazara. They are all subject to conflict with others. I will operate on the basis of the term’s land, labor market, market, education and political influence. While political influence might seem odd in this context, I would argue that it is a key variable. It is frequently when political processes affect control over other resources that the latter become subject to dispute, as we shall see.
Land is the primary resource for a population living from subsistence agriculture with animal husbandry. Conditions for agriculture in Hazarajat are difficult, the climate is harsh and the growth season short. While water is more dependent on riskier non-irrigated cultivation. The land resource situation became substantially more difficult after the state imposed control in the late 19th century. Hazara populations were pushed back from the southern foothills. Hazarajat was opened up to Pashtun nomadism, and while highland pasture is not a scarce resource, the flocks coming through then arrow valleys cause destruction.
With limits to regional production, labor migration has become a major factor in Hazarajat’s economy. It grew in importance towards the end of last century, as a response to famine caused by the war against the king. Permanent settlements established in Quetta , Pakistan and Mashed, Iran, were later to become crucial in facilitating labor migration. From the thirties, Hazara went to the larger cities, or the larger agricultural zones. They got employment as unskilled labor, in the cities frequently in the jobs unwanted by others. Increasingly, Hazara settled in the major cities of Afghanistan, where they largely formed a new proletariat. It is estimated that 30% to 50% of the male population in the poorest villages practiced work migration in the late 1960s. While this caused a sever dependency on financial sources outside the region, access to both international and national labor markets also provided a certain freedom of choice.
Traditionally, Hazara have not played much of a role in the market. To the extent that agricultural goods produced in Hazarajat have reached any market, this has been as a result of occasional surplus,not cash production. Trade by Hazara has largely been limited to peddling by people who travel, trade within Hazarajat has been dominated by Pashtun nomads. A combined system of trade and credit allowed the nomads to acquire much land in Hazarajat, normally with the former owner cultivating it on a sharecropper basis. From 1960 the government imposed restrictions on nomad trade, then from 1975 the import of goods from Pakistan was banned, severely restricting the nomad trade. Nomad trade up to the mid-1970 not only made the Hazara dependent on external goods: more serious was the loss of property rights as a result of the extensive debts created.
Education has been an extremely scarce good among the Hazara. While six years schooling became compulsory in Afghanistan from 1931, access was limited by scarcity of schools. In Hazarajat the situation was particularly bad, due both to government priorities and the fact that poor people need their children’s labor. When higher education was introduced from the late 1940s, access was restricted by distance, lack of resources, and lack of contacts, and all factors contributing to multiply the effect of inadequate primary education.
Political influence took different expressions at local and national level. At the local level, state penetration meant that state agents imposed formal regulations or duties where local mechanisms of decision-making and conflict-resolution had previously functioned. Administrators appointed by the state had the same ethnic identity as the nomads, who were ever-present challengers for local resources, and they were seen to side with the nomads in the competition. In court cases, a law, which referred to Sunni doctrines, was applied, adding to the perceived discrimination. While the corporate side of state expansion was increasingly felt in Hazara areas, little was seen of a representative side. Also at the national level, Hazara representation was restricted: administrative divisions were tailored to make Hazara a minority in each district, or to make Hazara districts numerically large without compensating through a larger number of representatives.
Land, markets and education were essentially disputed resources, and these disputes were anchored in political decisions. Hence, the competition could be expected to ignite political expression among the Hazara, both the central and the local levels. However, the state administration had effectively penetrated Hazara society with administrators who related directly to local leaders of small units. Up to 1978 this represented a functional obstacle to the emergence of regional or ethnic political expression.
- Identities Among Hazaras
The theoretical presentation in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 suggested that several potential identities of different scales, based in different institutions can exist in one and the same society. Actualization of identities seems closely connected to the establishment of a new leadership. In this section I introduce the potential identity scales available to the Hazara population by focusing on four different elite’s: the mir, the sayyid, the sheikh, and the radical seculars.
The mir is the traditional leader in rural Hazara society. He might draw his power from two different sources, which occur in pure or mixed form. He can be in control of economic resources and social connections, such a person often being called a khan. He can also be an appointed representative of the people in relation to state officials, and is then often called arbab or malik. In general, a person who fills one of these descriptions, will partly also satisfy the other. So, political and economic power largely go hand in hand. Before the state expanded its influence in Hazarajat in the late 1800s, the Hazara were organized in independent and conflicting tribes, led by mir. When the state subjugated Hazarajat, the tribes were crushed but power remained in the same families. The mir changed from being an independent tribal leader to a broker between the state and the local population. In recent times the mir had mainly reflected a small-scale, local identity, the primary solidarity group within the rural population. The mir institution has little potential for engagement in larger scale mobilization.
The sayyid derive their authority from a central Shia doctrine, the return of the twelfth imam, who is to bring about a divine order. He will come, it is believed, from the family of the Prophet, to which the sayyid belong. The sayyid are bearers of miracle, karamat. They are seen as Arabs, not Hazara, are disconnected from the normal kinship system, and rarely intermarry with the Hazara. The sayyid network covers the whole of Hazarajat, and has both as local and a regional level. Frequently they also acknowledge Shia religious authorities in Iran or Iraq. Financial contributions from Hazara to sayyid-khums is traditionally paid as one fifth of income. Some of this is passed on to higher levels, some is lent to sayyid of lower rank, as a large group of poor sayyid exists. Most sayyid have no religious education, but for those who have, this significantly enhances their prestige as religious leaders. Writing on the sayyid before the coup in 1978, Kopecky found their contribution to the integration of Hazara society crucial, particularly in times of crisis:
For it is not the Hazara who integrate the Sayyed population, but the Sayyed who manage to unite the continually contending and divisive groups and tribes of the Hazara, as well as all the other Imami groups, into a political unit. For the Sayyed, as descendants of the Prophet, not only have the highest jurisdiction for resolving conflicts within the Imami sect in times of peace, but in periods of crisis they provide the charismatic leadership who organize and coordinate these heterogeneous forces.
The sayyid represent a religious identity, with the Shia community a the ultimate boundary. However, their ties to followers are personal, and they are self-contained as a group. Hence they can represent the Hazara, but are not recruited among the Hazara participation. The sayyid as a group can activate a regional, horizontal identity, while the Hazara client can only mobilize a vertical tie to the local sayyid. With regard to political representation, there tends to be an inherent limitation in the sayyid institution.
The sheikh has been of minor importance in Afghanistan. The Hazara brand of Shiaism has emphasized tradition more than formal theology. In other Shia communities the clergy has played a central role: in Iran, the clergy openly engaged in politics from the early 1960s, gradually affecting their standing in Afghanistan as well. In the cities the sayid became increasingly challenged by the sheikh as religious leaders. The major Shia educational centers are situated in Qum (Iran) and in Najaf (Iraq) and were attended also by students from Afghanistan. Those returning from abroad started small political circles from the early 1950s, and throughout the 1960s numerous religious schools were established. The Shia clergy is a hierarchical institution. Every believer has to follow a mujtahid, a person well versed in Islam. The uppermost clergy, ayatollah, is appointed by consensus among the lower clergy. The choice is important, because followers pay khums-e imam, considerable sums for the educational or charitable activities run by the clergy. In Afghanistan prior to 1978, the Shia clergy had few links with the traditional religious networks. The possibility for new theological interpretation, ijtihad, is a major difference between Shia and Sunni Islam. This forms the basis for Shia theologians’ openness to non-Muslim thought, and the Shia clergy have a proven record of incorporating ideas of non-Muslim origin into their own thought. For the sheikh, the ultimate identity scale is the Islamic community, the ummah. As a political concept, ummah got increasing attention through ideas on Islamic internationalism voiced by several recent thinkers, for example Khomeini. The same as for the sayyid, but from the sheikh perspective, it is inclusionary, everybody accepting the doctrines are welcome. The distinction between sayyid and sheikh can be confusing, as many individuals are both, carrying a ‘dual identity’.
The radical seculars were dominant among the educated youth, emerging as an influential grouping within the Hazara community from the mid 1960s. Those who got education came mainly from relatively wealthy families, often the sons of mirs. Many of them became radicalized during their student days, and joined leftist or nationalist movements. Some also joined the Islamists. Family ties between radicalized youth and the mir were reflected in practical politics, as they often acted as allies. Some of these movements favored an anti-Pashtun minority struggle. Being secular, they had few problems with cross-sectarian co-operation. Indeed, they were the only ones who saw Hazara identity as their ultimate identity. Focusing on organizational implications, both the clergy and the educated youth refer to large-scale, hierarchical organizations. As such, both represent a modern challenge to established leadership, implicitly also linked to potential identities of a larger scale. By contrast, the mir and sayyid basically build their followings on patron-client relations. The mir must be able to gather support both from his followers, and from his sovereign, the state administration. Support from below is dependent on his ability to mediate resources; whereas support from above is dependent on the degree to which he can prevent conflict and prepare the ground for state interference. The position of the mir dependents on balancing these conflicting interests within a multi-tiered patron-client system. Similarly, the role of the sayyid is also basically derived from the patron-client relation, the sayyid serving as the mediator of spiritual goods, while his followers prove their support through their khums payment.
These identities also differ as to whether their basis is religious or not. Both the sayyid and the clergy build on religion. For the mir and the educated youth, however, the basis for influence is secular. On the other hand, traditional politics in Afghanistan does include many religious elements, and the position of the mir is inherently dependent on religious legitimization. Among the young intelligentsia, however, secularity is likely to imply that politics should be de-linked from religion. Keeping in mind that secularity need not imply anti-religiousness, I will in the following maintain the distinction between secular and religious bases of influence.
- Political History of Afghanistan (1880 to 1978)
The borders of the territory that now form Afghanistan were established towards the end of last century. With the British and the Russian empires competing for control in the region, Afghanistan became instrumental for détente. With the establishment of new borders, the Pashtun became divided into two, one share living in British India. The undisputed Pashtun majority in Afghanistan was reduced to around half of the total population.
The Afghan state traditionally had negligible influence in Hazarajat. Abdur Rahman Khan, who acceded to the throne in 1880, set out for a change. Progressively, the state penetrated the region and established local administrations, initiating a harsh taxation practice.
The radical measures of the government affected all classes of the Hazara population to the same extent. This made it possible for the secular and clerical power holders to mobilize the vertically organized loyalty groups in joint resistance against the central government.
The Amir mobilized against the Hazara confederation, benefiting from one religious and one tribal institution. First, he obtained a fitwa, a religious decree from the Sunni clergy, declaring on war against the Shia Hazara to be a religious war against infidels,-a jihad, and a holy war. Secondly, and partly justified through the fitwa, he mobilized tribal levies, lashkar, in the Pashtun tribes. Besides the religious reward, fighters were also promised free disposition of the booty, including enslaved Hazara. Two years of full-scale war ended in full defeat for the Hazara in 1893. The immediate consequences of the war were the destruction of villages and agricultural infrastructure, the enslavement of thousands of people, as well a severe loss of human life. The Hazara were pushed back from the southern foothills, and Hazarajat was opened up to other groups. Most important, its pastures were sold to Pashtun nomads. The state set up its own administrative system in Hazarajat. Loyal administrators were placed in the district centers, establishing co-operation with local notables and effectively replacing tribal organization with local entities.
The first quarter of this century saw some decisions with positive implications for the Hazara. Populations who left their country of origin under Abdur Rahman were allowed to return to their land by King Habibullah (1901-1919). King Amanullah (1919-1929) banned the practice of slavery, and changed land rights in the disfavor of the Pashtun nomads.
When the sole non-Pashtun ruler in Afghan history, Bacha-i-Saqao, took the throne in 1929, Hazara populations largely supported the old regime. Hazarajat was practically independent for a few months. A regional government was established which presented a list of demands to the king. Central points were full autonomy for Hazarajat, cessation of land taxation and army conscription, and withdrawal of Afghan administrators.
Bacha-I- Saqao was removed by Nadir Shah, who gained support from the Hazara. Nadir Shah intensified efforts to gain administrative control in Hazarajat, escalating the conflict between local population and administration. After being killed in 1933, he was replaced by Zahir Shah. From late 1929 up to the late 1940s, Afghanistan remained relatively calm, with foreign expertise and private trade contributing to an emergent socioeconomic development. In Hazarajat, the state tightened its administration further, but there were no major counter reactions.
From 1949, there came a tentative liberalization, in response to demands from the urban elite. Freedom of the press was introduced, and newspapers became focal points of political opposition. A central ambition was to strengthen the role of the parliament. Hazara delegates united behind a list of demands, including the establishment of a distinct Hazara province with Panjao as summer capital and Bamiyan as winter capital, the closure of pastures to Pashtun nomads and restrictions on the powers of local administrators. Lastly, an end to discrimination of Hazara was demanded, with emphasis on equal access to education. However the whole democratic experiment was strangled by the ruling family in 1953, when Prince Daud Khan was installed as prime minister. Many political opponents were imprisoned.
Daud Khan was prime minister up to 1963. This was a period of political authoritarianism. By establishing a strong army Daud made the state less dependent on tribal support. Further, the government gave priority to education and economic infrastructure and foreign aid became a major source of state revenue. Hazara labor migration to the cities assumed substantial proportions. Dud invested most of the country’s political prestige in pursuing the ‘Pashtunistan-issue claiming that the border with Pakistan lacked legal status, hence the Pashtun areas of Pakistan belonged to Afghanistan.
The 10-year period from 1963 is called the ‘new democracy’. The new constitution of 1964 opened up for freedom of the press. It also included a political party’s act, which had passed both houses of Parliament by 1967, only to be vetoed by the king. Newspapers and political parties sprang up, but the government soon started to clamp down on the most radical papers. Hazara parliamentary delegates repeated their demands from the early 1950s, adding that the Jaffari Shia law school should be accepted on a par with that of the Hanafi Sunni. While these demands were not met, the open polity also benefited the Hazara. Informally, two ministerial posts were reserved for the Shia. The government’s attitude to ethnic differences seemed to be that economic modernization would lead to their gradual erosion. In general, this democratic experiment was hampered by indecisiveness, and apparently fostered large expectations, but scant political influence for the new elite.
In 1973, Zahir Shah was replaced by Daud Khan in a bloodless coup. The democratic experiment was definitely over. Many opposition leaders were driven in exile. Daud returned to his earlier course, with political authoritarianism and intense socio-economic development based on foreign aid, and the Pashtunistan-issue was returned to the agenda. This was an attempt to build an authoritarian and unitary state, which many observers see as doomed to failure because it was basically in contradiction to a traditionalist, fragmented and anti-authoritarian population.
- The emergence of political Parties (1965-1978)
With the growth in higher education from the 1950s, a sizeable group of young intelligentsia emerged. As restrictions on political activity were lifted in the 1960s, they engaged in establishing a number of political parties. Here I will focus on the coming rulers, and on groups with substantial Hazara involvement. The parties can be divided into two categories. First were Islamist movements, in which the sheikh were dominant. Second were the secular radicals, nationalist or leftist in orientation. These new parties had much in common. Being largely elitist, they remained distant from the average person. They also shared the attempt to build modern organization, and the ambition to bring about radical social and political reform.
The Jawanan-e Musulman, Muslim Youth, became the major Islamist group in the country. Ideologically it was in line with the international Muslim Brotherhood. The movement was originally cross sectarian, but a number of prominent Shia members split off in 1969/1970. Another Islamistic intellectual group, Madrasah-y- Quran, was built up by Mawlana Faizani. Originally set up as a sufi order, it later turned into a political group, and had followers of both Shia and Sunni belief. In 1973, the group joined a larger alliance, the Madrasah-i- Tauhid in 1973, and after an alleged plot, Faizani and several others were arrested. In 1978 these groups split along sectarian lines, and the Shia faction under Asadullah Naktadan’s leadership settled in Iran after Khomeini took power. Additionally, there were numerous small groups set up by the students at different madrasa, religious schools. A prominent example is the Sobh-e Danesh, a cultural organization linked to Sheikh Asif Mohseni’s school in Kandahar.
The same period saw the emergence of several Hazara nationalist organizations. These groups did not take any particular political ideology as their starting point; they were “militantly committed to advancing the rights of minorities and the independent cultural traditions of the ‘Mongol’ peoples of Afghanistan..” Two such groups were Jawanan-e Mughal, the Mongol Youth, and Tanzim-e Nazl-e Nau Hazara, Organization of the New generation of Hazara. Most important was the Tanzim, which was well integrated in the exile community in Quetta. This organization was supported by the Bhutto government in Pakistan, who saw it as instrumental for countering Daud’s Pashtunistan policy.
Several leftist groups emerged in the same period. The coming ruling party, PDPA, was established in 1965. It consisted of two factions, in constant conflict. In reality they operated as independent groups, although allied under the heading of PDPA for limited periods. The Khalq was most doctrinaire, consisting primarily o Pashtun intellectuals with a rural background. Parcham was relatively pragmatic, recruited among children of established Kabul families of different ethnic backgrounds. Parcham joined Daud’s government after 1973. Both factions gave priority to recruitment among students, and infiltration of the army. It is estimated that by 1978 Khalq outnumbered Parcham by three to one. Among Hazara intellectuals however, few were Parcham and almost none were Khalq. The Maoist-oriented Shula-e Jawid had a larger membership than Khalq and Parcham combined around 1970. It grew out of confrontations within PDPA, which led to a split in 1967. The motivation for those who established Shula was as much the fear of Pashtun hegemony a differences of political ideology. Shula was largely dominated by Hazara, with considerable support from other ethnic minorities as well. The party emphasized minority, rather than class discrimination, in their propaganda. Shula published a paper under the same name, and arranged numerous strikes in the late 1960s and 1970s. Another initiative in the pro-Maoist camp was Sitam-e Milli, set up by Taher Badakshi, a former PDPA activist, in 1968. Badakshi, Shia Tajik from the remote northeastern province of Badakshan, presented himself as a Tajik nationalist, rather than a strict Maoist. The Sitam group was more practically oriented than Shula, and ran armed campaigns in Badakshan during Daud’s period in the 1970s.
Most of these groups had little importance outside the Kabul arena of politics. To the extent that they enjoyed broader support, this was a result of traditional ties. The example of the Akram Yari brothers, Hazara from Jaghori in Ghazni, is illustrative. Being among the leaders of Shula, they also had a large local following, based on locality and family ties. It is further noteworthy that all secular parties were multi-ethnic and cross sectarian. Even within the Islamist movements, sectarian split was not a necessity.