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AREU Synthesis Paper Series

the ability to provide governance so how will it build and serve the country? Money comes from the foreign countries but the government has placed thieves inside the ministries who take the dollars and spend them on luxuries. Poor people are begging for a piece of bread and our officials are driving in the most expensive new cars they can find.

  • Male former government worker,

semi-urban Nangarhar

In the second phase of the research especially, narratives of corruption, inefficiency and ethnic bias were clearly present across many interviews. This is possibly related to the timing of the research, which took place after the presidential elections in 2009 and Karzai’s widely-publicised and controversial nomination of a new cabinet. Both of these events were surrounded by allegations of fraud and deal- making between leaders of ethnic groups.

6.3 Narratives of inclusion and exclusion: Perakh bansat

The claims of ethnic marginalisation made in the quotations above come from both Pashtun and Baluch respondents. These coincide with a more general narrative of Pashtun exclusion dating back to the favouring Northern Alliance personalities during the Bonn Process—something subsequent events such as the appointment of a largely Pashtun cabinet have done little to diminish (though there remain very few Baluch represented in government). Indeed, among these ethnic groups there appears also to be widespread interest in the idea of proportional—rather than equal— representation of ethnic groups in government, as traditionally Pashtun tribes have been thought to comprise the largest minority group in Afghanistan. As one Pashtun respondent from Nangarhar put it, “in fact, 80 percent of the population in Afghanistan are Pashtun.”93 However, the fundamental flaw in this argument is that no accurate population statistics exist, for the very reason that the actual disclosure of ethnic proportions might be politically unsettling and further emphasise existing ethnic


FGD, male teacher, Nangarhar (city).


divisions. Even if such statistics were to be collected in future it is unlikely that they would be accepted as “fact” by all groups, again as a result of a mistrust of government institutions and the

agendas of powerholders within them.

However, this idea of a Pashtun


government was contradicted by a number of respondents in Nangarhar. When describing an ideal government, they talked about “perakh bansat,” meaning united or “completely representative/ inclusive” government. This term was used by respondents in an ironic reflection of the current government, which they thought excluded a number of groups that deserved more formal recognition. One male former government worker in Nangarhar explained the concept in some depth:

Perakh bansat is like the wide wall with wide foundations. A perakh bansat government is where all the people have limited rights or power, so that they are represented but they are not able to inflict harm on another group. In the government of Daoud Khan, I worked in an office, and I went there to solve a problem, and the man in the office said I needed 800 Afs to solve it. I asked him where I should get the money from. I went to the head of the office, and he himself gave me the money. I gave it to the first official. Then the head of the office went to the first official and asked him for his money back, and sent this man to jail! This was a perakh bansat government.

In the situation this respondent describes, everyone is treated equally and no one ethnic group is able to bend the rules to his own liking—in other words, everyone is equal under the law. It is interesting however that he chooses the government of Daoud Khan—who orchestrated a military coup against the king, installed himself as president of the republic, and imposed strict restrictions on political opposition to his rule—as an illustrative example.94 Nevertheless, the perception that the current government (with which Daoud’s regime is implicitly compared) encourages inequality and differential treatment was common to almost all respondents for this study. For many who were


Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, 75.

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