is a loosily knit conglomeration of number of ethnic groups, chief of whom
are Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. These ehtnic groups have obvious
dissimilarity, despite collectively residing in the region for hundreds of
years. These ethnic groups of Afghanistan have their own way of living,
defined by unwritten code.
Towns & Ethnic Majority
Ethnic Groups Population Ratio
||Dominating Ethnic Group
|Mazar e Sharif
Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch
2%, other 4%
Mainstream Ethnic Groups
Pashtuns or Pakhtuns or Pathans or Persian Afghans are the largest ethnic
group in Afghanistan. They constitute about two-fifth of Afghan population.
Pashtoons can be further segregated into tribes, most famous among whom are
Durrani and Ghilzai. Other major tribes are Wardak, Jaji, Tani, Jadran,
Mangal, Khugiani, Safi, Mohmand and Shinwari. They can be easily recognised
from other Afghan ethnic groups, due to their Pashto language and peculiar
way of living, called Pashtunwali.
Homeland of Pashtuns lies south of the Hindu Kush, but Pashtun groups are
scattered all over the country. Most Pashtuns work in farmlands to earn
their livelihood. Many of them live nomadic lifestyle too. These nomads live
in tents made of black goat hair.
Tajiks or Tadzhiks constitute the second largest ethnic group in
Afghanistan. Populating around 4.5 million, they live in the Panjsher Valley
north of Kabul and in the northern and northeastern provinces of Parwan,
Takhar, Badakhshan, and also Baghlan and Samangan. Few Tajik people extend
into the central mountains. Most Tajiks speak Dari Persian language.
Tajik community is not divided into tribes. They prefer to identify
themselves with the valley or region they live in like Panjsheri, Badakhshi,
Samangani and Andarabi. For earning livelihood, Tajiks do sedentary mountain
farming and sheep/goat herding. Tajiks grow variety of fine fruits and nuts.
Central regions of Afghanistan, known as Hazarat, are inhabited by the
Hazaras. Good number of Hazaras also dwell in Badakhshan. Most of them are
farmers and shepherds. Most Hazaras are the followers of the Shia sect of
Islam. The Hazaras have their ancestors in Xinjiang region of north-western
China. For a long time, the Hazaras were a neglected lot. However, they are
now trying to get rid of their inferior status.
Approximate 1.3million Uzbeks live in Afganistan. They live all across the
northern areas of Afghanistan, mixed with Tajik population. The Uzbeks are
the followers of Sunni sect of Islam and speak central Turkic dialects like
Uzbeki. Most Uzbeks earn livelihood by farming and herding. However, several
Uzbeks have become successful businessmen and skilled artisans. Uzbek social
structure is patriarchal and leaders having the title beg, arbab or khan
enjoy considerable power. The Uzbeks have no hesitation marrying with Uzbek
and Tajik, but are averse to nuptial relations with Pushtuns.
Turkmens dwell along the southern side of Amu Darya. Most Turkmens are
nomadic poeple who herd yaks. Turkmens speak both archaic form of Turkish
and Persian. Many nomadic Turkmens still live in dome-shaped tents based on
wooden frames. Men wear coats with long sleeves, while women also wear long
dresses to cover their hands in cold weather.
The Nuristanis live in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. The region
is so densily forested and rugged that it can be reached only by foot. They
speak various dialects of Nuristani and Dardic. Usually, the Nuristanis are
farmers, mountain herders and farmers. However, many of them have earned
respectable place in the social order by getting into the army.
Baluchs in Afghanistan live in thinly populated deserts and semi-deserts of
Helmand Province. Few Baluch enclaves can also be found in Faryab province.
Number of Baluchs in Afghanistan is estimated around 100,000. Most people of
Baluch ethnicity live in Pakistan and Iran. Most Baluchis can speak and
understand Baluchi, Dari and Pashto. Chiefs of Baluch society are called
Other Ethnic Groups
Aimaqs live among nontribal people in the western regions of Badghis, Ghor
and Herat provinces. They are Sunni Muslims and speak dialects resembling
Dari. Several Arab enclaves can also be found in north-western Afghanistan.
They are pastoralists who rear sheep and grow cotton and wheat. They speak
not Arabic but Dari and Uzbeki. The Qizilbash are scattered all over
Afghanistan. Traditionally, they have been holding administrative and
professional positions. Sunni Brahui is a group living in the desert regions
of south-western Afghanistan. Low in social heirarchy, they work as tenant
farmers and hired herders for Baluch or Pashtun chieftains. The Wakhis live
in small, remote hamlets in lower areas of Wakhan corridor and upper
Badakhshan. The Farsiwans live near the Iran border or in some districts of
Kandahar, Herat and Ghazni provinces. They are Dari-speaking
Hindu-Sikh population in Afghanistan in 1990 was approximate 30,000. Under
the reigns of Taliban, the Hindus were forced to wear yellow badges to
identify themselves. Continuous violence caused rapid decline in Hindu-Sikh