Pashtun Nationalism, Terrorist Insurgency, Ethno-nationalist movements, North Western Pakistan
This paper investigates the relationship between Pashtun nationalism and buoying radical Islam in North Western Pakistan. Identifying a journalistic and scholarly tendency to equate these two movements, we seek to challenge such conceptions. We therefore conceptualise Pashtun nationalism and argue that it cannot be confidently characterised by images of tribal pugnacity, extreme xenophobia and strict religiosity. A corresponding ethno-nationalist movement has barely employed, or reflected, tropes surrounding a fierce Pahstun “warrior race”, whilst instead focusing on the socio-economic disenfranchisement of Pashtuns compared to other ethnic groups in Pakistan. In subsequent review of Pashtun nationalisms long-standing secular and socially-reformist history, we further strengthen this contention. In a direct and final contrast the phenomenon of “Talibanization” with a discerned Pashtun nationalism, we draw attention to three critical contradictions between key tenets of both movements. Firstly religious fundamentalist groups have frequently broken the tribal code of Pashtunwali, which has carried significant cultural weight in the articulation of Pashtun nationalism. Secondly, the professed objective of terrorist outfits is the creation of a pan-Islamic multinational state, based on a Puritan 7th century conception of Islam. This stands in irreconcilable juxtaposition with the attempt of Pashtun nationalists to achieve either independence from, or greater autonomy within, Pakistan. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan owes greatly to the support of the Pakistani central government, the United States and Sunni Gulf states. As none of these governments share the objectives of Pashtun nationalism, the Pashtun demographic has unsurprisingly offered serious resistance against the entry of the Taliban into North Western Pakistan. We thus conclude that Pashtun nationalism and radical Islam must be seen as opposing, rather than complementing, forces.