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The Challenges to Nation-Building
Afghanistan was always divided into distinctive communal,
ethnolinguistic, and religious groups. Moreover, these groups possessed a
social system that emphasized loyalty to the local social group (qawm) rather than a higher-order abstraction like the state. The geographical barrier set by the Hindu Kush Mountains created a barrier between Kabul and the rural areas and retarded the development of centralized political institutions, which could only expand in power at the expense of local loyalities.
The Language Factor
The several ethnic groups of Afghanistan (Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmans, Baluchis, Pashais, Nuristanis, Aymaqs Qirghiz, Qizilbash, Gujurs, Brahwuis and even Arabs) speak different languages.
Besides Pashto (used by the Pashtuns) and Dari (Afghan Persian) which are official languages, Uzbeki, Turkmen, Pashai, Nuristani and Pamiri (alsana) are also spoken by the corresponding ethnic groups.
The 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan, introduced with the “New Democracy,” named two official languages, Pashto and Dari, the name given to Afghan Farsi or Persian. However Dari remained the lingua franca of the country as a whole. Language was to remain a deeply contentious and divisive issue. An official drive to make Pashto more viable as a national language by creating one standard language instead of numerous regional dialects led to the creation in 1937 of a Pashto Academy known as the Pashto Tolaney. But the state-led drive failed to make Pashto, in any real sense, a competitor to Persian. Another reason for Pashto failing to rise upto the standards of Dari lay in the fact that not only was it difficult to learn compared to the simplicity of Persian (Dari) grammer, but also general animosity felt against the Pashtun political dominance and a clear sense of cultural superiority expressed by members of the Tajik, Turkic and other non-Pashtun groups. Repeated attempt by the state to foster the growth and spread of Pashto, however abjectly failed.
To be continued...