Reality of Afghan Kuchis

Ishaq Muhammadi – May 5, 2002 |


Afghanistan is situated in the heart of Asia. The country used to be one of the most civilized and culturally advanced part of the world. Afghanistan is situated at the crossroad of three great civilizations of the region i.e. Central Asian, Persian and Indian. Whenever the country found a great leadership like the great Koshans, Ghaznavian, Ghorian and Arghonia etc., she dominated the entire region. It is a pity the country went down culturally on account of incompetent leadership resulting in suffering of the masses gradually during the last two hundred years. It will be shocking for the enlightened in the west to know that no one in the world can say for sure what exactly is the area of Afghanistan in terms of square kilometers or the exact population of the country. Various authors have offered conflicting figures in their books for the area of the country. The estimates are 683465, 655000, 649227 and 647497 square kilometers (1). The same confusion remains with the population and no reliable figures for the population of Afghanistan is available because none of the rulers carried out any authentic census programme according to international standards. As a result, the population of the country is depicted at 15, 17 and 22 million (2). Even the news magazine “Time” quotes the figure of 26 million for Afghanistan’s population (3). Over the last two centuries, the ethnic Pashtoon rulers intentionally created vague situation for the total as well as regional and ethnic figures of population for different ethnic groups for achieving political benefits for the Pashtoons and keeping away non-Pashtoon from sharing power. For this purpose the ethnic Pashtoon rulers brought all sources together for depicting other ethnic groups in Afghanistan as minority and to prolong Pashtoon domination in the country. They played the Afghan nomads (Kuchis) card successfully in this regard and blinded the world and other ethnic groups for attaining political benefits for Pashtoons. Marry Louis quotes Afghan Kuchis population at 2 million out of 13 million of Afghanistan’s total population in 1960 through the Afghan Government sources (4). The General Atlas of Afghanistan provides the Afghan and Kuchis population in accordance with Afghan official documents as under:

Year Total Country Population Kuchis % of Kochee Population (5)
1960-61 13,400,000 1,273,000 9.5%
1966-67 15,080,000 2,730,000 18.10 %
1971-72 16,890,000 3,040,000 17.99 %


It is obvious how the Pashtoon prejudiced rulers played the dirty game of using the Kuchis card in political scenario of Afghanistan for the benefit of the Pashtoons. The population of Kuchis was shown as 9.5 % of the total population in 1960-61 but suddenly it jumped up to 18.10 % within just seven years. This was a deliberate action to marginalise other ethnic groups and accrordingly keeping them out of the government. The same percentage was shown for 1971-72. It has now been considered the official percentage of Kuchis in government records. It is intriguing that how a backward and tribal country like Afghanistan which can not manage any meaningful census even in settled large cities and towns comes up with accurate figures for the nomads who are always on the move in difficult mountainous terrain and do not have any permanent abode. If we consider ” Time ” magazine’s 26 million population for the entire country, and apply the inflated percentage of Kuchis, their population will shoot up to nearly five million which would be illogical because United Nations High Commission for Refugees had estimated a total of five million Afghan Refugees in all countries including those in Pakistan and Iran, the most effected countries during the height of Afghan crises. Afghan official false records regarding Afghan Kuchis can be easily understood if the same is tallied with the British period records in Sub-Continent. Captain A.J Robinson who held high administrative post in the North West Frontier Province of British India during British Raj wrote during 1932-34 under the title of ” Notes on nomad tribes of Eastern Afghanistan” (Published in 1934). He describes the following:


Year Province Men Women Total
1911 Balochistan 10889 7697 18586
1911 NWFP 17163 13448 30611

                                                           Grand Total

1921 Balochistan 5767 3695   9462
1921 NWFP 13052 9046 22098

                                                         Grand Total

1931 Balochistan not mentioned not mentioned  n/a
1931 NWFP 16221 11634 27885 (6)













Balochistan’s figure could not be ascertained by the writer due to unknown circumstances. However, keeping in view the previous two decades figures, no significant changes took place in population of Kuchis. If we take out average of first two census figures, the number of Afghan Kuchis would come to 40,000. If we thoroughly consider the above figures mentioned by Captain A.J Robinson, we’ll easily come to know that Kuchis’ populations were not as much as the Afghan Government reported in its official records. It also proves that infiltration of Afghan Kuchis in the Sub-continent was in steady decline. It is worth mentioning that the writer himself points out the following causes of the Kuchis’ decrease in number during the British period:

1. Economic stability including agriculture got improved due to the governments better policies, which created new job opportunities in government and private sectors.

2. Pastures were turned into green fields on account of better canal system in the Sub-Continent including the areas, where Afghan-Kuchis used to come along with their cattle for grazing.

3. Grazing taxes were levied strictly in Dera Ismail Khan and Kohat Districts (7). Afghan-Kuchis used to visit these two districts most often. Captain A.J Robinson comprehensively describes Kuchis’ habits, social and economic set up, tribal classifications, settling areas inside Afghanistan, passage routes, entering points including staying areas in British India and even explains their cattle’s numbers which proves authenticity of the number of Kuchis given in the book. Census of further two decades could not take place due to Second World War and the freedom movement in the Sub-Continent. When the Sub Continent of India was partitioned and Pakistan came into being, border conflicts emerged between two neighboring countries and this sharp tension greatly affected Kuchis entering Pakistan. At that time, King Zahir Shah planned various projects for permanent settlement of Kuchis inside Afghanistan (8). The King, knowing the situation, intentionally settled down a large number of Kuchis in fertile lands of Northern and WesternAfghanistan on permanent basis through government support (9). It is worth mentioning that Amir Abdul Rehman (1880-1901) had already awarded the fertile lands of central Afghanistan, known as Hazara Jat to Pashtoon tribes, says Temor Khanov (Russian historian) (10). Keeping in view the foregoing facts and figures including prevailing situation, Kuchis do not exist at all because millions of Afghanis had to leave their homeland on account of Afghan crisis and started to take sanctuary in neighbouring countries. It may be recalled that every ethnic group of Afghanistan have its own nomads who leave their winter abodes along with their livestock during spring and summer temporarily for green pastures and get back to their native lands in Autumn and Winter. So, we cannot claim them Kuchis in classic terminology, the term specifically referring to Pashtun nomads of older times. At present, there are two kinds of Aghans, those who dwells inside Afghanistan either living on their native lands or those living outside Afghanistan, as refugees. It is responsibility of United Nations to ensure representations of these two categories in the upcoming Loya Jirga keeping in view their actual population so that a real democratic representative government could be installed for sustainable peace and harmony in Afghanistan.

The main focus of this article is Pashtoon Kuchis of eastern Afghanistan mostly belonging to GHALZAI clan . As for as nomads of the DURANI Pashtoon sub branches of western Afghanistan, according to Fardinand , they have been permanently settled by the Kabul rulers and they have been so effected by the native culture that their language has converted from Pashto to Dari Farsi (11).

References :

  • Mary Louise Clifford (persina version P# 10)
  • Wahdat Weekly No. 385, Nov.2001. P.NO. 6.
  • TIME Weekly No.158, Oct.2001.P No.31.
  • Mary Louise Clifford . P.NO. 69.
  • General Atlas of Afghanistan. P.NO.39.
  • A.J.Robison , P.NO.14-15 and 17.
  • Ibid P.NO. 16.
  • Mary Louise Clifford .P.NO. 67.
  • Second Saqav.P.NO. 159.
  • Temur Khanov. P.NO. 159
  • Fardinand ( compiled by Yazdi ) P.NO. 48.


Bilbliography :

  • The Land and People Of Afghanistan by Mary Louis Clifford Translated in Persian by Murtida
    Asadi ,Tehran Iran 1993.
  • Notes on Nomad Tribes of Eastern Afghanistan by A.J. Robinson Translated in Urdu by Professor Saeed Ahmed Rafiq , Quetta Pakistan 1983.
  • General Atlas Of Afghanistan. Sahab Geographic and Drafting Institute Tehran Iran.
  • The Khazaras ( In Russian ) by Temur Khanov Translated in Urdu by Hassan Raza Changezi Quetta Pakistan, 1992.
  • Time ( Magazine ) Vol 158 No. 15, Oct 15, 2001.
  • Saqavi – e- Duvum by Samsur Afghan Translated in Persian by Dr. Khalilullah and Dad Barsh ,
    Holland 1998.
  • Weekly Hafta Nama – e – Wahdat Vol No. 385 , Nov. 2001.
  • Nomades et Paysans en Afghanistan Compiled by Mohammad Hossein Papoli Yazdi in Persian Meched, Iran 1993.
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