"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: AttaRasool
Full Name: Atta Rasool Malik
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Buzkashi in Afghanistan

                                        By Atta Rasool Malik



Buzkashi  is a traditional and national game in Afghanistan. It is somewhat similar to Polo, for in both games players play while riding their horses. However, they are different in several ways. In Buzkashi, players (chopendaz, as they are called) are to grab a headless goat or a calf instead of a ball. They are to pitch it across a goal line / secure area, while clearing it off their opponents. Another amazing difference between both games is that Polo is played for a definite period with a fixed number of players, while Buzkashi does not incorporate any such limitations1. You can play as long as you wish with as many players as can join it. If one is tired of playing, he has to accept his defeat.


After Afghans' match with Russians, Americans came to Kabul with better horses and heavy teams. This was right as far as rules of the Buzkashi were concerned. However, now North Atlantic team is tired of playing, and yet it claims its victory that is quite un-understandable for Afghans.2 Opposite teams often develop friction and difference of opinions. However, the sad part is that even the umpire (world community) and other teams (neighbors of Afghanistan) don’t appreciate the expertise of Afghans chopendaz in this game. They are rather supporting intrigues to disqualify the Afghan team (actual players), less they themselves are to confront this tough team of seasoned chopendaz in coming matches.


Afghans are good, extremely hard working, outspoken and free of complexes. Majority of them don't deserve the leadership which has been imposed on them for several decades. Most of the historians’ attitude toward Afghan people is also biased. They write a lot about Afghan people's invasions and aggressions against India and else where, but they hardly touch the suffering and invasions forced upon them by Central Asian people, Soviets, British Empire and now the Americans. The fact is that Afghanistan has been a playground of battles for several decades.3

Whether you like it or not, Americans are now leading the world .Their technology and terminology, their culture and way of life; in short, everything that is called American is holding sway over the world.  Americans claim chauvinistically that they have “vital national interests” in every corner of the world, the neighboring countries of Afghanistan also follow suite. They don’t feel shy in asserting their own “vital interests”. The irony of the circumstances is that even the global community acknowledges their assertions of being the real stakeholders4. Let us have a cursory look at these stakeholders regarding recent developments in Afghanistan.

Russia and Iran want an end to the American occupation of Afghanistan, but they also want to see Taliban crushed first5.  They don’t want to see the Taliban in power in Afghanistan after the US departure. Pakistan wants to see a friendly government in Kabul as a prize to its prolonged sufferings during war on terror, and subsequent support it lent to the Americans.


China, thanks to its anti interventionist policy now, it is only putting its weight behind Pakistan by not demanding anything new in Afghanistan.

India, the distant neighbor of Afghanistan, is more assertive than actual neighbors of Afghanistan are. It wants to render Pakistan’s Western border as vulnerable as its eastern border is. In fact, Indians are pinning their hopes on a prolonged American engagement in Afghanistan, and they are engaged in actively wooing them. America and Western countries want to leave Afghanistan and talk to Taliban, but from a vantage point, so that they could leave behind “security check post” for future security in this energy corridor. God may bless all the neighbors, distant neighbors and aggressors in Afghanistan, who are “sincerely” involved in their efforts to bring peace and stability.

Russians, apart from settling scores of former rout, see Taliban as the emergence of the political Islam, an impending threat to Central Asian Republics.6 They are unable to realize this fact that Taliban may be a growing force to reckon with due to their deep-rooted xenophobia, but their brand of Islam has not appealed even to the local Afghanis as yet. Therefore, this brand of Islam is unlikely to be exported across the borders.

Apprehensions of Iranians like Saudis are always sectarian .Both of these countries have yet to rise above the sectarian politics of Shia, Sunni and Wahabi.7


“Intellectuals” and “custodians” in Pakistan don’t know the fact that even a cart-pusher can comprehend that after the withdrawal of the Americans, the Pashtuns, mainly the Taliban, would dominate the government in Kabul, for at least during the coming decade. Demography and character of different communities of Afghanistan speaks this fact louder and clear. Pakistan needs to focus on trust deficit and improvement in its deteriorating goodwill amongst those Pashtuns rather than requesting friendly government from the Americans, who themselves are empty-handed and exhausted. The Americans will be lucky, if their own vital national interests i.e. establishment of “security check post” in Afghanistan’s energy corridor, remain intact after the withdrawal of the bulk of their troops in July 2011.

Amazingly, most of the neighbors of Afghanistan agree at a point that the presence of Americans in Afghanistan is essential if not a blessing for them. Pakistani “economists” have discovered a new way of building Pakistani nation, getting dollars from west at any cost in the best “national interest.” International theorists also support them academically because such ruling elites and powerful lobbies of every country define the national interests. “Easy dollars with political strings attached” coming from the west might have helped ruling elites of the times, but have played havoc with the self-respect of the Pakistani nation and demoralized the masses.8



Quite often, America and the western media look at Pakistan as spoiler in Afghanistan. The reason behind this perception is the “prisms” of westerners through which they see the Muslim world. And partly, it is their effort and deep-rooted desire to outsource this war to Pakistan completely.

 Indian” intellectuals” too are encouraging the Indian Government to rise up to the level of an emerging superpower and play a bigger role in the region, i.e. sending Indian troops to Afghanistan after the US withdrawal.  Indians may be welcomed for this “brave contribution”. Their fate too is written on the wall.

Nobody can resist commending the professional efficiency of the CIA, when they see communists abusing Lenin in the streets of Moscow. Likewise, hats off to the RAW for instigating the Pakistani Taliban to turn their guns toward mosques in the Islamic republic of Pakistan. Isn't it an unbelievable work? The Blackwater and the RAW deserve a collective salute for decisively convincing Pakistanis through series of bomb blasts in crowded areas that war on terror is their national war. You cannot expect anything from the enemy except enmity, what the friends and our own people have done to Pakistan will go a long way in the modern history.


I dare to offer a few suggestions to the neighbours and distant neighbours of Afghanistan in the best interest of humanity.

 The Americans are trying their best to make their military productive by backing their multinational companies across the globe9.  This is quite right, but they humiliate other nations during this process. They have the right to earn money, but not to plunder and pillage. They go for money, but stuck up in their ego of being a superpower. They not only lose political sway, but also waste the money. More upsurges in troops would be merely a waste of further resources besides increase in the miseries of the people of Afghanistan. The punishment inflicted on the Afghans is enough, whether they sponsored the terror acts of 9/11 or not. Afghans are egoists and require respect. They will be willing to take care of the US interests, better than India or Pakistan. This is a sincere piece of advice for our American friends, who have lent a helping hand to Pakistan on several occasions.


Saudi Arabia and Iran need to review their policies of sectarian politics. Muslims are in a troubled state all over the world. They are confronting external and internal threats. We should not create further fissures among their ranks. We should not reject or throw aspersions of doubts on each other's faith10. Such politics of sectarianism could boomerang on the sponsors. Both these countries need to see the danger lurking on the horizon. They must let the Muslims win, no matter whether they are Pushtun Sunni from south or Shia from the northern Afghanistan.


Pakistan should support true representative government in Afghanistan based on its demography and aspirations of the Afghanis. Meanwhile, it can encourage the Americans to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible after putting effective government infrastructure in place. Pakistan and its intelligence agencies need to focus on the internal security. On our western front, our depth and strength lies in the FATA and Baluchistan, and nowhere else.11 We have to win the hearts and minds of our own people, and should not worry about Indian presence in Afghanistan all the time. Even if we have to counter Indians, Kabul is not an appropriate playground for this objective. The reason is that first, our Muslim brothers residing there have suffered much through war, and they need a break. The second reason is that our retaliation would not inflict the damage on Bharat (India) as we want to do. Thirdly, Afghans will dislike India-Pakistan at loggerheads at their turf, and consequently the masses would turn against Pakistan.12 Therefore, we should work for peace in Afghanistan that is in the best interest of the entire region. India has started playing in Baluchistan and the FATA13 .Our team could opt for Assam, Punjab, Mizoram and Nagaland, but first Pakistan needs to win ongoing match with India in the FATA and Baluchistan. This is the test of the ISI, for it has to work without American propaganda and Saudi dollars at its back unlike Afghan jihad. That is why these are the testing times for the ISI to prove its worth.


Buzkashi is quite liberal game, yet it has certain rules that are to be observed. The Americans, world community and Afghan neighbours should display sportsmanship and should not expel the real players from the match. This development is unlikely to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan.


Author hails from semi tribal areas of Pakistan and is student of M Phil – IR at National Defence University Islamabad. He can be reached at:


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