Officials cry foul over ethnicity and tribe categories for ID cards

The Afghan National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) has allegedly classified a number of ethnic groups and tribes into categories – in a move met with a strong backlash by Afghans including some government officials.

The categorized list of ethnicities and tribes is included in an online platform for registration for the new electronic national ID cards.

Based on the list, all Pashtuns in Afghanistan are classified into one ethnic group but the rest of the groups such as Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks are each divided into several tribes.

Some politicians believe that the NSIA’s list “deliberately” fuels disunity among the people of Afghanistan as the organization has categorized ethnic groups based on their “villages, districts and tribes.”

Second Vice President Sarwar Danish said the list lacks “scientific and practical” elements and this in itself could lead to disputes in the country.

“Hasty decisions would question the government and create divisions and mistrust among our people,” Mohammad Hedayat, the head of Danish’s media office said.

Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani stated that the NSIA has intentionally planned to divide ethnicities based on districts and villages.

Atta Mohammad Noor, Chief Executive of Jamiat-e-Islami Party, claimed that the NSIA is not “aware of the difference between an ethnicity and place of residency.”

“This government organization is not yet aware of this important fact that there is a huge difference between an ethnicity and the residence of a group, and you can never count the name of the location as the ethnicity of a specific people,” said Ahmad Afzal Hadid, Head of Balkh Provincial Council.

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, also spoke out against the NSIA’s decision and called the list a “mistake.”

Abdullah called on the organization to rectify the issue.

The NSIA, however, claimed that its decision was made at the request of the people.

“This decision was made as per the request of a number of tribal elders and the interpretation of the third part of Article 4 of the Constitution,” said Roeina Shahabi, the spokesperson for the NSIA.

Shahabi stated: “According to the statement (tribal elders) requested through various official sources the inclusion of their tribes in the electronic ID card, which was not clearly mentioned in the Constitution.”

Article 4 of the Constitution reads: National sovereignty in Afghanistan shall belong to the nation, manifested directly and through its elected representatives. The nation of Afghanistan is composed of all individuals who possess citizenship of Afghanistan.

The nation of Afghanistan shall be comprised of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkman, Baluch, Pachaie, Nuristani, Aymaq, Arab, Qirghiz, Qizilbash, Gujur, Brahwui, and other tribes.

The word Afghan shall apply to every citizen of Afghanistan. No individual of the nation of Afghanistan shall be deprived of citizenship. Citizenship and asylum-related matters shall be regulated by law.