The Tajik form the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Estimates in1995 averaged around 4.3 million. Afghan Tajik live mainly in the PanjsherValley north of Kabul and in the northern and northeastern provinces of Parwan,Takhar, Badakhshan, and also Baghlan and Samangan. Tajik also extend into thecentral mountains. There is a tendency of some non-Tajik groups to classify anyDari speaker as a member of this group. Some also tend to categorize any urbanresident who has become detribalized as Tajik. This is particularly true inKabul. Tajik are also found north of Afghanistan's border in their own state ofTajikistan.
Tajik are physically from the Mediterranean substock. They speak variousTajiki dialects of Dari, an Iranian language in the Indo-European languagefamily. Most are Hanafi Sunni, although a sizeable number living in areas fromBamiyan to eastern Badakhshan are Ismaili Shia. Tajik are not organized by tribeand refer to themselves most often by the name of the valley or region theyinhabit, such as Panjsheri, Andarabi, Samangani, and Badakhshi. Those livingamong non-Tajik, such as those living among the Pushtun who refer to them as dehqan,often describe themselves simply as Tajik.
Tajik are predominantly fully sedentary mountaineer farmers and herders, whooften make short-range seasonal migrations to alpine grazing meadows duringwhich whole families move up to the mountains to harvest grain and melons. TheTajik areas are famous for a wide variety of fruits and nuts which areacknowledged to be among the finest in the country.
Many Tajik migrated to the cities, especially to Kabul, which was primarily aTajik town until Timur, the son of Ahmad Shah Durrani, moved his court to Kabulin 1776 and declared it to be the Pushtun capital. In Kabul the Tajik are stilldominant and well-represented in the uppermiddle class. Many are active inbusiness and in government service; others find employment as cooks, houseboysor gardeners in the homes of foreigners. On the off-agricultural season Tajikmay join the workforce at industrial complexes near their villages. Whetherseasonally or permanently based in cities, Tajik tend to maintain close linkswith their rural kin.
Except for the short rule of the Tajik known as Bacha Saqqao in 1928, theTajik have not dominated politically. Since 1978, however, several Tajikmilitary leaders have gained substantial recognition, the most renowned beingAhmad Shah Masood from the Panjsher Valley. Burhanuddin Rabbani who served asPresident of The Islamic State of Afghanistan from 1992-1996 is a Tajik fromBadakhshan.
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