Baghlan - Program for Culture and Conflict Studies

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Baghlan Province

Governor: Abdul Sattar Bariz

Population Estimate: 910,700

Area in Square Kilometers: 21,112

Capital: Puli Khumri

Districts: Baghlan-e-Jadid, Burka, Puli Khumri, Nahrain, Khwaja Hijran, Guzra-a-Noor, Dana-e-Ghoari, Deh Salah, Khost-Farang, Pul-e-Hisar, Andarab, Khinjan, Dushi, Tala-Barfak.

Ethnic Groups: 52% Tajik, 20% Pashtun, 15% Hazara, 12% Uzbek, 1% Tatar.

Tribal Groups: 20% Ghilzai Pashtun

Religious Groups: 85% Sunni, 15% Shi'a1

Occupation of Population: Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, some Factory Work, some Private Business, and some Manual Labor (in the Pul-i-Khomri District).

Crops/Livestock: Wheat, Rice, Cotton, Potato, Fodder, Consumer Vegetables, Farm Forestry, Fruits; Dairy and Beef Cows, Sheep (for wool production), Poultry (in the high elevation areas).

Literacy Rate: 25%2

Total # of Educational Institutions: 3303

Primary Schools: 70

Lower Secondary Schools: 161

Higher Secondary Schools: 77

Islamic: 19

Tech/Vocational: 2

Colleges/Universities: 2; Baghlan University (Department of Physics, Social Science, and Literature in Pul-e-Khumri), Departments of Agriculture and Industry in Baghlan, Teacher Training Center (in Pul-e-Khumri).


Transportation: Primary- Route 2 Kabul-Pol-e-Khumri-Sher Khan Highway, Route A76 Pol-e-Khumri-Kholm-Mazar-e-Sharif Highway, Secondary- Route 104 Dushi-Khamard Highway, Track- Khenjan-Andarab Road, Pul-e-Khumri-Nahrin Road, Baghlani Jadid-Burka-Khost-wa-Firing Road.

Estimated Population with Access to Electricity: 17%4; The province has one power generation station. The majority of residents rely on public electricity. Access to electricity is much greater in the urban area where 65% of households have access to electricity.5


Clinics: 58

Sources/Availibility of Drinking Water: Rivers, Streams, Canals and Springs provide non-potable water for the majority of the population. Most residents must walk a considerable distance to access safe drinking water. The availability of potable water is 24%, defined as Piped Water, Public Tap, Public Well, Protected Spring, Well, or Rain Water.7

Rivers: The Kunduz/Khanabad River passes through Kunduz, Baghlan and Takhar provinces and is the most important and vital source of water for the North East region of Afghanistan. It is fed primarily by snow-melt and is heavily utilized for agricultural irrigation. The river and its tributaries also serve as the primary source of drinking water for many communities and their livestock.

Topographical Features: 60% of the  province is considered mountainous or semi-mountainous, while 40% is classified as flat or semi-flat.

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Baghlan - Content

Baghlan Provincial Overview

Baghlan Province is located in northeastern Afghanistan has an area of 21,112 sq. km (8,151 sq. miles) and a population estimated at 762, 500. The northern part of Baghlan contains slopes of the Hindu Kush mountain range crossed by the Robatak, Barabi, Khawak and Salang Passes. Baghlan maintains an ethnically diverse population which includes Tajiks, Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Hazara and Tartars.

Agriculture remains a main source of labor for Baghlan residents particularly in northern parts of the province where grapes, pistachio nuts, pomegranates and sugar beets are grown. Since the 1940s, Baghlan has served as a big producer of Afghan sugar with a large refining facility located near Pul-i-Khumri. Decades of war, instability and drought severely damaged Baghlan’s economic capabilities.

Recent efforts by NATO and the international community have rehabilitated a large sugar factory near Pul-i-Khumri with some sugar refining operations beginning in 2006. A second sugar factory was finished the following November, but its inauguration was marred after a suicide-bomber detonated himself among the opening ceremony, killing at least 68 people; mostly young children tasked with singing in a choir to the visiting Members of Parliament who were visiting the facility. Five visiting MP’s, including, former Commerce Minister Sayed Mustafa Kazemi, died in the attack.

Baghlan has suffered from ineffective governance since 2001 with nine different governors attempting to bring stability and security to the province. The current governor, Munshi Abdul Majeed, replaced Haji Mohammad Akbar Barakzai, who was appointed in January 2009. A recent series of suicide bombings, factional fighting, and criminal activity has continued to plague Baghlan, including its provincial capital, Pul-i-Khumri. Majeed is a former Hezb-i-Islami commander and native of Baghlan province who has served as the governor of Badakshan for several years before replacing Akbar Barakzai.


Human Terrain


Tajiks are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan after the Pashtuns and comprise between 25-30% of the population. In Baghlan, Tajiks are the majority ethnic group and represent over 50% of the population. The Tajiks in Afghanistan tend to live in settled communities as opposed to a nomadic lifestyle. Pashtuns refer to them as Farsiwan, or speakers of Farsi, the lingua franca of Afghanistan (50% of Afghanistan speaks Farsi, as opposed to only 35% for Pashtu). Between the Tajiks and Pashtuns there has been significant animosity in recent years. Forming the backbone of the Northern Alliance, they also have a base in the nation of Tajikistan. They held out fiercely against the Taliban. Most Tajik are Sunni Muslims, but a few are Shi’a. Tajiks made up the majority of the Northern Alliance, both in terms of membership and leadership. Tribal ties have largely broken down among the Tajiks; therefore, social organization is defined primarily by geography. Despite their lack of cohesiveness the Tajiks are often brought together due to the perceived common threat posed by the Pashtuns.8 Currently, Tajik warlords vie for control of illicit opium and arms transport with competing Uzbek, and Ismaili militias throughout Baghlan Province. The ANP for Baghlan province consists mainly of Andarabi Tajiks. View the Tajik Tree



Pashtuns are located in a small pocket extending from north of Doshi through Pul-e Khumri and north through the City of Baghlan in Baghlan province. They are the majority group in Baghlan Jadid district in the northwestern corner of the province and comprise roughly 20% of the population of Baghlan as a whole. Traditionally beholden to the moral code of Pashtunwali (“the way of the Pashtun”), they can easily be deeply offended by breaches of the code and carry the grudge for generations. Several Pashtun communities were grafted into Tajik-dominated Baghlan in the Nineteenth Century as part of the king’s ‘pashtunization’ policy. In general, Pashtuns have been slow to adapt to post-Taliban Afghanistan. Jadid district, north of Pul-i-Khumri, is dominated by Pashtuns and was a Taliban stronghold as late as 2001. At the outset of OEF, the U.S. backed Northern Alliance advance towards Kabul resulted in reported atrocities against Pashtun communities in Jadid district. Additionally, Jadid District is still dominated by former Prime Minister Hekmatyar’s fundamentalist Hizb-i-Islami party, which has resisted the Karzai government. Over the course of American involvement in Afghanistan, Pashtun enclaves in Baghlan have been more susceptible to infiltration by anti-government elements than Tajik and Uzbek dominated areas. Tajiks and Uzbeks in Baghlan blame Pashtun elements or members of the HIG for most of the security incidents which have taken place in the province since 2001. Finally, the continuous state of armed conflict which has characterized Afghanistan for the past three decades has resulted in frequent displacements and subsequent land disputes between the Tajik majority and Pashtun minority in Baghlan province. These disputes have yet to be successfully resolved and serve to fuel longstanding animosity between the Pashtun and their neighbors within Baghlan.9


 In Baghlan, the Hazara comprise approximately 15% of the population. As a distinct minority ethnic and religious group within the population of Afghanistan; they have often been the target of discriminatory and violent repression. Most likely descended from the Mongols of Genghis Khan, (there is also a strong argument that they are of Eastern Turkic origin), the Hazara are noticeably different in physical appearance when compared to the Pashtun majority. In terms of religion, the vast majority of the Hazara are of the Shia Muslim faith, again in contrast to the Pashtuns who are Sunni Muslim. Due to these differences, “the Hazara have experienced discrimination at the hands of the Pashtun-dominated government throughout the history of modern Afghanistan."10 As the traditional underclass of Afghan society, Hazara were exploited and made to work as servants and laborers. As a result, there tends to be an anti-government and anti-Pashtun bias among the Hazara. In present day Afghanistan, the Hazara are divided geographically into two main groups: the Hazarajat Hazara and those who live outside the Hazarajat. The Hazarajat is located in the Hindu Kush Mountains in central Afghanistan and is “centered on Bamiyan province and include[s] areas of Ghor, Uruzgan, Wardak, and Ghazni province."11 The Hazara living outside of the Hazarajat live in and around Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Samangan province. Due to atrocities committed against them by the Taliban, the Hazara by and large are opposed to the Taliban. In August 1998, the Taliban massacred approximately 4,000 Hazara in Mazara-e Sharif; this massacre was followed by another the next month when the Taliban killed another 500 Hazara in Bamiyan. The Hezb-e Wahdat (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan) is an umbrella political organization which commands the support of large numbers of Hazara. The Hazara are also often at odds with the Kuchi population within the Hazarajat. View the Hazara Tree


The Uzbek people of Afghanistan are found north of the Hindu Kush in Afghan Turkistan. In Afghanistan, they number approximately 1.6 million and comprise around 12% of the population of Baghlan Province. The presence of the Uzbek people in this region was facilitated by the frequent invasion of Central Asian Turks throughout history. Uzbeks are the most populous Turkish group in Afghanistan and are recognizable by their broad, flat faces and lighter skin when compared to the Pashtuns. They are historically farmers and stockmen, breeding the karakul sheep and an excellent type of Turkman horse. Their kinsmen reside in the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan. Many Uzbeks fled into northern Afghanistan in the 1920s to escape the suppression when the Soviet government was trying to stamp out their customs and Moslem religion.12 Uzbek militias represent one piece of a perennially complicated security puzzle within the province.


The Tatar people comprise roughly 1% of the population of Baghlan. They are classified as Turkic in origin and exist in significant concentrations in many former Soviet Republics. Their native tongue is Kazan Tatar (meaning archer). The physical appearance of the Tatar varies from blue-eyed blondes to that of typical Central Asian peoples. Generally, they have oval faces with little facial hair. Historically, the Tatar people have existed as an identifiable group since the tenth century. They have weathered the Mongol conquest of the thirteenth century and domination by the Russian empire and subsequent Soviet Union beginning in the sixteenth century. Today, the Tatar people are settled (as opposed to nomadic) and are generally peasants and merchants with no traditional tribal structure. The father is the legal head of the household in Tatar families and holds sole decision making authority within the family, which frequently includes up to three generations in one household. Most Tatar people are Sunni Hanafite Muslim. However, many pre-Islamic practices persist such as; Celebration of the "Rites of Spring", honoring of saints and holy places, belief in the power of "the evil eye", eating of pork, and not observing Islamic fasts.13 View the Tatar Tree


Political Parties

Jamiat-e-Islami (Islamic Society of Afghanistan)

Founded by Burhanuddin Rabbani in 1968. Currently led by his son, Salahuddin Rabbani. It is predominately a Tajik political party which was active in the anti-Soviet jihad and a major political player in the Northern Alliance. Yunus Qanuni’s Hezb-e Afghanistan Naween broke away from Jamiat-e Islami. The vast majority of Baghlan's District Chiefs are affiliated with Jamiat. Jamiat-e-Islami supported Afghan President Hamid Karzai under Burhanuddin Rabbani's leadership until his death in 2011. The party's affiliation under his son's (Salahuddin Rabbani) leadership is unknown.


The party was founded by Ahmed Shah Masood in an effort to offset the power of Pashtun ethnic majority in Afghanistan. The Shuria-e-Nezar group was a key player in the Afghan Civil war that followed the Anti-Soviet Jihad. After the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, this same group re-emerged in Afghan politics and has continued to seek power for their former Northern Alliance patrons. Many Afghan observers believe that groups like Shuria-e Nazar serve to alienate the Pashtun majority and inadvertently undermine U.S. anti-terror and counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.14

Hezb-e-Wahdat (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan)

Hazara umbrella organization led by Mohammad Karim Khalili. Hezb-e Wahdat is an offshoot and successor to a party of the same name that was established in 1990 when several Iran-based, Shi'a jihadi parties merged. Khalili was chosen to lead the party after the Taliban killed Abdul Ali Mazari, the head of original Wahdat party, in 1995. Khalili's drift toward an alliance with the Taliban is generally blamed for his party's factional disintegration. Khalili has served as second vice president in President Karzai's government and wields particular influence among Hazaras in central Afghanistan. His party's success or failure might be viewed as an indicator of the degree to which Hazaras believe the current government reflects their aspirations.15

Islmaic Unity Party of the People of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Wahdat-e Islami-ye Mardum-e Afghanistan)

Led by Mohammad Mohaqeq, The Islamic Unity Party of the People of Afghanistan, like Khalili's party, is an offshoot of the original Wahdat entity formed with the merger of Iran-based, Shi'a Jihadi groups. Mohaqeq was Wahdat's main representative in northern Afghanistan once the Taliban gained control of Kabul in 1996, becoming an ally of the United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (aka the Northern Alliance). In the post-Bonn Interim Administration, Mohaqeq served as a Karzai deputy and minister of planning. Mohaqeq placed third in the presidential ballot with 11.7 percent of the vote. Mohaqeq's party is expected to participate in a powerful opposition bloc in the National Assembly.16

Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG)

Mujahideen party active since the Soviet invasion; led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. HiG was famous for its shifting loyalties, and was the favorite party of Pakistan’s ISI until the rise of the Taliban. Former members continue to wield considerable influence. Thus far, HiG has been actively opposed to US-led and Afghan national forces. Hekmatyar is a Kharoti Ghilzai and, therefore, less influential than the much more respected and powerful Khugianis, such as Haji Din Mohammad and Anwarul Haq Mohammad. The HIG has been frequently accused of fomenting instability and lawlessness in Baghlan by its political and military rivals.


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References - Menu

1 Afghan Information Management Services, Baghlan District Profiles, at Link.

2 Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health Provincial Profile (2012), at Link.

3 Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ministry of Education: School Survey Summary Report, 2007.

4 MRRD, NRVA Survey Results: Access to Electricity Report, 2005.

5 MRRD Provincial Development Plan, Baghlan: Provincial Profile, 2005.

6 USAID, AFghanistan: Baghlan Health Facilities Map, June 2005.

7 Afghanistan Human Development Report 2007, United Nations Development Program, 2007, 166.

8 2007 CIA World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, at Link.

9 Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies: Baghlan Commentary, November 2007, at Link.

10 US State Department Afghanistan Culture and Ethnic Studies, 2004.

11 US State Department Afghanistan Culture and Ethnic Studies, 2004.

12 The Afghan Network: Ethnic Group Profiles, The Turkish Groups of Afghanistan, at Link.

13 The Joshua Project, People-in-Country Profile: Afghanistan, Tatar, at Link.

14 Afghan Meli Tolena: US and the Warlords in Afghanistan, at Link.

15 Afghanistan Votes: Political Parties, Major Parties, at Link.

16 Ibid.

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Material contained herein is made available for the purpose of peer review and discussion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.  Most of the content available on this website was updated as of March 2017.