24 October 2023
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In the midst of the turbulent and deeply divided landscape of the so-called Afghanistan, cricket has emerged as an unlikely symbol of privilege and exclusivity. The Afghan cricket team, often portrayed as a unifying force for the nation, is anything but that. It consists entirely of Pashtun players with Pakistani origins and enjoys the overt support of the Taliban, while non-Pashtuns continue to face persecution in the country.
From its inception, the Afghan cricket team was designed to be a Pashtun-exclusive entity. This exclusivity has historical roots, stemming from a divisive approach to unity. In the so-called Afghanistan, the concept of a united nation has been tenuous at best, with Pashtun interests often being enforced as national interests. The cricket team’s composition is a glaring reflection of this enduring division.
Adding to the complexity of the issue is the fact that "Afghan" is not an identity accepted by the majority of non-Pashtuns. In a nation marked by ethnic diversity, the term "Afghan" is often perceived as synonymous with Pashtun identity, further marginalizing other ethnic groups. This lack of inclusivity has only deepened the fault lines in the country’s society.
The involvement of the Taliban in supporting the Pashtun-dominated cricket team adds another layer of controversy. The Taliban, a terrorist group that has gained control over so-called Afghanistan, is notorious for its repressive policies against non-Pashtuns and its systematic exclusion of women from public life. While the Taliban ruthlessly enforces its regressive ideologies, it publicly endorses the Pashtun-dominated cricket team, making it clear where its priorities lie.
The game of cricket itself brought to the region during British colonization, lacks native roots in the region. It is a colonial import and was not a traditional sport of the region. This fact further highlights the incongruity of the situation: a foreign sport being manipulated to reinforce an ethnic divide.
The Afghan cricket team continues to deepen divisions and reinforce Pashtun ethnic privilege. The cricket field, which should be a place of unity and sportsmanship, is instead a stark reminder of the ongoing divisions and the precarious state of affairs in the so-called Afghanistan.