Going Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan - Towards a Better Understanding of the Pashtun


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The Pashtun people represent the world’s largest ethnic tribal group and are largely indigenous
to the desolate, mountainous region straddling the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan in a
region that is now recognized as the geographical safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The
remoteness of parts of this area, as well as the scarcity of modern accoutrements, belies their
significance to current international security. Our purpose in this paper is to offer a significant
first step toward greater insight into the lives of the Pashtun people in the belief that U.S. and
international policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan will benefit significantly from this enhanced

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Going Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan - Towards a Better Understanding of the Pashtun

  1. 1. GOING FORWARD IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTANTowards A Better Understanding Of The Pashtun Global Reach, Local Approach
  2. 2. GOING FORWARD IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN Outreach Strategists, LLCIntroductionThe Pashtun1 people represent the world’s largest ethnic tribal group and are largely indigenousto the desolate, mountainous region straddling the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan in aregion that is now recognized as the geographical safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Theremoteness of parts of this area, as well as the scarcity of modern accoutrements, belies theirsignificance to current international security. Our purpose in this paper is to offer a significantfirst step toward greater insight into the lives of the Pashtun people in the belief that U.S. andinternational policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan will benefit significantly from this enhancedknowledge.Traditionally, topics of international affairs are understood in light of nationalistic concerns: nations,states, cities, etc. A better understanding of the cultural and political nuances of the trans-nationalPashtun people is indispensable for formulating more effective policy with increased chances ofsuccessful implementation. Success for this region includes a more secure and peaceful state thatempowers local and federal government entities to work autonomously, that does not requirethe present military footprint of international forces, and that does not offer conditions for thesafe haven of organized militant groups.For short and long-term engagement in Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan, a backgroundknowledge and insight into the Pashtun people, the peculiar culture, the geography, the recentand past history and the current political situation is crucial.This paper seeks to present an introduction to Pashtun history and identity, explicate the ways inwhich Pashtun identity plays a crucial role in current regional problems, and propose a battery ofstrategies to achieve U.S. policy objectives in the region.1. Also known as Pukhtoon, Pakhtun, and Pathan. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 2
  3. 3. Map courtesy of Google EarthWho Are the PashtunThe Pashtun people hail from a triangular region, of approximately 250,000 sq. miles, in Central SouthAsia which includes large portions of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) a part of QuettaDivision of Baluchistan province in Pakistan and three-fourths of Afghanistan. The triangle runs fromDir in the north along the river Indus, is bound on the east by Swat, Buner and Swabi, takes a westwardturn a few miles south of Dera Ismail Khan, and includes Loralai, Sharigh, Degari, Harnai, Quetta, Pishin,Chaman and Qandahar, then extends up to Herat. From here it curves north-east and follows thefoothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range and comes back to Dir.The entirety of the Pashtun populace is comprised of roughly 60 major tribes and more than 400sub-clans. Estimations of the Pashtun population range from 40-50 million, with the lack of any officialAfghani census since 1979 complicating the accuracy on this count. There are 3.5 million Pashtuns livingin present-day Karachi. 25.6 million or 15% of Pakistan’s population is Pashtun, and 13.3 million or 42%of the population in Afghanistan.2 By way of comparison, the Pashtun are generally considered the largesttribal society in the world.2. Population Census Organization, Government of Pakistan, http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 3
  4. 4. History and OriginWhile the origins of the Pashtun have been researched and debated for centuries, it is sufficientto suggest that the Pashtun are a heterogeneous ethnicity, owing their makeup to the multitudeof tribes and peoples who have passed through the region over the many centuries of Pashtuncivilization.Much of their history and customs has been passed down through oral narratives and allegoriesrather than through written text. As a result, pre-modern Pashtun history is often the work offoreign transcription and has been relatively vague. As such, there is still much uncertainty as tothe precise history of the Pashtun people.The most accepted theory of Pashtun origin suggests that the Pashtun are of Aryan descentand eastern Iranian origins. Another theory links the Pashtun to the original 12 tribes of Israeland the Yusufzai tribe. Yet another theory describes their descent from Arabs and some groupssuch as the Afridis claim to be direct descendants of Alexander the Great and his army whoswept through the area in the 4th century B.C.In the 13th century, the brutal Mongol invasion and their rule over what is now Afghanistan gaverise to animosity between the Pashtun and the descendents of the Mongols, the ethnic minorityHazara. This animosity, consequently, continues to this day. Other civilizations which inhabitedthis region include the Central Asian Timurids in the 14th century and their descendents theMoghul dynasty of the 16th century. Ahmad Shah Durrani, a Pashtun, is the founder of modernAfghanistan. He founded the state in 1747 and the Pashtun ruled Afghanistan for the next 200 years. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 4
  5. 5. The Way of the Pashtun – Pashtunwali “It is said that a Pashtun can be your best friend or your worst enemy.”- AnonymousPashtunwali, which literally translates as, “the way ofthe Pashtun” serves as the basis for the traditionalPashtun obligation to protect their lands fromforeign invaders. This strict social code, as ancientas the tribe itself, is the cultural connectivity thatdefines the Pashtun people. It is essentially theirsocietal philosophy and is therefore central in allof their actions, customs, and traditions.Only by adhering to the code of Pashtunwali cana Pashtun retain his honor or izzat, without whichhe would be cast out from the tribe. Pashtunwaliis governed by four main tenants; the concepts of(1) chivalry (ghayrat or nang), (2) hospitality(melmastiya) and forgiveness over pasthostility (nanawatey), (3) gender boundaries (purdah or namus) and (4) council (jirga).These rules are responsible for the survival of the Pashtun tribes for over 2,000 years. It isimportant to note that these rules are not necessarily in conformity with Islamic law, but derivefrom years of cultural tradition and are thought to trace back to pre-Islamic timesChivalry (Ghayrat or Nang)Pashtun chivalry is a two-fold concept. It encompasses the laws of honor in battle and thedefense of honor in civil society. In times of war, the norms of chivalry determine who maybe attacked in battle, the distribution of the spoils of war, and the criteria for honor in war.In general day to day interactions, ghayrat comprises “the defense of honor against shameby another person.” 3 The binary concept of honor and shame is paramount in Pashtunwali.3. Kakar, Palwasha. “Tribal Law of Pashtunwali and Women’s Legislative Authority.”, Afghan Legal History Project, Islamic Legal Studies Program, Harvard University, p. 4. http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs /ilsp/research/kakar.pdf. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 5
  6. 6. Hospitality (Melmastiya) and Nanawatey – forgiveness orrepentance over past hostility and the granting of asylumto fugitivesMelmastiya, or an open hearted hospitalityis one of the most sublime and noblefeatures of Pashtun character. Hospitalityaddresses the shelter and defense ofguests. Pashtunwali dictates that a hostprovide shelter, food and water for guests,for as long as the guest chooses to stay.Pashtuns will invariably go beyond theirmeans to provide this care. It would be anact of dishonor to ask a guest to leave, even in cases where acts of hospitality are causing unduehardship to the host.For example, in May 2009, approximately three million Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) fledfrom their homes to escape the fighting in Dir, Buner and the Swat Valley. They were greeted withcare and unparalleled generosity from their Pashtun neighbors in surrounding rural areas. Eventhough UNHCR, the government of Pakistan and many non-governmental organizations set upcamps to provide assistance to these IDPs, 80% stayed in the private homes of other Pashtunswho supported them monetarily and otherwise, out of a sense of melmastiya.These rural Pashtun families took in as many as 20 refugees and supported them for weeks ata time. In some situations, families sold their own assets-animals and land- to provide income tocontinue hosting refugee families.4An important nuance of melmastiya is nanawatey, or literally “to enter into the security of ahouse.” 5 This aspect of hospitality extends beyond traditional shelter and includes the defendingof guests and the offering of protection from all those who would threaten him. Anyone whogains access to a Pashtun’s house can claim asylum irrespective of caste, creed, status or previousrelations. Once taken in, the asylum seeker is protected by the owner of the house even at therisk of his own life.With this concept, a repentant enemy is forgiven and the feuding factions resume peaceful andamiable relations. Under nanawatey, Pashtuns on several occasions have provided sanctuary toeven their deadliest of enemies.4. “Pashtun culture aids refugees, ruins hosts.” The Washington Post. 3 June 2009.5. Akbar Ahmed, Millennium and Charisma among Pathans. A Critical Essay in Social Anthropology (London: Routeledge and Kegal Paul, 1976), 76. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 6
  7. 7. Historically, the obligation of asylum frequently brought the Pashtuns into conflict with the Britishduring their one hundred year rule. The British government, attempted to enter into varioustreaties and agreements with area tribesmen for territorial responsibility. These treaties ofteninsisted that tribesmen should refrain from harboring outlaws. The Pashtuns considered thisoffensive to the principles of Pashtunwali, and refused to agree to this request to hand over theirguests despite threats of severe punishment. Tribesmen remained obstinate, even when facedwith military action and economic blockades by the British.This strict adherence to melmastiya sheds light on current events in the region and partlyilluminates why otherwise disparate groups of militants such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda havebeen able to gain refuge in these tribal villages. In addition, according to the tenants of nanawatey,not only are these guerillas afforded house and home, but they are also afforded militaryprotection from their hosts.Gender Boundaries (Purdah or Namus)Namus sets the foundation for the rules regarding men and women and the mixing of genders.Pashtun’s marked fierce independence and acute sensitivity to any perceived personal insultare often tied to their defense of namus. Lifelong grudges are often created from even slightdeviations of societal gender rules. Defense of namus is obligatory for every Pashtun and isachieved at any cost.Gender boundaries are defined byrespecting the gender order, maintaininggender segregation, and defendingthe honor of women. In some waysthis aspect of Pashtunwali is similar tofundamentalist interpretations of Islamicmandates. Purdah, or the veil, defines thisphysical and conceptual separation ofmen and women. Afghan homes includea hujra, or sitting room for males, usually located just inside the entrance of the house. This roomprovides a seating area for outsider males who are forbidden from entering the rest of the homewithout permission.Touching a female who is not an immediate family member is absolutely forbidden and hasdire consequences. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 7
  8. 8. Council (jirga)Finally, the tenant of council is represented in Pashtun society by jirga. Tribal elders selected fortheir honor and practice of Pashtunwali are given the task of making decisions, ruling on disputesand acting as arbitrators. These decisions are made by consensus and are binding on the partiesinvolved. The jirga’s decisions maintain the order of the village and inter-tribal relationshipsand are final. Councils are entrusted with the sanctity of the tribe’s code. Due to the inherentmagnitude of Pashtunwali’s directives, the Council’s decisions may carry grave and, what byWestern standards, may be considered extreme orders. For example, the Council may determinethat a tribesman no longer has namus, or honor, and, as a result, burn his house and belongingsand banish him from the tribe. Or, in contrast, the Council has the power to grant asylum (lokhaywarakhal) to a visiting group, thus risking the entire village’s fate in the defense of its guests.Other Relevant Concepts of Pashtunwali Are:Teega or Kanray: Teega or kanray is defined as a temporary truce to end killings betweenparties who are in dispute. Terms of the truce are declared by a jirga. Violation of the truce canresult in punitive measures.Badal: (Commonly referred to as ‘eye for an eye’) Pashtun’s have a heightened sense ofsensitivity to insult or personal attacks. Dignity and honor are vehemently defended with an actshowing superior force by the insulted party.6 An insult may be avenged at any cost even bytaking the life of the insulting party.Lokhay Warkawal: Lokhay Warkawal literally translated as the ‘giving of a pot’. It is thecreation of a promise for the protection of an individual or a tribe. Weaker tribes or individualswill offer lokhay, symbolically delivered in the form of a sacrificial goat or sheep, to a strongertribe with the intention of garnering its safety and security. Once accepted, a promise forprotection against enemies is provided in all circumstances.Pashtunwali is ingrained in every Pashtun. It defines gender roles in society. Itdictates how relationships are formed and conducted, how food and possessionsare shared, how guests are treated, how family and the village is defended, andhow the Pashtun operate in nearly every way.6. Kakar, p.5 TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 8
  9. 9. Pashtun SettlementHaving defeated multiple foreign invasions over the past several centuries, including the Britishin the nineteenth century and the Russians in the late twentieth century, the Pashtun are wellknown throughout the world as fierce protectors of their homeland. Strategically positionedbetween Central Asia and the Punjab plain, the land of the Pashtuns has been highly sought afterfor centuries by many civilizations including the sixteenth century Mogul emperors of India whoattempted to subjugate the Pashtun tribes of the frontier, the Durrani kings in Kabul, the Sikhsunder Ranjit Singh, and the British Empire. Map courtesy of Google EarthFederally Administered Tribal AreaThe Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) is a tribal region along the Pakistan-Afghanistanborder and constitutes the heart of the Taliban movement’s refuge within Pakistan. The region ismountainous, lawless, and, like Baluchistan and NWFP, provides advantageous refuge for al-Qaedaand Taliban militants. Officially, the region is the jurisdiction of the Pakistan government and thegovernor of NWFP, but, practically, “the real power in the tribal agencies has historically restedwith each of their political agents, who represent the federal government and maintain controlthrough the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations.” 77. Zissis, Carin. “Pakistan’s Tribal Areas.” Council for Foreign Relations. 26 October 2007, http://www.cfr.org/publication/11973. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 9
  10. 10. FATA is rife with corruption, extremism,and unrestrained militant activity.Bribes of money, goods, andprotection are commonplacebetween Taliban leaders and triballeaders. Additionally, the region ispoorly educated with a literacy rateof only 17%. 8 Madrassas, or Islamicreligious schools, far out numbersecular schools in the tribal lands, butare still too few in number to serve the student population of the region. Because of the mixof ideology and teaching, madrassas can be significant recruitment centers for Taliban forces.Over the years, the Taliban have gained important footholds in the region.BaluchistanBaluchistan is the largest province in Pakistan and borders Iran, Afghanistan, and the ArabianSea to the west, northwest, and south, respectively. The Baluch, Pashtun, and Brahvi are thethree major tribes comprising the province. Although exact numbers are not known because ofconstant migration and movement of displaced persons, the Pashtun compromise roughly one-third of the population in Baluchistan. The terrain ranges from picturesque farms on snow-cladhills to arid desert that reaches 120ºF in the summer.The Taliban and al-Qaeda have long used the virtually uninhabitable Afghanistan-Pakistan borderregion, including Baluchistan, as a refuge in wars with the Soviets and the United States. As of June2009, they continued to consolidate control inside of the region and gained a stronghold aroundthe capital city of Quetta. The spreading of Taliban philosophy or ‘Talibanization’ has increased inthe region as many Islamic extremist practices, such as the prohibition of male-female socializingand increased violence against minority Shiites, are on the rise.Western intelligence sources believe that prominent Taliban members are based in the capital cityof Quetta. “The Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, to whom bin Laden has pledged loyalty,has lived in Quetta, Pakistan, for the past several years.”9 Mullah Omar played an integral role insecuring bin Laden’s safe haven in Afghanistan after the 1996 Taliban takeover.Baluchistan is plagued by inter-tribal fighting, limited but violent rebellions against the Pakistanigovernment, and a growing secessionist movement. Ethnic Baluchi fear an alliance between theTaliban (mainly Pashtuns) and Pakistani intelligence services. “ ‘[B]illions of rupees were being8. Ibid.9. Riedel, Bruce. “Pakistan: The Critical Battlefield.” Current History. November 2009, p.355. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 10
  11. 11. spent on eliminating the Taliban and their supporters’ in the Federally Administered Tribal Areasand the North West Frontier Province,” Sanaullah Baluch, a spokesman for the BaluchistanNational Party, told a Pakistani newspaper, even as “the government ignores the alarminglydangerous moves of the Taliban in Baluchistan.” 10Northwest Frontier ProvinceThe Northwest Frontier Province, or NWFP, borders Afghanistan, Kashmir, the FederallyAdministered Tribal Area, and Punjab to the northwest, east, southwest, and southeastrespectively. NWFP is majority Pashtun and current estimates are that it includes approximately1.5 million Afghan refugees. The principal language is Pashto, and the capital is Peshawar.Along with the more southern region of Baluchistan, the Frontier Province constitutes the frontlines of the battle against Taliban militants who continue to evade U.S. forces in Afghanistan. TheTaliban’s strength in the region continues to exceed the authority of the Provincial Governmentof NWFP. Taliban militants have “sought to expand [their] strict interpretation of Islam toneighboring districts.” Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, acknowledged the danger of the Talibanin the country: “’We are aware of the fact (the Taliban) trying to take over the state of Pakistan…We are fighting for the survival of Pakistan.” 1110. Khan, Raza. “Taliban shifts to southwest Pakistan.” Washington Times. 19 March 2009.11. Ghaus, Ghulam. “Taliban Controls Northwest Frontier Province.” UPI Asia. 26 February 2009. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 11
  12. 12. Pashtun Tribal HistoryThe Pashtun have lived a largely nomadic life amidst the craggy terrain of the Hindu Kush andCentral South Asia. In the 7th century they adopted the religion of the Arab invaders – Islam.Most embraced the Sunni sect of Islam while a minority adopted the beliefs of the Shia sect.In addition, to Islam other religious traditions including Zoroastrianism and Buddhism haveflourished in Afghanistan.Pashtun TribesThe Pashtun are generally considered to bethe largest tribal society in the world. Themany Pashtun tribes fall into three divisions:the Western Afghans, the EasternAfghans, and the highlanders or“true” Pashtuns. The Western Afghansare Persian-speaking and settled mainly inAfghanistan. They include the Durrani and Ghilzaritribes. The Eastern Afghans, whose culture is largelyIndian-influenced, settled mainly in the trans-Indusplains of Pakistan. Finally, occupying the land inbetween, the highlanders of the tribal belt,who are sometimes referred to as the “true” Pashtunsinclude the Wazirs, Mahsuds, Afridis, Mohmands,Bangash, Orakzai and others.The Pashtun are historically known for demonstratinga tribal identity decided in the order of tribe, sub-tribe,and then clan. Today, however, such identities are oftendecided by more pragmatic reasons than cultural affiliations and it is not unheardof for multiple identities to be relied upon by certain tribes. This has a direct influenceon how they organize politically and whether they decide to support their governmentor various insurgency movements. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 12
  13. 13. Pashtun RuleFollowing the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah, the state of Afghanistan was foundedby Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747. His “election” as King was pronounced by a tribal council orjirga. He soon consolidated the disparate chieftainships and principalities throughout the regioninto a single, unified state. Durrani was a Pashtun and, until the 1978 Marxist coup by the SovietUnion, all of Afghanistan’s rulers have been from Durrani’s Pashtun tribal confederation.In 1837, Pashtun tribesmen held off an advancing Sikh army, killing the famous General Hari SinghNalwa. A decade later, after defeating the Sikhs, the British battled the Russians for control ofthe region in an intense conflict commonly known as “The Great Game.” During this period, theBritish responded to fierce Pashtun resistance and sent approximately one hundred expeditionsto quell the rebellion. The British were ultimately unsuccessful in gaining control of the region.In 1893, after years of Pashtun rebellion, the British government and the Emir of Afghanistanreached an agreement in the demarcation of the border between Afghanistan and British India.The “Durand Line” effectively split the Pashtun tribe into two separate, sovereign states – oneAfghan, one Indian.The Durand Line “Foreigners are advised not to leave the main road.” – Official road sign outside Peshawar just past the Khyber Gateway.The Durand Line is the current border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. When established,it effectively divided the greater Pashtun tribal territory into two separate states. Althoughrecognized by the national governments of the area, Afghani and many Pakistan tribal Pashtundo not recognize the Line and see it as an artificial division. A small contingency of Pashtuns inAfghanistan suggest rever ting to pre-British colonial divisions and establishing a monolithictribal territory with no connection to the Durand Line which would be under Afghan rule.The area bordering the Durand Line is one of the most dangerous places in the world, especiallyfor foreigners or outsiders.For all practical purposes, the area is a lawless tribal frontier and the people fierce and warlike.Since British-colonial times, it has been a refuge for outlaws, murderers and kidnappers forransom. This criminal activity has naturally precipitated a market for guns and ammunition andsince the 19th century, the tribal Pashtun have heavily armed themselves in intertribal warfareand against foreign invaders. Today, Pashtun culture has a veritable love affair with guns and gunculture. Tribes acquire modern rifles and ammunition, and a cottage industry of home-made TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 13
  14. 14. Map courtesy of Google Earthartillery serves as the basis for the local economy. In addition,tribes practice a tradition of kidnapping for ransom and theftof food, livestock, money and weapons from the settled areasas another source of tribal income.The Pashtun’s ‘gun culture’ revolves around themanufacturing and exhibition of gun paraphernalia. Gun-totingPashtun males are a common sight in the tribal and settledareas, where rifles and weaponry are as common of anaccessory as a shawl or hat. Village homes are built with rifleslots in their walls and the sound of rampant gunfire is notunusual where gunfire is often used to note a family celebrationor event. Because of the area’s un-policed nature and essential immunity to federal law, combinedwith the Pashtun’s fierce nature and contempt for foreigners, dire consequences can result forthose who even unintentionally provoke or offend. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 14
  15. 15. Post British EraIn the 1930s, after over a century of British colonial rule, momentum began to build for anindependent Muslim state on the subcontinent. The Pashtun were actively involved in the strugglefor Indian independence, and Pashtun nationalist organizations, such as the Khundai-Kidmatgars(also known as the Red-Shirts) were on the rise. In 1947, the Indian subcontinent was dividedinto Pakistan and India and the majority of Pashtuns rallied behind Pakistan’s founder, MohammadAli Jinnah.Following the Partition of 1947, Jinnah, also the first Governor General of Pakistan, ordered acomplete and immediate withdrawal of all British troops from tribal areas allowing the Pashtun toroam their land free of foreign occupation. With the exception of some army outposts, this voidremains to this day. These areas have become a vital refuge for guerilla warriors along the Afghan-Pakistani border.Soviet Aggression and the Riseand Fall of the MujahedeenSoviet intervention, beginning in theearly 1970’s, has added to continuedpolitical instability and internal conflictfor the Pashtun region. This section willattempt to explain the rise and fall ofthe Mujahedeen and its subsequentimpact on the Taliban phenomenon.In 1973, King Zahir Shah wasoverthrown and the monarchywas abolished. His cousin, SardarMuhammad Daoud, who previously served as Prime Minister from 1953-1963, seized powerafter a military coup. He declared himself the first President and Prime Minister of the newRepublic. Daoud sought to reform Afghanistan by abolishing the monarchy and implementingmodernization programs and progressive policies throughout the country, many of which wereaimed at changing the status of women in Afghanistan. Over the course of his Presidency, heattempted to distance Afghanistan from Marxist influences and took steps to improve diplomatic TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 15
  16. 16. relations with the West. These policies were met with bitter resistance from Marxist supporterssuch as the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).In April of 1978, Daoud and most of his family were killed in a bloody coup initiated by thePDPA. In his place, Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President ofthe Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister. His Presidency lasted a short year and a half, andin September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, seized power from Taraki.During this time, the Soviets quickly dispatched political and military bureaucrats to Afghanistanand agreed to an additional $250 million in military aid. By December of 1978, at least 1,000Soviet military advisors were in Afghanistan, three times the number at the time of the coup.12The U.S. saw an opportunity to take a stand against the Soviet Union, whom they had longsuspected was using Afghanistan as a gateway into Central South Asia. The insurgency was“receiving arms and assistance from ethnically-allied guerrilla organizations in Pakistan, andintelligence reported that the loyalty of the Afghan army was eroding, with a number ofdefections from the army to the insurgents.”13The internal insurgency gained momentum with support from the United States, Pakistan, SaudiArabia, and others and began mounting further attacks against the Soviets. The Soviets respondedby bolstering their military presence, increasing their deployment of personnel, arms, tanks,helicopters, and aircraft in the country.Soon after the Soviet ramp up, a group of Afghan army officers attempted to take control of thepresidential palace. Although the attack was crushed, this mutiny added to Soviet worries aboutlosing Afghanistan as they were not only combating the insurgency from local civilians, but theywere now battling the Afghan army itself.Finally, on December 27, 1979, President, Hazibullah Amin was assassinated and Babrak Karmaltook his place. Over the next two days, the Soviets deployed an invasion force of more than30,000 troops. Russian tanks and planes bombed remote villages and rural areas hoping to forcethe country into submission, but popular resistance to the occupation only grew in strength.The Mujahedeen, which literally translates to “freedom fighters”, were a collection of severalgroups dedicated to fighting the Soviets occupation in order to establish an Islamic state inAfghanistan. They had significant support from the Pashtun and, as history reveals, wouldeventually give rise to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.12. MacEachin, Doug, Janne E. Nolan, Kristine Tockman. “The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979: Failure of Intelligence or the Policy Process?” Discourse, Dissent, and Strategic Surprise: Formulating American Security in an Age of Uncertainty. No. 111 (26 September 2005): 3.13. Ibid, pp. 5-8. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 16
  17. 17. The MujahedeenIn May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla organizations formed an allianceto coordinate their political and military operations against the Soviet occupation and thecommunist government in Afghanistan.The United States’ military presence increased and President Reagan instituted a policy ofsupporting anti-Communist insurgents worldwide in what later became known as “the ReaganDoctrine.” This included supporting the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets withfunding, training, and arms. An important sidenote that is now well recorded is that among theMujahedeen leaders of this time being supported by the U.S. was Osama bin Laden, futureperpetrator of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The Mujahedeen effortsfinally prevailed in 1989 when the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan.Following the exit of Soviet forces, the Mujahedeen failed to establish a legitimate government.The groups that had banded together against the Soviets were now fighting amongst each otherfor power. This in-fighting eventually slipped into full-scale civil war, and from 1992-1996 groups ofMujahedeen headed by warlords fought amongst each other for control of the country. Seizingon the power vacuum and their ability to forcefully institute much desired stability, the Talibanseized control of the country in 1996. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 17
  18. 18. The Taliban (1994-2001)The Taliban of Kandahar Pashtun descent came to power during the civil war in Afghanistan,but their precise origins are uncertain. Some contend “that the rape and murder of boys andgirls from a family traveling to Kandahar” or similar acts by ex-Mujahedeen bandits promptedthe building of vigilante groups who vowed “to rid Afghanistan of these criminals.”14 Among thevigilantes was a Mujahedeen faction led by Mullah Mohammad Omar who is attributed withthe beginnings of what is now known worldwide as the Taliban. While others maintain that thePakistan-based shipping mafia known as the ‘Afghanistan Transit Trade’ and their allies in thePakistan government, “trained, armed, and financed the Taliban to clear the southern road acrossAfghanistan to the Central South Asian Republics of extortionate bandit gangs.”15 What is fairlycertain is that the corruption and in-fighting among the Afghan warlords produced the civilunrest which made the Taliban’s rise possible.The Taliban is overwhelmingly Pashtun and,therefore, exhibit many values and ideals derivedfrom the Pashtunwali civil code. The root of theword Taliban or ‘Talib’ simply means one who isin search of something. Some others define it assomeone in search of knowledge, or a student.Supporters were largely young, Pashtun Afghanstudents of madrassas located in the refugee camps along the border in Pakistan. These refugeecamps were largely confined and for all practical purposes detached from the rest of the world.This detachment served as the ideal breeding ground for a philosophy deeply rooted in religiousfundamentalism.Weary from years of fighting Soviet aggressors, the Taliban were quickly able to launch an aggressivecampaign to take over Afghanistan. In 1994, the Taliban captured Kandahar City and its surroundingprovinces. Eventually, they captured twelve of Afghanistan’s thirty-four provinces from variouswarlords. Two years later, the Taliban captured Kabul and declared themselves the rulersof Afghanistan. The group, largely supported by senior Pakistani officials, dedicated itself toremoving warlords, providing order, and bringing fundamentalist Islam to Afghanistan. Originally,the Taliban received support from Pashtuns across the country who believed the movementmight solidify the nation and provide for a return to a strong Afghanistan. Even those withserious moral and political differences expressed support for the movement on purely ethnicgrounds. Yet, the goodwill the Taliban enjoyed by ending civil strife and introducing stability rapidlydissipated as they implemented their strict laws and rigid world view.14. Matinuddin, Kamal, The Taliban Phenomenon, Afghanistan 1994-1997, Oxford University Press, 1999. p.25-26.15. Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban. Yale University Press, 2000. p. 25-29. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 18
  19. 19. The Taliban’s ideology has its influences in Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s radical Deobandi (anultra-conservative movement), and Wahabism, (the religious movement largely supported bySaudi financial benefactors and practiced by infamous Wahabi leader, Osama bin Laden). As willbe discussed in more detail later, al-Qaeda largely benefitted from this new ideology and thehospitality provided to it by the Taliban. Afghanistan made for an ideal location for bin Ladento reside and lead al-Qaeda operations.According to some reports, Mullah Omar was not completely allied with bin Laden at the outsetof al-Qaeda’s activity, but relations between the two groups became closer over time. A strongalliance has since formed between al-Qaeda and the Taliban.Along the more southern region of Baluchistan, the Taliban forces continued to evade U.S. forcesand Pakistani forces. In early May 2009, the Pakistani Army launched full-scale operations to wrestback control of the Swat Valley from Taliban extremists in a bold counterinsurgency operation.16The offensive involved approximately 15,000 troops and generated about 2 million InternallyDisplaced Persons (IDPs). The region is now under the control of the Pakistani army and 50%of the IDPs have returned to their homes.The Pashtun, Taliban, and Al-Qaeda NexusAl-Qaeda is a group of Islamicfundamentalists led by Osama bin Ladenwho took refuge in Afghanistan after theTaliban took control in 1996. Like theTaliban, al-Qaeda is also thought to haveits origins in the Mujahedeen dating backto the Soviet-Afghanistan war and hasrecruited, trained, and financed thousandsof foreign Mujahedeen from several dozencountries. Al-Qaeda’s self-stated goal is to rid Islamic states of all Western influence and installIslamic theocratic regimes, and is the group responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks.The relationship between the Pashtun tribe, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda is bound by the code ofPashtunwali and Islam. (It is worth pointing out that the interpretations of Islam advanced byTaliban and al-Qaeda are in no way universally shared among either the Pashtuns, or followersof Islam around the world.)16. Shah, Saeed. “Pakistani Offensive Targets SWAT Valley.” The Columbus Dispatch: Dispatch Politics. 9 May 2009. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 19
  20. 20. As previously discussed, the Pashtunwali code places a great deal of emphasis on protectingone’s homeland and giving refuge to visitors at any cost. When a Pashtun tribe grants lokhay tothe Taliban and/or al-Qaeda, they are obligated to fight alongside the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda byvirtue of the Pashtunwali code. However, a Pashtun tribe is under no obligation to grant lokhay tothese groups. The Taliban and al-Qaeda must respect the Pashtuns tribal codes in order to receivethe benefit of lokhay. If either group loses the trust of a Pashtun village, it loses the protection oflokhay. This is a potential wedge that has been largely under-utilized.Pashtun NationalismAs mentioned earlier, the Durand Line, created in 1893 through an agreement between theBritish Empire and the Emir of Afghanistan, essentially divided the region of the Pashtuns. Thistribal area which previously had been joined together by culture, history, and a loosely assembledtribal authority was now split in two: half of the region becoming what is now Pakistan and halfbecoming a part of the new Afghan state. This demarcation although well recognized by nationalgovernments has never been fully accepted by the Pashtun of the region. Pashtun tribesmantravel across the border freely, passing in and out of the two countries with little recognitionof this artificial division.A burgeoning movement within this region has been the idea of an independent nationconstituting the Pashtun dominated areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, knownby some as ‘Pashtunistan’.The movement has had limited supportas most Pashtuns have resigned to the factthat an independent Pashtun would onlyincrease economic and political hardshipfor the Pashtuns and that independencewould foster few real benefits.Although representing a small minorityof the Pashtun populace’s desires, groupssuch as the Taliban, have been quick to align themselves with this Pashtun separatist movementin an effort to create a co-dependent relationship to strengthen Taliban forces in the region. Ifsuccessful, the Taliban could lead a movement that would unite the regions estimated 40 to 50million Pashtuns, harbor political chaos for Pakistan and Afghanistan and result in the creation of anew political entity based in Islamic militant fundamentalism. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 20
  21. 21. The overlap of geography between Pashtun tribes and the Taliban’s strongest base of supportmay create the impression that the Taliban movement mirrors these native Pashtun identitymovements. However, the Taliban and the Pashtuns are two separate entities with differingpolitical, religious, and cultural motivations.Thus, the Taliban movement is not a manifestation of Pashtun nationalism, but rather is usingPashtun nationalism as a recruitment tool. Ultimately, the focus of the Taliban is not to assist thePashtun in achieving independence. Rather, it is to maintain an operational base (geographically,financially, and demographically) in Afghanistan for Taliban troops to continue military operations.Going Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan:Towards a Post-Taliban PashtunIf it is true that the world faces a terrorist threat from the Taliban, then the region encompassingthe Pashtun population of Pakistan and Afghanistan must be better understood by military,government, and NGO decision-makers. Understanding on an intellectual level and increasedcommunication with these otherwise isolated communities, can defeat existing physical impassesthat prevent traditional forms of outreach and connection. The Taliban thrives on the remotenessof residents from their government and the power vacuum such separation produces.Understanding and better messaging can fill this physical void.While much is made of the Pashtun tradition of armed defense against invading forces, Pashtunloyalties are not irrevocably tied to Taliban or al-Qaeda forces. It is entirely feasible to foreseea future where the Taliban is no longer able to rely on the Pashtun population for their baseof support.Early signs of this division have been borne out as the Taliban in Northern Afghanistan havealigned with more Uzbek and Turkmen tribes. By aligning with other ethnic groups, the Talibanput at risk their ties to the Pashtun. As the Taliban sense a need to geographically spread theirreach beyond Southern Afghanistan and Pakistani FATA, they will eventually increase that riskand weaken their support amongst the Pashtun.Another more macro-level indicator of growing unease between the Pashtun population andthe Taliban was witnessed in the 2008 Pakistani elections. The incumbent Islamic party, MuttahidaMajlis-e-Amal (MMA - United Council of Action) was defeated throughout the Pashtun-dominated Northwest Frontier Province. (The MMA is a coalition between religious-politicalparties, created after the United States started bombing Afghanistan to overthrowthe Taliban regime.) TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 21
  22. 22. By comparison, the winning party, the Awami National Party (ANP) represents a moderate,secular Pashtun political philosophy. While the Awami party’s base of support does not extendto the more tribal regions, it is still an indicator of the beginnings of growing unease among thePashtun for the Taliban. Although at present most Taliban are of Pashtun origin, the vast majorityof Pashtuns are not Taliban.The Taliban have built support within the Pashtun population by emphasizing shared socialgrievances and promises of a more efficient governance. Their rhetoric includes eliminatingcorruption in the Afghan and Pakistani government, aligning with rural distrust for big cities, andthe under-representation of Afghan Pashtun in government. By addressing the legitimate societalissues of the Pashtun in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is not unimaginable that the two groupscan be separated more easily in the future.While the U.S. influence within the Pashtun region is challenging, U.S. policymakers would benefitfrom recognition of the extreme ethnic and tribal divisions inherent in Pashtun leadership. Byrecognizing these differences, the U.S. can develop communications inroads into each of theseseparate Pashtun minorities and obtain policy objectives on a smaller and more effective scale.One of the more notable examples of this that has been put into practice by the military hasbeen the Tribal Engagement Strategy highlighted by Major Jim Gant.17 Gant’s experience putsforth several promising ideas that have been successful in small pilot projects in Afghanistan. Asthose pilot projects are enhanced, multiple approaches based on the subtle nuances betweentribes will exist.Developing paths to existing leadership within tribal councils or jirgas will be essential to effectivestrategic planning. On a local level, the Pashtun ideological commitment to the Taliban can beweakened through coordinated native communications efforts. By adding voices to the nativeconversation, the Taliban’s influence over local communication channels has been shown to diminish.The creation of new Afghani transportation networks would appear to be another usefulmeans of countering Taliban control. Presently, the Taliban control many of the scarce roads thatconnect them to sanctuary areas within Pakistan. By continuing to create new roads and improveinfrastructure, international policy makers can weaken Taliban efforts to control means of travel.In addition, this effort affords obvious military advantages, including generating safer supply linesfor military and civilian use.The U.S. and international forces may also wish to encourage Pashtun inclusion in the Pakistanipolitical process. With specific regard to Pakistan, for a Taliban-free Pashtun region to evolve,the “troubled frontier” of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and FATA must be allowed17. Gant, Mj. Jim. “A Strategy for Success in Afghanistan: One Tribe at a Time.”, 2009. http://blog.stevenpressfield.com. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 22
  23. 23. greater ability to engage in the Pakistani political system. At present, the NWFP and FATA electrepresentatives to a National Assembly and Senate that have no substantial impact on the tworegions. While both are allowed to govern their territory according to local traditions, integratingthe regional governments into the national government will provided long-term stability by linkingregional governments to a federal government system. This political effort will necessarily requiremore time and effort than a solely military campaign. Better representation will help facilitatethe integration of the region more fully into Pakistan’s political process and ultimately the policyobjectives of Pakistan’s long-standing ally, the U.S.Additionally, U.S. policymakers should define the scope of combat efforts in the Pashtun regionthat minimize existing resentment toward them among the Pashtun. While precise militarystrategy is beyond the scope of this report, it is worth pointing out that there exists amplework by military officers and analysts who enumerate areas where change in strategy can havea positive impact. In addition to the previously stated example of Major Gant’s work with TribalEngagement Strategies, there is also David Killcullen and Andrew Exum’s emphasis on eliminatingdrone attacks in the region.18There are obviously no guaranteed outcomes in a region as volatile as the Pashtun region ofAfghanistan and Pakistan. While defeating militants at gunpoint is the historical standard formeasuring success or failure in combat, detangling and defeating extremist ideas that have latchedonto century old customs and religious traditions is far more challenging.Historically, governments have utilized the Machiavellian approach of supporting one groupagainst another. Yet, this approach has contributed to our current condition in Afghanistanand Pakistan.There are no short term answers to a long term engagement. In order to cultivate programsand policies that are sustainable on the ground, it is critical that policy makers see things fromthe Pashtun perspective, rather than through our Western lens.The war against the Taliban andal-Qaeda cannot be won by military action alone. An awareness of the Pashtun history, cultureand traditions is absolutely imperative to future success in the region.18. Death from above, outrage down below”, New York Times, 16 May 2009. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 23
  24. 24. Team Leadership As founder and managing director of one of Texas’ leading public affairs firms, Mustafa Tameez is widely regarded as a pioneer in ethnic marketing, advertising and political consulting. With an unparalleled understanding of global challenges and an ability to tailor and implement effective local solutions, he has positioned Outreach Strategists as a recognized leader in global public affairs and strategic communications. At a time when cross-cultural communications are as crucial as ever, Mustafa is uniquely qualified to help organizations, individuals and corporations overcome the barriers standing before themMustafa Tameez and their goals. Mustafa Tameez has advised members of Congress, big city mayors and federal agencies on how to fight and win political battles. And in the private sector his bottom-up approach and keen insights have led to victories for both corporate and non-profit institutions. He has a track record of skillfully guiding clients through the most perilous of communications challenges in a manner that is as quick, effective and efficient as his clients need. Mustafa’s numerous successful campaigns in the south have garnered accolades from both regional and national publications. Texas Monthly has dubbed him one of the most influential new political players in Texas. His standing as an expert in the field of communications and political strategy is based on an extensive body of knowledge and deep professional experience. His work as an advisor and senior consultant combines an in-depth understanding of world affairs with long-range vision. Mustafa brings his unique perspective to bear on issues ranging from contemporary South Asian and Middle Eastern policy to emerging population shifts in the developing world. He also remains a strongly rooted pillar of the Houston community, having served on the Board of the Houston Zoo, as current President of the South Asian Chamber of Commerce, and as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Peace. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 24
  25. 25. Team Leadership Randall Butler is a highly trained expert at using peaceful conflict resolution to avoid potentially violent situations. In order to ameliorate cultural and societal violence Randall has dedicated his life’s work to the belief that building a sustainable peace is possible and that conflicts can be overcome through collaborative interaction between hostile groups. Randall’s work has transcended borders, languages, and historic cultural divides and has led to powerful breakthroughs for the individuals and groups involved. Randall’s expertise and accomplishments buildingRandall Butler rapprochement and progress stretch from communities in the Balkans, to the Sudan, to the United States. Under his careful supervision members of the warring Serbian and Croat communities have been able to resolve their historical enmity and emerged stronger for the experience. His efforts to guide members of the Sudanese Diaspora toward reconciliation have been a major step in easing hostilities and moving this group toward stability. Randall has also fostered productive dialogue between Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States, creating ripples in the struggle toward peace overseas. The cumulative effect of Randall’s work is to reorder the way groups in conflict manage differences so they do not erupt into violence, bloodshed and chaos. The process of building and maintaining a lasting peace between warring peoples requires the unique combination of training, education, and experience that Randall now brings to his role overseeing the Conflict Resolution practice at Outreach Strategists. Randall’s previous work as a partner and litigator at Fulbright and Jaworski and Cook, Butler, Doyle has given him the necessary insights into the diplomatic process of arbitration. While his extensive background as an ambassador for and master practitioner of peaceful, non-violent dispute mediation led him to found the Institute for Sustainable Peace. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 25
  26. 26. Team Leadership Huma comes to Outreach Strategists with over 20 years of experience in the area of environmental law and policy. As an environmental attorney, she represented government entities and corporate clients on environmental regulatory, liability, and public policy issues. While working in Washington, D.C., Huma worked with Congressional members to reform New Source Review legislation and reforms to the 1996 CERCLA legislation. In addition to her environmental work, Huma has logged countless hours in the area of community outreach and engagement with disenfranchised communities. Her languageHuma Ahmed skills include French, Spanish, Arabic and fluency in Urdu. Huma Ahmed has a Masters Degree in Public Administration and a J.D. and is licensed to practice law. She currently serves as the Director of Program Development and General Counsel for Outreach Strategists, LLC. Dan Grant is an expert in post- and continuing-conflict areas around the globe, particularly in the Islamic world. He has had extensive experience in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and worked on the stabilization and democratization of each of those countries. Dan served as an advisor to the John Kerry Presidential campaign as an Afghanistan policy advisor, and helped lead the largest Iraqi out-of-country voting program in 2005. Dan has consulted for the United States Defense Department on cultural and political training for American forces en route to Iraq and Afghanistan, and, at the direction Dan Grant of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, has worked for the Unites States Department of State as a specialist on the 2009 Afghan elections. His expertise and deep professional assistance have aided him in over a dozen international elections. He is a graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and The London School of Economics. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 26
  27. 27. Global Reach, Local ApproachOutreach Strategists, LLC is a global public affairs and strategic communications firm. We specialize ininternational public relations, conflict solutions, risk management and global grassroots consulting.Whether promoting a concept, a candidate, or a public relations campaign, we are known forhigh impact strategies. Online, on the ground, or in the airwaves - from localneighborhoods to the global public square, we know how to move public opinionand work with divergent, ethnic communities. In a volatile world, this is why our clientscount on us to turn high-risk situations into ones of high reward.Our ApproachEthnic and religious minority communities are becoming increasingly important bothto Western governments and to the business sector. They are growing in number,significance, voice, and impact. At the center of this generation’s most complex andimportant challenges are Asian and Muslim communities. As we are seeing, when keysegments of our society are left outside of the mainstream, deep cultural rifts emerge.We advise public agencies and private enterprises on how tobridge these divides by connecting critical stakeholders across theUnited States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Our unique,effective, winning approach to communications is built on a strong foundation ofcultural understanding, trust and innovation. TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 27
  28. 28. Board of AdvisorsMayor Lee Brown Colonel Rick NoriegaA prominent leader in national law enforcement, Colonel Noriega is a graduate of Harvard UniversityLee Brown served as the United States Drug Czar and has spent three decades in the U.S. Armed Forces,in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet. During his long during which he served as Garrison Commandercareer as the Chief of Police for New York, Atlanta, of the Kabul Military Training Sector in 2004 andand Houston, he earned a reputation for being a Commander of the Laredo Border Sector during theprolific reformer. Brown was elected to 3 terms as summer of 2006. Noriega has served 5 terms in thethe Mayor of Houston where he built on his success Texas House of Representatives where he chaired thefighting crime and implementing unique community Committee on Defense Affairs and Federal Relations.policing solutions. A widely published author and He ran for the United States Senate in 2008.criminal justice expert, Brown also holds a Doctoratein Criminology. Paula Arnold Over a distinguished 30-year career, Arnold has beenCongressman Nick Lampson elected as a Houston Independent School DistrictNick Lampson served 5 terms in the United States Board Member, serving as President of the Board onCongress representing the 9th and 22nd Districts of one of the largest school districts in the United States.Texas (containing the highest percentage of Asian She has a diverse background in advocacy in theand Muslim-Americans of any Congressional district private sector on behalf of educational issues, familyin Texas). Lampson was the founder of the Missing violence initiatives and telecommunications regulatoryand Exploited Children’s Caucus. As Chairman of reform. Arnold also serves on the board of Center forthe House Science Subcommittee on Energy and the Reform of School Systems.the Environment, Lampson outlined and pursuedambitious plans for alternative energy that also took Adnaan Musliminto account the needs of the energy companies and Adnaan Muslim is an expert in the field of political andtheir employees who he represented. cross-cultural communications. He is a partner and Creative Director at Mission Control, a leading U.S. political consulting, direct mail advertising agency. He has worked on successful campaigns at every level of American government and is an expert in persuasive political advertising TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASHTUN 28
  29. 29. Global Reach, Local Approachwww.outreachstrategists.comOutreach Strategists, LLC909 Texas Avenue #1218Houston, Texas 77002713.247.9600 Tel713.247.9605 Fax