Afghan Biographies

Ghilzai Tribe

Name Ghilzai Tribe
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth
Function/Grade Pashtun Ghilzai Tribe
History and Biodata

The Ghilzais
(also known as Khiljis or Ghaljis) are one of two largest groups of Pashtuns, along with the Durrani tribe, found in Afghanistan with a large group also found in neighboring Pakistan. They are the most populous Pashtun tribe in Afghanistan, occupying the north of Kandahar and extending eastwards towards the Suleiman Mountains. The Ghilzais are concentrated in an area spanning Ghazni and Kalat-i-Ghilzai eastward into western Pakistan, but are predominantly a nomadic group unlike the Durrani who can be found in permanent settlements. Population estimates vary, but they are most likely around 20 to 25% of the population of Afghanistan and probably number over 9 million in Afghanistan alone with 2 million or more found in neighboring Pakistan. They are reputed to be descended at least in part from the Khalaj or Khilji Turks, who entered Afghanistan in the 10th century as well as the numerous other invaders from Central Asia and the Middle East who have entered Afghanistan over the centuries. Most Ghilzai are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school and are often devout to their faith and also follow the Pashtun code of honor known as Pashtunwali. Most Ghilzai work as herders as well as in construction and other jobs that allow them to travel. Often displaying an uncanny mechanical apptitude, the Ghilzai nonetheless have an extremely low literacy rate hovering below 10%. The Ghilzai have played a prominent role throughout the history of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. The Nasher (Ghaznavids) are Ghilzais, as well as the Lodi dynasty, who were rulers of the Delhi Sultanate (1450–1526), were Ghilzai Pashtuns. In 1709, Mirwais Khan Hotak, a Ghilzai Pashtun and founder of the short-lived Hotaki Dynasty (1709-38), led an Afghan tribal revolt against Persian rule that eventually led to the short-lived Afghan domination of Persia from 1722 until 1734 when Nadir Shah began to wrest control from the Ghilzais. In the early 20th century, Sher Khan Nasher gained much political prominence as a Ghilzai Khan who became founder and governour of Kunduz. He was followed by his son, Gholam Serwar Nasher, who headed the Spinzar Company as well as by his nephew, the parliamentarian Gholam Nabi Nasher. During the period of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan many of the Muhajadeen were also Ghilzai Pashtuns including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Most Ghilzai are not particularly political. The Ghilzai remain one of the largest and most prominent ethnic groups in Afghanistan and continue to enjoy considerable autonomy as they have for millennia.

Last Modified 2011-04-13
Established 2010-03-11