Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Demography of Afghanistan

The population of Afghanistan is around 30.4 million as of the year 2012, which includes the 2.7 million Afghan refugees temporarily staying in Pakistan and Iran. The nation is composed of a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society, reflecting its location astride historic trade and invasion routes between Central Asia, Southern Asia, and Western Asia. The majority of Afghanistan's population consist of the Iranic peoples, notably the Pashtuns and Tajiks. The Pashtun is the largest group followed by Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimak, Turkmen, Baloch and others.

Pashto and Dari (Persian) are both the official languages of the country, although Persian is spoken by about half of the population and serves as a lingua franca for the majority. Pashto is spoken widely in the south, east and south west of the country as well as in neighboring northernwestern Pakistan. Uzbek language and Turkmen language are spoken in parts of the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 30 other languages and numerous dialects.

Islam is the religion of more than 99% of Afghanistan. An estimated 80-89% of the population practice Sunni Islam and belong to the Hanafi Islamic law school while 10-19% are Shi'a, majority of the Shia follow the Twelver branch with smaller numbers of Ismailis. The remaining 1% or less practice other religions such as Sikhism and Hinduism.

Despite attempts during the 1980s to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as the principal basis for expressing opposition to the Soviet invasion. Likewise, Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional practices, provide the principal means of controlling personal conduct and settling legal disputes. Excluding urban populations in the principal cities, most Afghans are organized into tribal and other kinship-based groups, which follow their own traditional customs: for instance Pashtunwali.