The Pashtun question has played a crucial role in the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1947. In this region, state power has been for centuries the product of the tribal society. The process of modernization of the state power has reversed in part this traditional dependence of the state on the society. The emergence of the post-colonial states in the area after 1947 has crystallized the political boundaries, fragmenting the Pashtun community and increasing the tension between different layers of identity. However, tribalism and state power have not been distant in modern times. In the 1950s, Kabul adopted the Pashtun issue as a symbol of state-sponsored nationalism. Islamabad has followed a similar strategy since the 1960s, more recently by supporting Pashtun-dominated militias, from Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami to the Taliban. All this demonstrates the continued relevance of ethnicity in the politics of the region, despite the contradictions that it generates.