Like Baba, Amir is a Pashtun. The Pashtuns have long been the largest and most powerful ethnic group in Afghanistan, and nearly all of the nation's leaders for more than 300 years were Pashtun. They are also the second largest ethnic group in neighboring Pakistan. The wide differences in the ethnic group are best illustrated by the character Assef; although he and his parents are Pashtuns, Assef and his family consider Baba and Amir traitors to the group, in part due to Baba's friendship with Ali and Hassan--both members of the Hazara ethnic group, considered the lowest and the most persecuted in Afghanistan. Baba is a far more tolerant and liberal thinker than Assef and his family; Assef, like many other Pashtuns, joined the Taliban following the departure of the Russians.