Pashtunwali dates back to ancient pre-Islamic times but is still widely in use, especially by the rural tribal society. It is not only practiced by members of the Pashtun diaspora but also by some non-Pashtun Afghans or Pakistanis who live in close proximity with Pashtuns.

Now my interest in this topic dates to the fact that there was quote that one heard during childhood ( pashtun or Pathans as they are called in India are integral part of Indian society pre-dating Islamic origination which goes back to ancient times, so as a group they are talked about often in the Pan-Indian society even though many associate them from Afghanistan which may be a more “modern” source point ).

The quote was :

You will never find a more noble, Honorable and Loyal friend

and Neither you will find a more Honest and fierce enemy.

Obliviously the whole quote got me thinking. I mean is it just the pashtuns who have these features or there is something else ?

Do they follow some type of code or lifestyle which evokes such response ?

Then while browsing over the net I fell upon a word called Pashtunwali.The word holds deep importance to the Pashtun culture and those who lived around them. It is said that a true Pashtun abides by this line of ethics. The great Badshah Khan tried to revive or more importantly tried to reignite it barring the badla ideology (which means revenge) . It was epitomised in the poetry by his son Khan Abdul Ghani khan, the Mad poet as he was called.The Red shirts were very prominent in telling about the pashtunwali culture in british era. One such line of his poetry reflects the deep pride he had of Pashtun culture.

“Pashtun is not merely a race but, in fact, a state of mind; there is a Pashtun lying inside every man, who at times wakes up and overpowers him.”

Imran Khan in this present era by his methods is trying live that great Pathan ideology but his ideology has got more to with moderate Pan-Pakistan (which is drawing hostility from urdu based parties especially PPP and Pakistan Muslim League (N).) He is in one way a by product of Pathan culture but of a Niazi Pashtun Tribe which settled in urdu speaking Punjab region during the Mughal rule. I however guess that his thinking is more in trying to mix both old and new. In order to give a balanced view point of Pakistani Moderates (which is creating a rockstar style status among youth of Pakistan, not that he isn’t already a rockstar. Someone even said that he is Mick Jagger of south Asia)

I therefore compiled a list of the points in Pashtunwali (hope I have covered all).

  1. Melmastia (hospitality) – Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of distinctions of race, religion, national affiliation as well as economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns are widely considered to be the most hospitable people in the world and a Pashtun will go to great extents to show his hospitality.
  2. Nanawatai (asylum) – Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this is used for protection given to a person who requests protection against his/her enemies. The people are protected at all costs, in many cases even people running from the law must be given refuge until the situation is clarified.
  3. Badal (justice) – To seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer. This applies to injustices committed yesterday or 1000 years ago if the wrongdoer still exists. Justice in Pashtun lore needs elaborating: even a mere taunt (or “Paighor”) is regarded as an insult – which can only usually be redressed by shedding of the taunter’s blood (and if he isn’t available, then his next closest male relation). This in turn leads to a blood feud that can last generations and involve whole tribes with the loss of hundreds of lives. Normally blood feuds in this all male dominated setup are then settled in a number of ways.
  4. Tureh (bravery) – A Pashtun must defend his land/property, family and women from incursions wherever he or she might reside. A Pashtun should always stand brave against tyranny and he should always be able to defend his property, family, women and the honour of his name. Death can follow if anyone mistreats these traits.
  5. Sabat (loyalty) – Loyalty must be paid to one’s family, friends, and tribe members. Loyalty is a must and a Pashtun can never become disloyal as this would be utterly shameful towards themselves and their families.
  6. Imandari (righteousness) – A Pashtun must always strive towards thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and doing other good deeds. Pashtuns must behave respectfully towards all creations including people, animals and the environment around them. Pollution of the environment or its destruction is against the Pashtunwali.
  7. Isteqamat – Trust in God (known as “Allah” in Arabic and “Khudai-ta-Allah” in Pashto). The notion of trusting in the one Creator generally comports to Islamic idea of belief in only one God (tawheed).
  8. Ghayrat (self honour or dignity) – Pashtuns must maintain their human dignity. Honour has great importance in Pashtun society and most other codes of life are aimed towards the preservation of one’s honour or pride. They must respect themselves and others in order to be able to do so, especially those they do not know. Respect begins at home, among family members and relatives.
  9. Namus (Honor of women) – A Pashtun must defend the honor of Pashtun women at all costs and must protect them from vocal and physical harm.
  10. TOR: Pashtuns are sensitive about the honor of their women folk and slight touching of the women is at times considered a serious and an intolerable offence. The cases of adultery and illicit relations are put down with iron hand in and no quarter is given to culprits either male or female. Casting of an evil eye on woman is tantamount to imperil one’s life. Both sexes, therefore, scrupulously avoid indulgence in immoral practices.
  11. TEEGA OR KANRAY: Teega or Kanray is cessation of bloodshed between contending parties. Teega (putting down of a stone) in other words means a temporary truce declared by a Jirga. The word stone is used figuratively as actually no stone is put at the time of the cessation of hostilities. Once the truce is enforced, no party dares violate it for fear of punitive measures.
  12. GHUNDI: Ghundi is a classic case of balance of power in tribal areas. It is derived from Pashto word Ghund, meaning a political party but it is used for an alliance. As modern states enter into bilateral agreements for promotion of trade, cultivation of friendly relations and mutual defense, similarly various sections of a tribe align themselves in blocs or Ghunds to safeguard their common interests. Ghundi is entered into defeat the aggressive and nefarious designs of a hostile neighbor. In tribal fighting the Ghundi members espouse their mutual interests against their common enemy and act as a corporate body with all the resources at their command.

Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan tried to eliminate the Badla aspect for which many term him Bachcha Khan too. The revenge culture however of Pashtun is such that it is passed from generation to generation. The term that “ Revenge is dish best served cold” was imbibed from this tradition and the Britishers took that quote and made it famous. Though now the whole world thinks that British invented that “fascinating” sentence. (It is sometimes funny how the world goes round, reminds me of “It’s awataur moron” dialogue by the “high-flys”.)

Ps: It sad to see that the real faces of Pashtun society being marginalized and only Taliban phenomenon is being made the face of Pashtun identity. There was a time when Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan was the spiritual leader (and many in this age have forgotten his name ) and now it is Mullah Omar the spiritual head of Taliban( The hardline Wahhabi ideologue, however poverty and neglect of Pashtuns has got to do alot with it).  Though what is sad more is that these days Militant feminist or Fem-Nazi as they “belovedly” are called in world. Identify anything which is not according to them as a Taliban phenomenon not to mention the entire pashtun race as such and those alike, just so that they could score some brownie points on media channels without even understanding the whole story.( Now does that make me uneducated for raising that question.I Do not know but just don’t shoot the messenger is all I ask. 🙂 )