Published: November 11, 2011
The writer is author of Jhelum: City of the Vitasta (Sang-e-Meel, 2005)

The writer is author of Jhelum: City of the Vitasta (Sang-e-Meel, 2005) [email protected]

My article titled “Aornos” (November 5) elicited an email from Canada. Its gist: that there were no Pakhtuns at the time of Alexander; that Yusufzais moved into Mardan and Swat in the 16th century (that is, they did not exist prior to that time!); that the people defeated by Alexander were not Pakhtuns but Buddhists. The mind boggles at the idiocy of a nation brought up on manufactured history.

First of all, the title Pathan. Pakhtun pseudo-historians claim that the word derives from bataan, which in Arabic denotes rudder and was given to the (fictitious) Qais Abdur Rashid when he converted to Islam. Be it known that the Pakhtuns never called themselves Pathans; that this was a Punjabi and central Indian mispronunciation of Pakhtana, the singular for Pakhtun. That having been decided, we can now reach back into history.

Herodotus (mid-5th century BCE) wrote in The Histories of a people called the Paktyike who lived northward of the ‘other Indians’. Only in our national state of delusion and denial can we reject the word as being a Grecian mispronunciation of Pakhtun in its classical form. The word comes down to us as the name for the Afghan provinces of Paktiya and Paktika, bordering on our Kurram and Waziristan areas.

The second fiction that Pakhtuns love to believe concerns the ancestor called Afghana who gave his name to a country. The word Afghan comes from the Sanskrit root of ashv meaning ‘horse’, which becomes asp in ancient Persian. The genetic term for these horsemen was Ashvaka in Sanskrit and Aspagan in Persian. Their country was where the usual mode of transportation was the horse, perhaps more so than in ancient India, thus the ancient land of the Paktyike became Aspaganistan in Persian. And thence to Afghanistan.

Now, there was one tribe that was perhaps more attached to the horse than anyone else; a tribe that took pride in its horsemanship and which was famous as horse dealers. They became Aspzai — Tribe (or son) of the Horse. Having conquered Bajaur and moving northwest, Alexander came up against the Aspasioi guarding their fort of Masaga. A hard battle was fought, the chief was slain and Alexander wedded his widow. She later bore him a son when Alexander was in Sindh but we do not know what became of this child.

Again, one has to be either tone-deaf or stupid to not see the connection between Aspzai, Aspasioi and Yusufzai. Aspasioi, incidentally, is the tribe most frequently mentioned by Alexander’s historians, which leads me to believe that this was at that time the major Pakhtun tribal classification in the region. That may mean that most other tribal names have simply split off from the main Aspzai.

The asp became Yusuf (pronounced Esop by Pakhtuns) only after conversion to Islam and the need to invent a Muslim sire. The Aspzai thus became Esopzai — Yusufzai for the educated classes.

From the geographer Strabo (1st century CE) we hear of two other startlingly long-lived names. He mentions Apratai and Shattagadai. His translator, John McCrindle, reminds us that Afridis, and indeed other Pakhtuns as well, have difficulty in pronouncing ‘f’ sounds, turning them forever into ‘p’. Apratai is, therefore, Strabo’s rendering of Afridi exact to a turn. As for Shattagadai, McCrindle says this is the southern pronunciation of Kattak where the ‘kh’ of the northern dialect becomes ‘sh’.

The email also noted that the tribes defeated in Bajaur and Swat were not Pakhtuns, but Buddhists. I have to live many more years to hear anything as foolish as this. Buddhism is a religion that was followed by all sorts of people in the subcontinent and beyond. It was not an ethnic group.

The Pakhtuns have lived in the submontane lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than two and a half millenniums. They have classified themselves under at least three tribal names that were preserved by Greek writers of antiquity. However, like all other Muslims of the subcontinent, they too, and sadly, have invented fictitious histories for themselves. The most pernicious among this body of lies is the fiction of Arab/Jewish origin. The truth is that they are an Indo-Aryan people with a language that derives from Avestan.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th,  2011.


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Reader Comments (65)

  • leila
    Nov 11, 2011 - 10:39PM

    Thank you Sir for setting things straight! Keep writing these wonderful pieces on history!


  • sidjeen
    Nov 11, 2011 - 10:56PM

    two things come to mind after reading your article but first let me make a correction pakhtana as you have mentioned is the singular for pakhton is actually the other way around pakhtoon is the singular and pakhtana is the plural. your whole argument is based on the term used by Alexander’s historians as Aspasioi which you said is actually asepzai but first of all asp is a persian word and to this day is not used for horse in pashto although yousaf as you have rightly pointed is pronounced as isp or asp but it boggles mind that a word that was used around alexander’s time is still pronounced as the same by pakhtoons who actually started writing their language very recently. secondly you write about history but never quote your sources for reference and present them as your own research which is ethically not right.


  • Atif
    Nov 11, 2011 - 10:57PM

    Watta research yar, truly amazing, i always heard of thier jewish/arabic origin, even thier culture habbits and personality traits are also similar to jews but it is indeed very revealing research


  • Nirmit
    Nov 11, 2011 - 11:11PM

    Rashid Saab I search for your articles…the community which will not have an access to their legitimate history must be the most pitiable one. You give them the most precious access…thanks


  • Abbas from the US
    Nov 11, 2011 - 11:20PM

    Interesting article. The horse is still called an Asp in modern Farsi too.
    Alexander has been recorded by a number of historians as gay, other than that informative on the whole.


  • Nov 11, 2011 - 11:32PM

    wonderful article… thanks for writing this, and thanks ET for publishing this


  • Aurangzeb
    Nov 11, 2011 - 11:34PM

    history is an interesting can make any statement about historical facts and no one can verify it(my version of history is more authentic than yours). Pakhtuns might have been defeated in undocumented(ancient or not so authentic) history but they remain undefeated in documented history.


  • Agha
    Nov 11, 2011 - 11:43PM

    All other historians have invented fictitious histories(except ofcourse yourself Sir). You sir, are the undisputed king when it comes to verifying historical accounts(Sarcasm)


  • Aziz Khan
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:00AM

    While I like the writer’s reference to several authors to prove his point, I have reservations regarding two aspects. He knows little about Pashto, as Pakhtana is the plural, not singular, of Pakhtun, and Pashtoons have problems with pronouncing /p/ rather than /f/, but most of the times /p/ is pronounced as /f/ and also vice versa, e.g. fropessor for professor.

  • Ali Tanoli
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:05AM

    @Salman Rashid sahab,
    Intrestting article
    next time could u right something about Tanoli tribe and where they belongs to please.
    one more thing i agreed peoples in this area of afpak boders are very old but theres allways some new came to mix and i believe in the time of second khalife Syedna Umar(rz) these area got captured and got mix with arab muslims and one more story is some
    peoples from these area may be some from jewsh tribe (may be yousafzai tribe family of
    yousaf (A.S) went to arabia and became muslims i dont know there lot of stories and if u
    start reading some arab or persian historian then may be its gonna diffrent.Recommend

  • Nov 12, 2011 - 12:32AM

    Brilliant analysis, very informative, although the disgust with the email could have been toned down a little.


    The pashto word for mare is “Aspa” while that for a horse is “Us”, it is very likely that this “Us” could have been pronounced as “Asp”


  • Babloo
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:36AM

    Yes horse is ‘ashwa’ in Hindi and Sanskrit.
    Afganistan must have benn called aswastan during vedic times.
    This is one of Salman Rashids better researched/reasoned article.

    The Indo-Aryan vedic civilization , flourished in northern India/Pakistan from 2000bc – 500 AD. All the people of these regions followed the vedic religion or Hinduism. Buddhism came of Hindu prince Buddha and some people of these regions converted to Buddhism.
    Then came Islam from Arabia and some people converted to Islam.
    Sikhism similarly was founded by Hindu saint, Guru Nanak.

    So people’s religion changed from conversions. Ethnicity does not change with change of religion. The people who live in today’s pakhtoonistan or Afganistan are the same people who followed Hinduism or Buddhism before conversions to Islam.


  • Sajid
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:42AM

    What does defeat mean? Pakhtuns have been caused to live as fugitives for centuries. External invaders have time and again caused mayhem in Pakhtun lands, what else is bigger than the fact that Pakhtun have not been able to keep peace in their land for centuries now? That is a defeat. Have you been able to stop external penetration? no, external forces have repeatedly walked into Pakhtun lands and Pakhtun have fought them “hiding behind the walls”. That is not a warriors way. Come out and fight light an army if you are so proud of Pakhtun invincibility. Attacking from behind and then running away to hide between women and children and in caves is no bravery. You are in denial and delusion if you want to stay in this “false imagination” that Pakhtuns are indefeated! When Taliban took over Swat, Pakhtuns were defeated. that is one example.
    Just accept it, like everyone, Pakhtuns too have been defeated. I know the truth may bear too much weight on your self-satisfying egoistic tendency, but grow up and face the truth. Running away and hitting from behind walls is not called invincibility.


  • Sharjeel
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:53AM

    are u sure that they are Indo-Aryan, cuz i have heard they come from the progeny of Hazrat Khalid bin Waleed (R.A.). Are pathans the only Indo Aryans in the region?? if not then why are other nations like those in Sindh and Punjab not as gallant as pathans and so different in terms of almost everything?


  • Nov 12, 2011 - 1:04AM

    Good article Mr. Salman Rashid. Another misconception which you may wish to elaborate on is that Babur, Ghori, Ghaznavid, et al. are not really ‘Afghans’. Many people from India have this misconception and erroneously associate Pakhtuns (who are Indo-Aryan) with the invaders I just mentioned. True, those individuals may have been born in Central Asia/Afghanistan, but their ancestors had earlier invaded Afghanistan and settled in that land – they are Turkic speaking Mongols (in fact, Mongols are a Turkic tribe). This is a serious part of history which needs additional clarification from historians in order to clear the air of incorrect perceptions.

    A few other issues which I hope you would kindly touch upon in your future articles:

    What sort of relationship did religious clergy/Sufis have with Turkic military generals – was it symbiotic, how did each party benefit, how did military conquest assist in the spread of organized religion and how did an established clergy help solidify control of the Turkic generals.
    Does this symbiotic relationship continue to last in the form of present day Pakistan, and what are the implications of this relationship going forward?
    Many so-called “Kashmiri” leaders such as Syed Gilani and Umer Farooq are in fact progeny of religious clergy that came from outside India with the assistance of Turkic military generals. Is the so-called “Kashmir issue” really a result of middle age Turkic military conquest?

    Thanks and regards.


  • Nov 12, 2011 - 1:17AM

    Salman Rashid is simply brilliant. His PTV program about Alexander is my all time favorite. Big fan of his and one of the rare worthwhile pieces I have seen in the ET. You know unlike the ones which waste your time and talk about nothing at all.


  • Nangyal
    Nov 12, 2011 - 1:33AM

    I have question about your view that Pakhtuns are Aryans, mainly rellying on their language of being of Aryan origin. Is it not possible that they would have adopted Pakhtu language? Likely, if language is taken a single standard, then Niazi Pakhtuns of Mianwali who speaks Seraiki, will be counted by the historians of distant future, as non-Pakhtuns and Seraikis.


  • Wasil Arian
    Nov 12, 2011 - 1:49AM

    History is not math and it may not be possible to write a story which can be classified as something true beyond a shadow of doubt. Your contentions however seem to be more plausible ones as compared to the ones debunked in your article. However any discource about history can be held without taking leave from civility and politeness. I suppose you may make use of a little bit of humality and also start revealing your resources in future to avoid being called plagiarist or incredible by some one or the other.


  • Farhad Yousafzai
    Nov 12, 2011 - 1:56AM

    Though I find your article pretty interesting..but it lacks any authenticity.Where are your sources sir? Are the conclusions you are drawing your own or someone else’s? While there are many myths about the origins of Pashtuns, none is convincing enough to totally outweigh the others. As far Yousafzai coming to Swat, Dir and Mardan etc , it is a well documented fact which is fairly recent. It is ironic that a non-pakhtun tries to tell us about our ancestry while rediculing all those others who have written volumes on Pashtun history including many Pashtuns..


  • American Desi
    Nov 12, 2011 - 2:08AM

    Brilliant! Very nicely written. Islam is a religion of Arabs and you can see many references to Arab tribes and their status in the society in the Koran! Unfortunately subsequent converts were brainwashed to deny their heritage and many people of the sub continent are keen to be more Arab than the Arabs themselves!


  • AA
    Nov 12, 2011 - 4:25AM

    Interesting article. A few comments:

    It is true, the theory that Pashtuns derive their lineage from Qais, the Arab, is a bogus one.

    According to the late Professor Dani, the renowned archaeologist, 90 percent of the people living in the present day Paksitan 1000 years ago were Buddhists.

    The word Pakhtana or Pashtana, as pointed out by Aziz Khan above, is plural while Pakhtun or Pashtun can be used both as singular and plural.

    It is also true that many pashtuns pronounce “F” as “P”. I clearly remember, during the college election campaigns in Islamia College Peshawar, many students would raise the slogan “Vote Par So-and-So!” in stead of “Vote for …” Similarly, the word Afridi is often pronounced as “Apridai”.


  • Homa
    Nov 12, 2011 - 8:03AM

    Excellent presentation of facts and history. The pathans and pakhtoon people are very much a branch of vedic indo-aryan family who practised sanatan dharma before arab and turkic invasions and conversions, right until the hindu shahi period. Infact, Sage Panini, the most brilliant sanskrit grammarian of ancient times who codified sanskrit grammar and composed the first and to date the most intelligent grammar treatise in the world, the Ashtadhyayi, is believed to be a native of the present day afghanistan region. The names ‘afghan’ and ‘afghanistan’ are themselves of sanskritic origin–Ashwasthan. There was the time when sanskrit flourished there as well because it was the shared sacred language of all the indo aryan people, including the Paktyike. We were all one, non-arab people.


  • Asif Nawaz
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:01AM

    I’m a Pakistani for 64 years, a Muslim for 1400 years, and a Pathan for 5000 years. :)


  • Rashid
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:21AM

    @sidjeen: What is the word ‘Aspa’ used for in Pashto, other than a horse?


  • Rashid
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:48AM

    @Ashok: Here is something helpful to your questions. It’s a paper by Mr. Ishtiaq Hussain. Google it. Or you can see it as my FB page

    The Tanzimat:

    Secular reforms in the Ottoman Empire

    A brief look at the adoption of Secular Laws in the Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on the
    Tanzimat reforms (1839-1876)


    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:08AM

    the name afghanistan itself derived from UPA GANA STHANA means TRIBES of that palce and the practice of their religion is akin to vedic aryans which is now practiced in some part of INDIA hence no confusion who are the afgans


  • Muhammad Usman Ghani
    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:08AM

    Good Article.
    I have read about Yousufzai’s history. Perhaps they were the traitors to be precise. With the help of Babar, they back bitted another Pashtun tribe “Dilazak” who in the first place gave shelter to the Yousufzai in the first place when they migrated.
    I don’t know how much this istrue but history says about this.
    Could you please make a point on this.


  • santhosh
    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:09AM

    It’s always a pressure to read the pieces written by you. It opens a new window even if we have visited them earlier. It helps me to understand the muslim history of the sub continent. These articles implying we are one, is the need of the hour for peace. May I add that, afghans were also buddhists (Bamiyan). There are inscriptions of Ashoka near kandahar. The tribes mentioned in the Alexaander’s invasion may be the Central Asian tribes, in the Afghan and Tajik, Kryghz and other borders.


    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:38AM

    The Pashtun history is based on myths ,compiled by one Naimatula in his book “Tareekh e Khan Jehani wa Magzan e Afghani”.Qias is probably an imaginary character,and his three sons were in fact,groups of Pashtuns and not individuals,Bittan,were farmers,Sarban,powindas and Ghorghast were the hill people.The Iranain used to call all those people,who were not follower of their religion,as Abagans,meaning,non believers.Abagan became Afghan.The history of Yousafzais is probably based a myths,as they lived in this area much before 15th century.No Pashtun uses the word “Pathan”for their race,this name was given to them by Indians,picked up by the British and now the people of Punjab use this term.The race is not Afghan,nor Pathan but Pashtuns.


  • Pashtun
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:14PM


    Just to add to defend your point, One of the famous messages of Alexander to his mom was like that ” Mom, you will be feeling proud that you have a bor a son like Alexander, but now when I came to Aryana (Current Land of Pashtuns comprising of Pakistan and Afghanistan) I would like to tel you that here every mom has bore an Alexander and I have to face an army of Alexandersss”…

    @Santhosh…I totally agree with you bro … even Gandahari who was mentioned in MahaBharat was princess of today’s kandahar region and the King at that time named this area by her name and from Gandahari to Kandahar,,,,


  • Umar
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:25PM

    “The mind boggles at the idiocy of a nation brought up on manufactured history.”

    My mind is boggled too at your insistence that your version of “manufactured” history is absolute truth. There are several theories including one you just described. There is no consensus on which one of those several theories is true. You also failed to print actual letter, that you are trying to refute and publish a defence against.

    My theory is that there is that Pathans are not a single race they are a group of several ethnic groups that over centuries merged in to a common culture, but are genetically very different. (a fact already proven by some genetic work, that has been done), and at Alexander’s time there may have been some components of modern day Pathans present, but they may not have called themselves as Pathans at that time. but again this is one of the theories and I do not insist that one must believe it as universal truth and I do not call rest of the theories as Idiocies.


  • Kashmiri
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:29PM

    Brahimins or so called Kashmiri Pundits are also are also outsiders by same definition. But the issue is to give modern day residents of Kashmir( regardless of ethnicity and religion) a RIGHT to decide for their own fate without interference from Pakistan ad India.


  • Parviz Sani
    Nov 12, 2011 - 12:41PM

    Salman Rashid article appears a story on Pakhtuns because it is with out any references.There are published books on this subject telling different stories.My request to the learned author is to produce a document based on research of origin of Pakhtuns.


  • Nov 12, 2011 - 12:48PM

    Indeed a master piece produced by Salman Rashid.

    I am a student of history and have cited Pakhtun history from various sources like “The Pathans” by Alfinstein, “History of Pakhtuns” by Major Raverty (Russian Writer) and “Pohana” by gold medalist Sahar Gul Katozai. All of these writers agree to what Salman Rashid clearly elucidated in his article

    The fact is that Mehmud Ghaznavi, Ghauri were not native Afghani instead they were from Central Asian states, they migrated there. After Ghauri’s the Slave dynasty started which includes Qutbuddin Aibak and Illtutmash, both of them were slaves bought by Ghauri’s. It was a common practice to purchase slaves and rear them up but they were so competent enough that titles were bestowed on them by the SULTANS of Afghans to continue their dynasty.Then after sultanate started the period of Mughals, Anglo-English struggle to settle in sub continent to the separation.

    One of our friend mentioned that Pakhtuns were defeated quite a couple of times, but this friend has forgot altogether what multiple historians have written regarding Pakhtuns as the undefeated semi-nomadic tribe. Better to study history from Zahiruddin Babur till date. I am not seconding the fact that Pakhtuns are superman’s but their dignity have never let them surrender to any foreign force and invasion. Regarding the fact that they usually fight a Gurilla war and play a hide and seek game, so I want to know what else they have to defend and defeat offenders. If you can train them on Gurilla fighting, they will never turn their back in battle field. Notwithstanding is there a case available in history that foreigner and invaders invaded Pakhtuns area bare handed, they always comes with heavy ammunition and latest technology available to them, despite the fact they never conquered a single inch of Pakhtun tribe till today.


  • Saqib Iftikhar
    Nov 12, 2011 - 1:28PM

    this isn’t a new perspective about the origin of Pashtoons, This Theory is mentioned by Sir Olaf Caroe years back. This is among one of the 4 theories presently known


  • zalim singh
    Nov 12, 2011 - 1:40PM

    excellant article as always.


  • Anand Kumar
    Nov 12, 2011 - 4:03PM

    DNA analysis proves that the majority of the people of Pakistan are ethnically the same as North Indians. Only 5% are of Middle-eastern heritage. The Arab bloodline myth is a just a tool used by the fundamentalists and the Pakistani security establishment to make Pakistanis believe in a mythical past, wherein they are supposedly superior to all else around them -along the lines of God’s “chosen ones” and therefore destined to be the masters of the universe.


  • Menon
    Nov 12, 2011 - 5:35PM


    Why not give Baluchistan the same right? Why not have plebiscite in entire Pakistan and ask what people want, a country ruled by mullah’s and sharia law or secular democracy?

    How many free elections have you had in the past 64 years (I mean free)? I do understand the fact that you are not really familiar with democracy, elections and how it all works. In a democracy people choose, it is called and election and votes to pick their leaders so, by well known and practiced democratic principles, Kashmiris (over 80% went to the polls) choose their leaders.

    Can you claim the same for PoK?


  • palay khan
    Nov 12, 2011 - 6:23PM

    wonder, how, one word Pakhtun could have been originated from multiple languages?… Persian?? Greek?? Sanskrit ?? Arabic?? …. seems like my-history-is-more-authentic-than-yours case…

    BTW: The genetic code of Pakhtun race is by far different than indo-aryan people… indo-aryan people were settler of india, Bangladesh,Srilanka, Nepal, Pakistan (Sindh & Punjab specifically). u can tell the difference even by looking at them.


  • PTI.Lad
    Nov 12, 2011 - 6:25PM

    @Sajid: They may have been defeated but never conquered.


  • LSD
    Nov 12, 2011 - 6:36PM

    @ sajid : why so serious ?


  • Ali Tanoli
    Nov 12, 2011 - 7:11PM

    @Anand Kumar
    Yes thats true thats why we say real indians are south indians because of there small height and color and they called Dravind. and most of north indian are Aryan but some say
    this is also myth fabricated by British Raj to justify there Occupation in india.Recommend

  • IndianDude
    Nov 12, 2011 - 7:58PM

    The Indians should give kashmiris causing trouble the “chinese treatment” to the separatists. The “all weather” friend china kills even the non-violent yellow robbed Buddhists protesting for the autonomy ( Not idependence, notice).
    Dont worry, as pak and india relaxes visa restriction on movement to and from LOC, you can move to the land of pure and drentch in its glory!
    If you are dreaming abt independence then u should wake up and have a cofee. The chinese will love an independent kashmir. I am sure the chinese wont treat you like they treat yellow robed buddhist monks. (I would love to see you guys under chinese rule!!!)


  • Nov 12, 2011 - 8:54PM

    Thank you Mr. Rashid for writing a nice article. But, off course, I cannot claim that what ever you say is 100% true. There can be other options but by calling every other historian, who differs from your view point, insane will not do the job. I think usage of words like ‘stupid’ is not very helpful for a historian, especially when you are arguing for the supremacy of your viewpoint. History, off course, cannot change once it has been made. But new historical evidence may always bring to knees your ‘absolute truths’.Recommend

  • saqib khan yousafzai
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:33PM

    thanks alot sir….very nice and interesting research for me and my tribe……i m very glade that many people including you are doing great job


  • let there be peace
    Nov 13, 2011 - 1:33AM

    Whatever the origin of pushtoons, it is a huge myth that pushtoons cannot be defeated. They have been defeated many many times right from the Alexander, mauryans to ranjit singh, British(?), and now Americans. The reason people can go on repeating this myth could be that after defeating no invaders will be interested in staying in that region instead of the rich Indian plains. Why would a powerful invader stay in the inhospitable region when you can ride few miles and reach prosperous and fertile Punjab and Sindh and much more beyond?
    The biggest advertisement of the defeat of Pushtoons is their present religion. Other Indian Muslims can at least claim multiple reasons for conversion. I am curious to know can anyone claim any reason other than force for sudden religious conversion of Pukhtoon region?


  • let there be peace
    Nov 13, 2011 - 1:43AM

    Let me be clear that I don’t mean to belittle Pushtoon valour. Anyone with thousands of years of history of many wars will have some wins and some defeats, but the grandiose claim that pushtoons were never defeated is too much.


  • Shabir Achakzai
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:12AM

    Very interesting article sir but still I don’t agree with your Arab/Jewish reasoning because there are hundreds of Hebrew writings/scripts still available on stones in Afghanistan (Kandahar) and Helmand which are said to be almost 3000 years old according to carbon dating. The word Khyber is from Hebrew and many more. Did Jews invaded Afghanistan in those days ??? Why are Pashtuns more genetically identical to Israelites and White Hunks then any other race prevailing on these lands for thousands of years, should we say that this phenotypical and genetical change occurred due to living on a totally different terrain as compared to other people in south-east asia ???
    What about Durrani’s, Khilji’s and Gharghast people of Afghanistan’s pashton populations which form the majority as compared to Afridi and Esopzai


  • rehmat
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:25AM

    “I totally agree with you bro … even Gandahari who was mentioned in MahaBharat was princess of today’s kandahar region and the King at that time named this area by her name and from Gandahari to Kandaha”

    Not true The present day Swat is where Gandhar of Mahabharata times was located. The fact that Kandahar and Gandhar rhyme is coincidental .


  • Qazi
    Nov 13, 2011 - 10:41AM

    The theory of Jewish blood and the Arab connection seems to be based on a quest to derive an unproven connection to the lands of Semitic religions. I encountered an interesting theory about the word “Pathan” while working in Bengal. There is a linguistic practice in colloquial Bengali to derive the name of a person from where s/he lives. For instance, somebody from Nauakhali would be called a Nauakhal. The Suri Afghans established themselves during the 16th century in Bihar and the power base was Patna. The Bengalis would refer to them as “Pataans” i.e., from Patna. The name seems to have caught on among non-Paxtuns. There have been only two Paxtun dynasties to have ruled India. The Lodis and Suris. The rest were all Turkic. Rajmohan Gandhi, in his book on Bacha Khan, has delved into the question of pre-Islamic Paxtuns and makes for a very interesting read. The idea that all the people labelled as Paxtun/Pathan are not racially the same merits some consideration. A Turk friend was astounded to notice that practically all the tribes counted as the Ghilji branch of Paxtuns are present in modern day Turkey. These could well have been Turkic tribes who started co-habiting with the Indo-Aryan Paxtuns some time in the past. This is also reflected in the different distribution of land rights between the so-termed Durrani (sedentary) and Ghilji (nomadic) tribes across the Paxtun areas. Some Paxtun tribes of present day Balochistan may even have been of Dravidian stock initially, reflected in some peculiar customs prevalent among them.


  • Mohammad Ibrahim
    Nov 13, 2011 - 11:09AM

    nice article based on facts


  • Babar Saleem
    Nov 13, 2011 - 11:10AM

    Salams! someone above there replied and said that “asp” is a persian word and is not used for horse in pashto. brother you are wrong and this indeed is used for horse. we pashtoons call horse “aspa”. regarding jewish origin, this is a thing least concerning me but a year back i have seen a short clip in which a jew was giving lecture and pointed several coinciding geographical stuff and names in the pashtun areas to the last tribes histories…. i will give a link here…
    the stuff he based his claim on are these:
    a stone with hebrew inscriptions in pashtoon lands.
    the word afridi as a name of one of the 10 lost tribes.
    the word yousufzai as name of one of the 10 lost tribes.
    the word herat and a certain river as geographical marks.
    sheep sacrifice in musakhels.
    waziris long hair.

    watch this clip and please reply to me via email:


  • Nov 13, 2011 - 12:10PM

    It is indeed cery good research .Allah bless you and of course in pashto we still call horse as Aas and aaspa..

    secondly .one of our researcher said that pakhtun is the father nation of all races, and the present location of their existing is as same as it was before.



  • makham khattak
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:10PM

    Mr. Rashid well-done, it is not new reserch your sources are correct because all these sources are available no body can deny it,but again i say i am personally thankful to you on behalf of all pukhtoon that you are pleading their case very honestly and transparently.facts are facts.



  • Babar Saleem
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:16PM

    @let there be peace: regarding your argument for religious conversion i have an answer. when the safavids imposed shia version of islam on persia, only the pashtuns fought and get separated from persian empire for that they did not wanted that version of islam. you can see it clearly – by force safavids couldn’t make pashtuns do what hey wanted them to do. that event occurred during hotak’s dynasty whom we pashtuns call “neka-means grandfather”.


  • omer bin abdulaziz
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:25PM

    Recent DNA mapping of races have traced the Pakhtuns to the Greeks.
    However, proponents of other theories regarding the origin of the Pakhtun race have as solid evidence as the author here.
    At the end, it is only a matter of academics. As Muslims believe: “The most honourable among you is one who fears Allah the most.”


  • Greg van der Wiel
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:38PM

    Although one can’t define the Pashtuns as a homogeneous group but if one delves into the subject a little further (which the author clearly hasn’t done) you can probably find the answers. What particularly interests me in the Pashtuns is not their famed bravery and veracity but in fact their language. Pashto is classified as an eastern Iranian language (a classification I dispute; won’t bother you with why). Pashto came out of Avestan which recent discoveries have shown existed as another language alongside Old Persian (Farsi). Farsi originated from the south, i.e. Iran (Fars province to be more specific). Theories regarding Sanskrit as the language of origin are negated simply by this fact (Sanskrit and Latin had many words in common. And classifying languages as Indo-European doesn’t make them directly related), because as it happens, Pashto is not the only language to evolve out of Avestan; Wakhi, Khukhugni, Yaghnobi, Ossetic and Armenian have a sentence-structure, vocabulary, grammar and origin in common with Pashto, almost to a degree where people can mutually understand one another almost perfectly (besides the accent and certain lexicographical changes). Other borrowings have come from Arabic, Persian, Turkic, Greek, and Hebrew. Yes, there is written and archaeological proof that a form of Aramaic script was used somewhere before and around the time Buddhism flourished and yes I’ve seen the tablets and stones myself in Kabul(museum) Kandahar, Qilat and Mardan. Regarding the origins of the Pashtuns themselves, my research has led me to believe that in addition to being the original inhabitants that Alexander wrote about, who almost certainly followed Zoroastrianism which influenced Hinduism east of the Indus extensively, until around the time Buddhism came about during Seleucus Necator’s rule; which if one looks at the archaeological findings (Bamiyan Bhuddas, Gandhara, Kandahar, the latter two are distortions of the name Alexander, also interesting) sort of mixed with Greek polytheism prevalent at the time. There is no indication or evidence of Hinduism in the region other than the Kabul Shahi period which existed prior to the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni which brought Islam to the region which makes both the Qais Rashid theory and the Vedic texts, along with the author’s selective use of Herodotus moot. Also, I’d like to remind the author that the term Afghan was first used by the Sassanids in the 3rd century (after Alexander) and was never used to describe Pashtun people prior to that. Similarly Aspa meaning and Yusuf (whether pronounced Esop or Yusop) are two very different words whether you use them today or if you used them back then. You might want to be slightly more academic and less presumptuous when writing about a topic which from what I gather you have no knowledge about(just reading a book written by an ancient historian doesn’t make it true either, but I’m more disappointed in the editor for allowing this to be printed). Finally, I’d like to add that whatever the origin of the different Pashtun tribes, today they constitute as a single uniform ethnic group united by a common language, culture, geography and blood. I can only look at the evidence we have gathered today and say that the Pashtuns are a core group of indigenous Iranian tribes with no ethnic relation to Persia, India (east of India), etc, who intermingled with different invaders such as the Greeks, Turks, Hebrew, Persians and some Arabs until the 13-14th century when whatever the loose definition had been was solidified to include those that met whatever criteria was in place, and have been quite homogeneous since then.


  • Nov 13, 2011 - 4:56PM

    very interesting article, it shows that you are a very educated person, especially in pashtun history, nevertheless, i have some questions and i hope you can answer them:

    1.) you are a “true enemy” of the “pashtun-jewish-theory” but I guess that you also know the connections between the jewish and the pashtun society. for example to marry the elder brothers widow, which is NOT an islamic tradition, just two people in the world have this traditions: the pashtuns and the jews. what do you think about it, mr. rashid?

    2.) why are you so sure that a person like Qais has never existed?

    3.) what do you think about the ancient hebrew writings in Qandahar? it is known, that a jewish minority have never lived in this city. with jewish minority I mean Bukharian Jews. most of them moved to Israel in the last decades. the last one was Zebulon Simentov who died in Kabul a few time ago.

    4.) what do you think about the Golden Thora, which was a present from the Yussufzai Khan to Nadir Shah, when he visited the tribe? From where got the Yussufzai a Golden Thora? or do you think it is just a legend?

    and last but funny one.) what do you think about the fact, that we pashtuns have long or “noticeable” noses like Jews, why do we quarriling with each other the whole time like Jews, we are even stubborn like Jews are ??! why is that so? LOL

    it would be nice if you take some time to answer my questions,

    everyone who speaks german is also invited to read my blog ;-)

    da khuday pa aman,



  • faizoo
    Nov 13, 2011 - 7:53PM

    @Aziz Khan:

    yup this is exactly my point….they don’t have problem in pronouncing either…….. its just that “Fay” and “Pay” is interchanged in some places.”……….. but there is exact use as well……….. like partoog, payzar, parin’chekh etc………… similarly it happens in “Hay” and “Khay”……….. but that too varies from tribe to tribe……..


  • faizoo
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:22PM

    well…..the discussion is on the origin of pakhtunz……not their intrigues…… a similar situation…… it was the three tribes…….Mohmand (led by Aimal Khan)……….Afridi (led by darya Khan)……and Khattak (led buy Khushal Khan)……babur was also present in thsi battle……. but Afridis and Khattak didnt show up…..and Mohmand were wiped off by the babur forces…. Latter on Khattak off course got the rights of collecting toll tax on “Attock” on behalf of Mughal empire with their share………. so its not about traitors or not…… its history which is full of such events……urs and ur tribes interest……..
    @Muhammad Usman Ghani:


  • Khan
    Nov 13, 2011 - 9:20PM

    And what do we call an horse? ‘Aspa’.
    But I am not sure if its correct to say that word Yousafzai came from this word as we all know that Yousafzai and MuhammadZai were two tribes originating from two brothers. Apart from this, I do agree even now people in Charsadda pronounce ‘f’ as ‘p’.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Nov 13, 2011 - 11:57PM

    @Emran Feroz
    May be one tribe or little numbers of peples had jews roots but not all pathans for sure
    and thank allah they are no more Mukhzoob.


  • Cynical
    Nov 14, 2011 - 3:46PM

    Excellent piece of historical discourse.
    Also the comments that follow such articles bring to our attention many forgotten details of the past and sometime leads to a lively debate.


  • Nini Hala
    Nov 16, 2011 - 12:38PM

    You forget that Babur was victorious over people of Afghanistan.


  • gv
    Dec 6, 2011 - 5:19PM


    did you not read the article:

    He quotes Herodotus, Strabo and Strabo’s translator McCrindle.


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