Who is a Pashtun?

Pashtuns are sensitive beings and like everyone else, they want to live according to their cultural legacy.

Ehmad Saeed November 10, 2013

There is a long history behind the misunderstanding – prevalent both locally and around the world – that Pashtuns are either religious fanatics or just poor, ignorant fellows. The image of the Pashtun man that is usually portrayed comes either in the form of a bearded person, painted either with the colours of terror or presented as a symbol of outdated ideals. Pashtun women are presented as prisoners, kept within four walls, and their veil is seen as a trademark of cultural and religious suppression. The stereotyped image of a guard with a gun, a big moustache and big mole above the moustache, speaking funny Urdu is what every citizen of this country has in his or her mind. This man is seen as a comic figure everywhere. Pashtun girls are reluctant to own this misrepresented ideal just because it is considered a benchmark of backwardness throughout the world.

Pashtuns are sensitive beings and like everyone else, they want to live according to the ideals of their thousand-year-old cultural legacy. In times where almost every nation in this world is suffering through an identity crisis, Pashtuns are trying to hold on to their roots and their identity. The average Pashtun desires liberation from internal and external coercion and longs to contribute to the development of the world like a responsible citizen. He feels neglected and alienated from the mainstream world and laments this intolerable disdain.

Equally important are the sentiments and feelings of Pashtun women. They are suffering more than women from other parts of the world today and these sufferings should not be taken as a statement of cultural coercion. Pashtun women question why they cannot be part of the developed world without breaking away from their culture and tradition. The world is hearing the voices of a few people without paying attention to the millions who see their men as their idols.

Let this be cleared, once and for all, that Pashtuns are not against any religion, political ideology, ethnic identity or any plan that brings peace, development and education. However, at the same time, the Pashtun people want to live in a world that was built by their ancestors and they want to cherish the ideals that have kept them alive.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2013.


sami kakar | 8 years ago | Reply

Let me educate few of my friends here. Agreed that word KHAN does not necessarily relate to Pashtuns. But saying that we must focus on what the article is trying to invite us for. Allow me shed some light on what Pashtun historical roots say technically speaking. Pashtun is a race mainly inhabiting in Pakistan,Afghanistan, and India. There is a fair fragment of this group as immigrants to UK,USA,Europe,and East Asia. The ancient name used by/for Pashtuns was Afghan. Sometimes people get mistaken when a Pakistani Pashtun calls himself an Afghan. It is because of that historical connection. The word Afghan was exclusively used for Pashtuns. However,after the advent of modern nation-state term Afghanistan became country for many other ethnic groups and obviously with regard to modern norms all non-Pashtuns are also called Afghans presently. But a Tajik,Uzbek,or Persian citizen of Afghanistan will basically be Tajik,uzbek,and Persian but not an Afghan historically. Dr.Qadeer Khan was from Bhopal(India) and is a Pashtun. His forfathers came to India as Pashtun invading/royal army soldiers. With time they forgot speaking Pashtu but genetically they are still Pasthuns and will always be. General.Ayub Khan spoke Hindku but belonged to a very large tribe of Pashtun i;e, Tareen. Niazi is yet another major tribe of Pashtuns that makes Imran Khan very much Pashtun. Now just like my fellow Punjabis here showing their pride on Sikh King Ranjeet Singh, Pashtuns do have the right to be proud of their very original history. P.S. The article has exposed stereotyped mentality against Pashtuns even in the succeeding comments.Thank you all

Grace | 8 years ago | Reply

@Fareed: People like to repeat the tired story that Afghans alone kicked out the Soviets. In fact, Pakistanis, Arabs and others flocked to Afghanistan to liberate the land while a good number of the Afghans- not just Afghan Persian speakers and Hazaras were busy sneaking into Western countries to cry for asylum. The injured and disabled Punjabi men who are veterens of the Afghan Jihad to oust the Soviets live in villages throughout Pakistan. It is a travesty to ignore the sacrifices made by these men. Without them, the Soviets would have suceeded but rather than thank these men, Afghans have proved thankless.

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