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Pashtunwali / Pashtunwaali

Central to identity as a Pakhtun is adherence to the male-centered code of conduct, the Pashtunwali ( or Pakhtunwali). In the tribal model, conformity to Pashtunwali defines what it means to be "really" Pashtun. Their injunctions clearly point back to a nomade state of society, when a man depended on his immediate relations, not on laws, for protection, and when to refuse hospitality was equivalent to murder. Pashtunwali, a code good enough for wandering shepherds, when land and water were abundant for all, tended to foster the best virtues of barbarians, and probably produced a simple, hospitable, and spirited race. It has not kept pace with the increase of population, and the change from a pastoral to a settled life.

Traditionally, the conduct of Pukhtoons was guided by the Pukhtunwali. The foremost commandment of the Pukhtunwali is Badal or revenge (revenge is a dish which tastes better cold, Pukhtoon proverb). The obligations to take revenge for wrong falls not only upon the man who has suffered it, but also upon his family and tribe. Insults and retaliation hence involve clans and perpetuate blood feuds. The most frequent causes of trouble are money, women and land (zar, zan, and zamin). In rare instance, feuds are terminated when the weaker party throws itself on the mercy of its enemy, called Nanawati or acceptance of a bonafide truce, when blood money may be accepted in lieu of revenge. The third component of Pukhtunwali is Melmastia, or hospitality towards a guest, stranger, or an enemy if he seeks it. A formal escort or assurance of safety to a guest or enemy is called Badragga. The Pukhtunwali provides for law and order in a harsh environment, and is still a strong force in the tribal areas.

Nang - honor / bravery - is foremost in this code. This is articulated in a starkly black-and-white, all-or-nothing manner. Without honor, life for a Pakhtun is not worth living. According to Pashtunwali, it is the absolute duty of men to protect the respectability of women and to protect the integrity of the homeland. According to the most approved Pashtunwali, every man defended himself and defied his neighbours. Honor demands the maintenance of sexual propriety. Complete chastity among female relatives is of the essence; only with the purity and good repute of his mother, daughters, sisters, and wife (or wives) does a man ensure his honor. Thus women are restricted to private, family compounds in much of the province. Census takers, invariably male, are constrained not to ask about the women in another man's home, and the number of men in a household is often overstated because sons and brothers are a source of strength. Accurate enumeration of the population hence is not possible.

Badal - revenge - is closely related to the notion of honor. Badal revolves around zan (women), zar (wealth), and zameen / zamin (land). Offenses to one's honor must be avenged, or there is no honor. Badal is the most important, dominanat and greatest of all Pathan traits. The urge to take revenge on his enemy, is infused in the very blood of a Pathan. Although minor problems may be settled by negotiation, murder demands blood revenge, and partners in illicit sexual liaisons are killed if discovered. Even making lewd innuendos or, in the case of women, having one's reputation maligned may mean death. The men involved sometimes escape to other regions, where they may well be tracked down by the woman's kin. When a woman is killed, the assailant is, almost without exception, a close male relative. Killings associated with sexual misconduct are the only ones that do not demand revenge. Even the courts are accustomed to dealing leniently in such cases. The revenging wrongs encourages feuds more than it punishes aggressions. Two men quarrel in a field, and one strikes or wounds the other; the relations take it up. They meet on some occasion, fight and kill a man; from that moment the quarrel is deadly; if of different tribes and the quarrel important, the whole tribes go to feud. Semi-barbarians constantly quarrelling, have always feuds on their hands. Feuds are a system of petty warfare carried on by long shots, stealing cattle, and burning crops. Samson burning his neighbours' corn acted just like a Pashtun. When the harvest was nearly ripe, neither party dared sleep. Vendettas and feuds are an endemic feature of social relations and an index of individual and group identity. Revenge may take time: as one Pashtun proverb goes, "I took my revenge after a hundred years, and I only regret that I acted in haste." Indeed, it may take generations to avenge the wrong, but retribution will be the focus of the family's life until honor is recouped.

Merana / Mairrana - bravery and Ghairat / zeal is needed to keep on one's own and his tribe's prestige. One has to be zealous, couraeous and somewhat headless. Ghairat and Mairrana are synonyms. Merana means an act of zealousness.

Tura - sword require Pashtuns to answer a plea for help even if it involves risking their own life. Turzan is courageous. Possessing Tura means being courageous and warrior. Tura is sacred and disrespect for it makes one liable to pay nagha. One swears by Tura. If someone is engaged to a girl and is away from home his family can get the girl married to a Tura as with Topak. After the ceremony of such marriage the family of her husband takes the girl along. She lives there until her husband returns. When a coourageous act for guarding the grace of the tribe is done, it is said that Tura-i- wakrra i. e. he did Tura. The cover of Tura is called Teki. The meaning of a common Pashto proverb is "Dont take tura of its teki'but once you do, it must be reddened".

Nanawati / nanawatey / nanawaty / Nanawate - refuge / reconciliation / repentance / sanctuary is the remedy of feuds, which the Afghans extol as the acme of their civil code. The word literally means "going in" or entering into someone's house or Hujra. When the enemies are distant, the feud often lasts for generations ; but when they are neighbors it becomes an intolerable nuisance. This is to let both parties fight till the same number are killed on each side, then their neighbours step in and effect a reconciliation called " Nanawati or Nannawatt. The party who first draws blood is looked on as the aggressor, whatever may have been his provocation ; he pays the expense of a feast and gives some sheep and cloth as an atonement to the others. But in case this beau ideal of equal justice cannot be procured by one party having more killed than the others, the price of the reconciliation is much higher, but it never exceeds a feast and a few virgins. These girls are not given as concubines (which the country Afghans seldom or never have), but are married and well treated. The expense of marriage being so heavy, to get so many of their young men well married without expense is a great object, and a real money compensation. The other party do not like it however, as to give Afghan virgins without getting presents is thought to show want of spirit.

Jirga / circle is the Pukhtoon assembly in which all public and private affairs are settled. The Jirga, of which the Khan is the head, now contends with the state judiciary in the settled districts. Rules of the federal and provincial governments are enforced through state intervention. The decisions of the village Jirga in the districts have to be reinforced by the court of law if the law enforcement authorities have also registered the case. Unlike in the tribal areas, a legal permit is required for the manufacture and possession of arms and ammunition. Jirga and Malki systems are strong and powerful local institutions for the reconciliation and resolution of local disputes and even to punish those who violate the local rules and customs. If the dispute is of bigger nature between the tribes then the PA, MNA and Senators, Maliks and elders, sometimes from neighbouring FRs/agencies also participate in the jirga to resolve the disputes. Maliks and elders are nominated both by the accused and the grieved. The people have to accept the decision made by the jirga. The jirga results are presented to the PA for information and record. If any one of the party is not happy or satisfied with the decision made by the jirga then the grieved party can go to the appellate court and then the Home Department, GoNWFP who decides the case under the FCR. Sometimes the jirga uses local power, which they have by tradition such as, Muchalga (fine), to eject a person or even a family from their area as a punishment or impose heavy fine and destroy/put their houses and property to fire. Due to these strong local traditional rules the reported crime rate in FATA is low. However, with the passage of time the element of corruption has also entered this traditional dispute resolution system. It is reported that the poor and vulnerable cannot afford to have a jirga. There are a lot of requirements of jirga like hospitality and many other things, which the poor cannot afford. Thus Jirga is now becoming very expensive to convene. There is a grievance among the people that most of the time the ultimate decision is in favour of the rich and the influential.

Hujra is traditionally a male club and social center, which exists in every village of the tribal as well as settled areas. It is the focus of community opinions and actions. While Hujras exist in the villages of the settled districts as well, they have lost much of their functional importance.

Teega / truce declared by Jirga to avoid bloodshed among two or more tribal factions. This is a sort of truce which is enforced upon the combating parties for a specified period in order to dissociate them from fighting between them, holding in abeyance their mutual jealousies and to avoid a bigger combat between them. 'Teega' literally means a stone which is fixed at a certain place across which both the combating parties make pledges to have no concern with life or property of the opposite party until the time a permanent settlement is carved out. Teega, in other words, is a temporary truce in a feud arranged by a tribal jirga or the jirga arranged by the goverment which is symbolized by the setting out of a Teega.

Lashkar - army / group together / camp / military quarter of the town / posse / raiding party / volunteers' militia is formed for the implementation of the decision taken by the jirga. The word is originally from the Perssain lashkar, 'an army,' 'a camp.' This is usually derived from the Arabic al-askar, but it would rather seem that the Arabic 'askar, 'an army' is taken from this Perssian word : whence lashkari, 'one belonging to an army, a soldier.' The word lascar or laucar (both these pronunciations are in vogue) appears to have been corrupted, through the Portuguese use of lashkari in the forms lasquarin, lascari, &c., either by the Portuguese themselves, or by the Dutch and English who took up the word from them, and from these laskur has passed back again into native use in this corrupt shape.

The Persian word lashkar, meaning army, or camp, is still used most notably in Pakistan and India, e.g. Lashkar, originally the camp, now the permanent capital, of Sindhia at Gwalior. When Daolat Rao Sindhia obtained possession of Gwalior he pitched his camp on ihe open plain to the south of the fort. As the camp remained, the tents soon disappeared, and a new city rapidly sprang up, which still retains the name of Lashkar, or "the camp," to distinguish it from the old city of Gwalior. Since the occupation of the Lashkar, the old city gradually decayed, and by 1860 was now only one-third of the size of the new city. But at that time the two together still formed one of the most populous cities in India.

The security structure of Pashtun tribes involves using the Lashkar, a large number of people gathered by a Chegha (call), to defend against a common enemy. This enemy is an enemy of the community. In general, forays are on a small scale, sometimes they are mere thefts. They seldom plunder near their own houses, and have an understanding with other predatory tribes, by which the cattle taken are passed along by secret paths. The ordinary rule is that small Parties of a tribe went out on a marauding expedition. Their object is to murder and plunder only those enemies whom they can surprise. It is only when they have been exasperated beyond bearing that they assemble a "lashkar" or army to punish a tribe which has been retaliating on them by sending small Parties. When a lashkar is assembled, those for whom it is intended generally contrive to be out of the way. When they are robbed and cannot help themselves by force, they negotiate.

The lashkar is a group of armed men, typically numbering in the dozens to hundreds range - called up by the community to defend community interests - this is very similar to the American Revolution notion of the Minuteman. The lashkar is an essential element of the qawm social structure, and if the central government intends to engage society it should not receive international pressure to fight the essential elements of its society.

The rural rebellion in 1978 began with resistance mounted by lashkars, which were drawn from and protect the qawm in a manner highly similar to the Minuteman model of the early American Revolution. These disparate militias were united in purpose through Islam in jihad, initially against the Afghan communists, and then against the Soviet occupation. The Soviets devastated the rural agriculture and economic structures which supported the lashkars. A key element of the US and Government of Pakistan strategy against the Taliban from 2006 was to negotiate with tribal elders for them to provide security in their own areas, using their traditional Lashkar or militia, in return for keeping the Taliban at bay. This strategy had significant validity in that the tribes have traditionally ensured their own security, in the absence of a central government able to ensure law and order. However, the power of the tribal elders had been progressively undermined over the past 20 or so years by the emergence of commanders linked to the various Mujahidin parties. It was thus common, at the height of the Mujahidin resistance to the Soviet intervention, for men within the same family to be members of different Mujahidin groups. Although the traditional Lashkar system was kept intact along with the State forces, in some places due to the exigency of the time it was gradually done away completely with and numbers of the forces were increased.

Arbakai is a tribal based community policing system grounded in volunteer grassroots initiatives. They differ from lashkar that form in response to cheghar, or a need to defend against a common threat, and certainly from hired militias. Making use of akarbai would be a specific, traditional approach to using clans to enforce peace. The Arbakai survived in specific areas of Loya Paktia for a number of reasons. Tribal institutions survived there. And no real 'warlordism' emerged in the 'Pashtun belt', especially in the south-east where the balance of power remained much more fluid and tribal leaders maintained a strong influence. There are clear differences between militias and the Arbakai. The Arbakai are unpaid, and not hired by government, a person, or a company. They carry responsibilities which are approved and recognized as the common or public good. Lashkar and Arbakai have different functions and roles in Pashtun tribes. The Arbakai institution plays the role of the police in tribe, sub-tribe or community areas.

Mashar / elderly, leader, actually this word comes from moshe-Moses the spiritual leader. The respect for elders is easily accounted for. Among civilised people, young men have the advantages the experience of ages has given in books; and better still, they are early obliged to act for themselves and form their own character. Before the body fails with age, they acquire perhaps all they will ever learn. The young Afghans, on the contrary, are as ignorant as beasts, they know nothing but their genealogies and the confession of faith. Without any means of education but their individual experience, they for many years plough the earth, and then commit the crimes and excesses I have described. By degrees their wild independent life makes them rely on their own judgment, and gives them an acquaintance with human nature, at least in its Afghan form. As they get old they are constantly employed about reconciling feuds or arranging marriages, in which they have to reason with some, flatter others, and browbeat a third ; their fine climate and temperate habits preserve their faculties for a long time. They are much superior to the young or middle-aged men, and are respected accordingly. In all half-barbarous countries the same respect for the old men is observed. Sparta, which was about the Afghan standard, preserved the feeling much longer than Athens, where education, assemblies, and debates made the mind bo quicker formed.

A Malik has his own status in his tribe. The PA gives him some amount as Mojib (allowance) periodically to run his local hospitality expenses. The local people respect Maliks possessing good quality, quantity of weapons and the number of male members to use these weapons when needed.

A khan / headman depends for his power on an elusive network, which needs constant maintenance and reconstruction. Power resides neither in a specific locality nor in a person. The khan's network depends upon patronage, where one's degree of prestige is proportionate to the largesse distributed. The fight to be khan is a competition for who can best operate a patronage network to meet people's needs. Power is granted by consensus and is not necessarily given to a man for life. The khan must always show, by his generosity and his availability to those who need him, that he is the only person worthy fulfilling this function: "there is no khan without dastakhan" (without "a tablecloth," that is, without keeping open table.)

Melmastia / melmasthia / melmastiya - hospitality is another major dimension of pakhtunwali. The commensalism of Melmasthia is a means of showing respect, friendship, and alliance. A complex etiquette surrounds the serving of guests, in which the host or his sons, when serving, refuse to sit with those they entertain as a mark of courtesy. Closely related to melmastia is the requirement of giving refuge to anyone, even one's enemy, for as long as the person is within the precincts of one's home. These codes, too, are related to the concept of honor, for the host gains honor by serving his guest, and the person who places himself under another's protection is weak, a supplicant. Refuge must extend to the point of being willing to sacrifice one's own life to defend one's guest, but a person who demeans himself so much as to plead for mercy should be spared. Among the Waziris a little child was said to be sufficient escort through the lands of the tribe, and they were said to protect men who have killed their brothers, if they come as guests. The method of insuring safety was to sit by a man's fireside and neither eat nor drink till he promises to convey you safely to any place you wish to reach; by the Afghan custom he must comply, and either go himself or send a near relation to prevent danger. If this ceremony be neglected, food and a pipe will be freely given, but it will depend on the character of the host whether he does not rob and murder his guest the moment he leaves the threshold. When they wish to rob a stranger, they either try to civilly hinder his entering the house, or make him eat before he asks for protection. The Achikzais were said to consider themselves as relieved from all obligation to hospitality when a guest had eaten his full, and to have a right to rob him or murder him when they please.

Panah is to take someone in personal protection. Even if a notorious criminal or an outlaw asked for panah he will definitely be granted asylum and duly protected. It has happened many a times that a murderer after committing murder asked for panahfrom the family of the victim and they have him panah. During panah he enjoys equal rights and status but when he leaves thier house, he can be killed in revenge and his family cannot claim for any penalty of reward under the custom of badal (revenge).

Qawm / localized community refers to any form of solidarity group, and as a construct of personal identity can be somewhat fluid based on what form or level of identity is relevant to a particular setting. Every Pashtun is linked to the past by a line of ancestors traced through his father. He is also conscious of belonging to a larger entity which takes the form of a more or less endogenous community (the qawm), whether its sociological basis is tribe, clan, professional group (qawm of the mullahs.), caste, religious group, ethnic group, village community or simply an extended family.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there were about 600,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan by the summer 1980; 500,000 (largely Pushtuns) in the Northwest Frontier Province and another 100,000 in Baluchistan. By late 1980 the number was closer to one million. Observers credit the relatively minimal tension that initially existed between Pakistani Pakhtuns and the large number of Pakhtun refugees from Afghanistan to the deeply felt obligation of Pakhtuns to obey the customary dictates of hospitality. However, Pakistani Pakhtuns' frustration with the refugees escalated after the Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Many Pakistani Pakhtuns were upset that the internecine violence resulting from warring clans in conflict in Afghanistan was overflowing into Pakistan.

One major fault line running through Pashtun society has been termed by Akbar Ahmed the divide between nang and qalang cultures: nang referring to the honor code of the hillmen, and qalang referring to the superior, irrigated farmlands of the valley historically susceptible to taxation. This divide is the source of the Pashtun proverb that "honor ate up the mountains, and taxes ate up the plains."

The Pathans are generally praised among Asiatics for love of truth. This must be received with some limitation. They have no abstract love for the moral beauty of truth, but their scattered simple life, where everything about a man is known to all, and where there is little buying or selling, takes away many of the inducements to deceit, which inhabitants of towns possess; but to a stranger, or where anything may be got by it, the Pathans make no scruple at falsehood.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:39:55 ZULU