Pashtun and Pashtunwali

Andrew, Heather, Kolby, Lindsey

Who are the Pashtuns?

The Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and also the second largest ethnicity in Pakistan. The group is characterized by the usage of the Pashto language and practice a traditional set of ethics (Pashtunwali). They are also Sunni Muslims. Their history is not well recorded, but they are believed to have ancient ancestors dating back to the 1st or 2nd millennium.

What is Pashtunwali?

Literally, "the way of the Pashtuns," it is a code that specifies rules and regulations that the Pashtuns follow. The code dates back to the pre-Islamic period, and there are 10 main principles.

On what cultural values does the Pashtunwali code place most importance?

The code places a large amount of importance on honor in their society. As an example, Badal pertains to self respect and refusing to submit to insult, and Tor pertains to the honor of women. The code also places great importance on hospitality and peace between neighbors. As an example, Nanawatai pertains to forgiving an enemy and Teega means truce. Generosity and hospitality are some of the finest values.

Pashtunwali Code: A Few Examples

What does it mean to be an outsider in Afghan society? Why are people excluded? What does this exclusion look like?

To be an outsider in Afghan society means that the person is disgraced, and thus looked upon as having no importance. People are excluded for a few reasons: they might have to a lower social status or they might be a lower ethnic group; they might have a different religious belief from the majority of the population; or they have failed to follow Pashtunwali code. The exclusion could take the form of physical or verbal assault, talked down to, given fewer rights, or discriminated against.