The Pashtun (or Pathans)


The brutal warriors of the Taliban



See also: Four Faces of Islam which shows why the Pashtun illustrate "Folk Islam"


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"The Pathan tribes are always engaged in private or public war. Every man is a warrior, a politician and a theologian Every large house is a real feudal fortress....Every family cultivates its vendetta; every clan, its feud.... Nothing is ever forgotten and very few debts are left unpaid."[1] Winston Churchill

Quotations from Pakistan Handbook (Hong Kong: Moon Publications, 1998, pages 394-396)

"The warlike Pathans [or Pathan, Pukhtun or Pushtun] form one of the world's largest tribal societies (about 16 million) and are divided into numerous sub-tribes and clans.... The Pathan hill tribes all have a passion for freedom and independence, and defend their territory and honor against all invaders. They are fearless guerilla fighters who know the hills and valleys intimately, are crack shots and wear clothes that blend with their surroundings (khaki is a local word meaning 'dusty, and it was as a result of the wars in this region that the British army abandoned its bright red uniforms for the inconspicuous dust-colored khaki). No one has ever managed to subdue or unite them: the Mughals, Sikhs, British and Russians have all suffered defeat at their hands." 

"The Pukhtunwali (the Way of the Pukhtuns) is an inflexible ethical code by which all true Pathans traditionally abide. Pukhtunwali requires that every insult be revenged and, conversely, every guest protected. To safeguard his honor, o the honor of his family or clan, a Pathan will sacrifice everything, including his money and his life. He will return even t he slightest insult with interest. According to a Pathan proverb, 'He is not a Pathan who does not give a blow for a pinch.'"

"The Pathans are notorious for the family feuds, often the result of disputes over zar, zan or zamin - gold, women or land."

"In Lords of the Khyber (1984), Andre Singer illustrates this by recounting the story of a man he interviewed 'who proudly declared that he had killed seven male members of a Mahsud family for having insulted his wife, and so far only his brother had been killed in the revenge.'"

"Tales of the dangers of the Khyber Pass and the legendary ferocity of the Pathans stirred the English imagination and evoked scenes of gallant soldier defending the might of the Raj against the equally gallant but merciless Pahatns.... Nonetheless, if the British exacted revenge by razing whole villages to the ground, the Pathans retaliated with ambushes and slaughter, and even mutilated wounded enemies.

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains

An' the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your right an' blow our your brains.

An' go to your Gawd like a solider."

Rudyard Kipling, Barrack-room Ballads, 1892


Not a nice thought - nor nice words. But this is where human nature drifts when untamed by a civilized culture. Today's culture has been influenced by last century's spread of Christianity, but its pacifying touch on nations is fading fast. The only safe place is in Christ, wearing the Armor of God.


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