Pashtunwali…… A Symbol of Coexistence


Naseebullah Khan
The strategic location and geo-economic potential of the Pashtun region have always attracted foreigners. At one end, this nation was lacking in education and hypocritic sense, while, on the flip side, the foreign intruders neither let them educated nor developed for the fulfillment of their vested interests in the region. Despite the presence of an admirable code of life (Pashtonwali), they were labelled villainy by the fascists invaders as a noble savage, extremist, extremist, barbaric, and anti_modrenist.The codes of Pashtuns way of living cover the socio, economic, political, and religious spheres. These codes are not only consistent with Islamic values but also helps in societal coexistence. It would be insane to impose one’s own doctrines on others. If the Pashtuns code of life does not match with the wishes of the west and the rest, calling them with inappropriate words does not make sense. As a matter of fact, we have numerous examples of western social values which are against humanity and which are not in the ambit of moral laws. shouldn’t they be called the masters of noble savages?The pillars of Pashtonwali such as Ashar (collective cooperation), Nang (honour) Nanawatai, (sanctuary), Tura (Bravery), Pana (Asylum), Maylmastya (Hospitality),Badal (Revenge), Pat (Pride), Mayrana (courage), and Jirga (Council of elders), these all in a true sense promote societal peace and coexistence. Despite a holistic analysis and focusing on the ground realities,the Pashtun nation has been presented as savage, barbaric, and worries.The points which have been misinterpreted the most are pride, asylum, revenge, and honour. The witticists ignore the materiality of Pashtonwali and have less knowledge of these codes by interpreting them quixotically.As per their mantra, Pashtun pride themselves with Tura (Sword), but they do not explain it thoroughly that this pride is related to self-defense and protection which have been happening on their land for decades. As a matter of fact, Pashtun feel pride by providing hospitality, by solving a dispute through Jirga (the council of elders), and giving asylum to the people for the sack of peaceful settlement of an oppugn. The short-sighted people further blame Pashtuns for honour and attach it with women as honour killing. Nang (Honour) is the replica of pride which Pashtun feel during many occasions. They feel honour by not surrendering to the enemy during a war. A Pashtun feels honour by serving and cooperating with the community on different occasions. Elphinstone is of the opinion that the most remarkable characteristic of the Afghans is their hospitality. The practice of this virtue is so much a point of national honour, that their approach to an inhospitable man is that he has no Pashtunwali. The code of Badal (revenge) is a type of deterrence which is present almost in every law. This code is adopted for the wrongdoing of someone. While, on the other hand, when the council of elders decides a dispute then the code of nanawatai (sanctuary) is adopted where most of the cases are forgiven unconditionally or by giving some type of forfeiture as a sentence. This tradition has been admired by Mastrosimone in his stage play “Nanawatai” which was later adapted into a film in 1988,”The Beast of War”.The mischaracterization of Pashtun in the narratives of the orientalist, dearth the missing link of cultural relativism_ as they have analysed Pashtonwali in the prism of their own perspectives. Renowned Pashto literary figure Dr. Barakat Shah Kakar observes that the non_ Pashtoon writers and scholars in this regard have viewed Pashtuns and their way of living through a tunnel vision of orientalism and careerism. Hence, there is a dire need of in-depth study by researchers, academians, and anthropologists for showing the true face of Pashtuns on mother earth. The mantra that we are right, we are superior, and what we do is right and what others do is wrong, needs strong negation. A holistic approach towards understanding Pashtonwali reveals that their codes of life are the perfect examples of mutual coexistence and deterrence against the instability of the society. The witticism of the so_called intelligentsia is far from the reality, who have tried to use this nation and their land for their vested interests.