Pushtun, Pukhtoon, Pathan~ A brief Introduction PRONUNCIATION: PASH-toon ALTERNATE NAMES: Pushtun; Pakhtun; Pashtoon; Pathan; Afghan LOCATION: Southeastern Afghanistan; northwestern Pakistan POPULATION: 8–9 million LANGUAGE: Pashtu RELIGION: Islam (Sunni Muslim) 1 • INTRODUCTION Pashtun (also spelled Pushtun, Pakhtun, Pashtoon, Pathan) are a people who live in southeastern Afghanistan and the northwestern province of Pakistan. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan. There is no true written history of the Pashtun in their own land. Pashtun are traditionally pastoral nomads (herders who move frequently to find grazing land) with a strong tribal organization. Each tribe is divided into clans, subclans, and patriarchal families. 2 • LOCATION Pashtun have lived for centuries between Khurasan and the Indian subcontinent, at the crossroads of great civilizations. Pashtun are made up of about sixty tribes of varying sizes. Each one occupies its own territory. Pashtun are the major ethnic group in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Pashtun predominate north of the town of Quetta and between the Sulaiman Mountain Ranges and the Indus River. 3 • LANGUAGE Pashtu is the language of the Pashtun and one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. It is also the language of twelve million Pashtun in Pakistan. Pashtu belongs to the North-Eastern group of languages within the Iranian branch of Indo-European. Pashtu is written in the Perso-Arabic script. Some typical examples of the Pashtu language are the words used for parts of the Pashtun code of morals and manners, called Pashtunwalli. These include milmastia (hospitality); tureh (courage; also the word for sword ); badal (revenge); and ghayrat (protection of one's honor). A Pashtun tribal council is called a jirga. 4 • FOLKLORE Pashtun have many traditional stories, both in their own language and in Persian. One story tells of a man who wanted to discover how to change his luck. According to the story, a man may be given the opportunity to experience luck, but he must have the intelligence to take advantage of it. A man asked his lucky brother, "Where is good luck?" "In the forest," his brother replied. So the unlucky man set out for the forest. On the way he met a lion. When the lion heard where the man was going, he begged him to ask why he was ill, and why nothing made him feel better. When the man had gone a little farther, he found a horse lying down, too weak to stand. Next he came upon a tree, who asked the man, "Please, enquire on my behalf, why am I leafless?" When the man reached the place where he found his good luck, he seized it. His good luck said, "You may have good luck, but you still do not have intelligence." The man asked the questions he carried for the lion, the horse, and the tree. His fortune replied, "Tell the lion that he should devour a fool and he will recover his health. Tell the horse that he should take a master who will ride him and he will grow strong. And tell the tree that under its roots lies the treasure of seven kings. If the treasure is dug up, the tree's roots will flourish." On his way home, the man stopped first by the tree. He told the tree, and the tree begged him to dig the treasure from his roots. The man replied, "What good are riches, since I have my fortune." When he reported to the horse, the animal begged, "Please, sir, become my master!" But the man replied, "I have my fortune now, so look for someone else to be your master." Finally, he reported to the lion that he should devour a fool—and he told the lion all about the tree and the horse, too. When the story was finished, the lion said, "You yourself are a superlative fool!" And, with that, the lion devoured the man. He was a man of no cleverness, who could not recognize his opportunities, so his fortune did him no good. 5 • RELIGION Islam was introduced to the Pashtun in the eighth century. All but a few Pashtun tribes are followers of the Sunni Muslim sect. 6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS Pashtun celebrate the two major festivals of the Islamic lunar calendar year: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. They also observe the tenth of Muarram, which commemorates the martyrdom of the prophet Muhammad's grandson. 7 • RITES OF PASSAGE Pashtun are automatically considered Muslims (followers of Islam) at birth. When a baby is born, Pashtun whisper the call for prayer in the baby's ear. The male circumcision ceremony is held at the same time as the birth celebration (at about the age of one week). Children officially join in the rituals of prayers and fasting when they reach ****** maturity, but in practice they begin much earlier.