According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “Pashtun belong to different clans and families with varying relationships to each other and differing social statuses. Pashtun migrated to different places during the 18th century due to their increasing population and lack of food, water, and grazing land for their animals. Many Pashtun of Afghanistan are not big landowners but make a living in agricultural fields despite having low incomes. Many groups of Pashtun along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan live nomadic lifestyles. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

“Many Pashtuns suffer from a low standard of living, particularly due to the many years of conflict suffered by Afghanistan, beginning with the Soviet invasion in 1979. Many Pashtuns became refugees during these years of conflict and left for neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan where they were accepted by their co-ethnics. Since the removal of the Taliban from power in 2001, many of these Pashtun refugees are encouraged to return to Afghanistan but often find themselves in a worse living situation as the homes they left were destroyed or occupied. *\

On few that still follow the nomadic lifestyle, the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures” says: “Nomadic groups are primarily cattle herders who move with the seasons to follow pasture. They follow set routes and have traditional camping sites. Like the villages, camps are structured around the tents of the senior lineages. In the traditional style nomadic tents are woven from black goat's hair and supported by posts or arched poles and guy ropes. [Source: Akbar S. Ahmed with Paul Titus “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1996 |~|]

Pashto: the Pashtun Language

The Pashtuns speak Pashto (also spelled Pukhto, Pakhto, Pushto or Pukhtu), which is in the the North-Eastern group of the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It is more similar to Baloch than Urdu. There are several Pashto dialects. The main ones, which differ significantly in pronunciation, are Southwestern, or Qandahari Pashto, and Northeasterm of Peshawari Puhkto. The dialects spoken by the northen tribes, particularly the Yusufzai, are regarded as the most “correct” or “standard” versions. [Source: Akbar S. Ahmed with Paul Titus “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1996 |~|]

Pashto is famous for its long strings of consonants that make its speakers sound as if they are talking with a mouthful or rocks. Both Pashto and Dari, a dialect of Farsi (Persian), are written with an Arabic script modified to accommodate consonants not found in Arabic. Most Pashtuns in Afghanistan speak Dari as a second language. Dari and Pashto are the official language of Afghanistan. Dari has had a strong influence on Pashto.

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: The name of Pashtun language, Pashto, denotes the strong code of customs, morals, and manners of the Pashtun, which is also called Pashtunwali. There is a saying: "A Pashtun is not he who speaks Pashto, but he who has Pashto."...Two cities in the Pashto area are important centers of Pashto language: Kandahar in Afghanistan and Peshawar in Pakistan. In literary works, the trend is to avoid the dialectal differences and use the form of Pashto used in the urban centers. “Pashto has always been written in the Perso-Arabic script, with the addition of consonant phonemes of Pashto. The name of the language, Pashto, denotes the strong code of customs, morals, and manners of the Pashtun, which is also called Pashtunwali. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009]

Pashtun Religion

Islam is important to Pashtun identity and unity. It also provided a link for them to a community outside their own. Many Pashtuns have embraced radical Islam. Men pour in and out of mosques all day today. But that wasn’t always the case. It said that up to the 1980s, Pashtun had little interest in Islam or religion. [Source: Akbar S. Ahmed with Paul Titus “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1996]

Pashtuns are mostly Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. . There are some Shiites. The largest numbers of these are in the Kurram and Orakzai agencies. There has been sectarian violence between the sects. Some of the problems have blamed on Afghan refugees supporting the Sunnis and the unwillingness of Shiites to sell some of their land.

Some supernatural beliefs persist. Some Pashtuns believe in jinns (spirits) produced by fires that can possess a person’s soul as wells as ghosts, witches, cursed souls and fairies. Some also believed that deceased saints can return and play a positive role on the living world.

Religious matters are generally handled by mullahs, men who have some religious training, who take care of local mosques and call the faithful to prayer, They also preside over rite of passage ceremonies such as birth, circumcision, marriage and death. Some religious leaders acquire a substantial following. However, there is a basic ambivalence on the whole toward mullahs. Sayyed (descendants of Muhammad) have their own special place in society and are given special respect. They are not bound by the code honor, are regarded as living saints and are often called into settle disputes

Islam was introduced to the Pashtun in the 8th century, but has traditionally been secondary to the Pashtun Pashtunwali code of conduct. Pashtun believe they are Pashtun firs and Muslims.second The Shias belong mainly to a few tribes or parts of tribes — namely the Turi tribe and the Muammad Khel branch of Orakzai — on the eastern border near Waziristan. Sufism, particularly of the Naqshbandi order, maintains an influence among some Pashtun groups. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009]

Pashtun Holidays and Rites of Passage

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “As all Pashtun are Muslims, they celebrate the two major festivals of the Islamic lunar calendar year. The first of these is Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated for three days after the month of Ramadan (the fasting month) — i.e., the first three days of Shawwal, the 10th month of Islamic calendar. They also celebrate Eid al-Aa, which is on the 10th of Dhu-l-ijja (the 12th month of the Islamic calendar). In addition, they observe the 10th of Muarram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar, in commemoration of the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet. Pashtuns also celebrate the traditional Persian new year, Novruz, a holiday that continues to be observed throughout most of the Persian/Turkic world every March. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

“Each child of a Muslim family is a Muslim by birth; therefore, all Pashtun are Muslims by birth. After a baby's birth, Pashtun whisper the call for prayer in the baby's ear. The male circumcision ceremony used to be held when a boy was seven years old, but now it is held at the age of about one week and is merged with the birth celebration.

“Male and female children are taught the prayers at an early age by parents or grandparents. In addition to the profession of faith and the rituals of prayers, preschool children are taught about the other obligations of Islam: charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. Prayers and fasting officially start with sexual maturity, but in practice they begin much earlier.

Circumcisions are performed when boys are seven. This is sometimes called the Jewish custom. Other important rites and observances, such as funerals, are generally in line with those of Islam. After a funeral, the deceased's relatives gather at the grave on the first few Fridays and on the fortieth day after the death, and they observe the first year's anniversary of the death with a final memorial ceremony.

Pashtun Appearance, Customs and Character

The Pashtuns are more Caucasian-looking than some of the other ethnic groups in South and Central Asia. They have hawk-like profiles. Many have light brown hair and blue or green eyes under their turbans. Describing the Pashtuns, Rob Schultheis wrote in Smithsonian magazine: "They are a spectacular lot: tall men (one fellow is at least six feet four and several easily top six feet), ramrod-straight, with penetrating, though not unfriendly, eyes. There are grand beards, some jet black, some pure white, a few dyed orange with henna. The one thing they all share is an air of immense dignity, of unshakable self confidence."

Pashtuns have been described as loyal, honest, brave, proud and pitiless. They love of guns, freedom and abusing their enemies and are regarded as one the world’s most hospitable peoples. They largely thumb their noses at Pakistani authorities are follow their own customs and codes of honor. Pashtun are also known for protecting the weak and standing by their word. They also have lighting quick tempers and are unwilling to compromise or show flexibility.

Cherry Lindholm wrote in “Frontier Perspectives” that only two types of people are recognized: the strong and the weak. “The strong survive, take power, and gain prestige.” from a young age Pashtun learn the value of “aggression, egotism, pride and fearlessness” and must be “adept at the art of manipulation and intrigue, and above all trust no one.”

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “Both tribal society and Islam prescribe the conduct of man to his human environment in so much detail that there is little room for individual variation. Pashtun society is largely communal and attaches tremendous importance to the unwritten tribal code, which defines the way tribesmen should behave lest they endanger the cohesion and therefore the very life of the tribe. So completely is this code transmitted to each child born into the tribe that it becomes an ineradicable structural part of his personality, and to depart from it is almost unthinkable. Pashtunwali (the customs and ethics of the Pashtun), Tureh (courageousness), Nanawati (method of terminating hostility, hatred, and enmity), Badal (the spirit of taking revenge), Milmastiya (hospitality), Jirgeh (council of elderly men to decide disputes), liberty, and freedom are some of the characteristics of their interpersonal relationships.” [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

See Society

Pashtun Villages and Houses

Most Pashtuns live in villages made up of two to 400 families. They are built near sources of water, with defensive considerations in mind, and are often cloistered in groups around a larger town. Powerful clans and tribes have traditionally occupied the best and most strategic plots of land. Relations between clans often determines how villages are located in relationship to one another.

In the tribal areas of Pakistan, people live in widely dispersed fortified villages, each inhabited by a distinct clan. The houses are located behind high mud walls and situated around an inner courtyard. Many houses are situated in windowless brick forts with walls up to 20 feet high. Some have watchtowers slogans written on the walls like “Victory or Martyrdom: and “Jihad is an obligation like prayer.” In some places the towns are made of run down single story houses with some run-down shops on the main street that sell opium, hashish, automatic weapons, land mines, and rocket propelled grenade launchers. Some villages have watchtowers,

Pashtun houses are generally made of mud or sun-dried bricks covered with mud plaster. Wood beams support the house. A wooden door marks the entrance. The flat roof is made of mud and twigs. Fruit is dried on the roof. A traditional Pashtun house has two parts: a mens area with a guest room; and a woman’s area that is closed to outsiders and where women can about their duties unveiled. Women are not allowed to enter the men’s area. Animals and food are kept in the woman’s area. Every married brother has a room for himself and his wife and children. Each family member stores his or her stuff in huge trunks.

Pashtun Food

Due to Islamic prohibitions Pashtun refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol. Staples in their diet include milk products, meat, naan-style bread, kebabs, biryanai, rice, vegetables, fruits, and tea. Among the favorite dishes are traditional "chappli kebab" and pilau (pulaw, pilaf), a rice and meat dish flavored with coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom. Quetta and Swat valleys are famous for fruit, [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009]

Afghan Dishes including “qabali” (pilau ,often with raisins, mutton, and/or nuts); “norang pilau” (pilau with chicken and orange peel), “gaubili pilau” (pilaf with mutton), kebabs made with lamb, mutton, ground lamb, ground beef and chicken; mutton; yogurt; soup; red bean stew; rice with walnut and yogurt sauce; chicken; lamb; tiny broiled quails, cooked whole, “korma “(Afghan stew, usually made with rice); “kadu” (sweet pumpkin stew); “subzi” (pan-fried spinach), curry dishes, dahl bat, chicken and mustard sauce, boiled chicken, melons, grapes, potatoes, okra, Afghan dumplings, and potatoes. These are often served with naan.

Pashtuns like to drink green tea. Men hang out at tea shops known as “chaikanas” and drink “qawa” (green tea flavored with cardamom and lemon). Pashtun often make deals and settle disputes over tea.

Pashtun Clothes and Beauty

Pashtun tribesmen dress in drab colored turbans, shlawar kameez tunics, “partog” (baggy trousers), and bandoliers. Their guns however are often decorated with all kinds of bright colors. They sometimes dye their beards orange with henna and wear elaborately embroidered waistcoats. Pashtun men, particularly Kandaharis, pay great attention to the way they look. Some men color their toenails and fingernails with henna and dye their hair bright orange with henna. Some wear kohl eyeliner. Members of the Taliban religious police wore it it because they thought it made them look more fierce.

Different Pasthun tribes wear different head gear. The Afridis have traditionally worn bulbous red cloth hats with a bow wrapped around them. The Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan wear small, dark turbans and those from northern Afghanistan wear flat woolen caps called “pakols”. By contrast, the Baloch wear large and white turbans that are often heaped so high they appear as if they will topple over. In 1986, during a visit to Pakistan, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter donned a Pashtun turban.

In South Waziristan, many women wear white or canary yellow burqa. In Kandahar and other places in southern Afghanistan, Pashtun are fond of wearing chaplis, high-heeled sandles, that are a size too small and makes one mince their steps when walking.

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: Traditional Pashtun dress is a somber-colored, loose-fitting shirt worn to the knees (qmis) and full trousers tied at the waist with a string (shalwar). Over the shirt there is usually a vest, and for footwear there are thick leather shoes (chaplay). Most Pashtun farmers and almost all adult males in tribal areas wear turbans (pagray), long lengths of cotton cloth wound around the head and fastened so that one end dangles. They also usually wear a wide, long piece of cloth called a chadar on their shoulders. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

“Country women wear baggy black or colored trousers, a long shirt belted with a sash, and a length of cotton over the head. City women wear the same type of trousers and long shirt (qmis) and cotton over the head. They also usually wear a veil, a loose garment that covers a woman from the head to below the knees (burqa). Women wear colored clothes printed with flowers and other designs. For footwear, they use sandals, shoes, or embroidered slippers.” *\

“Pashtun clothes differ from province to province, but they are often highly decorated. The people of Kandahar sew characteristic designs on their clothes and wear small hats made of thread or silk. In Paktia, people generally wear large hats with turbans. Vests are very common among Pashtun, but styles differ from location to location. For example, the people of Nangahar wear vests with bright designs. *\

Pashtun Culture, Art and Sports

Pashtun crafts include metalwork made of brass and copper and traditionally made baskets. Pashtun visual art is expressed in the artwork on trucks, embroidered waistcoats and elaborately decorated rifle butts. Stone carving like that traditionally done on tombstones is also done on planters, table tops and wall hangings. Pashtun dancers perform their famous "Khattack Dance". Buz kashi (literally "grabbing the dead goat") is played in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan. See Separate Article BUZ KASHI

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “Naiza bazi, a game involving riding horses and throwing spears, is a sport enjoyed among the Pashtun. Some Pashtun also have rock-throwing competitions. Atan is a famous group folkdance of the Pashtun. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

“Social get-togethers are the major form of entertainment. The Eids, religious holidays occurring twice a year, are also times of celebration and entertainment. Certain card games are played amongst Pashtun as well. Kite flying and pigeon flying were popular among Afghans of many backgrounds including Pashtun. Banned under the Taliban, since 2001 these recreation forms have been revived. One novelistic account of two Afghan boys and their love of kite-flying is Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner (2003) and the film of the same name (2007).

Even many Pashtuns live in remote villages, they are not totally isolated. They have access to satellite television and CNN. The Pashtuns have been the subjects of films such as the “Man Who Would Be King” and an old film starring Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn

The Pashtuns originated the idea of decorated buses and trucks. At one time the cars of choice among Pashtun tribesmen were Chevrolets. One man had 136 of them, most of the from the late fifties. To illustrate why they were so popular one man jumped up and down on the roof of the car. "See," he said, "Sturdy! They don't make them like that anymore." Chevies used like minibuses carried five people in the front seat, eight in the back seat, others in the trunk, more on top, and a few on the fenders. In Peshawar London-made fire trucks from the 1920s were still being used in the 1970s. [Source: Mike W. Edwards, National Geographic, January 1977]

Pashtun Poetry and Literature

Many Pashtun have traditionally been illiterate. They have a strong oral tradition of epic poems and legends. Their literature glorifies Pashtun poets and Muslim generals who fought infidels and not so different from Osama bin Laden. Their greatest poet, Khushhal (died in 1689) wrote love poems and patriotic anthems. Among the famous Pashtun stories are "Adamkhan and Durkhani" are Pashtun adaptions of Persian stories. Characteristic Pashtun folk songs and dances are performed as wedding parties, festivals and sometimes funerals. Certain quatrains, known as matal, and chorus singing is popular among the Pashtun. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009]

Aamir Iqbal and Tim Craig wrote in the Washington Post: “For more than five centuries, poets in remote northwestern Pakistan have recited verses about the area’s mountainous scenery, their tribal culture and love. Although poems have been recited orally in Pashtun culture for millennia, the first written Pashtun poets have been traced to about 1550, said Sarfraz Khan, an author and Central Asia expert at the University of Peshawar in northwest Pakistan. Khan said Bayazid Ansari, a 15th-century preacher and author, was an early pioneer in developing the literature and poetry of the Pashtun culture. One of his sons, Mirza Khan Ansari, also became a poet, and his work is still available in poetry magazines that have been published in North Waziristan for centuries, Khan said. [Source: Aamir Iqbal and Tim Craig, Washington Post, July 25, 2014]

A lot Pashtun poetry explore honor and strength and other attributes the group holds dear. One Pashtun poet wrote: “The eyes of the dove are lovely, my son. But the hawk rules the skies, so cover your dove-like eyes and grow claws.” Other examples of Pashtun literature address rivalries and alliances. According to one Pashtun proverb: “We are only at peace when we are at war.” Another goes: “My brother and I against my cousin; and my cousin, brother and I against the rest of the world.” Pashto is the only known language in which the word for cousin and enemy are the same.

Crushing of Pashtun Poetry in the Taliban Era

Reporting from Bannu in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Aamir Iqbal and Tim Craig wrote in the Washington Post: After “Islamist militants tightened their hold on Pakistan’s tribal regions after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks...the Taliban and its allies quickly crushed the poets’ words and spirits. They were warned not to write phrases that referred to women or serenity and instead ordered to compose jihadist messages of war, brutality and conformity. “It was so horrible for me, like a nightmare, when they approached me for the first time to make words about slaughtering innocent people part of my poetry,” said poet Saleem Khan, 38, who fled North Waziristan for the northwestern city of Bannu. “How could a poet who has very soft feelings for his land and people become a tool to spread terror?” [Source: Aamir Iqbal and Tim Craig, Washington Post, July 25, 2014]

“Under the control of the Pakistani Taliban and other insurgent groups, tribal elders had to shed their colorful turbans and instead don the black ones worn by the militants. Traditionally expansive Pashtun weddings were reduced to just a few guests, because the Taliban didn’t allow music and dancing. Residents who once swapped gossip outside under the stars were encouraged to remain indoors after sunset. “The Taliban’s order was final and no one dared to oppose that,” said Muhammad, a 36-year-old shopkeeper who, like many Pashtuns, uses only one name. “You would have been kidnapped or killed to terrorize the others.”

Initially, the refu-gee poets said, they resisted their new rulers’ orders to abandon poetry by gathering in small groups inside darkened shops and homes to recite their words. “It was a revolution of thought, related to peace,” said Shafiuddin, 28. Eventually, however, all but a handful gave in to the pressure to use their skills to try to advance the cause of Islamist militancy, Shafiuddin and other poets said. They were called upon to pen memorial messages to suicide bombers, record recruitment messages on audiocassettes and create slogans for Taliban commanders to recite on the battlefield. The cassettes sold briskly at local markets, in part because residents felt compelled to buy them out of fear.

“When a Taliban commander approached Saleem Khan and asked him to write lyrics for jihadist songs, he said his first thought was, “I can’t become part of this dirty game.” But “who could dare raise their voice before the Taliban?” he recalled wondering. “There was no government, no law and no court to contest the rights being kept away from me.”

Pashtun Refugee Poets

Reporting from Bannu in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Aamir Iqbal and Tim Craig wrote in the Washington Post: “Now, about 50 poets are part of a mass migration of more than 700,000 Pakistanis who have been displaced from the North Waziristan region as the military seeks to dislodge Islamist militants there. And amid the chaos of refu-gee life, they are restoring tradition to their verses. Many of the refugees in this northwestern city were abruptly forced to leave their homes and now must endure rationed food, overcrowded housing and uncertainty about the fate of their livestock. Yet despite those hardships, the refugees are also rediscovering a life free from the sway of radical Islamists who effectively ruled North Waziristan for the past decade. [Source: Aamir Iqbal and Tim Craig, Washington Post, July 25, 2014]

“For the poets, many of whom are now living with relatives here in the dusty city of Bannu, the Taliban rules meant many long years of grief. They had been carrying out a tradition passed down through generations of their Pashtun forefathers. Pashtuns, many of whom reside in northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, have a rich history of conveying stories through artful phrases. “It was so great to pen down feelings,” said Qalandar Khan, a 50-year-old poet from North Waziristan who wrote under the pen name Lewana e Wazir, which means “crazy guy from the Wazir tribe.” “When I was a young guy, my poetry was all about the beautiful feelings that every human has in young age,” he said.

“Now, however, Qalandar Khan is living in limbo in Bannu, in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Many North Waziristan refugees are sleeping here in vacant schools or with relatives while they wait for Pakistan’s army to conclude its operation against Taliban militants. Qalandar Khan and other poets are torn by competing emotions. They miss home, and like many of the refugees in Bannu, they angrily accuse the government of being ill-equipped to manage such a mass internal migration.

But, at least for now, they are also free from the Taliban. So within hours of arriving in Bannu, the poets once again began writing and reciting verses. Saleem Khan used his rediscovered freedom to recount his new life as a refugee: “Oh my Almighty, you made me a beggar and beg before those I never wished to meet. Tell me, time, what kind of Pashtun I am that I have become so ugly,” he wrote. “My dignity, don’t allow me to beg. Oh my poverty, you made me fight with my soul. Tell me, time, what kind of Pashtun I am that I have become so ugly....My dignity, don’t allow me to beg before anybody. Oh my poverty, you made me fight with my soul.”

Pashtun Economics

Three things are considered essential to a Pashtun man: “zar” (gold), “zamin” (land) and “zan” (women). If you don’t possess these things you are regarded nothing. Smuggling, raiding and politics have traditionally been considered honorable professions while trading and to a lesser extent farming were looked down upon. Despite this many Pashtuns are involved in trading and money lending and various kinds of businesses as well as agriculture.

Pashtuns are regarded as the world mst prolific smugglers. Many Pashtuns are involved in heroin, opium, hashish and weapons trafficking. Those living in the Tribal Areas have traditionally made a living smuggling fuel, automatic weapons, computer parts, and other contraband between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Blood feuds often have their roots in battles over smuggling routes. Some slave trading is said to still exist. The Pashtun were noticeably upset when the Musharraf government of the 2000s tried tax cross-border smuggling.

Traditional trades include bricklaying, carpentry. weaving. blacksmithing, goldsmithing and shoemaking. Darra Adam Khe is famous for its gun industry. In places were there are not enough jobs, Pashtuns have traditionally migrated to serve as mercenaries or work as laborers, drivers or entrepreneurs in the cities of Pakistan or the Persian Gulf states. Many Pashtuns have migrated to Karachi and other cities. Many truck drivers in Pakistan are Pashtuns.

Akbar S. Ahmed wrote in the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “Many industrial activities are done by part-time Pashtun specialists who also farm. However, in many areas non-Pashtun occupational groups carry out these activities, as well as others such as weaving, blacksmithing, and goldsmithing. Villages in Pashtun areas have until recently been largely self-sufficient. In areas where” trade is still frowned up “trade is carried out by non-Pashtun (frequently Hindu) shopkeepers and peddlers or through barter with nomads.. [Source: Akbar S. Ahmed with Paul Titus “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1996 |~|]

“The strict observance of purdah results in a marked division of labor between the sexes. Although rural women may participate in the harvesting of crops, they remain primarily inside the compound where they are expected to do the traditional home tasks of rearing children, maintaining the house, cooking, etc. Indeed, purdah is frequently observed to such an extent that women are not allowed to go out in public to do the shopping; thus, the shopping is all done by men. Purdah is less strictly observed by nomadic groups. |~|

Pashtun Agriculture

Agriculture, mostly grain farming, and animal husbandly, have been the traditional occupations of the Pashtun. Most agriculture is in irrigated plains in the Settled Areas. In low-yield agricultural areas the land is controlled by “malik” (petty chiefs and household elders). Where the land is more productive it is controlled by landlords known as khans (village and tribal chiefs). [Source: Akbar S. Ahmed with Paul Titus “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1996 |~|]

In Pakistan, on large estates owned by khan much of the work is done by tenants. The tenants, usually also Pashtuns, pay rent to the landlord and taxes to the Pakistan government. Tenants who only provide labor get about 20 percent of the crop. Those that supply animals and tools get more. Much of the work is done by hand and with animals. There is not much mechanization. Many areas used kareez system — a series of wells connected by an underground tunnel — for irrigation. These have increasingly been replaced by tube wells.

The main crop is wheat, followed by barely and maize. Fruits, nuts and vegetables are also produced. The orchard fruit is dried. Many used to grow opium and cannabis for hashish. The Pakistani government clamped down on the practice in the 1990s. Opium, cannabis, heroin and hashish production are still a big deal in Afghanistan.

Domesticated animals include fat-tailed and short-tailed sheep, goats, cattle, water buffalo, chickens, camels, donkeys and horses. There are still some nomads around. They are cattle herders and have traditionally followed set routes with designating camping and grazing areas. Nomads live on tents made of black goat’s hair and are supported by poles or arch poles and guy ropes.

According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “Agriculture is largely limited by the rough terrain and arid climate to river valleys; elsewhere, it depends on the scant rainfall. Until early in the 20th century in the Swat and Mardan valleys the equality of the Pashtun clans was underlined by the custom of wesh by which they periodically redistributed land between themselves. This involved physically shifting households and belongings to other parts of the valleys.

Darra Gun Bazaar

Darra Adam Khel (25 miles south of Peshawar in the Kohat Pass) is a small tribal with a gun bazaar where you can buy Russian Kalishnikovs, American M-16s, Israeli Uzis, Italian Berettas, copies of the aforementioned guns, sniper rifles, hunting rifles. bullets of all shapes and sizes, grenade launchers, cartridge belts, pistol holders, rifle slings, and even walking stick guns and "fountain pen" guns that can fire a single bullet.

Weapons are sold at the market along with hashish and opium and to a lesser extent heroin. Most of the guns are sold out of box-like open-front shops with their products openly displayed, Goats wander around the streets. Customers test fire weapons in empty lots and in the streets. Few if any women are visible. Most of the 300,000 residents belong to the Afridi tribe. Foreigners are unwelcome and need permission to visit.

Darra Adam Khel is also home there a number of small home-based factories that produce copies of famous weapons. In the early 2000s, they produced US$50 copies of AK-47s (real ones captured from the Soviet army cost US$500) that looked almost identical to the originals. Copies of Italian pump-action shotguns went for between US$50 and US$130 (the real things sold for around US$1,300). Decent quality pen pistols; sold for as little as US$6.50. In the early 2000s, laws were passed banning the manufacture of rocket launchers and stiff fines were imposed on anyone who broke the rules.

Pamela Constable wrote in the Washington Post, "Darra's gunsmith say they can produce an exact copy of any gun in a matter of days...Children, an important part of Darra's work force, scurry around with guns or gun parts on their oily hands. Weapons are handled lovingly here...Every few minutes, gunsmiths test-fire their wares, often standing right in the middle of the people and bikes and carts jamming the street, and not even the dozing dogs flinch." [Source: Washington Post, July 9, 1998]

Darra’s connection with gun making goes back to the early 1800s when tribes found success with home-made long-barreled muskets known as “jezails.” In the 1890s craftsmen began producing copies of Enfield rifles that some said were better than the originals. Today, the workshops are filled with basic tools: lathes, grinders, drill presses and borers. By one count it takes 1,500 steps with these tools to make a machine gun. Most of the shops have modern tools but not long ago the guns were often manufactured with human powered lathes and drill bits spun with a bow similar to those used in ancient times to start fires.

Most of the businesses are family owned with small boys assembling cartridges; their older brothers operating the drill presses; and their fathers filing down the stocks. The whole industry is kind of set up like the automobile industry. There are suppliers that specialize in certain parts; assemblers, who put the parts together; and financiers that help customers to get the money they need to buy the product of their dreams. Most of the craftsmen are Afridi Pathans who have learned their crafts from their fathers and pass it onto their sons.

Business is good when government is not stable and there is war. It was particularly good after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan when customers included Pakistanis, Afghans and Kashmiris as well as buyers from the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Northern Ireland. If you have the money you can also purchase cannon, antiaircraft guns, grenades. There are even still some Stinger missile floating around, they used to say..

As of 2002, there were 3,000 mostly family-owned gun making, trading and selling operations in Darra and they employed about 12,000 people. Business was way down from what it was in its heigh day in the 1980s. In the early 2000s, there were too many makers and not enough customers. On top of this, the government had begun seizing illegal guns and making it more difficult to obtain new permits. Clients included militant groups and rebel armies from Africa, Latin America and Asia as well as local customers. Most customers were local tribesmen, drug smugglers and criminals. One customer in 2005 told AP, “I have a feud going with some people in my village and I’ve come here to buy a pistol.”

The stores have a no-questions-asked policy, Some of the shops have posters of Osama bin Laden. The shop owners are quite friendly. Customers are served glasses of green tea. Prices are much cheaper than in the 1980s, when the CIA inflated prices with their bags full of cash and Afghan fighters were in the market for the latest weapons and gadgets.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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