Pashtunwali (Pashto: پښتونوالی), also known as Pakhtunwali, Pashtuniyat,[1] is the traditional lifestyle or a code of honour and tribal code of the Pashtun people, from Afghanistan and Pakistan, by which they live. Many scholars widely have interpreted it as being "the way of the Pashtuns" or "the code of life".[2] Pashtunwali is widely practised by Pashtuns in the Pashtun-dominated regions. Pashtunwali dates back to ancient pre-Islamic times.[3][4]


Further information: Pashtun people

The native Pashtun tribes, often described as fiercely independent people,[5] have inhabited the Pashtunistan region (eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan) since at least the 1st millennium BC.[6][7][8] During that period, much of their mountainous territory has remained outside government rule or control. Pashtun resistance to outside rule and the terrain they reside in is sometimes speculated to be why Indigenous Pashtuns still follow the "code of life".[citation needed]

Pashtunwali rules are accepted in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also in some Pashtun communities around the world. Some non-Pashtun Afghans and others have also adopted its ideology or practices for their own benefit. Conversely, many urbanized Pashtuns tend to ignore the rules of Pashtunwali. Passed on from generation to generation, Pashtunwali guides both individual and communal conduct. Practiced by the majority of Pashtuns, it helps to promote Pashtunization.[2]

Ideal Pukhtun behaviour approximates the features of Pukhtunwali, the code of the Pukhtuns, which includes the following traditional features: courage (tora), revenge (badal), hospitality (melmestia), generosity to a defeated...[9]

— Maliha Zulfacar, 1999

Pashtuns embrace an ancient traditional, spiritual, and communal identity tied to a set of moral codes and rules of behaviour, as well as to a record of history spanning some seventeen hundred years.[10]

Pashtunwali promotes self-respect, independence, justice, hospitality, love, forgiveness, revenge and tolerance toward all (especially to strangers or guests).[11] It is considered to be the personal responsibility of every Pashtun to discover and rediscover Pashtunwali's essence and meaning.

It is the way of the Pashtuns. We have melmestia, being a good host, nanawatai, giving asylum, and badal, vengeance. Pashtuns live by these things.[12]

— Abdur, A character in Morgen's War
The Pashtun 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.
Winston Churchill (My Early Life, Chapter 11: "The Mahmund Valley")

Pashtun institutions

Pashtuns are organised into tribal or extended family groups often led by a "Khan" (a wealthy and influential leader from the group). Disputes within clans are settled by a jirga (traditionally a tribal assembly involving all adult males).[13] In times of foreign invasion, Pashtuns have been known to unite under a Pashtun religious leaders such as Saidullah Baba in the Siege of Malakand[14] and even under Pashtána female leaders such as Malalai of Maiwand in the Battle of Maiwand.[15]

Main principles

From left to right: Jamaluddin Badar, Nuristan governor, Fazlullah Wahidi, Kunar governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, Nangarhar governor, and Lutfullah Mashal, Laghman governor, listen to speakers talk about peace, prosperity and the rehabilitation of Afghanistan during the first regional Jirga in 2009.

Although not exclusive, the following thirteen principles form the major components of Pashtunwali.

The three primary[16] principles:

  1. Hospitality (مېلمستيا, melmastyā́) – Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of race, religion, national affiliation or economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.[2][17][18]
  2. Asylum (ننواتې, nənawā́te) – Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this refers to the protection given to a person against his enemies. People are protected at all costs; even those running from the law must be given refuge until the situation can be clarified.[2] Nənawā́te can also be used when the vanquished party in a dispute is prepared to go into the house of the victors and ask for their forgiveness: this is a peculiar form of "chivalrous" surrender, in which an enemy seeks "sanctuary" at the house of their foe. A notable example, is that of Mullah Mohammed Omar, who refused to handover Osama bin Laden, to the US, claiming that in doing so they would violate the Pashtun tradition of asylum, according to Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, he said:

    I don't want to go down in history as someone who betrayed his guest. I am willing to give my life, my regime. Since we have given him refuge, I cannot throw him out now.[19]

  3. Justice and revenge (نياو او بدل, nyāw aw badál) – To seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer. No time limit restricts the period in which revenge can be taken. Justice in Pashtun lore needs elaborating: even a mere taunt (پېغور, peghor) counts as an insult.[2] Monetary compensation can be an alternative to badal, for example in murder cases.

The other main principles:

  1. Bravery (توره, túra). A Pashtun must defend his land, property, and family from incursions. Death can follow if anyone offends this principle.[2]
  2. Loyalty (وفا, wapā́).[20] A Pashtun owes loyalty to family, friends and tribe members.[citation needed]
  3. Kindness (ښېګړه, x̌egә́ṛa). Pashtuns should act in the welfare of others.[20]
  4. Arbitration (جرګه, jergá). Disputes are resolved through the Jirga.[20]
  5. Faith (ګروه, groh) contains a wider notion of trust or faith in Allah.[2] The notion of trusting in one Creator generally comports to Islamic monotheism or tawhid.
  6. Respect (پت, pat) and pride (وياړ, wyāṛ). A Pashtun's pride, has great importance in society and must be preserved. Pashtuns must respect themselves and others in order to be able to do so, especially those they do not know. Respect begins at home, among family members and relatives. Someone who lacks these qualities is not considered worthy of being a Pashtun.[2] As per the poetry Khushal Khattak “The loss of life and wealth should not matter, what matters is pat.[21]
  7. Female honour (ناموس, nāmús). A Pashtun must defend the honour of women at all costs and must protect them from vocal and every harm.[22]
  8. Honour (ننګ, nang). A Pashtun must defend the weak around him.[23]
  9. Courage, manhood, or chivalry (مېړانه, meṛā́na).[24] A Pashtun must demonstrate courage. A turban is considered a symbol of a Pashtun's chivalry.[citation needed]
  10. Country (هېواد, hewā́d). A Pashtun is obliged to protect the land of the Pashtuns. Defense of the nation means the protection of Pashtun custom.[13]

See also




  1. ^ Rzehak, Lutz (2011). Doing Pashto: Pashtunwali also known as Afghaniyat as the Ideal of Honourable Behaviour and Tribal Life Among the Pashtuns. Afghanistan Analysts Network.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Banting, Erinn (2003). Afghanistan the People. Crabtree Publishing Company. p. 14. ISBN 0-7787-9335-4. Retrieved 29 October 2010. Erinn Banting.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-03-08. Retrieved 2020-09-17.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Singh, Ms Priya; Chatterjee, Ms Suchandana; Sengupta, Ms Anita (15 January 2014). Beyond Strategies: Cultural Dynamics in Asian Connections: Cultural Dynamics in Asian Connections. ISBN 9789385714535.
  5. ^ Shane, Scott (December 5, 2009). "The War in Pashtunistan". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  6. ^ Nath, Samir (2002). Dictionary of Vedanta. Sarup & Sons. p. 273. ISBN 81-7890-056-4. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  7. ^ "The History of Herodotus Chapter 7". Translated by George Rawlinson. The History Files. Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2007-01-10.
  8. ^ Houtsma, Martijn Theodoor (1987). E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. Vol. 2. BRILL. p. 150. ISBN 90-04-08265-4. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
  9. ^ Zulfacar, Maliha (1998). Afghan Immigrants in the USA and Germany: A Comparative Analysis of the Use of Ethnic Social Capital. Kulturelle Identitat und politische Selbstbestimmung in der Weltgesellschaft. LIT Verlag. p. 33. ISBN 9783825836504.
  10. ^ "Afghan and Afghanistan". Abdul Hai Habibi. 1969. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  11. ^ Yassari, Nadjma (2005). The Sharīʻa in the Constitutions of Afghanistan, Iran, and Egypt. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. p. 49. ISBN 3-16-148787-7.
  12. ^ Leonard Schonberg, Morgen's War (2005) p. 218.
  13. ^ a b H. Cathell, Major John. "Human Geography in the Afghanistan - Pakistan Region: Undermining the Taliban Using Traditional Pashtun Social Structures" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 8, 2019.
  14. ^ Swat), Sir Abdul Wadud (Wali of; K̲h̲ān̲, Muḥammad Āṣif (1963). The Story of Swat. Ferozsons.
  15. ^ M.d, Bashir Zikria; Facs, B. a Zikria MD (2017-02-17). Malalai Joan of Arc of Afghanistan and the Victors of Maiwand: The Second Anglo-afghan War 1878-1882. Xlibris Corporation LLC. ISBN 978-1-5245-7785-8.
  16. ^ Amato, Jonathan N. (May 2012). Tribes, Pashtunwali and How They Impact Reconciliation and Reintegration Efforts in Afghanistan (PDF). BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-1-248-98954-8. The three primary pillars of Pashtunwali are badal, or revenge, melamstia, or hospitality, and nanawatia, or refuge.
  17. ^ Schultheis, Rob (2008). Hunting Bin Laden: How Al-Qaeda Is Winning the War on Terror. New York: Skyhorse. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-60239-244-1.
  18. ^ Hussain, Rizwan (2005). Pakistan and the Emergence of Islamic Militancy in Afghanistan. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 221. ISBN 0-7546-4434-0.
  19. ^ Analyst, Peter Bergen, CNN National Security (29 July 2015). "The enigmatic Mullah Omar and his legacy". CNN. Retrieved 2021-09-27. ((cite web)): |first= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ a b c Junaid, Muhammad (March–June 2011). "Poetics of Identity: On Entrepreneurial Selves of Afghan Migrants in Pakistan". Tamara: Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry. 9 (1–2): 44 – via Research Gate.
  21. ^ Junaid, Muhammad (March–June 2011). "Poetics of Identity: On Entrepreneurial Selves of Afghan Migrants in Pakistan". Tamara: Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry. 9 (1–2): 45 – via Research Gate.
  22. ^ Yousafzai,McCormick, Malala, Patrick (2014-08-19). I am Malala. ISBN 9781780622170.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Yousafzai, Malala (2014-11-13). I am Malala. ISBN 9781474600293.
  24. ^ Naz, Arab; Khan, Waseem; Daraz, Umar; Hussain, Mohammad; Chaudhry, Hafeez-ur-Rehamn (12 June 2012). "International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology". SSRN 2083022. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)