Pathan - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Agriculture, Primarily grain farming, and animal husbandry are the most important activities in the Pathan economy. The practice of agriculture is largely limited by the rough terrain and arid climate to river valleys; elsewhere, it depends on the scant rainfall. The most important crop is wheat, followed by barley and maize. Cultivation is done primarily by hand or with animals, though, where possible, mechanization is taking place. Traditional irrigation techniques such as kareezes, a series of wells connected by an underground tunnel, are in many cases being replaced by tube wells. Other important agricultural products are fresh and dried orchard fruits, nuts, vegetables, opium, and hashish. In addition to raising stock, nomads as well as some farmers engage in trade and moneylending. The Presence of the border dividing Pathan territory into two Countries also makes smuggling a lucrative pursuit. Domesticated animals include both fat-tailed and short-tailed sheep, goats, cattle, water buffalo, chickens, camels, donkeys, and horses.

Industrial Arts. Many industrial activities such as carpentry, bricklaying, and shoemaking are done by part-time Pashtun specialists who also farm. However, in many areas non-Pathan occupational groups carry out these activities, as well as others such as weaving, blacksmithing, and goldsmithing. An exception is the manufacture of guns; in certain areas, notably Darra Adam Khel south of Peshawar, Pathans produce guns in small factories.


Trade. Villages in Pathan areas have until recently been largely self-sufficient. Traditionally trade and even farming were activities looked down upon by Pathans who saw raiding, smuggling, and politics as honorable pursuits. In areas where such attitudes persist, trade is carried out by non-Pathan (frequently Hindu) shopkeepers and peddlers or through barter with nomads. Despite these traditions, in large towns and urban areas Pathans have earned reputations as successful traders and businessmen.


Division of Labor. 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.


Land Tenure. In the arid, low-yield regions the small landholdings are self-cultivated by the malik (petty chief or household elder) and his sons. In areas of greater productivity, where khans (village or tribal chiefs) own larger tracts, tenants do the work. Tenants receive about 20 percent of the product if they only supply labor and higher percentages if they supply implements or draft animals. Until early this Century in the Swat and Mardan valleys the equality of the Pathan 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. Excess population from Pathan areas has traditionally left the area to serve as mercenaries in the armies of India, to work as tenants on the lands of others or, more currently, to act as laborers or entrepreneurs in the cities of Pakistan or the Persian Gulf states.

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