ALTERNATE NAMES: Pushtun; Pakhtun; Pashtoon; Pathan; Afghan

LOCATION: Southeastern Afghanistan; northwestern Pakistan

POPULATION: 8–9 million


RELIGION: Islam (Sunni Muslim)


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.


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.


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.


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.


Islam was introduced to the Pashtun in the eighth century. All but a few Pashtun tribes are followers of the Sunni Muslim sect.


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.


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 sexual maturity, but in practice they begin much earlier.


Pashtun society is largely communal (group-oriented) and attaches great importance to an unwritten code, called Pashtunwalli. This code defines the way members should behave to keep the tribe together. Hospitality (milmastia) is important, as is the use of the tribal council (jirga) to resolve conflicts and make decisions. Other Pashtun virtues include courage (tureh); taking revenge (badal); and protecting one's honor (ghayrat). Another part of the Pashtun code of conduct is nanawati, a way of resolving differences through the group's elders.


Generally, the Pashtun of Afghanistan do not have very high living standards. Many groups of Pashtun along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan live as nomads (people who move frequently, carrying their dwelling with them).


The eldest male holds complete authority over the extended family. Married sons live in their fathers' households, rather than establishing homes of their own. The household normally consists of a man and his wife, his unmarried children, and his married sons and their wives and children. When young women marry, they join their husbands' households and transfer their loyalty to their husbands' families.

Economically, the Pashtun family is a single unit. Wealthy family members contribute to the support of those who are poorer. Old people depend on their children for care and support. The whole family shares the expense of having a child away at school.


Traditional male dress is qmis, a loose-fitting shirt that reaches to the knees, and shalwar, full trousers tied at the waist with a string. A vest is usually worn over the shirt. Footwear consists of chaplay, thick leather shoes. Most Pashtun adult males wear pagray, turbans. Long strips of cotton cloth are wound around the head, leaving the forehead exposed because it is touched during prayer. The turban is fastened so that one end dangles. The loose end is used as a typ of washcloth for wiping the face. Usually men also wear a long, wide piece of cloth called a chadar on their shoulders.

Rural 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, a qmis (long shirt), and a cotton cloth to cover their heads. Over their clothing, they also usually wear a burqa —a veil that covers them from the head to below the knees.


Quabili Pulaw Dampukht
(Rice with Carrots and Raisins)


  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean beef stew meat
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and cardamom
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into small, match-stick-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup seedless raisins
  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 Tablespoons blanched almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons blanched pistachios
  • 2 to 3 cups rice, cooked in broth from cooking meat


  1. Heat oil and brown onion. Add beef stew meat and brown on all sides.
  2. Add water and spices. Cover pan and simmer mixture until meat is tender (about one hour).
  3. Remove meat and set aside. Save the broth to use for cooking rice.
  4. Heat small amount of oil in a small pot and add carrots and almonds. Cook until carrots and almonds are lightly browned.
  5. Remove carrots and almonds, and add them to the meat. Put raisins in the saucepan with about ¼ cup water. Simmer for 5 minutes until raisins are puffy.
  6. Remove raisins and add them to the meat mixture. Cook the rice according to package directions, using the broth from step 3 for the liquid, adding more water if necessary.
  7. Combine all ingredients and mix. Place mixture in a large casserole and bake at 300° F for 20 to 30 minutes.

Adapted from McKellar, Doris. Afghan Cookery. Kabul, Afghanistan: Kabul University, 1967.

12 • FOOD

Religious prohibitions prevent Pashtun (and all Muslims) from eating pork and drinking alcoholic beverages. Staples of the Pashtun diet include bread, rice, vegetables, milk products, meat, eggs, fruits, and tea. A favorite dish is pulaw, a rice dish flavored with coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom that has many variations.


Education throughout Afghanistan has been disrupted, first by the Russian invasion and occupation (1978), and since then by continuing civil warfare. Traditionally, education took place in religious institutes and mosque (religious) schools ( called madrassa or maktab). As of the late 1990s, there were boys' and girls' schools for Pashtun children in almost in every village.


Choral singing is part of the Pashtun culture. Pashtun have a folk song tradition that includes special songs for marriages and funerals. Poems known as matal are very popular. Atan is a famous group folk dance of the Pashtun.


Pashtun work at a variety of occupations in agriculture, business, and trade. Women and children also play roles in agricultural work. Many Pashtun of Afghanistan are poor agricultural workers. Working conditions are generally better for Pashtun living in Pakistan than for those in Afghanistan.


Naiza bazi, a game involving riding horses and throwing spears, is a sport enjoyed among the Pashtun. Some Pashtun also have rock-throwing competitions. Pashtun in the northern regions of Afghanistan enjoy buzkashi, or "goat pulling," a game in which men on horseback compete for possession of a dead goat or calf.


Social get-togethers are the major form of entertainment.


The Pashtun in the city sew unique designs on their clothes and wear small hats made of silk.


Differences among Pashtun clans and families have led to much violence and killing, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.


Ali, Sharifah Enayat. Cultures of the World: Afghanistan. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1995.

Clifford, Mary Louise. The Land and People of Afghanistan. New York: Lippincott, 1989.

Nyrop, Richard F., and Donald M. Seekins, eds. Afghanistan: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1986.


Echo of Islam. [Online] Available , 1998.

Investor's Business Journal. Afghanistan. [Online] Available , 1998.

World Travel Guide. Afghanistan. [Online] Available , 1998.

Also read article about Pashtun from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Add more stories, I need to do a report. :] thanks.
Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading it especially the folklore and I plan on trying the recipe.
Thank's for the information i really needed it for a project.
thank's for the beautiful website about pushtoon peoples. it is very good that world should know what are real pushtoon.we should show to the world the pushtoon peoples have got more good thing" than any other nation
Thanks for providing all this info. Pashtun is a hard subject to learn ... much less find online!!! I am planning a trip to Kabul in 2011. It's a real process with the passport, vistas, shots, this and that... All types of FEES!!!

With the trip from Philly, Pennsylvania - to - Kabul, Afghanistan... It costs around $2000 round trip U.S. dollars... If you book a year ahead!!!

Take Care
Thanks, that was really helpful. I used it for a school project and did awesome
Thanks, that was really helpful. I used it for a school project and did awesome
Abdurahman wardag
i m very happy to see the people like u who make his strong effort for my language.
one thing which you donot mention is that. that pukhton are such kind of people for whome
sucide is easy then broking their promise. they live untile they have honor. they live for
their honor. nothing is important then their honor.
Zia khan
I extremely glade, that we are having such a web introduction to research. Due to shortage of time approximately pukhtune do not know their history, now pukhtune knows about his history, so this is the easiest way to know, show and send to their friends who are from other region and asking about us.
I Proud to be pukhtune.
Khad ao baryali osege.
Useful information. But one correction I would like to make is that the total population of Pashtun around the world is more than 40 million. You have given much lower figures.
pashtun is a great nation in the world pashtun like three things sword strong horse and a great hospitality
I deeply thank the gatherer and publisher of this informative subject about pashtoons. It has been a defficult experience for pashtoons these past four decades of foriegn interuptions and civil war in Afghanistan. May Allah give the pashtoons courage and well to restore thier values and once more prove they are what they say and do.
Pashtun is one of the bravey nation in the world and have big heart and very intellegent but for the good hospitility people can call him cleverless.. so we are pukhtoon and proud to be pukhtoon and at the last these people have give pukhtoon no oppertunity thats why we behind the world.
Thanx & Regardz
I love the website,however, I was looking on your description on the Hazara people and it said that there is an unknow census as to how many hazara people live in afghanistan. I checked wikipedia (though that might not be a reliable source) and found that wikipedia said the hazara makes up about 9 percent of the afghan population.
Thanks so much about information, but i didn't get a matter and thats about history of Pathans, i mean how many years history Pashtuns have?
this is really a good job you did.pashtuns have their own culture and way of living.
i deeply thanked the gatherer and publisher of the information about pushtun . i love the pushtun culture and tradition . i am a proud pathan .salam to all viewer.
m glad to know all that thanks alot for that..but also i want to know that how many kabeelaa's of pathan & wats the names..i know few of names like yusufzai, kamalzai,akkuzai,& lodi & plz tell me something about lodi's..thanks again
faiz khan
Hats off . . . Its great information about pokhtoons .
The writer had done a tremendous job for giving such information to the world.
This is the basic information given about pukhtoons and for sure now pokhtoons are much more educated,and well developed all over the world e.g Dr.abdul kadir khan (the maker of Atomic power in pakistan) Imran Khan and Shahid Afridi (the great cricketers) & many more.
Pokhtons are specialy known for their braveness and hospitality.
Proud to be a muslim and pokhtana.
I heard of the Pashtun's today (6/01/12), so i looked it up and the information is wonderful. I would like to know where the Pashtun's came from or how they came to be in that territory. According to what I heard, their lifestyle(circumcision) is like that of the Jews and that they are possibly one of the lost tribes of Israel?
Dear Sir,Good basic information about Pashtoons.Basicaly Pashtoons living in the Afghanistan,Paskistan,India and all around the world.They are brave and hard working peoples.They are educated,Royal and very claver people.
Thank you my friend. As a PASHTOON, i appreciate your working according to the pashtons history.
pashtoon tribe is an amazing tribe, because they never accept any one on his top except his Allah.
They are really very strike people in their religion,hospitality and they are brave.they are the greatest enemies if you are enemy with them or they are the greatest honest if you are friend with them.
ompomo ;)
i want to know more about their culture, on how they interact with each other.. thanks a lot ! need it for my project .!
Naila Cazon
Asalam Alaykum, I am a Native American Indian from Canada. Last October, I met online and fell in love with a wonderful, kind, caring Pahktun man. He is living and working in UAE, so our relationship has challenges, but that is not an issue.

I have many friends-and male friends as well, now, this upsets my Khawand very much, and he gets so upset that he can't talk to me about it, or explain very well about his culture, and how this makes him look to his malgare, that his Khaza speaks to men. I tried to explain many times that here in Canada, it is not like this, we have that freedom to speak openly with men, and it is not a problem for us.

I can understand about protecting the family honor, we have that system as well in my culture. If someone cares to explain to me, the proper behavior for women of Pakhtun men. I love him with all my heart, and I will do nothing to hurt him or shame him. I would like to know more about the Pakhtun culture and roles of men and women.

If it helps, my Khawand is from the Northwestren Frontier Malakand. I google and find so much conflicting information, and I don't usually trust the internet too much for correct information. I would very much appreciate any help from this community as to what is now expected of me. We haven't met yet in person, he is applying to come here soon though.

Thank you for your help.

P.S. aside from falling in love with my Khawand, I have also fallen in love with the music, the poetry, the language! It is all so beautiful. Just wanted to share that. Thanks again.
salam, pashtun are the bravest people in the world because they have been never defeated actually pashtun has defeated ( Russian, UK, Changiz khan, Maghul, NATO, and USA) as they Russian and UK accepted the fact that they have never defeated pashtun, so good luck
brilliant... thats awsome... but needs a lil more info... thanks
awesome work and impressive too.very rich and deep culture..i am proud to be pashtun and loves it.
joe matt
of course pashtoon is and has been remain a brave and intelligent nation on the history's script but when the Britishers came into the subcontinent they pelt that pashtoon are the only nation which cannot be brought into slavery and they felt that their autonomy could be challenged by the only nation which is pashtoon. so, for the minimizing of its influence they started to call them as dull and provided a collective name to them as "khan" which is still used for them in pakistan and india by the ethnic groups.
saud ahmed
MSC sociology ,QAU , Islamabad
tnx for beautiful disclosure way of you about pakhtun's culture. I need that for my project and magazine
BBA, QAU, Islamabd
Naqeebullah Ishaqzai
I deeply thank of your information about pashtuns and they are really a great nation.
I love this site, but the writers should really listen to the problems in the comments. Otherwise I loved this article, especially the part about folklore. The story has a good message-It doesn't matter how much luck you have, you have to be smart enough to use it.
Sameem Ahmadi
Thank you for sharing my tribe's culture and history but its not true that we fight with each other but dont leave us to live in peace and again i thank to u
Salam to all,
U did a tremendous job for pakhton history thank u,
Naila there is a good respect of women n pakhton community bt u have to live in parda n muslim community and u cant talk nor meet to such a person that is paraya with out your relatives..
very helpful with very great information needed for a presentation
thank you so much for such a good essay about pukhtoon
fazal rahman
nothing unique there, pakhtoons are a part of this world but some people depicted them as people of another planet, its very strange.we are also human beings and want to live a peaceful life
laila pashtana pashtun
Its absolutely amazing artical as pashtun girl really appericate it god bless u
Please post some more note on the occupation of Pukhtoons. i really need it for my project report. Thanks.
Thanks a lot this will help me
I think this will help for my presentation
Thanks a lot
Akhtar Khattak
Good effort. Useful information. Beautiful narrative. Population is shown less. Overall an excellent write-up.
Aiza Khan
As a pukhtun I am so impressed on how all the information was true. I am proud to be a Pukhtun and part of Pukhtunwali!
Thank you for your great information. I proud to be Pashtun and apart of the great and brave nation who ruled for years.
Soiab Rehman
Amazing information given to us by the authors. I am really proud of how much pashtoons there are across the world and am sure these are the true tribal 'warriors' across India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Pashtoons never give up and fight till the end)
I am from Mauritius and I envy them, they follow islam as it should be followed, based on the Sunnah, I hope to go there sometimes and live amongst them, why not?
Irfan Shinwari
thank you for yours fantastic infromation...
proud to be Pushton Afghan...
Admain there are manything which does't have reallity. it should be deleted e.g there is written pashtons have special song for the finural but we never sing for a death person.
Lily of Malaysia
As Salam.
A very informative site.
Stumbled here, when I looked up for beautiful people of Pashtun.
May Allah bless us all.
Thank you for the great information on the Pashtun people. I recently learned from DNA testing that I have Pashtun ancestry, and this article have me quite a lesson in their rich culture and traditions. Once again, thank you.
Qaiser ahmad
Very willdone br
Plz mention the name of all nation(Qaomona ) of pashton that how many classes the have and whts the name of these nation
Pukhtano k sumra Qaomona di ao sa sa ye nomona di plz must add this inforamatio.
Great article indeed, although i dont agree with the part about population and sports.but still great job
Thank you for creating this, as it has enabled me to complete a school project on the pathtun people.
I love the article. Without it i would not be able to finish my homework.
There is a lot of factual mistakes in this whole article, even considering the time at which it was written. From calling Pashtuns/Afghans [synonyms] traditionally pastoral nomads to the population figures to the names of the food (it is kabuli pulao plus it also has meat in it and dampukht is another traditional dish not as it is written here).
Asmat Ullah Khan
Well summed up , you did a good job that you gathered the whole information about PASHTOONS. Including the population of Pashtoons that's more than 40 Million,I would like to highlight some other things which you need to focus on and should put in the article ,and that is the name of the leaders ( Bacha Khan, Samad Khan Achakzai Shahheed, Ghazi Aman Ullah and many others like this) and poets (Ghani baba, Rehman Baba etc) about which people always search and ask. And also the name of all the dishes in Pashtoo , so these things will be more helpful and will make the article more interesting for the readers. Once again thanks for sharing this much
Hello, please how to translate the phrase “kind regards” in pashto? thank you

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