The Pathan of Afghanistan
The Pathan people consist of about sixty different tribes. Tribal genealogies establish rights of succession and inheritance, rights to use tribal lands, and rights to speak in the tribal council. Disputes over property, women, or personal injury often result in blood feuds between families and clans. These "family feuds" are often passed down from generation to generation, unless settled by clan chiefs or the tribal council.
What are their lives like?
Tribal customs and traditions make up the biggest part of the Pathan society. The true essence of Pathan culture can be seen in the "code of ethics" that every Pathan lives by. This unwritten code of life is called "Pushtunwali," (the way of the Pushtun), and is closest to the heart of every Pathan. Pushtunwali is followed religiously, and it incorporates the following major practices: "melmastia" (hospitality and protection to every guest); "nanawati" (the right of a fugitive to seek a place of refuge, and acceptance of his bona fide offer of peace); "badal" (the right of blood feuds or revenge); "tureh" (bravery); "sabat" (steadfastness); "imamdari" (righteousness); "'isteqamat" (persistence); "ghayrat" (defense of property and honor); and "mamus" (defense of one's women).
Pathan men usually wear sleeveless, embroidered vests over long sleeve, cotton shirts that are buttoned at one shoulder and hanging over baggy trousers. They also wear unique turbans, which have the cloths tied in such a way that indicates tribal identity. In certain zones of Afghanistan, rifles, pistols, knives, and other weapons are considered essential items of dress. Pathan women wear basically the same type clothing as the men, but they generally use more colorful material.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
Due to unsanitary living conditions (mainly poor water) and the harshness of the lifestyle, the average life expectancy in Afghanistan is only 46 years. Statistically this is one of the world's lowest figures. Only 25% of the adults are literate. The need for qualified medical teams and school teachers is great.
The Islamic religion is very difficult to penetrate. Converts to Christianity will more than likely be "banished" from their families. Consequently, there has been very little growth of Christianity among the Pathan. Most of the work by various missions agencies has ended due to unrest in the country. More recently, some of the "freedom fighters" have attacked Western relief agencies, causing them to flee from Afghanistan. Presently there are no Bibles in the Pakhtu language, and Christian radio and television broadcasts are strictly forbidden by the government.
The Pathan of South Central Asia.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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