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An Introduction to Pashtoon Society

John Butt came to Swat in 1970 as a young man in search of an education he couldn’t get from his birthplace in England. He travels around the region, first only with friends from his home country, but as he befriends the locals and starts to learn about their culture and life, he soon finds his heart turning irrevocably Pashtoon.

He wrote about his experience in his book, A Talib’s Tale. What did he learn about the society while living in Swat?

Read on to find out:

Women are linked to honour

The most important thing for a Pashtoon is his honour. And that honour is inextricably tied to her honour: the honour of Pashtoon womenfolk.

Hippies are liked by some, disliked by some

The government disliked hippies, especially impoverished vagrants like myself. The population at large loved them, since they adopted their lifestyle…stayed in their hotels, even though they did not have much money to spend.

Rumours are pretty credible in Pashtoon society

In Pashtoon society, rumour has more credibility than confirmed truth.

The fall of Amanullah Khan in 1929 was a watershed moment

 Ever since then[the fall], the harmony between the forces of Pashtoonwali and Islam has been upset; the balance between progressive and conservative forces of Pashtoon society battered.

The progressive had no time for jihad

The progressive, nationalist, secular Pashtoon forces had no time for jihad. In fact, they were sympathetic to the socialist government in Afghanistan and even had a soft spot for their Soviet backers, against whom jihad was being conducted.

Women were able to take more risks in society

Women are able to act with a lot more impunity than men in Pashtoon society.

There’s a need to heal the rift between the different sections

If there is one lesson I have learnt from the lifetime I have spent amongst the Pashtoons, it is that the key to Pashtoons living at peace with themselves is to heal this rift between progressives and conservatives—the secular and religious elements of Pashtoon society—that bedevils their public life.

A Talib’s Tale –The Life and Times of a Pashtoon Englishman is available now (also as an e-book)!

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