Da Afghan Pa Nang Me Otadala Toora

Za Pukhtun Yum Zka Maa Ta; Da Pakhto Aqida Kha Da; SaLa SaLa Thersa Wei Mei; Daa Da Zdo Aqida Kha Da


            Also spelled PUKHTOON or PASHTOON, Hindustani PATHAN, Persian AFGHAN, Pashtu-speaking people of Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. They constitute the majority of the population of Afghanistan and bore the exclusive name of Afghan before that name came to denote any native of the present land area of Afghanistan.

About the origins of the Pakhtoon, most scholars believe it more likely that they arose from an intermingling of ancient Aryans from the north or west with subsequent invaders. Several Pakhtun clans are known to have moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan between the 13th and 16th century. Each clan, consisting of kinsmen who trace descent in the male bloodline from a common clanial ancestor, is divided into subclans, and patriarchal families. Clanial genealogies establish rights of succession and inheritance and the right to use tribal lands and to speak in tribal council. Disputes over property, women, and personal injury often result in blood feuds between families and whole clans; these may be inherited unless settled by the intervention of clan chiefs or by council of elder.

The Pakhtoon are farmers, herdsmen, and warriors. Most are sedentary farmers, combining cultivation with animal husbandry; some are migratory herdsmen and caravaners. Large numbers of them have always been attracted to military service.

There are estimated to be about 12,500,000(est. 1982) Pashtun in Afghanistan and 14,000,000 in Pakistan. They comprise about 60 clans of varying size and importance, each of which occupies a particular territory. In Afghanistan, where Pashtun are the predominant ethnic group, the main clans are the Durrani and the Ghilzay.

In Pakistan, Pakhtoon predominate north of Quetta between the Sulaiman Range and the Indus River. In the hill areas the main clans are, from south to north: the Kakar, Sherani, and Ustarana south of the Gumal River; the Mahsud, Darwesh Khel, Wazir, and Bitani between the Gumal River and Thal; the Turi, Bangash, Orakzay, Afridi, and Shinwari from Thal to the Khyber Pass; and the Mohmand, Utman Khel, Tarklani, and Yusufzay north and northeast of the Khyber.

The settled areas include lowland tribes subject to direct administration by the provincial government. The main clans there are, from south to north: the Banuchi, Marwat and Khatak from the Kurram River to Nowshera; and the Khalil and Mandan in the Vale of Peshawar.


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Pukhtoon Population


Pukhtoons in South Asia


Pukhtuns, although being a minority, are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, comprising between 37% to 42% of Afghanistan’s population or 12,500,000 persons.[The term Pukhtun is historically synonymous with Afghan, a term currently used to describe a person from the country of Afghanistan. Kandaharis is the third major city in Afghanistan and a stronghold of the Pukhtun culture.


Pukhtuns are the second largest ethnic group after the Punjabis in Pakistan, comprising over 15% of Pakistan's population (28 million persons). About 3 million are refugees from Afghanistan who migrated there during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Peshawar and Quetta are Pakistani cities with significant numbers of Pukhtuns while Karachi is the world's largest city by number of Pukhtuns.

The following delineates the population of Pukhtun in the provinces of Pakistan:

  • Khber-Pakhtunkhwa (14,586,000)
  • Balochistan (2,293,000)
  • Punjab (1,929,000)
  • Sindh (1,052,000 but mostly in the major city of Karachi).
  • Azad Kashmir (157,000)
  • Islamabad Capital Territory (15,000)

In ethnic terms, substantial ethnic communities reside in Attock district and Mianwali. Other communities include large numbers of Muhammadzais in Kasur, and other larger communities have settled around Multan which was formerly part of the Durrani Empire.

In addition to this, a large portion of the Urdu Speaking community in Pakistan claim to be ethnically Pukhtun. A large community identify themselves as Yousafzai Pukhtuns. Additionally a large number of descendants of Rohillas are also living in Pakistan after migration from India in 1947.


India, as a British colony, once had a large Pukhtun population roughly equal to that of Afghanistan, mostly concentrated in what were then the Indian provinces of the NWFP and Balochistan. In fact the number of Pukhtuns in all of India was nearly 31 million, but the speakers of Pashto numbered less than 14 million. Most of this population was alloted, along with its respective provinces, to Pakistan after the Partition of India. A small scattered Pukhtun population still exists in some major cities of India with large Muslim populations, as well as a few Pashto-speaking individuals in the states of Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh. These Pukhtuns have retained the use of the Pashto language and are still able to speak and understand it. This is partially due to the fact that until recently, most of these Indian Pukhtuns were able to travel to Pukhtunkhwa in northwestern India. Despite the loss of most of the Raj-era Pukhtun population, India still has a large community of Urdu-speaking Muslims who trace their ancestry to Pukhtun-invaders and settlers. These people consider themselves Pukhtun despite the fact that most no longer speak Pashto or follow Pukhtunwali (therefore not qualifying as Pukhtuns). They are often referred by the Hindi-Urdu pronunciation of the word Pukhtun, "Pathan".

Shabbir Hasan Khan Josh, an Urdu-speaking poet of Pukhtun origin from Malihabad (UP, India), wrote that the Pukhtuns of India took pride in their ethnicity and considered bravery and aggressiveness a part of it. The Pukhtuns of India did not speak Pashto, though, according to H.G. Raverty, 'in the territory of the Rampur Nawwab, whole towns and villages may be found in which the Afghan language' was spoken up to 1860. Their genealogical tables, in common with their Pashto-speaking counterparts, were in Persian, which appears to have been the language of literacy among the Pukhtuns.

Major Indian Pukhtun tribes lived in the following areas. While, many persons belonging to these tribles moved to the Afghan-Pakistan border, others chose to stay and thus, descendants of these tribes still reside in the parts of India listed below:

  1. Rohiillas mainly live in Uttar Pradesh.
  2. Bangashes living in Farrukhabad.
  3. Yousafzai other than Rohillas living in Tonk, Baroda, and Bhopal
  4. Mianas in Southern India
  5. Lodhis and Suris of North India

It must be remembered that the term "Pathan" does not refer exclusively and specifically to these Indian Pukhtun descendants. Historically the term was used to refer to Pukhtuns in general by mainstream Indians, Muslims included. Most Pukhtuns, however, find the term to be insensitive and prefer to be called by their native label.

Many Pukhtuns worked in the Indian independence movement. While many supported the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan, several Pukhtuns opposed it in favor of a united and secular India. These included Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, his son Khan Wali Khan, Indian diplomat Mohammed Yunus, Pakistani opposition leader Mufti Mahmud and Balochistan-based Pukhtun leader Abdul Samad Achakzai.

Today around 11,904,000 Urdu-speaking people who claim Pukhtun descent reside in post-partition India. The following delineates the population of Pukhtuns in the states of India.

  • Uttar Pradesh (4,670,000)
  • Maharashtra (1,047,000)
  • West Bengal (988,000)
  • Rajasthan (925,000)
  • Madhya Pradesh (816,000)
  • Karnataka (599,000)
  • Tamil Nadu (467,000)
  • Bihar (306,000)
  • Andhra Pradesh (261,000)
  • Gujarat (231,000)

following are the some famous Indian Pukhtuns

  • Josh Malihabadi
  • Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad
  • Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar
  • Aamir Khan
  • Shahrukh Khan
  • Bakht Khan
  • Zakir Hussien
  • Madhubala
  • Irfan Pathan
  • Saif Ali Khan
  • Najib-ud-daula
  • Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi
  • Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi
  • Bahadur Yar Jang
  • Khan Bahadur Khan Rohilla

Also included among the Pukhtuns in India are students from Afghanistan who are in India to obtain a quality education and Kabuliwallah Pukhtuns who are doing business in India. In addition, India has a large number of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Afghanistan who are very fluent in Pashto, Hindko and Dari.

Pukhtuns in the Middle East

A significant population of Pukthuns serving as migrant workers is found in the Middle East particularly in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and other Arab countries. Majority of them are involved in the import-export business, while others are owners of construction companies.

  • Iran (113,000)

Pukhtuns in Europe

A large number of Pukhtuns have migrated from their homeland, South Asia, to Europe. The following statistics give information on the number of Pukhtuns in European countries:

  • United Kingdom (88,000)
  • Turkey (54,000)
  • Germany (35,000)
  • France (33,000)
  • Austria (31,000)
  • Netherlands (26,000)

Pukhtuns in Other parts of the World

United States

Since the late 1970s and onwards, Pukhtuns began immigrating to the USA in large numbers and are well established there. The current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (Zalmay Khalilzad) is Pukhtun, who is originally from Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan. Pukhtuns in the United States are famous for running the top Afghan cuisine restaurants. Pukhtuns are also known for owning a huge and very popular fast-food company by the name of Crown Fried Chicken that is based in New York City, with many restaurants in almost every city and state in the east coast of USA.

Pukhtuns have been present in California at least since agricultural labor was imported in the early 20th Century. A prominent example is the town of Lodi, which has a large community which was in the news with the case of the Hayats, a father-and-son duo arrested by the FBI on allegation of terrorism training, in 2006.


Large numbers of Afghans were recruited in the 19th century during the initial British development of Australia. These consisted of men who were not allowed to bring their families with them, many married local aborigines and are now known as Ghans.

Latin America

There is a small number of Pukhtuns in some of the South American countries, in Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, etc.


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Pukhtoon Sports


Buskashi (Bûz Kashi)

'Buz' means Goat and 'Kashi' means dragging or pulling in Pashto Language.The sport dates back to Genghis Khan’s reign and continues with very little alteration today. The basic objective is to carry the headless carcass of a calf or goat around a flag and back to the starting point while on horseback with other riders trying to do the same thing by taking the carcass away from you. It’s not a team sport, it’s every man for himself and that becomes apparent as soon as the game starts. It is played on a large open dusty field which does not appear to have many boundaries. The game is a microcosm of power politics in Afghanistan. Although Buskashi is primarily an individual sport, alliances are built up between various players. And then, between the alliances, the strongest players finally take control (or in this case the remnants of a headless calf) and ride off to victory.



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Pukhtoon Dances


Pukhtun culture is varied and is heavily influenced by that of  and other Afghan South-Central Asia peoples.



                           Cultural Dances


Among the dozens of different folk dances known as Atanrh, some are as follows.

Kabuli Attañ

In this dance, the dancers perform to the beat of the musician. This dance typically performed by men & women. It involves 2-5 steps, ending with a clap given while facing the center, after which the process is repeated again. The hip and arms are put in a sequential movement including left and right tilts, with the wrists twisting in sequence, with ultimately a hand is projected outward and brought in a 'scoop-like' fashion towards the center where the other hand meets it for a clap. This dance is typically performed with the musician dictating the duration and speed.


Khattak Dance

Khattak Dance is a martial dance by the Khattak tribe of Pukhtoon. The fast tempo with which the Khattak dance starts and ends distinguishes it from all the other Pakhtun folk dances which are described as Atanr (Pashto word for a family of identical folk dances). Except for the Khattak dance, all the other Pakhtoon folk dances or Atanr start with a slow tempo and get fast as the momentum picks up with a corresponding faster beat. Khattak dance a special type of music is composed the main instrument for it is the piper clarion. Large drums beaten with sticks. The Khattak dance has three kinds of cultural dances.

They are called Shahdola, Bhangrha, and Bulbullah.

Another important dissimilarity between the Khattak dance and other folk dances is the absence of Sanrry (oily hair grown up to a specific length), which the Khattak dancers don't have. The dance comprises a total of 12 steps requiring the dancers to have the best of skills to perform. At one moment they would be performing individually and in a fraction of seconds they would align their body movements with the rest of the troupe members - whose number may be as high as 40.

In the Bhangrah every member swirls while carrying swords as the prop. The Bhangrah is followed by Derabi. At this stage, two youths at a time, carrying one sword and a handkerchief each in their hands, start dancing in front of the man with surnai while the rest of the troupe members wait for their turn. In the Laila, the third step, a group of four performers holding two swords each, perform stunts moving in a circle.

Braghoni is the fastest and the most adventurous of all steps, which a single dancer performs with three swords. He very skillfully swings two swords in the air while holding the third in his mouth.

Bulbullah, the last of the twelve steps, is staged without swords. The dancers sing a love song at a high pitch. At the end of the song, the drumbeat increases slightly and the dance goes on.



Mahsud Dance

A unique dance routine using rifles performed by the Mahsud tribe of Pukhtoon. Originally it was used to dance at the time of war, but later on became a cultural dance. The dancers dance empty handed and require only large drums. Nowadays though it is danced with the guns in the dancers hand; loaded guns are taken in one hand, up to the beat of the drum the dancers move forward in a circle. After taking two and half steps each dancer turn about, and make the gun and is caught with the other hand. All the dancers do this in a uniform manner and by completing the turning steps they fire in the air simultaneously. The sound of each of the guns goes on one time and seems to be single big bang.



Waziro Atanrh

Waziristan is a large area and has particular Pkhhtun culture. Two drummers and a flute player play a particular tune. All the Wazirs standing around them. Two persons leave the circle; go dancing towards the drummers, and come back dancing in the same manner. During performing both the persons turn around two times at a time once towards each other facing face to face and once keeping faces in opposite direction. After doing this separately they march while dancing to the assembled crowd. As they reach the circle another pair of the performers start and moving forward in the same fashion.


Shah Dola

Shah Dolla is the name of the dance specified for the Pukhtoon tribe of Yusufzai. It is purely a dance for happiness and merriment, often danced at some happy occasion. It is too danced in a circle around the drummers. According to the beats of the drum the dancer move forward in a circle. With the first beat they open the hands and bring one foot back, with the succeeding beat both the hands are brought together, so is the back foot. With the third beat of the drum the hands clapped and head bowed to the inner side of the circle. The clapping of hands and putting the foot back are done together, so that to make a tune with the sound of the clapping and drum beat. It is too an artistic dance and requires complete timing of the clapping.

Taleban Atanrh

Nowadays the tradition of dancing by the Taleban has reduced to a considerable extent. The religious students studying in the religious schools perform a dance which they called the Atanrh of the Taleban. Those Taleban who lived in the boarding houses in religious schools used to have this dance for entertainment, before going to bed. With rhythmic clapping of hands they used to dance together disorderly or in order. This was just like exercise but had rhythm in it specially the clapping of hands and foot work.

Logari Atanrh

Logaray is a very artistic dance one person or two or more can dance together to the tune of orchestra. Actually Logaray is the name of the area in Afghanistan where this special tune is played by a large traditional orchestra. Boys or girls dance to this tune. It is a beautiful dance because so many variations occur in it in the drum beat. The moment the drum and other instrument are given a pause the dancer sits, by starting again slowly. The dancer slowly rises from the ground and again starts dancing with the tune. Sometime abruptly sitting and abruptly starting of the tune gives appears attractively. Besides the drum beat the harmonium is also used to provide tune to the dancing.

The dance of the Logar Valley is renowned throughout the Pukhtoon lands. It is famous for its shy yet coquette nature in which the dancers freeze suddenly during the dramatic stops in the music. The main musical instruments are the stringed Rabab and the ceramic chalice drum Zerbaghalai. The rhythm is sometimes accentuated by bells on the ankles of the dancers.

Marwat Wala Atanrh

Marwat too is a large tribe of the Pukhtoons. They have a particular cultural dance of their own, very much resembling the Wazir dance but can be dance for played one by one and by a large number of participants in a circle. The participants grow their hair long enough so that they can be tossed from side to side while they are turning their heads around in violent jerks. This is also done by the Wazir and the Mahsud tribes.

Bhittani Atanrh

The Bhittani Tribe's dance is truly a sight to see due to the colorful jackets with gold embroidery and the white clothes that the dancers wear. The Shirt is a long gown which is like a swirling top when the dancer turns around and around. In his hands, the dancers will hold red, green or blue clothes. Bhittani Tribesmen dance in round circles with elegant footwork combined with colorful wavering of their large colorful clothes.


Balbala is a Pukhtoon cultural dance and common every where but is mostly played and danced in southern tribes. Drummers and flute players in the center play a particular tune and the persons go dancing around them. In the start it is slow but gets moment fast with the drum beat. They whirl and move fast in the circle. It is a cultural dance and performed by the youth on some happy occasions. Apart from these dances, which are called Atanrh, other cultural dances are also performed by the professional or non-professional dancers. One or two professional female dancers dance on different occasions. The times for different dances are specified.

Spin Takray

Speen Takray is a dance performed by a single professional female dancer. In this dance, a special tune of orchestra is played on. This is a saz particular for Pushto cultural folk songs. The dancer wraps with shawl and hides the face and head. Then she dances like a newly wedded bride.

         History of Athan (Attan or Khatak) dance

A British journalist of Pukhtoon origin, Amanullah Ghilzai, through his scientific study has traced the roots of Athan or "Khatak dance" to the ancient Greek dance of almost the same name. According to his theory, the dance which is internationally known as Khatak, while among the Afghans and Pukhtuns as Athan, is actually one of the earliest forms of the ancient Greek dances, called "Athena" attributed to the Greek Goddess of War, Wisdom and Patriotism, of the same name. The Greek had brought this dance with them to Bactria, ancient
Afghanistan about 23 centuries ago when they had colonised this region for several centuries. During this period a sizable chunk of the Greek population had moved to Afghanistan and some western and northern-western parts of Pakistan, mentioned as "Yavanas" in the ancient Hindu books. The dance "Athan" also "Attan", seems to have been preserved in one of its earliest forms by members of the Khatak and some other Pashtun tribes, including the Ghizais. The Athan dance is performed by many Pukhtuns but each of the tribes has changed it a bit or a lot while the name "Athan" remains the same. In the ancient Greece, the dance Athena had the same definition and reverence attached to it as most Pukhtuns would still attach to Athan. The dance Athena seems to have disappeared in Greece during the Christian era while interestingly, the Athan survived in Afghanistan and Pukhtun parts of Pakistan.