It’s not easy being a Pashtun woman in the media

Published: February 21, 2013

Women are accused of having affairs with their male colleagues. To the Pashtuns, this is the only rational explanation of her success. PHOTO: REUTERS

“Working as a Pashtun female is not easy in any field,” said one of my Pashtun journalist friends, Sana Safi.

The more I thought about what she said, the more I realised how true her statement was.

Pashtun women who have decided to break all social and cultural barriers to work in the media feel this the most.

However, it is important to understand the context of why Pashtun women working in the media are seen as unacceptable by some Pashtuns who are not only living back home – within Afghanistan and Pakistan – but also abroad.

These Pashtuns believe that the media ‘exploits’ women.

How so?

Well, purdah is quite prevalent in the Pashtun culture; so, to see a woman, appearing on television without being ‘covered’, is more than often viewed with utter deprecation. Some go as far as to label her as ’dama’ (a derogatory Pashto term for women who appear in the media).

The female Pashtun journalist I interviewed further informed me that women have to work twice as hard to be accepted in the media field. And once they are accepted, instead of being praised, they are often regarded with cynicism, for there is a widely held view that if a woman is good at her job she must have been helped by a man.

And by ‘helped’ she meant that such women are accused of having affairs with their male colleagues. To the Pashtuns, this is the only rational explanation of her success.

Furthermore, the common perception is that a woman who chooses media as her profession is ready to be verbally and physically abused. This, as a result, discourages many women for fear that they will be negatively labeled.

In worst cases, some women are even physically attacked and given blatant death threats. Thus, the biggest problem that many Pashtun women face is that of personal safety.

“When I was in Afghanistan I had to change my route daily, had a male relative with me as a bodyguard, wore a burqa, and stopped communicating with the people in my neighbourhood so that they don’t find out that I was working for radio/TV,” said a prominent Pashtun journalist friend of mine.

She has been working in television and radio news broadcasting for the past eight years.

“As a Pashtun female journalist, when your face is seen by the public, (especially on screen), it is a huge challenge. The challenges start with the family, relatives, tribe and then the masses.”

Moreover, she adds that some women even go as far as changing their names, in order to ensure their safety and continue working in the media. And if name-changing isn’t enough, those who successfully make it in the media world often have to practice self-censorship.

The woman has to make sure she remains serious at all times, for laughing loudly (culturally and especially religiously) is perceived as inappropriate and ‘un-womanly’. She stops attending social gatherings in order to draw less attention to herself. She has to watch what she wears, ensuring that she complies with what is considered “modest” in the Pashtun culture, even if she doesn’t necessarily wear a paRuney (a cloth that Pashtun women wear to cover themselves).

Finally, she refrains from making jokes, especially with fellow male colleagues for fear that it may pave the way for sexual harassment, or worse.

Consequently, it does not come as a surprise why the number of Pashtun women’s presence in the media is exceedingly limited. This negativity around women’s appearance in the media is particularly evident on social networking sites, where some Pashtun men, in particular, verbally attack women who’ve appeared and have been interviewed on television about important social/cultural issues in Afghanistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Rather than being commended for their bravery for speaking up about pressing issues that no one bothers to talk about, these intrepid women are instead attacked either for the way they are dressed, i.e. wearing western attire, or for not being covered in a burqa/paRuney, or both. They are further castigated for blatantly speaking out against issues – bold, socially taboo issues – when it’s “not their place” to do so.

Can Pashtun women hope for change of any sort?

Well, I personally believe that change begins at home, and men’s perception about women’s sole place as being limited to the household arena needs to change.

The fact that many Pashtuns are accustomed to seeing the woman as the housewife and the man as the breadwinner makes it very difficult to break loose from such culturally instilled norms; it limits their capacity to look beyond the patriarchal box. Thus, to see a woman in the media is more than often perceived as alien and confounding, because it is something that they have never seen before.

Some Pashtun men are conditioned with the belief that a woman should be covered at all times; that no man should ever see her and that her only purpose in life is to cook, clean and bear kids.

Hence, the only way change can happen is through education and awareness. Those Pashtuns, who strongly oppose women working in the media, need to understand that just because a woman has chosen media as her field of work doesn’t mean that she is a dama. There are women who are genuinely passionate about working in the media and have achieved their positions based on merit.

“I do feel that my work has empowered me. It is an opportunity to raise issues and talk about topics that are considered taboo in our society. After becoming a journalist, I found the confidence to raise such topics and spark a debate which in itself is empowering,” said Safi.

Although I realise that negative perceptions around Pashtun women working in the media won’t change overnight, women shouldn’t have to be abstained from doing something that they’re passionate about.

With time, I am hoping that more Pashtun women will attain the courage to pursue their dreams, regardless of what others perceive of them.

Follow Samar on Twitter @sesapzai

samar.esapzai

Samar Esapzai

A visual artist and PHD student in International Development and Gender Studies, She blogs at sesapzai.wordpress.com and tweets @sesapzai (twitter.com/SesapZai)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Decidedly an interesting topic and clearly explained by you.
    You have narrated a story that pertains to most working women, to a smaller or greater degree, in many places but more so in Pakistan.
    The male being what he is, will do what he does ( for this to change will take long, very long, if ever ) so it is up to you to stand fast and do what you know to be right. My view is that once the male realises that you are determined and capable he will either respect you or go into a sulk, something best ignored, until he comes around.
    Let’s be honest this will not be easy but then nothing difficult is, but it will be well worth the effort. Stay strong……….I wish you’ll well.Recommend

  • RanjitSingh

    Regardless of what has been written, evil penjawbis and penjabi isi will be blamed for this.

    Milky skinned elite karachite warrior pashtuns will scold this evil penjawbi for his comments.

    how can she slap me sir?

    Brace yourselves penjabis….Brace yourselves….Recommend

  • aj

    very nice description!Recommend

  • Pukhtoons

    Well My Sister kindly understand Pukhtoon moral code PukhtunWali and in our culture there is more respect and value for women that anywhere else. If Pukhtoons dont approve the working of women then it is simply due to the fact that We as men are there to fulfill the need of women and we dont want you to work. We have a different moral code than Urdu Speakers and Punjabis and they approve the intermingling of Sexes in meetings and Parties but as a Pukhtoon Morality and Moral Codes are utmost for us and you should abide the rules as well if you are real Pukhtoon.Recommend

  • Sterry

    Interesting article that shows the dichotomy between the success of Pashtun men and women in the media. There are lots of Pashtun men running media, as journalists, writers, broadcasters, editors etc but fewer Pashtun women in similar roles. Pashtun women have attained very high positions in Pakistani society due to their own hard work and efforts but sadly they have yet to break into mainstream media like the menfolk due to cultural restraints.Recommend

  • Haris

    Punjab and Sindh have the highest cases of rapes ans sexual assaults because they let their women loose and then they blame men afterwards but in Pushtun soceity look at the least cases of assault because our women live in Purdah. I can only perceive this article as the attack on Pushtun culture and the above writer is only trying to undermine the best characteristics what Pushtuns possess and others should actually follow us rather we will allow their organized invasion on Pashtun values.Recommend

  • Maria

    Pashtun women are becoming the best educated in Pakistan because of trailblazers like you. You see countless female Pashtun doctors, teachers, engineers, IT professionals, muscians and political leaders all over Pakistan. Keep up the good work and don’t let any man – Pashtun or otherwise tell you what you can or can’t do! Recommend

  • Sarah_Yz

    As a Pushtoon woman, this is unfortunately accurate. We face the same issues in all sectors of the labour market. It’s not surprising when highly educated pushtoon women prefer to stay at home. Recommend

  • gp65

    The issues stated here apply to any professional woman in any patriarchal and ultra conservative society, why single out Pashtun women in media? The author hasn’t provided any basis for this narrow stratification,
    Also, some of these issues may even apply at the start of the career, but women who conduct themselves professionally and with dignity, soon earn respect. In fact a lot of the barriers come from within one’s own family rather than colleagues, So by all means the patriarchal attitudes should be challenged but no need for the pity party please.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Pukhtoons:
    Spoken like any ultra conservative patriarchal man. You could easily have been a Haryanvi khan panchayat member and said the exact same thing. You say you respect a woman but your description indicates that you do not respect a woman’s individuality, her talent, her opinion for what she wants to with her life or her decision making skills. Moreover you do not trust her to conduct herself with dignity out of your eyesight and want to control her and keep her in your 4 walls. Sorry what you described was not respect but control and you maybe very surprised that there are unfortunately people like you all over the world- the culture you described is by no means unique.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Haris:
    Please provide source for your statement that women stepping out of home is directly connected to rapes. It is possible that more rapes may be reported there than in a culture where clapping at wedding can put your life at risk. Where is the evidence that more rapes actually occur in Punjab and Sind among so called immodest non hijab I women who step out of the home compared to puranashi women in KPK?Recommend

  • m umar

    “Its not even easy to be a woman in public”. Mark my words, you will be writing a blog on this, 2-4 years, give or take.Recommend

  • Aftab Khan

    Dear Samar,
    I have studied your nicely written article.Partially you have have presented a true picture but in case of pashtoon men you have taken work from exaggeration by putting all the blame on Pakhtoon men.The case might be true for specific area but you cannot cover all the pakhtoon men with same umbrella.I have analysed this subject to a greater extent and pashtoon men have changed very much now with regard to supporting their family ladies to pursue their goals.
    In addition the kind of respect observed for ladies in pashtoon culture,you will rarely find it elsewhere.Being settled in Lahore city for a decade now and seeing and also having vast observation of Pakhtoon culture (since I belong to same) this was all my observation and feedback.
    Hope to see more writings from you in future all the best

    Khan Recommend

  • gp65

    @Aftab Khan:
    Please provide examples of the type of respect given by Pakhtoon men to their women with specific reference to what differentiates it from any other ultra conservative family in a patriarchial societyRecommend

  • Sidrah

    Pakhtun men’s respect for women is a myth that is propagated by Pathan’s themselves.

    Ask any woman from Rwp/Islamabad, karachi and their disturbing attitude towards women is quite evident.Recommend

  • Fatiwahab

    @Haris: so what you’re saying is, that if a man sees a woman’s face, or sees she is walking alone in the market etc, he will rape or harass her? That men can’t control themselves and women need to stay inside to cage a man’s beastly nature? You talk about pardah for women, why don’t you advocate fasting for men? That is what Islam tells men to do when they can’t control their sexual urges. You ought to know that it is not compulsory for a woman to cover her face in Islam, and she may go where she likes if her guardian permits. Social and cultural norms cannot be above this, can they?

    I do agree with everyone else saying that Pakhtoons should NOT have been signaled out here. This is what men in Pakistan are like and I have the utmost respect for the people of KPK. They are intelligent, brave, and loyal. Recommend

  • YosufZai

    @Aftab Khan I agree with you as I live in Rawalpindi and Islamabad ( The future cities of Pukhtoons ). Also i lived in in Lahore and I have seen that indeed we are the Greatest Nation of Earth and the respect we give to our women cannot be given by Punjabi Men. Also We remained Warriors and leaders throughout the history and people of Pakistan weather they are Muhajir or Punjabis should learn from us. Also I have visited Lahore and even Karachi and Pukhtoon men actually have to do their level best to stay away from Some Muhajir and Punjabi women Stare as someone Agree or not but Our Pukhtoon men are one of the most Beautiful. Just search for Afridi’s hotel opening in Lahore yesterday and Punjabi girls were falling for Imran Khan and for Afridi and infact for all the Pukhtoons that were there . The writer misjudged it on many accounts and she should study Punjabi and Muhajir culture that is basically a Crowd and then she should point fingers at Pukhtoon culture who are the greatest nation ever came on this planet. Kindly dont try to portray us as bad in front of those nations of Pakistan who have a huge history to serve us and learn from us.Recommend

  • Rehman Khan

    @Haris Well I have Observed the same Phenomena in Sind and Punjab. Also among my Pukhtun friends we used to say that when you live in Punjab and Karachi then their girls are good for pre-Marriage flirting and friendships only but whatever the reason may be but Pukhtun man will never ever marry in them as we dont want to improve their bloodlines and also we dont want to dilute our Warrior spirit and Brave bloodlines at all and we will always marry in Pukhtun women only.Recommend

  • PatharKhan

    Put them in the kitchen and lock it.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @YosufZai: That was so transparent……………it was hilarious.Recommend

  • Stranger

    Wow Pakhtoon men and women are very good looking .Unfortunately the women are not very forward minded . things will change shortly. dont worry.Recommend

  • Pessimist

    Pukhtoons
    Well My Sister kindly understand Pukhtoon moral code PukhtunWali and in our culture there is more respect and value for women that anywhere else. If Pukhtoons dont approve the working of women then it is simply due to the fact that We as men are there to fulfill the need of women and we dont want you to work. We have a different moral code than Urdu Speakers and Punjabis and they approve the intermingling of Sexes in meetings and Parties but as a Pukhtoon Morality and Moral Codes are utmost for us and you should abide the rules as well if you are real Pukhtoon.

    Man, it’s people like you who give the Pukhtoons a bad name. Go back to whatever cave you came from. I genuinely feel for the female members in your family, they have to deal with a tribal superhero like you.

    Haris
    Punjab and Sindh have the highest cases of rapes ans sexual assaults because they let their women loose and then they blame men afterwards but in Pushtun soceity look at the least cases of assault because our women live in Purdah. I can only perceive this article as the attack on Pushtun culture and the above writer is only trying to undermine the best characteristics what Pushtuns possess and others should actually follow us rather we will allow their organized invasion on Pashtun values.

    What a bunch of hoo haa. I’m sure women are raped & harrassed in Pukhtoon societies as well. They probably don’t complain because they would be killed because of ‘honor’. Also I like the way you wrote ”let their women loose”. Are women a bunch of animals or dogs that men let loose? Do men take their women out for walks in the evening? I can just imagine it, a bunch of men take their women out for walk in the park and play fetch with them. Brilliant!

    Your comment shows that you live in the 12th century. Recommend

  • Moe

    @Rehman Khan:
    Your comment is racist.

    You think you’re better than Punjabis and Sindhis just because you’re lighter skinned.

    I’m Kashmiri, and I’m much lighter than the average Pakistani, but I don’t look down upon anybody based on their skintone, if you were to go to Europe or America they wouldn’t treat you any different from another Pakistani.

    You seem really proud about your ‘warrior’ spirit, well I wouldn’t consider ‘suicide bomb blasts’ and beating your women as warrior-like.

    P.S Punjabis and Sindhis wouldn’t like to marry Pathans either because they wouldn’t want their children to have low I.Qs.

    No offense to any other Pathans reading this, this is just a rebuttal to what Rehman said.Recommend

  • Abid

    Wow looking at all the really disturbing comments made by some Pathan’s in this thread all i can say is that no self-respecting family would marry their daughters to you.

    Seriously look at the state of PK and Afghanistan and then talk.

    Also shudder at the day RWP/Isloo become Pathan cities.Recommend

  • What the…..?

    WOW WOW I am amazed by comments from some Pathan’s over here.

    Greatest nation on earth???? Marriage to others will dilute their blood line????

    Bhai which world do you guys live in. Has Niswar become less cheap these days?Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Haris:
    They blame men afterwards because the men are the ones to be blamed. Rape is ALWAYS the perpetrators fault, NOT the victims. And being covered up has diddly to do with it. You’re delusional if you actually believe what you’re saying. Recommend

  • Pessimist

    I think people need to realise that this isn’t about Pathans, rather about the tribal mentality. There are a lot of moderate pathans living in Pakistan who do not display the characteristics mentioned by a few of the Pathan posters here.

    I’d like to share an interesting story. I had a work colleague who was from the Tribal Areas. He was a well behaved, educated & respectable man, who performed his duties with his best effort. However, I found his attitude towards his wife & women in general interesting. He was not an abusive man, neither did he harrass women, he spoke regularly with them. He would openly interact with our female colleagues and what not, yet he would never introduce us to his wife of four years. She was never present at the company functions and when we visited his house for dinner, we would not see her nor was she introduced to us. If any of us ever ran into the couple outside of office, he would pretend that his wife is not there. I once frankly asked him about this and he said it’s his culture.

    I didn’t say anything else but I did find his behaviour interesting, and rather hypocritical that while he can openly interact with women, his wife can not interact with men. I guess that’s the tribal culture.

    I’d like to pose a question, how do you judge such men? It’s hard to call them misogynists, but it’s still hard to form a final opinion on them. I guess we can’t always force our views or culture on other people.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    I hope people generally from punjab who support Pathans just because of hatred of MQM realize what kind of mindset the people of Karachi endure because of these WARRIORS.By the way did you guys know that a large no.of muhajirs are descended from Pashtun settlers in India.JUST LOOK AT THE PATHANS OF BHOPAL,RAMPUR,U.P AND BIHAR AND DECIDE ONCE AND FOR ALL.WHICH CULTURE IS BETTER?THE CULTURE WHICH PRODUCES THE ABOVE COMMENTS OR THAT WHICH TOOK THE FOLLOWERS OF ABOVE CULTURE AND UTTERLY TRANSFORMED THEM. DR.ABDULQADEERKHAN.ZAKIR HUSSAINKHAN,SAIF ALI KHAN,SHAHRYAR KHAN,GENERAL RAHIMUDDIN KHAN are just some examplesRecommend

  • Pirabadi

    Having above all the discussion I feel a great appreciation for Samar who wrote it and got here for us.
    Things are not easy for Pashtun women! I think we can make it very simple as working envornment matters alot either for women or men. Beign a nation Pashton don’t like to have their women moving around with men and we must agree this is the culture they have.Above all Islam also has a clear instructions about veil etc.
    So we need to be very clear where Pashton women go for work?
    If going as a school teacher no issue at all for any pashton women i must say, but yes, media job may be a question mark. It is becuasue of very clear perception that media people are a kind of very open minded which off course collide with the ethnicity and culture of Pashton people. I am not at all saying that open mindness is a bad things, but i have a doubt if the same can use for late night parties etc etc – thats not & shouldn’t be a choice for Pashtun women having the true bonding of the Pashton culture.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    The article is well written and the complaints are restricted to one profession of journalism under the term ‘Media’. the ingredients of the complaints are the usual one and can be seen universaly and throughout the world.

    Todays world more or less remains the Men’s world but it is changing and will continue to transform into a Men and Womens world sooner than one thinks. Remember, in switzerland women were allowed to participate in parliamentary elections in 1973. Women have been and must continue to struggle in the ever changing world to obtain a parity with men and for a deserving place in the society. Fifty percent or more are graduating from the universities in Iran. This trend is ever present in the European continent as well as more female children are born and the demographics indicate in general a slow birth rate.

    The Pashtun culture has less constraints on women per say than others but the fact that the Pashtun women were reluctant to leave the back seat can also be attributed to the women themselves. There are no cultural or religious restrictions specified for women nor any justification for the traditional distribution of tasks other than the limitation perhaps due to the anatomical form and functions thereof.

    The latest developments in India followed by south Africa are alarming where sexism has been practiced in extreme form to the extent of rapes and gang rapes and is now part of the culture; whereas in Europe we still have sexism in one or other form to express men’s power over women. These discriminations must be confronted and eliminated so that the developments of the societies as well as the economies of the land are supported by men and women. This task is not easy and will require greater commitment and sacrifice at times but is not stoppable. No one is better equiped than the women from the land of Pashtuns.

    Rex Minor

    PS PakhtunWali = Ummah which came to the Pashtun land when they collectively embrased Islam. Recommend

  • Shoaib Orakzai

    @Moe:
    Im a Pukhtun and I agree with every word you typed in. For some reason, the pukhtuns have racism in there blood which is based on “light skin” and people darker than them become a victim of there racism. I have also noticed that even the educated pukhtuns have this trait in them and the worst of all is that they like blaming “punjabis” for each and everything that happens to us. Sure, there must be some punjabis involved but blaming punjabis as a whole is extremely wrong. My fellow pukhtun brothers are proud of the fact that they are muslims and consider themselves as “better muslims” than punjabis and muhajirs but they always forget the fact that Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) was strictly against racism and pride and racism and pride is something that the pukhtun society has adopted as a part of there daily lives.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @Talha Rizvi,
    I agreed bro.Recommend

  • Pakhtunyar

    When women suffers in the Punjab, it is showed as because of Male dominated society,and if the same happens in Pakhtunkhwa, the cause is Pakhtunwali. Punjab dominated media stop this double standard and hypocrisy.Recommend

  • Narendramodi

    @rehman khan. Why did SRK dilute his warrior pashtun blood? Why Salman Khan is only half half?

    Most pashtuns talk about purity, yet the minute alexander the great is mentioned, or another one of these invaders…they jump at the chance to say…WE DESCEND FROM THEM

    what are you? Jews/bani israel…macedonians…lol

    What you really are, are the indigenous people of the areas you reside in. Nothing less, nothing more.

    For the record, almost all these invaders, ghaznavi etc. were turks, they probably looked more like Hazara than pakhtoons.

    Watch the hate comments. But you made it racial.Recommend

  • hate speech

    its not pashtun…its Pakhtun………Recommend

  • Ali S

    @Pukhtoons:

    Which may explain why Pakhtuns have the highest rate of homicides among any ethnic group in Pakistan. And you had to bring in the racist issue in that, didn’t you? Thanks for proving the author’s points – it’s people like you she’s talking about.Recommend

  • Sterry

    @Talha Rizvi: This is a debate about women’s rights and not about Pashtuns vs Indian Muhajirs. I don’t care that Muhajirs from India settled in Pakistan all claim to be descended from outsiders – be they Arabs, Persians, Turks or Pashtuns. I know of so many Muhajirs who claim to be this or that Pathan but the fact is they look as Indian as all of their neighbours in India where they come from. I am sure most of their blood is Indian. So maybe this is the reason why Pakistani Pashtun don’t believe they are really Pashtun because they look like Indians and not native Pakistani Pashtun. Just because someone has posted something intolerant who happens to be Pashtun or whatever is no need to talk about non related issues. And so you know, the so called liberal Pashtun women in Kabul wear the same revealing dresses, dance, drink and smoke like the Tajik and Uzbek women in Kabul so there is no need to be offended by someone who says negative things about other Pak groups. The only difference is that they are not educated like in Pakistan.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Pessimist: “I think people need to realise that this isn’t about Pathans, rather about the tribal mentality. “

    Agree 100%. Thsi is what I said in my very first post. That this attitude could apply to any professional women in any conservative patriarchial society. SOmehow the auto correct went wild on some of my posts and Haryana khap panchayat became Haryana khan panchayat.

    One more thing I have noticed is that in such patriarchial societies where men tightly control women and give them few rights, they self certify themselves as being very respectful to women. I have asked eople to provide specific behaviors to support the statemet that no other nation respects women as much as Pushtoons. No one has responded which is not surprising.

    If you come to India I can show you several such equally demented characters.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Pessimist: The story of your colleague is indeed interesting. In my Dad’s generation, this was quite common in office culture throughout India. Men who would feel very comfortable chatting with mostly the Parsi, Christian women colleagues but reluctant to introduce their wives to colleagues. The one thing is however when Indians emigrate, the leave such practices behind and adopt the cultural practices of their new home land in such matters. This is why whereas honour killings happen both in India and Pakistan for the same reasons, honour killings abroad usually would be traced back to Pakistanis – you would be hard placed to find such an instance relating to Indian abroad. Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    I wouldn’t be touting PukhtoonWali as a moral code to follow in the 21st century considering its recent notorious usage for never ending violent revenge killings on petty matters or harbouring notorious militants. Its not compatible with Islamic ideals, as some apologists or romanticists want to claim. I’m sure there’s a lot of good points and rich history, such as hospitality and bravery (or false bravado), but the extreme rigidness is probably why such a tribal, if not backward harsh life was enticing to foreign and local extremist militant terrorists. Rape is not uncommon there as well, which includes young boys, on top of the honour issues to hush it up, abortions and killings, the women trading to settle disputes, etc.

    This is not to cast a wide net over the Pashtun community, but to point out some characteristics of unsettled tribal mindsets in certain areas of Pak that have been holding them back, such as the polio drive or misogyny, despite their generosity and talents, which doesn’t include mere pride in racial bigotry, egotistic war-mongering or being warrior canon fodder, but contributions to arts, poetry, science, medicine, business, politics, peace, etc .

    THE WAY OF THE PASHTUN:PASHTUNWALI
    http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/caj/documents/vol10/iss3/CAJvol10.309_e.pdf

    Tribal Law of Pashtunwali and Women’s Legislative Authority
    http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/ilsp/research/kakar.pdfRecommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    The truth is pathan women are happy to merry non pakhtoon men they are tired and fedup
    from pakhtunwali shiet. one can do survey and prove me wronge i am from hazara and in my family three pathan women are merried one afridi. swati yousafzai,waziri.Recommend

  • Loki

    The thing is that women should be allowed to work in every field and men should accept the truth that women cannot just be a housewife and men should not try to impose their rules on women or suppress the talent of womenRecommend

  • http://web Pak

    Come on guys, let’s grow up a bit here. I don’t know why we keep dividing ourselves on ethnic basis. The fact is we are all Pakistani! I believe this article is as relevant for a Pashtun as it is for any other Pakistani. Also, I agree with some of my Pasthun brothers and sisters that typical Pakistani culture on a whole, can learn many things from (Pakistani) Pashtun culture (e.g honesty, loyalty, sticking to your word etc). However, I think it’s high time we grow out of all this ‘racial superiority’ business and look at oursleves as Pakistanis first. Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Pirabadi:
    And what’s your ruling regarding men going to late night parties, etc etc…? Oopsie, I forgot, that’s all halal according to our religion. Silly me. I thought Islam was for both sexes. My mistake…. Recommend

  • Nobody

    @gp65:
    I generally agree with most of what you say; however, I have to disagree with the comment regarding honor killings among Indians abroad. Check out some scary stats about Indians (some Hindus, but mostly Sikhs as far as I’ve read) in the UK particularly. Percentage wise, there are more Pakistanis, or Muslim majority nations (smatterings of Arab nations), but it’s not hard to find some Indians who partake in this medieval behavior. Recommend

  • Khurram Malik

    @Pak I dont know about your culture but in Original Potohari Punjabi and in my culture there is bravery, loyalty and truthfullness and that is why Potoharis represent 60 percent of Army and Rangers of Pakistan but after the creation of Pakistan our culture and everything was lost. So kindly dont tell us to learn from someone as Just visit any village of Punjab and these traits are there.Recommend

  • Muppet

    LOL all the racist claims made by Pathan’s in the comments are laughable. I am from a Muhajir/Punjabi family and proud of my skin color and heritage; don’t know anyone who is lining up to be a Pakhtun.

    At least I know my children will grow up with a good brain, culture and manners.

    Sorry to all the Pathan’s but I have just realized how widepread racism is amongst them. Trust me we are not interested in being you or jealous of you. Thank God I wasn’t born to a Pathan family.Recommend

  • Lawangeen

    Why Pashtuns perceive woman on the screen/speaking out loud on pressing issues as a ‘dama‘? Because, these “elite” educated women act like damay (plural of dama). The first thing a woman who becomes a prominent figure does; is throwing away her scarf in the bin and then starting wearing western dresses. Can’t a female politician do her politics in scarf? Can’t she appear on the media with her puRanai? We’ve got hijabi female anchors on Aljazeera and they are professionally as good as any other TV anchors. Our educated Pashtun women get inspired by the western lifestyle so much that they soon forget about what she had been so far. This also goes for our educated men. Recommend

  • gp65

    @Nobody: “@gp65:
    I generally agree with most of what you say; however, I have to disagree with the comment regarding honor killings among Indians abroad. Check out some scary stats about Indians (some Hindus, but mostly Sikhs as far as I’ve read) in the UK particularly. Percentage wise, there are more Pakistanis, or Muslim majority nations (smatterings of Arab nations), but it’s not hard to find some Indians who partake in this medieval behavior.”

    I respect you as a balanced and level headed commentator. I will certainly correct my knowledge base if you provide a good source. I was relying on this article that gives specific analysis of 3000 honour killings in Britain as a result of Freedom of Information request.

    I am quoting the relevant piece “According to a freedom of information request by the London-based Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) last year, some 3,000 so-called honour attacks were recorded in the UK in 2010. Honour violence includes acid attacks, abduction, mutilations, beatings and in some cases, murder. In the UK, its victims are almost always Muslim women, most commonly those of Pakistani origin, though one of the most high-profile British cases involved that of Banaz Mahmod, an Iraqi Kurd from London who left her violent husband to be with her boyfriend, but was killed by relatives in 2006.

    Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/the-honour-killings-that-blight-britain#ixzz2LbhVB8JC

    There are many articles but this is the only one I found which had some government statistics. Again all I said is “you would be hard placed to find such an instance relating to Indian abroad”. So I am not ruling out that there maybe a one-off instance of Indian overseas indulging in honour killing but by and large as far as Indians are concerned, the honour killings do happen in India but are very rare among overseas Indians.Recommend

  • Umar

    I want to reject my pukhtoon background if this is the type of attitude a pukhtoon will have. The problem is we consider ourselves as pukhtoons and punjabis and sindhis and balochis first. I am firstly a Pakistani then a Pathan. And we Pathans are normal people like all the other people of Pakistan except we’re a little more beautiful, which doesn’t really matter if our attitude is rotten. I’d like to request all them Pathans to chill yo. Lag saa walai zalimaano. Sala khalka ta khaye che munga tol jahilaan yu Recommend

  • Lone Survivor

    Some Pashtun men are conditioned with the belief that a woman should be covered at all times; that no man should ever see her and that her only purpose in life is to cook, clean and bear kids.
    Not some but most of them.
    let’s add some recipe too, NiswarRecommend

  • Khalid Khan

    The problem is that we always try to make ourselves compatible with ‘media’, or any contemporary profession, while wishing to preserve our cultural and religious values, instead of making ‘media’ or that particular profession in question compatible with our values. Why run the media on the same lines as those of the Western media? What have media organisations in Pakistan done to encourage women to take up media and communication as their profession while still adhering to their religious and cultural values? Think of a woman who wants to observe her religious/cultural practice, say ‘Hijaab‘, but passionately wants to work in the media as, say a newscaster. Is she not faced with a difficult situation here? Is it easy for such a woman to adjust to current requirements for a newscaster in any media organisation without relinquishing her ‘Hijaab‘? You can only make Pashtuns get rid of their so-called ‘Narrowmindedness‘ when it comes to any contemporary issue if the solution they are presented with is modern in nature but strictly complies with their religious and cultural values. And this holds true for any ethnic group since Pashtuns are not the only ones who show such characteristics. One can easily come across families from other ethnic groups in Pakistan, albeit in fewer number compared to Pashtun families, who would object to their women working in media. It is unfair, and perhaps inimical, on the part of media advocates to expect people to change their attitudes and practices instead of stressing media organisations to realign their standards and code of conduct to be in strict compatibility with religious and cultural values of the people. The effectiveness of media in highlighting issues, representing masses and keeping an eye on the authorities is unquestionable but we also know how useful a role it can play for propaganda and mass programming and in cultural and psychological warfare. We have to make sure we use it for the good of our society and firewall against its insidious and destructive features. Recommend

  • Khalid Khan

    @Lone Survivor:
    You could’ve served us with a better remark than such a prejudicial and mocking one. Pashtun did not invent the covering of women; it has been around since the time of Adam (A.S) as part of all the post and pre-Abrahic religious dogmas. If you have problem with this ‘Divine’ teaching, and I honestly respect your freedom of choice, than put it clearly so we now who we’re dealing with. The acts of cooking, cleaning and bearing kids are not exclusive to ‘Pashtuns’ only; in 98% of Pakistani families women are in charge of and responsible for household activities. It is absolutely ridiculous and factually incorrect to say that majority of Pasthun women, and other Pakistani women for that matter, are forced to do household work. Feminist, both male and female, are doing no service to our society in the name of ‘liberating’ the women. Women in Pakistan are undoubtedly faced with serious issues but the solution are far more destructive for our society and are vitiating our cultural values. We have seen how Western culture was impaired through the same efforts and yet we fail to take any lesson from that.Recommend

  • The Khan

    I am a pathan myself and i studied in a good school in Karachi and i know for a fact that Pathans with their fine physique and fair color almost always bully people from Bihar,UP, Sindh and south Balochistan in schools. I know this because i was a culprit myself.
    -May i spend a 100 years in hell for this. Recommend

  • sana

    I’m sorry but I don’t agree with this.I’m a pathan woman brought up in Peshawar,kohat,bannu and karak.these are very different areas,both culturally and tribe wise but I have seen more and more pathans working for a better future for their daughters not just sons.after living in Islamabad for some time I have experienced punjabis to be more disrespectful towards us women.I know its a matter of perspective but people need to stop singling out pathans as the source of all conservative evils.our problem with women rights is a problem all of Pakistan needs to deal with as women persecution is quite common all over pakistan.Recommend

  • stevenson

    @sana:There is good and bad in all cultures but you cannot dispute that women in Punjab are generally given more freedom – along with that freedom there will also be more interaction with men and more chances for men to be disrespectful. It’s no big deal to see women driving or working alongside men in the offices of Punjab. If seeing women in the workplace is no big deal in Punjab, so common instances of workers arguing or fighting are no big deal since women are not given special status nor should they expect it This happens too in Western societies since women are not treated special if they are working but they are just another part of working society. The truth is that most Pashtun women would rather be in a more liberal society where they can give better life for their daughters -be it in Punjab or Sind. Not because they hate KPK or Baluchistan but they want a better life for their children. As for some of the more racist comments here, most educated Pashtun I know don’t base superiority on having fairer skin tones than other races because Northern Pakistanis such as Kohistanis, Chitralis and Gilgitis are generally fairer than Pashtuns but Pashtuns think they are better than these fairer skinned races too!!Recommend

  • Fawad

    Sad how quickly this discussion about Pashtun women have turned into Punjabis vs Pashtuns vs Muhajirs. One group claiming, “We are fair and warrior-like, hence better.” As if living in a sunlight deprived area, which is what leads to a “fairer skin”, has any real advantage? And in modern day where drones and real-time information dictates war, what good is the warrior-like spirit?

    And then the Punjabis and Muhajir jump to counter this racism not with reason but with more racism. They claim, without any evidence, that they are smarter than Pashtuns! As if being smarter than Pashtuns really means anything in a globalized world. Are you smarter than a Japanese or Korean? Very disappointed by this ‘us vs them’ approach.

    Samar, from an economic point of view, Pakistanis have to accept working women, not just Pashtun working women. We have to accept them in all fields and, not just in media. Pakistan has a population of 180 million. Assuming 50% are women, that leaves 90 million behind. Disregarding the too old, too young, and too sick, I can confidently say that no nation can survive 50% unemployment or 50% unproductive section of the society. That argument alone is enough for us to change. As for Pashtun men, only education can lead to a change which is why it is more important than ever to establish good schools, colleges, and universities in KPK.

    Please keep writing about gender issues, we Pakistanis need your wisdom now more than ever.Recommend

  • Duah

    Hi, please wake up and smell the coffee. Majority working women face crap from inside home, outside, coworkers, and society at large, media associated women included. And excuse me, am a female journalist but not Pukhtoon and have faced unpleasant charges similar to this. No point in harping on Oh, am Pukhtoon woman and am marginalized!!! We are non Pakhtoon and marginalized by society at large and also face horrific incidents when in Peshawar and Pukhtoon land from men!!! Recommend

  • Reader

    11 years old Zindagi was raped and killed in Islamabad- no one reported he was a punjabi
    4 years old Asma was kidnapped, raped and burned- no one reported reported he punjabi
    30 years old in Sargodah, was rapping female dead bodies- did not hear he was punjabi

    to all the writers try to present Pashtun men and their culture a brutal and anti women in its genesis, that your efforts serves the enemies agenda. weather in media or any other field- who in Pakistan does not face the problems and accusations mentioned in the article. A punjabi, Sindi and Baluchi women is treated the same as a Pashtun women. Recommend

  • Pukhtoon Nationalist

    Hats off to the Author for writting such an excellent piece. Pashtoons unfortunately are demographically misplaced on the border of Afghanistan and Pak. the Soviet War brought the Jehad and extremism as a result intellectuals were killed or fled country. Education got effected, schools were destroyed by islamists and still it is happening on the pak side of border. Putkhoon wali is a code of practice however through education minds can be change and that is how space for improvement can be created. In addition, in the last 4 decades only space provided to Pashtoons society mostly in Afghanistan and FATA areas is of Mullah culture. Pakistan since coming into being have not built a single university until last year. so there is a lot of work which needs to be done. i would definitely say that the current PPP and ANP govt which are secular parties have extended political Act to FATA which is a great step. So fingers crossed for future Recommend

  • gladiator

    Hi, First and foremost I a Pukhtun first and then anything else. Pakistaniyath was just stamped on me on the night of August 14, 1947 and is just a political label…nothing more than that. Proof: One day before Aug 14, 1947 i.e. on Aug 13, 1947, I was an Indian a subject of the British Raj. The next day my political title changed but my Pukhtun ethnicity remained the same. And it will remain the same for thousands of years to come while political labels like Pakistaniyath will come and go.

    Reat, the article includes broad generalizations. There are many other shades of Pashtu society; rural, urban, educated, uneducated, etc. just like any society in transition can have. So, you cannot call it to be a universal character of Pashtun society.

    And despite the endless number of wars we Pashtun have faced, no one can say we didn’t fare well in history or are not faring well even today (invaded by British, Russians, Americans, etc.). Of all the nations in Pakistan, we Pashtuns have the brightest history having left deep imprints on the region from Persia and Central Asia to India. And we are not second to any other group in terms of education and representation in professions, politics, bureaucracy, etc. of Pakistan. And this despite the wars imposed on us due to our strategic location. This also despite the fact that Punjabis, Mahajars have almost no history of any resistance against colonialism or standing up for their freedom and liberty.

    And rapes and gang rapes don’t occur in Pashtun society because of our strong value which place emphasis on self-esteem and personal dignity i.e. a dignified person who stoops todo such bad things or cannot respect women and other members of society soon become an outcast in Pashtun society that people look down upon. Every Pashtun is required to stand up for himself and his family —we are not the type of people that would tolerate offenses against ourselves or women or submit to feudals as is common in rural Punjab, Sindh, or Baluchistan. We Pashtuns are an egalitarian society.

    And stop being jealous and taking this opportunity to grind an ax against Pukhtuns.Recommend

  • talha rizvi

    @Gladiator muhajirs fought for India’s independence and before that they started the Jihad movement to liberate You guys from the Sikh’s rule however YOU showed your BRAVERY by stabbing those Mujahideen at the Battle of Balakot.By the way did you know that the sikh setttlers of Hazara used to pay a tribute of heads of a HUNDRED YOUNG PATHANS to Maharaja Ranjit Singh as also mentioned in Hunter’s book ‘OUR INDIAN MUSLIMS’.So much for socalled WARRIOR STATERecommend

  • HAjra

    Nice article, i completely agree with the words of the writer but, these are not the limitations for Pukhtoon women only it is an issue for women across Pakistan but the difference is pathan follows their rules more strictly.
    I feel proud to mention here that i belong to a pathan family and i am proud to write here that pathans have made progress and now they have allowed their sisters, daughters and wives to work in many male dominated fields. Media is not a question mark for pathans only it is for the other cultures as well because many of our media figures have stories that force people to think negative about them. otherwise Pathans aren’t that backward. :) Recommend