8 questions you will be asked if you live in Peshawar

Published: July 16, 2010

Questions, questions, questions and more in Peshawar.

Four years ago, when I moved to Peshawar, I told myself to slow down and enjoy living in the cultural hub of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Perhaps, the only thing I was truly worried about was the cruel weather that inhabitants face from April to October. I have come to love the city and its people with all their merits and demerits. There are, however, questions I am asked that sometimes amuse me, and at other times make me wonder about how naïve some people can be. The following are just a few examples of how exasperating an introduction can be you happen to live in Peshawar.

1. Do you wear a veil (burqa)?

No, damn it! Pathans are conservative, I agree but that certainly does not mean they force their daughters to cover themselves from head to toe. It’s a personal choice, well, most of the time.

2. Are there Taliban in Peshawar?

Oh well, that is a tough one to answer. So I usually just roll my eyes. There are Taliban everywhere, I’m sure Peshawar isn’t their only hideout.

3. Do you buy smuggled laptops, iPods and mobiles phones for really low prices?

The rumour that laptops, iPods and even mobile phones make it among smuggled goodies is as over-rated as it can get. They might sell some third-rate stuff at the famous smuggled goods market here but I don’t think the whole population swarms over those.

4. Do you go out, socialize and eat?

Last I checked we were normal human beings – not aliens who just decided to live near Afghanistan. So yes, we do socialize. We might not have a Dominos yet, but we do go out and enjoy ourselves.

5. Why do you guys fast and celebrate Eid one day before us?

I wish I knew. What is more surprising is that even people who live in Peshawar are divided about when to fast and celebrate Eid. There are two groups, those who follow the government and those who don’t when it comes to Ramadan and Eid. Confusing, I know.

6. How is the situation in Peshawar?

Like everywhere else in the country – scary! You never know when a bomb may go off. The whole country is under a brutal wave of terrorism. Yet, life goes on here.

7. Oh my God, you can speak Urdu?

This one, particularly, makes me laugh. The inevitable follow up question is “Oh, so you speak and understand it well, too?” Au contraire, we do speak Urdu and sometimes, speak it really well though with a tinge of Pashto accent. Locals here speak Hindko and Urdu and not Pashto, as astonishing as that might seem.

8. So, Pathans don’t marry out of family, right? Or alternatively, Pathans only marry Pathans, yea?

In 70 per cent of families, that might be the case but it certainly isn’t a strict rule that we are born with.

I am sure there are a multitude of other questions that riddle the brains of those curious few, but I seriously hope this lays to rest some myths that we are so popular for.

Bushra Maheen Rahman

Bushra Maheen Rahman

A doctor from Peshawar who writes, blogs at www.pistaye.wordpress and tweets @MaheenRahman

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

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    Hehehe Question 1 , 3 and 5 are very true….My mother is from peshawar and some family members too…Apart from laptops, mobiles and ipods,,also questioned about TV sets….and some friends ask you “Hey peshawar se crockery magwa do”..Russian crockery….I m talking about.Recommend

  • Frogh

    Last I checked we were normal human beings – not aliens who just decided to live near Afghanistan. So yes, we do socialize

    You are unfortunate with your geography but even your social sciences are pathetic. First, if you are such biased or ignorant about Afghanistan, you shouldnt write in an international newspaper or they shouldnt have allowed you to do so and second, even if you did add this ridiculous thought in your article, it makes no sense, nor adds any spice to your article if you had intended to do so.

    Afghanistan today suffers because its next to a terror state- when i was a kid, our parents used to scare us by the name of Peshawar that if u do wrong, u will be sent to Pakistan/Peshawar. Recommend

  • Hamood

    I find it funny and ironic that people like @frogh above all came running to Peshawar when their homeland was invaded by the Red army and not the “terror state”. You all would be speaking Russian if it were not for Pakistan. Recommend

  • Waleed Khan

    Talk of Peshawar and no mention on Naswar – Disappointing !Recommend

  • Hamood

    I agree with Bushra though that there are stereotypes about Peshawar but then there are stereotypes about any other major city in Pakistan as well. There is no doubt that Peshawar is in a tough neighborhood and has suffered the most of any major metropolis in Pakistan. I can tell you with my own personal experience that #8 is not true at all because my brother is married to one and I was engaged to one as well. Recommend

  • Afficer Khan


    I think u misunderstood what the writer wanted to say. Shes trying to say that yes we are very much social people like the rest of the world including afganstan and that we didnt com from some other planet to live near afghanstan.

    I regret ur statement about peshawar/pakistan especially when 3millions of u are living here.Recommend

  • winner

    Fine article…….!!!!!!
    every bit…………Recommend

  • Mahvesh

    The best one I heard was when my cousins were asked by someone from Punjab how they would find their house if they ever visited Peshawar – and if there would be any signboards and street names. Also, how people say ‘I saw no women there’ Are you blind!?!? There are women going around shopping everywhere!

    And, Frogh needs to lighten up. Recommend

  • SHigir


    So u did wrong thats wy they sent the whole nation to Pakistan/Peshawar. By the way the writer used this as an example, no one thins that Afghans are aliens, it is just the western media that shows that Pakistan and Afghanistan have returned to the stone age..the writer has only used that perception..no need to be furious.

    One more question…Baba ta easy load okaRecommend

  • http://none Aamir Ali

    If anyone wants to know the harm that Zia ul haq and his jihadi policies did to Pakistan, just visit Peshawar today and compare it to before 1979. A small, relatively clean and pleasant city in 1979 has degenerated into an overcrowded, dirty, dangerous broken down place today.

    I feel sad for my Peshawar.Recommend

  • Salahudin Khan

    a great example of why as Pashtuns we find ourselves in the mess we do today. “we dont speak pashto”

    how disgusting. pakhtuns in pekhawar…the heart of pakhtunkhwa…jumping up and down to insist to all that no no we dont speak pashto here

    you disgust meRecommend

  • Esrar Shenwari

    It was a really nice article from Miss. Bushra .. Worth Reading Article!


    I Don’t want to sound negative while replying to you,however the state which you are referring to as a “Terror State” were fighting for liberation of Afghanistan at one point and they were the one who accommodated you when you needed help.
    Guess your parents were wrong about Pakistan being the “Terror State”.

    Most of the influx of terrorists are from afghanistan border into pakistan, I am from FATA and I can tell you one thing for sure, if Afghanistan-Pakistan border is sealed from Torkham terrorist activities will drop drastically, these are facts i did not fabricate these facts to gain somebody’s sympathies. Recommend

  • Maheen

    @ Salahudin Khan : By “locals” in Peshawar, I meant those residing in Khar and the surrounding areas. They speak hindko and urdu. Please do your research before jumping to conclusions.Recommend

  • takhalus

    The saddest one i heard was from an aid group from lahore who were fund raising for gaza ..i suggester Bajaur, swat and got told , those people are mad the palestinians deserve it more!Recommend

  • Esrar Shenwari

    It was a really nice article from Miss. Bushra .. Worth Reading Article!


    I Don’t want to sound negative while replying to you,however the state which you are referring to as a “Terror State” were fighting for liberation of Afghanistan at one point and they were the one who accommodated you when you needed help. Guess your parents were wrong about Pakistan being the “Terror State”.

    Most of the influx of terrorists are from afghanistan border into pakistan, I am from FATA and I can tell you one thing for sure, if Afghanistan-Pakistan border is sealed from Torkham terrorist activities will drop drastically, these are facts i did not fabricate these facts to gain somebody’s sympathies.

    Notify me of followup comments via e-mailRecommend

  • yawar saeed

    the writer’s social life is restricted to a very small and certain mind set people may be unaware of pukhtoons, or they see them on TV only.
    I am sure everywhere in pakistan and the rest of the world people are well aquainted with pathans. I come from mardan and I have never came across these questions in all my life, though i have been travelling for the last 5 years.
    Though i’ve been hearing that we pathans are very strict and true to promises, 2ndly That Naswar thing is also asked, if, do u use naswar? And when I say. no!
    They are amased. But the whole world knows there are educated people among us more than the other socities.
    I guess the author is in some sort of complex or rather she has a very limited PR.Recommend

  • http://tribune.com.pk Jahanzaib Haque

    This has dashed my dreams of a vast market full of iPods lying in dusty piles for Rs 25 each…. Fun post.


  • Rehan

    Good good work. Loved this piece. Refreshing.Recommend

  • http://ykhan.wordpress.com Yasser

    lol – long back even i once asked my pashto friend in childishness yar i need a laptop and you know he replied the same as you have said.

    nice post enjoyed reading and i am sure there are number of other questions still left to be answered in next post of yours about Peshawar.Recommend

  • Akhtar Rasul

    Yes…… thats a very true fact,, such questions ponder into the mind of every body. Certainly there are some other questions which also come into mind which are not to be mentioned here.
    Anyways I had some terrible experiences when I served Federal Public and Unfortunately I was appointed in Peshawer. People are not friendly at all especially those who are coming from Lower NWFP.

    The first and foremost question,DOCTOR SAHIB AAP KO APNAY ILAKAY MAI JOB NAI MILI THI?I was really feeling like If I was Alien(Being Punjabi). To be honest I was outside Pakistan considering social acceptance. Whenever the inhabitants of peshawer are together they always talk in pashtu no matter the third person amongst them knows it or not.I did not feel as un-easy as I was to Europe as I was to Peshawer.( Verysad Fact).The only advantage I got was know how of Pashto, which I feel like more difficult than Finnish or Dutch. :)))
    But we have to take it as a part of Pakistan and May Allah make them more open minded and Open Hearted.
    These comments are not meant to offend any body, I have just shared my views and experiences. Lets take it as an Individualized exerience rather than to Generalize it.Recommend

  • http://absarahmed.wordpress.com/ Absar

    Interesting. There’s one more missing which I often ask my friends from Peshawar.

    Have you been to Namak Mandi?

    Yes, sure. I know what do you mean. I
    am a great fan of Charsi Tikka.


  • Dee

    LOL thanks for answering my question :P I always wondered about these things :PRecommend

  • Zeeg Pakhtun

    Its my first time reading this author but i could easily tell that the author is a non Pashtun. When you write articles about a region you try to represent the majority of the locals, you don’t put your own perspective in it and give it your own meaning. Now all the questions that’s been asked and answered by the author are the one’s that one would hear from a Punjabi. And NO there is no prestige in speaking Urdu and most people who live in and around peshawar don’t speak urdu on a daily basis, but yes they do in downtown or the old city where the hindko speakers live but you’ll be surprised to know that they do their daily business in Pashto, they speak far fluent Pashto than a Pashtun would speak Urdu. Also there are colonies of army and air force where people from Punjab live and speak urdu.Recommend

  • http://shiri SHigir

    The article was in a lighter way, and there was nothing offensive to pathans, nothing. Ppl ask these questions.

    Zeegh pakhtun…u should write another article because what u replied is totally irrevelant to what she has written. u have no clue what she is saying.Recommend

  • Hamood

    Haha, I find it amusing that some people got emotional reading this article and took it personally. I think Maheen’s intentions were just to present some common perceptions or misconceptions about Peshawar that are present in the rest of the country and NOT to attack Peshawar or its people.Recommend

  • rehman

    im sorry even if some body gave me a crore rupees to live in peshawar i wouild never leave lahore for peshawar..u see i want to look at ladies!!!Recommend

  • Erfan Afghan

    Smuggling one is so true. Like even in Karachi, people ask me to arrange a smuggled laptop for them. Recommend

  • afficer khan

    @Akhtar Rasul

    i have been in punjab for 3 years and they have some sort of superiority complex like they are some superior nation out of their ignorance of the rest of the world. when we a group of 15 or 20 pathans with 1 punjabi then the punjabi will insist not to speak pashto. but when a 2nd punjabi join in then they will start talking in punjabi and they damn care about the group of 15 or 20 pathans who cant understand punjabi which is more alien than that of the mayans. Recommend

  • adewani

    So finally there are no laptops, iphone and ipods on sale at cheaper rates? Frustrating.

    Anyways, point no. 8 is quite encouraging provided subject does not turn out to be a taliban ;)

    Good work. Recommend


    haha Nice One..!

    V alwaz believe on grapevine and let it grow…! Recommend

  • http://www.zevector.com zain

    haha good one , very true and genuine Recommend

  • Shah

    very cool article..
    @ FROG
    you are sick man!!Recommend

  • Bacha khan

    As an ” islamist ” all that i want to say whole such talks like pashton punjab, sindh, turk, arab, etc are against basic believes of islam,
    if we are brothers as per islam then there should not be boundries, nationalites, etc
    the words pashton , punjabi, turk, arab, afghan, only make us leave the only path of Allah,
    our only one relation should be with Allah only as a muslim rest everything is falsehoodRecommend

  • saira

    hi bushra very good anr very true Q 3,5,6 are the the questions frequently asked by my czns in lahore and khi and the rest are the questions that i had to answer when i visited khi last yearRecommend

  • Abdali Khan

    She forgot the 10th question…

    Dude!!!….Wheres my car?….Recommend

  • Bold

    Its a messed up city that is heading towards Oblivion. I’ve lived in Peshawar for like 22 years and she makes it sound like its paradise. It’s a horrible city with a horrible ultra orthodox conservative inhumane culture. It’s a culture where you will see pictures of actors with bloodied faces, a knife and an AK47 in all its glitz, glamor and glory. Women are treated worse than maggots in Peshawar’s culture unless you belong to an upper middle class family where women can occasionally go to Masoom’s, KFC or Pizza hut and think they are wonderfully celebrating their independence.

    I live in the posh area of Peshawar on Shami and the fact that I can’t even wear shorts for a jog at the nearby army garrison park shows how ridiculous and stupid the mindset is of Peshawari’s in general. I am so happy to have moved to Lahore, I was sick and tired of looking Topi Darees where ever you went and women where shuttlecock burqas which is an abomination for any respectable woman to wear unless ‘coerced’… but hey they are celebrating their ‘rights’. The whole society in general is so high on religion it makes even the saudi arabs look bad.Recommend

  • E-Bow

    “I can’t even wear shorts for a jog at the nearby army garrison park” .. Last time I checked (2 days ago), I could still go to Baba Wali in Kaarkhano Bazaar wearing my bermudas. Are you sure about Shami Road dude? Charsadda’s not far off. Any chance you dropped by at Shahkas for a joint before the comment and mixed things up?

    I bet you’re an Afghan. And I am absolutely positive about the fact that the Pakistani border patrol didn’t let you and your lot smuggle tyres across the border, but your paternal uncle and his kids got it easy. Lol. Prick.

    Thank you for presenting a lighter and brighter side of our beloved Pekhawar! Kudos.Recommend

  • strikers

    Thanks for enlightening us as didnt knew Afgahnistan is the hub of all the peace activities.

    Sad we opened up our doors during Russian invasion and let you live in our country.Recommend