Stories about Pashtun

“They hired a Pathan?! I thought it was for smart people”: Pakhtun stereotyping is not ‘just jokes’

I recently moved to the United States for my graduate studies. At the Denver International Airport, a large poster of Malala Yousafzai welcomed me. I wished this would not be the only time I felt at home, but I remained sceptical. Only recently had I read a news article about the increase in race and religion-based violence in America. I decided to reserve my judgement for later. Inadvertently though, this brought back memories of another relocation I experienced three years ago. On June 10, 2015, a week before I graduated from the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIK), I received a ...

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Karachi – the city where your ‘mochi’ can also mend your soul

Karachi is home to the most diverse of populations across Pakistan. Muslims, non-Muslims, Shia, Sunni, Muhajir, Balochi, Sindhi, Pashtun, Kashmiri, and also many other minority groups; many a people have found home here. Some of them love Karachi, others hate it. But Karachi has embraced them all – giving them the freedom to be themselves. Some folks weave dreams during the day. Some have adopted a nocturnal lifestyle and work during the night. Some read Jane Austen, while some unfalteringly quote Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Some revere and find solace in its shrines. And yet, others destroy the very sanctity of ...

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Dear NADRA, your failure to recognise Pakistan’s undervalued regional languages is not surprising

I recently came across a disheartening news article which stated that the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) failed to recognise a degree attained in a regional language. This applied to all the areas and provinces of Pakistan and not just Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Now, let us take in the severity of this statement. In effect, this means that those who have done their Bachelors or Masters in Pashto or any other regional language cannot enter their education data for their national identity cards (NIC) at NADRA. The premier regulatory authority’s online forms only contain and recognise a master’s degree or Doctorate in English, Urdu and Persian. But ...

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Dear Ayesha Gulalai, instead of honouring our roots and culture, you have disgraced every single Pakhtun woman of Pakistan

Dear Ayesha Gulalai, I am neither a political worker nor do I support any political party. What’s even more interesting is that I am not a fan of Imran Khan either. I am a young Pakhtun woman who has been following the Pakhtun tradition and culture since I was a little girl. My parents have always guided me to stand up for my rights and speak up against any kind of harassment in the male-dominated society we live in. Brought up in a conservative traditional family, I have always been reminded to uphold the respect of my family and most importantly, ...

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Trump’s ban on Muslims is just as offensive as Pakistan’s racial profiling of Pakhtuns

Not every Muslim is a terrorist but a significant number of terrorist incidents are conducted by Muslims. This statement is controversial and yet, deep down we all know that there is some sort of evidence for it. At least the terrorist incidents which are indiscriminate and use suicide bombings are overwhelmingly committed by Muslims. Of course, as already mentioned, this does not mean that every Muslim is a terrorist and in fact thinking in such terms would be overstretching and overgeneralisation, resulting in bigotry if endorsed by the general populace and institutionalised discrimination if incorporated into laws by the state. Donald ...

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Our minorities have found a voice in Pakistani cinema

I still remember when I was first introduced to The Mindy Project by a friend while sitting in her apartment in DC back in 2014. We started binge-watching it for a few nights after dinner during my brief stay with her. When I returned to my internship in Vancouver, I heard one of my colleagues (an Indian-Canadian woman) raving about it. Mindy Kaling is undoubtedly a talented lady and the show has been quite popular – on a separate note, there was something about it that made all the brown girls go crazy. They finally got to see a brown woman in ...

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Pakistan, I am of you, from you, and no matter where I am, inseparable from you

Once when I was six years old I sneaked out of my grandmother’s house in Lahore’s old Mozang neighbourhood and headed for the nearby Mozang Bazaar, a large market of red-brick shops over a hundred years old. The shops there fascinated me to no end and I was determined to discover kites – my main attraction – of every shape and size. Getting there was no problem as my grandmother’s laane ended in the bazaar itself. Once there though, I lost track of time and my curiosity led me to explore the entire bazaar. At some point I realised I was lost. ...

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An ‘Islamic Halloween costume’? Really, Walmart?

Dear Walmart, I liked you. I really did. Your prices are decent and I occasionally made a run to you when other stores in the area were closed, because of your late hours of operation. You were convenient and I really liked that about you. However, it came to my attention a couple of days ago that you tried to sell a Halloween costume depicting an ‘old Pashtun Papa’, full with a beige-coloured parthog and kameez, turban and a long fake, grey beard. Photo: Walmart.com Really, Walmart? Tasteless much? I’ve realised that you have now taken down that ‘costume’, apologised, and tried to ...

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Za Pakhtoon Yum: A mind-altering foray into Pukhtun life and culture

So far, our dramas have revolved around the vicious circle of poverty, a miserable daughter-in-law suffering at the hands of her evil in-laws, societal customs, dowry issues, giving birth to a male child or the perfect ‘rishta’ (proposal). Indeed these are issues which need to be addressed in dramas or movies, but there are other issues that require our attention as well. With the passage of time, we, Pakistanis, have come across many complex issues segregating our society into small groups, each intolerable for the other. We have issues ranging from the Shia-Sunni to the Punjabi-Pukhtun, anti-women empowerment to pro-women empowerment, even from the pro-Malala ...

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“Har kala rasha”: Hujra, a fading Pakhtun tradition

There are many characteristics of Pakhtun culture and a hujra is one of them. In fact, it is considered to be the most important part of Pakhtun culture. A hujra can be loosely translated as a social club. From the western mountainous terrains of Pakistan to the heart of Afghanistan to anywhere in the world where Pakhtuns live, there exists the hujra. Exclusively for the male population, a hujra plays host to various aspects of the social life of Pakhtun society – from resolving community disputes to wedding ceremonies. However, the very existence of this age-old tradition is now threatened due to modernisation and Western democracy. Purpose of a hujra A typical hujra is owned and run ...

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