Also spelled PUSHTUN, OR PAKHTUN, HINDUSTANI PATHAN, Persian AFGHAN, Pashto-speaking people of southeastern 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.
The origins of the Pashtun are unclear. Pashtun tradition asserts that they are descended from Afghana, grandson of King Saul of Israel, though most scholars believe it more likely that they arose from an intermingling of ancient Aryans from the north or west with subsequent invaders. Several Pashtun tribes are known to have moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan between the 13th and 16th century. Each tribe, consisting of kinsmen who trace descent in the male bloodline from a common tribal ancestor, is divided into clans, subclans, and patriarchal families. Tribal 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 tribal council.
The Pashtun are farmers, herdsmen, and warriors. Most tribesmen 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 9,800,000 Pashtun in Afghanistan and 14,000,000 in Pakistan. They comprise about 60 tribes of varying size and importance, each of which occupies a particular territory. In Afghanistan, where Pashtun are the predominant ethnic group, the main tribes--or, more accurately, federations of tribes--are the Durrani south of Kabul and the Ghilzay east of Kabul.
In Pakistan, Pashtun predominate north of Quetta between the Sulaiman Range and the Indus River. In the hill areas the main tribes are, from south to north: the Kakar, Sherani, and Ustarana south of the Gumal River; the Mahsud, Darwesh Khel, Waziri, and Bitani between the Gumal River and Thal; the Turi, Bangash, Orakzay, Afridi, and Shinwari from Thal to the Khyber Pass; and the Mahmand, 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 tribes there are, from south to north: the Banuchi and Khatak from the Kurram River to Nowshera; and the Khalil and Mandan in the Vale of Peshawar.
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