Pashtun Nationalism - Pashtuns Defined - Ancestral Definition

Ancestral Definition

The patrilineal definition is based on an important orthodox law of Pashtunwali which mainly requires that only those who have a Pashtun father are Pashtun. This law has maintained the tradition of exclusively patriarchal tribal lineage. This definition places less emphasis on what language one speaks, such as Pashto, Persian, Hindko, Urdu or English.

There are various communities who claim Pashtun origin but are largely found among other ethnic groups in the south and central Asian region who generally do not speak the Pashto language. These communities are often considered overlapping groups or are simply assigned to the ethno-linguistic group that corresponds to their geographic location and mother tongue. They include some who usually speak Dari (Persian), Urdu, Hindi and English rather than Pashto. Claimants of Pashtun heritage in South Asia have mixed with local Muslim populations and are referred to as Pathan, the Hindustani form of Pashtun. These communities are usually partial Pashtun, to varying degrees, and often trace their Pashtun ancestry through a paternal lineage. The Pathans in India have lost both the language and presumably many of the ways of their ancestors, but trace their fathers' ethnic heritage to the Pashtun tribes.

Small number of Pashtuns have adopted Hindko, Seraiki and other local Pakistani languages. These languages are often found in areas such as Abbottabad, Peshawar, Mardan, Attock, Multan and Dera Ismail Khan. After migration or establishing contacts in these areas, Pashtuns began adding new languages to their existing Pashto. This group of people are bilingual in Hindko and Pashto, as well as Urdu and English in many cases. They are a large minority in major cities such as Peshawar, Kohat, Mardan, and Dera Ismail Khan, including in the mixed districts of Haripur, Abbottabad and Attock.

Some Indians claim descent from ethnic Afghan soldiers who settled in India by marrying local women during the Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent. No specific population figures exist, as claimants of ethnic Afghan (Pashtun) descent are spread throughout the country. Notably, the Rohillas, after their defeat by the British, are known to have settled in parts of North India and intermarried with local ethnic groups. They are believed to have been bilingual in Pashto and Urdu until the mid-19th century. Some Urdu-speaking Muslims (Muhajir people) claiming descent from Pashtuns began moving to Pakistan after independence in 1947.

In Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan), an unknown number of ethnic Pashtuns (together with at the later stage numbers of Iranian-speakers, these often secondary migrants from north India) settled among Bengalis from the 12th century to mid 18th century. These ethnic Afghans assimilated into Bengali culture, and intermarried with native Bengali Muslims to provide a component of the modern Bengali Muslim meme and biological identity, most prominently among the older wealthy classes of Bangladeshi Muslims. Historical structures built by Afghan descendants can still be found there. For example, the mosque of Musa Khan still remains intact in Bangladesh. He was an ethnic Pashtun and a descendant of the great Suleiman Khan, who was born in the Suleiman Mountains but moved to Bengal.

During the 19th century, when the British were accepting peasants from British India as indentured servants to work in the Caribbean, South Africa and other far away places, some Pashtuns from areas constituting Afghanistan and modern-day Pakistan were sent to places as far as Trinidad, Surinam, Guyana, and Fiji, to work with other Indians on the sugarcane fields and perform manual labour. Many of these immigrants stayed there and formed unique communities of their own. Some of them assimilated with the other South Asian Muslim nationalities to form a common Indian Muslim community in tandem with the larger Indian community, losing their distinctive heritage. Their descendants mostly speak English and other local languages. Some ethnic Afghans travelled to as far away as Australia during the same, see Afghan (Australia).

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