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Default Class-based origin of political dynamics in KPK - 04-26-2011, 04:39 PM

In another thread, Khushal and other friends have mentioned the non-existence of social stratification and the distribution of resources and privileges based on class and status in Afghanistan. The reason is understandable. In Afghanistan, at least to the extent of its Pashtun part, the resource base of the society comprised mostly of pastoral lands or lands suitable for small-scale farming. Consequently, food surpless that could ultimately bring about a social order other than the tribal one couldn't result and the society retained its early tribal character togethor with its egalitarian values and the concept of equality.

In KPK, a different order evolved. That is because, in KPK the land is relatively more productive. So when various Pashtun tribes settled down in KPK after a long period of nomadic or semi-nomadic life, the higher productivity enabled them to develop a social order based on class-based social stratification (some surpless produce could be given to serving classes for services). I can't determine whether the earlier Indic society played any role in this development but two-three factors were instrumental in bringing about the transformation.


One, the collapse of Sheikh Milli's migratory land ownership/access system somewhere in 18th and 19th centuries and the adoption by Pashtuns of settled/sedentary life. The other likely factor is the canal irrigation system that the British built in 19th and early 20th centuries and that enhanced the productivity of the land so giving rise to feudal relations. A third factor may be the colonial necessity of British to create and/or strengthen a feudal class through patronage and granting of privileges that could control local population. All these factors togethor strengthened a hierarchical feudal order in KPK in which the pure Pashtuns became the owners or the lords while the rest became the surfs.

This social stratitification has also had impact on the pattern of political affiliation and assertion in Pashtuns of Pukhtunkhwa. I think it needs discussion.

Last edited by Toramana; 04-26-2011 at 10:19 PM.
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Default 04-26-2011, 05:09 PM

Pashtuns have done favouritism with syeds. While rest of non-pashtuns could'nt own lands, syeds were given equal or more social status than pashtuns. In heart of lakki marwat there are three sadaat villages, aba khel, dalo khel and matoraio....no other non-pashtuns in lakki have given lands/villages.
In bannu syeds make only 10% of total population but they own one third of the most fertile lands.


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Default 04-26-2011, 06:05 PM

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Originally Posted by Timbaktu View Post
I do agree with you assessment. In other threads a few people mentioned that KPK pashtuns are mild tempered while pashtuns in AFG are more warlike. I think its because of the geography and the limited resources in AFG compared to KPK. But I do think the tribal areas of KPK have alot in common with AFG though. specially in Balochistan.
You are right. That may be due to a degree of hierarchical social order based on feudal relations under which they lived and the moderating impact of British rule (also rule of Wali Swat, Nawab of Dir). In KPK, people tend to accommodate divergent political and ideological loyalties even within the same family. You would find political and ideological foes reaching out to each other and socially interact on ocassions like death, marriages, illness, etc. Conflicts are negotiated and opposition and difference of views politically expressed/vented. People also can value education and the importance of state and its institutions.

You can say that KPK are not as warlike as those of FATA and Afghanistan to raise emergency lashkars but they can relatively better adjust/subject themselves to military, political, and administrative discipline. That is what is the requirement of a modern state i.e., conflicts are politically negotiated and that disciplined, organized, and skilled workforce is available to run the state institutions.

By the way, this mild-temperdness is also a consequence of the presence of a huge artisan class in the KPK Pashtun society that is more inclined to professional pursuit and peace (natural pacifism/submissivism of that class notwithstanding).

And you sound to be right about FATA and Quetta Pashtuns (also to a degree about southern Pashtuns). I have heard my Afridi friends proudly telling me in my conversation with them that Ustad Khyal Mammad is also an Afridi (he originally is from Khyber). This doesn't mean he has a status equal to a red-blooded Afridi yet Afridis can accept him to be one of their own. You can seldom expect it from a Yousafzai or Mohammadzai. Afridis have no or weak feudal foundations.

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Default 04-26-2011, 06:29 PM

also afghans have had to deal with many invasions. this interferes with their peace and harmony to develop in a constructive way. their land also is more rugged and dry, no?
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Default 04-26-2011, 06:32 PM

When I first read the title I thought it would somehow lead on to the Utmanzais for instance i.e. Bacha Khan and his family and thus the ANP. I also thought it would talk about the constituent demographies that vote for different groups. Nevertheless it is an interesting read.

One thing which I would add is that sociologically the traditional tribal structure which exists in the mountains and valleys of Pakhtunkhwa are inevitably melting down in the place which is home to the largest single concentration of Pashtuns in the world, Karachi.

So where as there was a change from nomadic pastoral to sedentary/agrarian from Afghankhwa to Pakhtunkhwa now we see a change from sedentary/agrarian and semi-industrialized (e.g. Peshawar) to urban megapolis in the form of Karachi.

So a Yusufzai or Durrani whose ancestors may have been nomads then farmers is now a city-dweller (doing whatever profession he is). He will retain his Pashtun genetics but his Pashtunwali - or the traditional definition of it - will dilute e.g. nang, badal etc.

On a different note Pashtuns of Karachi may inevitably become Urdified as Mahmudzais of Kabul have become Farsified thus differentiating Pashtun-origined peoples more and more, till some of them have absolutely nothing in common besides religion and a common genetic ancestry.


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Default 04-26-2011, 07:08 PM

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Originally Posted by faye View Post
also afghans have had to deal with many invasions. this interferes with their peace and harmony to develop in a constructive way. their land also is more rugged and dry, no?
Yes, you are right faye. According to one estimate Afghanistan and the rest of the Pashtun land has been invaded some 600 hundred times since Alexander's attack. One can well imagine the degree of social and political disruption brought about by this. And the invaders found Pashtun land e.g. Peshawar, Bannu, or Kandahar or Zabul to be suitable camping places for their armies from where they sent raiding parties to look for food supplies (and perhaps also for women), which Pashtuns vehemently resisted.

Pashtuns attempts for formation of a state or even a more organized society have been disrupted again and again by invasions of gigantic magnitude.

And you are right. Geographical and topographical factors have played a role in shaping attitudes. In KPK distances are short and the terrain easy for the writ (and the benovolent aspect ) of the state to be extended to remote villages and valleys. Land is also relatively more fertile/productive for people to engage in farming and other endeavours.

But paradoxically, an educated Pashtun of Afghanistan tends to be more open/liberal in certain things, e.g. KPK Pashtuns avoid mixed gatherings (of men and men), or allowing women to go out without veil, or allow them to participate in events like musical shows, etc. The Yousafzais are usually even shy to do attanr (traditional Pashtun dance). In my opinion this may be due to feudalistic attitude in Yousafzais and retention of the egalitarian tradtion of the traditional tribal Pashtun society in Pashtuns of Afghanistan. Royalistic/aristocratic (kings, etc. in Afg) inclinations/emulation and elitist phenomenon might also be the reason. But I may be wrong about this observation for which I will apologize.

Last edited by Toramana; 04-26-2011 at 08:04 PM.
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Default 04-26-2011, 07:38 PM

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Originally Posted by Bengal_Tiger View Post
When I first read the title I thought it would somehow lead on to the Utmanzais for instance i.e. Bacha Khan and his family and thus the ANP. I also thought it would talk about the constituent demographies that vote for different groups. Nevertheless it is an interesting read.

One thing which I would add is that sociologically the traditional tribal structure which exists in the mountains and valleys of Pakhtunkhwa are inevitably melting down in the place which is home to the largest single concentration of Pashtuns in the world, Karachi.

So where as there was a change from nomadic pastoral to sedentary/agrarian from Afghankhwa to Pakhtunkhwa now we see a change from sedentary/agrarian and semi-industrialized (e.g. Peshawar) to urban megapolis in the form of Karachi.

So a Yusufzai or Durrani whose ancestors may have been nomads then farmers is now a city-dweller (doing whatever profession he is). He will retain his Pashtun genetics but his Pashtunwali - or the traditional definition of it - will dilute e.g. nang, badal etc.

On a different note Pashtuns of Karachi may inevitably become Urdified as Mahmudzais of Kabul have become Farsified thus differentiating Pashtun-origined peoples more and more, till some of them have absolutely nothing in common besides religion and a common genetic ancestry.
Bengal_Tiger, you are right. It needs one to raise above tribal patriotism and look at history and societal change on a longer time-scale and through a variety of angles. In a tribal society, pastoralism is usually the norm in which almost every member is engaged. Land-holdings are small and insufficient to sustain organized armies/institutions on permanent basis. Craftsmanship and professions like tailoring, carpenting, trading, etc. exist but at a very primitive level.

With aggrrarian mode of economy, the scope for craftsmanship and professions widens and a sizeable artisan class emerges (due to resource surpless) that is engaged in creative/productive activity for which they need peace/protection, which is provided by the landed gentry. In a modern state, this role is assumed by the institutions of the state eliminating the need for feudal overlordship (and self-assumed tribal/class supremacy of feudals).

And you are right about Karachi Pashtuns. Majority of these de-rooted Pashtuns is artisan class with their leader Shahi Sayed also not technically a Pashtun (in traditional sense). I have talked to many Karachi Pashtuns and they contend they have peculier issues that need to be addressed independently of the overseership of central ANP. Cultural and social transformation is already going on in them on a high-scale. Over a few decade, I see a new Karachi Pashtun identity emerge with a strong sense of solidarity with the mainland Pashtuns yet with a different flavour of Pashtun Culture and different political perception. I think same may be said (am not sure) of Pashtuns of Kunduz for example.

Last edited by Toramana; 04-26-2011 at 07:49 PM.
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Default 04-26-2011, 08:10 PM

Bacha I have talked more than needed today --- so will turn to the actual subject matter of the thread i.e. how social stratification has resulted in class-driven political affiliation in KPK.
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