Peoples and Ethnic Groups – Pashtunwali: The Code
Pashtunwali literally means ‘the way of the Pashtuns’, and is a tribal honor code that has governed the Pashtun way of life for centuries. Pashtunwali is practiced by Pashtuns in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and by Pashtun refugees around the world. Although it pre-dates Islam the two have become inseparable for many Pashtuns, even though in practice Pashtunwali codes often contradict the Qur’an. Such is the case with the Pashtun practice of dividing inheritances equally among sons, even though the Qur’an clearly states that women are to receive an equal share. There are many primary and secondary codes that govern every aspect of Pashtun life, but key codes are:
- Melmastia – is hospitality, but not in the sense that Americans understand it. This hospitality requires that any person be afforded the host’s protection. While in the care and company of a host, a guest should neither be harmed nor surrendered to an enemy. Hospitality and protection must be offered to all visitors without expectation of favor. Any Pashtun who can gain access to the house of another Pashtun can claim asylum there, regardless of the previous relationship between the two parties.
- Badal –may be understood as vengeance, revenge or justice. It requires violent reaction to a death, injury or insult. Advances on one’s zan, [ZAHN] zar [ZAHR] or zamin [ZAH-meen] (“women,” “wealth,” or “land”) are the most common offenses requiring revenge. The only acceptable defense of honor is revenge, equal to but not exceeding the original insult. Avenging an insult to a woman’s sexual purity is particularly important.
- Zamaka – involves the protection of one's land or property.
- Nanawatay – asylum, mercy. Derived from the verb meaning “to go in”, this is used to describe protection extended to a person who requests protection against his/her enemies even if the request for asylum and protection is sought AMONG the enemy. The person seeking peace is expected to ritually humiliate himself in some way. The act of self-humiliation is supposed to elicit a magnanimous gesture of forgiveness and leniency from the foe-turned-protector. Once nanawatay is requested and granted, the requestor is protected at all costs. This principle may also be used when a vanquished party is prepared to enter the house of the victor and ask for their forgiveness.