Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Pakhtuns

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My article titled “Aornos” elicited an email from Canada. Its gist: that there were no Pakhtuns at the time of Alexander; that Yusufzais moved into Mardan and Swat in the 16th century (that is, they did not exist prior to that time!); that the people defeated by Alexander were not Pakhtuns but Buddhists. The mind boggles at the idiocy of a nation brought up on manufactured history.


First of all, the title Pathan. Pakhtun pseudo-historians claim that the word derives from bataan, which in Arabic denotes rudder and was given to the (fictitious) Qais Abdur Rashid when he converted to Islam. Be it known that the Pakhtuns never called themselves Pathans; that this was a Punjabi and central Indian mispronunciation of Pakhtana, the singular for Pakhtun. That having been decided, we can now reach back into history.

Herodotus (mid-5th century BCE) wrote in The Histories of a people called the Paktyike who lived northward of the ‘other Indians’. Only in our national state of delusion and denial can we reject the word as being a Grecian mispronunciation of Pakhtun in its classical form. The word comes down to us as the name for the Afghan provinces of Paktiya and Paktika, bordering on our Kurram and Waziristan areas.

The second fiction that Pakhtuns love to believe concerns the ancestor called Afghana who gave his name to a country. The word Afghan comes from the Sanskrit root of ashv meaning ‘horse’, which becomes asp in ancient Persian. The genetic term for these horsemen was Ashvaka in Sanskrit and Aspagan in Persian. Their country was where the usual mode of transportation was the horse, perhaps more so than in ancient India, thus the ancient land of the Paktyike became Aspaganistan in Persian. And thence to Afghanistan.

Now, there was one tribe that was perhaps more attached to the horse than anyone else; a tribe that took pride in its horsemanship and which was famous as horse dealers. They became Aspzai — Tribe (or son) of the Horse. Having conquered Bajaur and moving northwest, Alexander came up against the Aspasioi guarding their fort of Masaga. A hard battle was fought, the chief was slain and Alexander wedded his widow. She later bore him a son when Alexander was in Sindh but we do not know what became of this child.

Again, one has to be either tone-deaf or stupid to not see the connection between Aspzai, Aspasioi and Yusufzai. Aspasioi, incidentally, is the tribe most frequently mentioned by Alexander’s historians, which leads me to believe that this was at that time the major Pakhtun tribal classification in the region. That may mean that most other tribal names have simply split off from the main Aspzai.

The asp became Yusuf (pronounced Esop by Pakhtuns) only after conversion to Islam and the need to invent a Muslim sire. The Aspzai thus became Esopzai — Yusufzai for the educated classes.

From the geographer Strabo (1st century CE) we hear of two other startlingly long-lived names. He mentions Apratai and Shattagadai. His translator, John McCrindle, reminds us that Afridis, and indeed other Pakhtuns as well, have difficulty in pronouncing ‘f’ sounds, turning them forever into ‘p’. Apratai is, therefore, Strabo’s rendering of Afridi exact to a turn. As for Shattagadai, McCrindle says this is the southern pronunciation of Kattak where the ‘kh’ of the northern dialect becomes ‘sh’.

The email also noted that the tribes defeated in Bajaur and Swat were not Pakhtuns, but Buddhists. I have to live many more years to hear anything as foolish as this. Buddhism is a religion that was followed by all sorts of people in the subcontinent and beyond. It was not an ethnic group.

The Pakhtuns have lived in the submontane lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than two and a half millenniums. They have classified themselves under at least three tribal names that were preserved by Greek writers of antiquity. However, like all other Muslims of the subcontinent, they too, and sadly, have invented fictitious histories for themselves. The most pernicious among this body of lies is the fiction of Arab/Jewish origin. The truth is that they are an Indo-Aryan people with a language that derives from Avestan.

Odysseus Lahori one year ago: With Hiuen Tsiang to Hund

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

13 Comments:

At August 27, 2014 at 6:25 AM, Anonymous Amardeep Singh said...

Very interesting piece.

 
At August 27, 2014 at 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great piece! Enjoyed every word of it. The Jewish connection is outrageous. A recent genetic study was done that found no evidence for this amongst other things.

 
At August 27, 2014 at 9:23 AM, Blogger Nikhil said...

My single point argument with a history inventor, past glorifier, uneducated, wanna be Arab is "Sir ur right, everything good that happened to the world happened after 500AD and that too by Arabs and their offsprings ...who are ur ancestors ....

My only point of contention is the Arabs don't give a shit about any other class of Muslims [including Turks and Persians]....their opinion of subcontinent muslims is well known.....

 
At August 27, 2014 at 10:58 AM, Anonymous Muhammad Athar said...

A great article which provided a deep inside of Pakhtune

 
At August 27, 2014 at 1:05 PM, Anonymous Faraz said...

There is also the theory that the The Hephthalites (or Ephthalites), also known as the White Huns, were perhaps the ancestors of the Abdalis.

 
At August 27, 2014 at 4:39 PM, Blogger Afat qiamat said...

..its the Left overs of the invaders ...who are searching for their roots and in the process inventing absurd narrative ... special effort is made to make their link to Arabs... and claim going as far as the 13th lost Tribe of Ibraham ... unfortunately they will persist on their version ...in spite of being proven wrong many a time...

 
At August 29, 2014 at 10:39 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Afat Qiamat, it was for such people that Einstein said, "Two things are infinite: the Universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the first."

 
At August 29, 2014 at 10:40 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Faraz, we can now make any number of theories. There is bound to be Hunnic blood among the Pakhtuns as there is Mongol blood. All because of rape.

 
At August 29, 2014 at 10:50 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Good and valid point, Nikhil!

 
At August 29, 2014 at 10:52 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

We who converted to the "one and only true faith" have to prove we are good if we are preferably Arabs. But even Jews go.

 
At August 29, 2014 at 2:50 PM, Blogger Memoona Saqlain Rizvi said...

Very informative...enjoyed every single word.
Generally for Pakistanis and particularly for those of us who don't travel, it's out of question to go beyond the time of Arab conquests of the region. The land speaks, rather shouts of its ancient history, that is magnificent and surpasses many other histories of the world.
And we, SR readers are every lucky because we have him and his superior work. Sir! Once again thank you:)

 
At November 30, 2016 at 1:40 PM, Blogger Khan Barmazid said...

Respected Sir, the hilly terrain of "Roh" (medieval homeland of Afghans) was not easily accessible, the invaders had to pass through the few passes.....Tarikh-i-nama-Herat, written in 1318, reveals that Afghans (Pashtuns) were not subjugated before 1253 AD and had successfully repelled early Mongol invasions. Its your Punjab which was overrun by countless Mongol invasions in 13th century and 14th century, people massacred and raped...and to defend the Punjab , its forts were garrisoned by Afghans/Pashtuns by Sultan Balban as mentioned in Tarikh-i-Feroz Shahi and other sources.....Genetic studies of Pashtuns do not reveal Mongol admixture, they have the highest ratio of R1a1, highest in region. Indians say that Punjabis are products of rapes from central Asian and Afghan invaders, should i also take them seriously if i take you seriously?

 
At November 30, 2016 at 1:58 PM, Blogger Khan Barmazid said...

And migration of Yousafzais to present-day Pakistan during the reign of Mirza Ulugh Beg is attested by Abu Fazal in his Aini-i-Akbari

 

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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

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