Dear Pashtuns, 

I am a Punjabi who has been living in the capital of Punjab for almost four years. I am studying both politics and sociology simultaneously at the University of Punjab, Lahore. I know very little about your culture and political beliefs but, for sure, I know more than any ordinary Punjabi. I am sharing my educational background and familiarity with your culture and politics to demonstrate one very important thing which I am intending to discuss in this piece: politics and social philosophy of life.  

We know your loyalty is beyond any doubt, your dedication, passion, and commitment with your assigned goals do not need any certification. And your sense of self-esteem is probably the thing the whole Pakistan is proud of.

You did a lot for Pakistan, for Afghanistan, for Saudi Arabia, for America and for the whole world. But in return you got blood, pain and a bad-name. Hold on… this is not what God has done with you. This is what humans, your so-called brothers, did with you. 

There was a time when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation, trusted you and gave you both respect and responsibility. And what you returned us was probably something our strongest army wouldn't be able to give us. I, like the father of the nation, feel proud of you.  

But since 1980s you were used, misused, exploited, maimed, beheaded, murdered and ultimately declared as the biggest terrorists of the world. All this happened when you were fighting a ‘holy war’ for the capitalist America to defeat the atheistic Soviet Union under the leadership of Zia and his Saudi brothers. Americans gave dollars, Saudis surfaced ideological grounds, and Zia being a strategist devised murderous strategies to fight this war. As a result, the Soviets were white-washed, America came out as the sole superpower of the world, Zia went away to meet his awaiting- seventy two virgins and Saudis  joined Americans to celebrate their victory.  

You remember you were ‘jihadists’. You were ‘ghazis’. You were brothers of Zia. But you were so as long as there was war. At the end of the war you were zombies, terrorists, and the biggest enemies of peace of the world. 

This is a sad story. This is a bitter past which dominates the bloody present. This is what your brothers did with you.   

The important question remains: who got what from this war? Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are paying the heaviest price of their bravery and love for their brothers and friends. A harsh reality of the day!  

This is what happened in history. I can’t change it. Nor can you or anyone else. We have to accept it.  

Let’s talk about other things. Why do we, Punjabis, not regard you as trustworthy friends? There is a reason behind this mistrust and awkwardness. I still remember when I was a child I used to go out almost all the time. My mother used to assert: ‘Do not go out. There are Pathans in town and they will take you with them.’ And believe me I used to be very scared of you whenever I heard about your presence.  

Then I came to Lahore and here what I initially learnt was so scary: “Pathans are dirty. They love ‘naswar’, smoke, and eat tasteless food and follow stupid things. Girls don’t like them. Most of them are gay, so try to avoid them as much as you can.” This is what I learnt from my friends, their friends and from lay public.  

Unfortunately, when I formally joined my university I had a very bad image of the Pathan in my mind. I remember in my first ever class at the campus when I saw that there were some Pathans in my class I was just thinking so many bad things about them: abductors, heartless, homosexuals… 

With all this I started reading with them and reluctantly interacted with them. I started finding things contrary to what I had learnt. They were more loving than Punjabis, more loyal than anyone else in my social circle, more intelligent, more outspoken and more concerned about Pakistan than us. This is what I learnt about Pashtuns in my own classroom and through my extensive interaction with them.  

Moreover, I read about you. I was interested to learn about your culture including marriage system, badal (the concept of revenge) and everything about Pakhtunwali. I found you people with a strong sense of identity in a Pakistan where everyone else is struggling with his/herself because of identity crisis.   

I was lucky to get a chance to stay at Peshawar University when I was selected as a participant of Third International Summer School. I ate your traditional foods and took the same tea. I love Afghani Pulao and want to visit again my friends, Sajid and Abid in Peshawar.  

The bottom line is, dear Pashtun friends, you have been stereotyped in a very bad manner in Pakistan. Who did it? I really don’t know. But I know it has been done so smartly that there must always be a dividing line in Pakistan between “us” and “them”. 

Image Courtesy: Pakistan Today

The sadder part is that now terrorists are being profiled on racial basis and so many Punjabis believe Pashtuns are bad people; violent extremists. Our police is issuing notices and warning us to report if we see any Pathan selling tea in their traditional outlook. I am sad to read this notice. All this made me teary-eyed.  

I wrote this letter to convey my love, not any sympathy, because I know you people neither need nor like it. I am a Punjabi who believes you people are misrepresented, misread and misused. I am a Punjabi who urges you to come here and interact with common Punjabis and let them know what they believe is absolutely incorrect. Come here and teach these people how to love, what it means to be sincere, what it means to be Pakistani and most of all tell them what it means to be Pashtun. 

God bless you!