The Pathans

52 minutes / Colour / 1980
Directed by
André Singer Andy Harries

Anthropologist Akbar Ahmed

Country of production United Kingdom

Series Disappearing World Series

There are twelve million Pathans. Bound by a common language, a common heritage and the unifying force of Islam, these proud and independent people do not acknowledge the geographical boundary which divides them between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This film was shot at the same time as 'Khyber' in Pakistan, close to the Afghan border. The Pathans accept no imposed leadership, from without or from within. Their laws are the decisions of the democratic assembly of the village, known as the jirga. To disobey the jirga is to court heavy penalties against which there is no appeal. Their code of living is called pukhtunwali – the way of the Pathan. At its core are the principles of hospitality, personal honour and revenge. A man will fight to the death to avenge a wrong done to himself, his family or friends or, above all, his women. The film is noteworthy for the way in which it brings out the importance of these values. Their fierce loyalty, coupled with the independence of spirit which tolerates no formal leaders, makes the Pathans a formidable enemy, as the British once found out and, more recently, the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan have discovered.

Review of the film. RAIN, 38, pp. 5–6.

Language and subtitles English with English Subtitles

Region South Asia

Country Pakistan

Keywords War / Conflict / Reconciliation Social Organisation Gender Role and Identity