Pashtun culture (Pashto: پښتني هڅوب‎) is based on Pashtunwali, which is an ancient way of life, as well as speaking of the Pashto language and wearing Pashtun dress. The culture of the Pashtun people is highlighted since at least the time of Herodotus (484–425 BC) or Alexander the Great, when he explored the Afghanistan and Pakistan region in 330 BC. The Pashtun culture has little outside influence over the ages.

Holidays and special events

Pashtun Culture

The biggest holidays for Pashtuns are the Islamic Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, followed by Pakistan Independence Day (August 14). The arrival of Sparlay or spring, known as Naw-Wraz (New Day), is also celebrated by some Pashtuns. It is an ancient annual Pashtun festival which celebrates both the beginning of spring and the New Year. Amongst some Pashtuns, Sheshbeeyeh, a prelude festival to Nava Wroz, is also celebrated. This tradition still survives, mainly amongst the southerners, in Bannu and Waziristan. During holidays, Pashtuns set up festivals in which they usually attend mosques to make special prayers, have cookouts in parks, and go to fairs.

Pashto poetry

Hamza baba, Pashtun Culture

KPK was noted for its poetic language even before the Islamic conquest. The Pata Khazana contains Pashto poetry written as far back as the 8th century. Some notable poets from the region of Afghanistan-Pakistan include Amir Kror Suri, Khushal Khan Khattak, Rahman Baba, Nazo Tokhi, Ahmad Shah Durrani, Timur Shah Durrani, Shuja Shah Durrani, Ghulam Muhammad Tarzi, and Khan Abdul Ghani Khan.
Pashtun men usually gather at special events and listen to Pashto poetry. There are TV programs which broadcast such events to the wider Pashtun audiences.

Music and dances

Traditional Pashto music is mostly classic ghazals, using rubab or sitar, tabla, portable harmonium, flute and several other musical instruments.
Below is a list of the main known styles of Attan in Pakistan and Afghanistan. All of these may be practiced and mixed by Pashtuns in other valleys, and it’s not uncommon to see Pashtuns of one province being better at a different region’s style. Pashto: اتڼ‎; ALA-LC Romanization: Ataṇ, also referred to as Atan or Attan, are the following:

Attan dance

Pashtun Culture

In this dance, the dancers perform to the beat of the music. It is typically performed by men and women. It involves 2–5 steps, ending with a clap given while facing the center, after which the process is repeated. The hips and arms are put in a sequential movement including left and right tilts, with the wrists twisting in sequence. Ultimately a hand is projected outward and brought in a ‘scoop-like’ fashion towards the center where the other hand meets it for a clap. This dance is typically performed with the musician dictating the duration and speed.

Khattak dance

Khattak dance, Pashtune Culture

The Khattak dance is performed by the Khattak tribe, mainly in Pakistan but also in some eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Mahsud Attan (dance)

Mahsud dance, Pashtune Culture

This is a unique dance routine using rifles performed by the Mahsud tribe of Pashtuns in South Waziristan. Originally it was performed at times of war, but later became a cultural dance. The dancers dance empty handed and require only large drums. Nowadays it is performed with guns in the dancers’ hands; loaded guns are taken in one hand, and to the beat of the drum the dancers move forward in a circle. After taking two and a half steps, each dancer turns about and cocks the gun. All the dancers do this in a uniform manner, and by completing the turning steps they fire in the air simultaneously. The sound of the guns seems to be a single big bang.

Waziri Dance

wazir dance, Pashtune Culture

Waziristan, a region of Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, is a large area and has a particular Pashtun culture. Two drummers and a flute player play a particular tune. All the Wazirs stand around them. Two people leave the circle, go dancing towards the drummers, and come back dancing in the same manner. While performing, both people turn around twice, once facing each other, and once facing the opposite direction. After doing this separately, they march while dancing to the assembled crowd. As they reach the circle, another pair of performers move forward in the same fashion.


Pashtun Culture

Pashtun men usually wear a Partūg-Kamees in Pashto (sometimes worn with a pakul or paṭkay). In the Kandahar region young men usually wear different type of hat similar to a topi and in the Peshawar region they wear white kufis instead. Leaders or tribal chiefs sometimes wear a karakul hat. The Pashtun Lūngai (or Paṭkay) is the most worn headpiece with different tribes having different styles and colours to indicate what tribe or region they come from.
Women and girls wear traditional long dresses and cover their hair with a light piece of cloth.


Pashtune cuisine, Pashtun Culture

Pashtuns are known for their large varieties of dried fruit and yogurt based dishes. Yogurt called maste is usually made by the Pashtuns themselves in their own homes. The national dish of Afghanistan is “Qabili Pilav” is served in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan as well. Chai (tea) plays a big role in Pashtun gatherings and is served with dried fruits and kulcha (biscuit). Desserts such as firni (custard) are also very popular.



Pashtun Culture, Cricket

There are numerous famous pathan players in Pakistan national cricket team, it includes Imran Khan Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Hameed, Umar Gul, Riaz Afridi.


There are numerous famous pathan players in Pakistan national football team, it includes Jadid Khan Pathan, Kaleem Ullah Khan(Kuchlak, Quetta), Aqeel khan, Muhammad Rasool, Muhammad Essa, Kaleemullah Khan (Chaman), Saad Ullah Khan


Pashtun squash player

Jahangir Khan was born into a Pashtun family originally from Neway Kelay Payan, Peshawar. During his career he won the World Open six times and the British Open a record ten times. From 1981 to 1986. He retired as a player in 1993, and has served as President of the World Squash Federation from 2002 to 2008, when he became Emeritus President.

Jansher Khan born 15 June 1969, in Peshawar, Pakistan[4]) is a former World No. 1 professional Pakistani squash player. During his career he won the World Open a record eight times, and the British Open six times.

Roshan Khan 26 November 1929 – 6 January 2006) was a squash player from Nawakille, Peshawar, Pakistan. He was one of the leading players in the game in the early-1960s, and won the British Open title in 1957.

Hashim Khan (c. 1910 to 1914 – 18 August 2014) was a squash player from Pakistan. He won the British Open Squash Championships (the then de facto world championship) a total of seven times, from 1951 to 1956, and then again in 1958. Khan was the patriarch of the Khan squash family, which dominated the sport from the 1950s through the 1980s.


Pashtun Culture, Buzkashi

Some Pashtuns in Central Asia participate in buzkashi, which is a sport introduced in the region during the Mongol period from the 13th century onward. The word buz means “goat” and kashi means “dragging” or “pulling” in the Persian language. The basic objective is to carry the headless carcass of a calf or goat around a flag and back to the starting point while on horseback with other riders trying to do the same thing by taking the carcass away. This is not a team sport, it is every man for himself, which becomes apparent as soon as the game starts. It is played on a large open dusty field which does not appear to have many boundaries. Although buskashi is primarily an individual sport, alliances are built up between various players. Between the alliances, the strongest players finally take control (or in this case the remnants of a headless calf) and ride off to victory.



Shandur Polo Festival (Urdu: شندور میلہ) is one of the big festivals in Pakistan. This festival is held from 7 to 9 July every year on Shandur Pass in Chitral District of Khyber PakhtunkhwaThe polo match is played between the teams of Chitral District and districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, is a free style game.
The initiation of Polo in Shandur is credited to The balti raja of Skardu; Ali Sher Khan Anchan who built the polo ground of Shandur as well. Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament which since 1936 has been held annually[4] in the first week of July between the local teams of Gilgit and Chitral. Organized and financed by the Tourism Corporation of KPK, the tournament is held on Shandur Top, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters. The festival also includes Folk music, dancing and a camping village is set up. The polo tournament is featured in the first episode of Himalaya with Michael Palin.