Pashtuns are identified by several related names. ‘Afghan', which denotes a citizen of Afghanistan in the juridical sense, is interchangeable with ‘Pashtun'.
Many Pashtuns in northwestern Pakistan are conscious of their ethnic identity and still identify themselves in official documents as ‘Afghan' - a practice that originated in the raj. ‘Pathan', a corruption of the native ‘Pakhtun' used in the subcontinent, identified the Pashtuns in British colonial ethnography.
This term of usage has been declining. Many Pashtun leaders and intellectuals view their people as among the most maligned of the 21st century. This is because their lands have been transformed into a staging ground for a global conflict that has entangled some of the world's most powerful regular and private armies.
But little attention is paid to understanding the modern Pashtun, in his own environment.
Since September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes in US, Pashtun communities in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have paid a heavy price for such erroneous descriptions.
A vast majority of them have almost become mere adjuncts, watching from the sidelines as local and foreign Islamist extremists and outsiders who came to fight them fundamentally alter existing order through violence.
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