Afghanistan: Pashtun 'Badal' (retaliation)
The hospital's registration book showed that ten civilian casualties, including six children aged 8 to 12, had been admitted on Wednesday morning. There were many more casualties, survivors said. But they claimed that the roads were sealed by Nato troops and that the wounded had escaped across the fields.
Last night one official claimed that as many as 85 civilians had been killed in air strikes and mortar bombardments around the settlement of Zangawat, in the Panjwayi district of the city. If confirmed, it would be the highest civilian death toll in an operation involving Western forces since the US-led invasion in 2001. Read more
The Pukhtoon social structure, which has attracted the attention of many a scholar is mainly governed by conventions and traditions and a code of honour known as "Pukhtoonwali". This un-written code is the keystone of the arch of the Pukhtoons' social fabric. It exercises a great influence on their actions and has been held sacrosanct by them generation after generation. The Pukhtoonwali or the Pukhtoon code of honour embraces all the activities from the cradle to the grave.
To my mind death is better than life
when life can no longer be held with honour
(Khushal Khan Khattak)
Self-respect and sensitivity to insult is another essential trait of Pukhtoon character. The poorest among them has his own sense of dignity and honour and he vehemently refuses to submit to any insult. In fact every Pukhtoon considers himself equal if not better than his fellow tribesmen and an insult is, therefore, taken as scurrilous reflection on his character. An insult is sure to evoke insult and murder is likely to lead to a murder.
Badal (retaliation) and blood feuds generally emanate from intrigue with women, murder of one of the family members or their hamsayas, violation of Badragga, slight personal injury or insult or damage to property. Any insult is generally resented and retaliation is exacted in such cases.
A Pukhtoon believes and acts in accordance with the principles of Islamic Law i.e. an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and blood for blood. He wipes out insult with insult regardless of cost or consequence and vindicates his honour by wiping out disgrace with a suitable action. But the urge for Badal does not mean that he is savage, blood thirsty or devoid of humane qualities. He is kind, affectionate, friendly and magnanimous and forgives any one who kills his relatives by a mistake but he will not allow any intentional murder go unavenged. Proud of his descent, he becomes offensive only when an insult is hurled at him or some injury is done to him deliberately. He goes in search of his enemy, scans the surrounding area and hills, lies in wait for months and years, undergoes all hardships but does not feel content till his efforts of wreaking vengeance on his enemy are crowned with success. Those who fail to fulfil the obligations of Pukhto (self-respect) by wiping out insult with insult, lose their prestige in the eyes of their compatriots, render themselves liable to Paighore (reproach) and earn an unfair name. According to Nang-e-Pakhto or code of honour an unavenged injury is the deepest shame and the honour of the person can be redeemed only by a similar action. It may, however, be noted that "there is little if any random crime or violence" in the tribal areas as the stakes are too high and the retribution too certain to follow.
Many daring stories of Badal or retaliation are recorded by European as well as Asian writers but one such story showing Pukhtoons' strong urge for Badal has been related by Mrs Starr. She writes, "once an old man with a white beard and hair and eyes filmy with cataract came into the out patient hall, and when his turn came to see the doctor, he said "I am old but give me sight that I may use a gun again. To the doctors query he replied in quite a placid and natural manner: "I have not taken the exchange (revenge) for my sons' death sixteen years ago."
Another famous story of revenge, as told by T.C. Pennell, is that a Pathan girl who approached a court of law for justice but the judge expressed his inability to prosecute the offender for his imputed crime due to lack of ample evidence. This enraged the girl and she said in fit of anger, "Very well, I must find my own way". She went in search of the murderer of her brother "who had escaped the justice of the law but not the hand of the avenger". She "concealed a revolver on her person and coming up to her enemy in the crowded bazar, shot him point blank".
Sometimes a Pukhtoon becomes so sentimental that he vows not to take a meal with his right hand and sleep on ground instead of a charpaee (bedstead) until he has avenged the wrong done to him. Pukhtoon history is replete with many examples of Badal and there are instances where a child born a few months even after the murder of his father has, wreaked vengeance on his enemy after patiently waiting for many years.
The obligation of Badal rests with the aggrieved party and it can be discharged only by action against the aggressor or his family. In most cases the aggressor is paid in the same coin. If no opportunity presents itself "he may defer his revenge for years, but it is disgraceful to neglect or abandon it entirely, and it is incumbent on his relations, and sometimes on his tribe, to assist him in his retaliation". When a Pukhtoon discovers that his dishonour is generally known, he prefers to die an honourable death rather than live a life of disgrace. He exercises the right of retribution with scant regard for hanging and transportation and only feels contented after avenging the insult.
db: How does NATO spot the difference between 'Badal' and an 'Islamofascist/terrorist/evil doer' ? They don't. Because a dead Afghan is a Taliban Afghan. That's the rule. It may be 50 today, 100 tomorrow, 300 Tuesday - they are always Taliban.
'We' bombed his village and killed his kids - and when he came after 'us' we killed him too. But will that be the end of it?