Pashtun Leaders

Today’s Pashtuns are in such a state that makes many of us feel embarrassed about our identity and our culture. It seems as if everything is standing against us, and we’re constantly being destroyed, not just by others but by our own people (Pashtuns) as well. There seems to be almost no reason for us to feel pride in ourselves, and so many of us have turned a blind eye towards working to improve ourselves and our image. However, amidst all this, we forget that perhaps a step toward working for a better future for ourselves and our people is for us to study, understand, and appreciate our past–for many reasons, including learning from it and being inspired by it. We have had some beautiful leaders throughout our history, leaders who can and should inspire us with their activities and beliefs and achievements.

This idea to introduce a major, influential Pashtun personality to my readers (both Pashtun and non-Pashtun) will inspire us all to take the time to appreciate our past and learn something from it. Understand that what we are going through today is only a page in our history; it doesn’t have to destroy us and our children.  Please understand that what I write about these personalities is intended only to spark the reader’s interest, not to discuss the leader’s entire life history and achievements.

Feel free to suggest your favorite Pashtun leaders, any Pashtun who makes you feel proud of being Pashtun. These people can be: political/social leaders, poets, singers/musicians, someone you know who has done someone beautiful and inspiring but who has not yet been recognized. Anyone. Anyone at all. We all need inspiration, and it’s time to seek it by acknowledging and thanking those who can give it to us.

Let me also point out, of course, that some of the leaders this series will cover are contemporary; they’re living right among us. Humans have a habit of celebrating and romanticizing their past and turn a blind eye towards the living legends among them, so I hope to introduce some of the influential leaders of our time as well.

I understand that many of these personalities fall under more than one category, but I have placed them under the category for which they are most appreciated and recognized.

So far, we’ve already introduced the following.

Ghani Khan (died 1996) (philosopher, poet, artist)
Khushal Khan Khattak (d. 1689) (political leader, poet)
Malalai of Maiwand (d. 1880) (may be identified as a military leader)
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (d. 1988) (political leader, spiritual leader, social activist)
Samar Minallah Khan (contemporary) (anthropologist, activist)
Bushra Gohar (contemporary) (politician)


Political Leaders

Aryan Yoon
Begum Nasim Wali Khan
Malalai Joya
Malalai Shinwari
Bushra Gohar
Jamila Gilani
Masoma Esmati Wardak
Mussarat Shafi
Peymana Assad
Queen Soraya
Sahira Sharif
Shagufta Malik
Shukria Barakzai

Social Activists / Humanitarian

Fatima Gilani
Malalai Kakar
Malala Yusufzai
Munawar Hamayun
Dr. Saba Gul Khattak
Samina Hussain
Zarghona Ana
Zubaida Khatoon

Other Leaders

Gulalai Ismail
Lubna Farooq
Shad Begum
Mussarat Ahmedzeb

Academic and Literary Figures

Nazo Tokhi (Nazo Ana)
Safia Siddiqi
Safia Haleem
Dr. Salma Shaheen
Dr. Shaheen Sardar Ali
Sharifa Sharif


Gul Sanga

Media Personalities 

Farhat Taj
Sadia Qasim
Sana Safi



Mehmood Khan Achakzai
Mirwais Hotak
Pir Rokhan

Academic and Literary

Abaseen Yusufzai
Ajmal Khattak
Dr. Rajwali Shah Khattak
Rehmat Shah Sail


Gulzar Alam
Sardar Ali Takkar

Media Personalities

Rahimullah Yusufzai
Saleem Safi
Zubair Torwali

* Suggestions for other categories and personalities are welcomed.*

[to be continued weekly. Please give me time to do this as frequently as time will permit me. Thank you for your understanding]

13 thoughts on “Pashtun Leaders

  1. Pingback: Pashtun Personality of the Week: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Non-Violent Soldier of Islam | Freedom from the Forbidden

    • Because, as I have said in the post above, the list is not intended to be comprehensive – and never will be. There are thousands more missing, too, and I’m okay with that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Pashtun Personality of the Week: Ghani Khan – Philosopher, Poet, Sculptor | Freedom from the Forbidden

    • Thank you so much for the suggestion!
      Yes, I’m working on this list, and there are so many people missing; always happy to add more!


  3. It was a blog post you wrote that introduced me to the wonderful Nghma; ‘Loy Khudaya’ blasts through my car stereo lol. But this list is important, there is now a generation who only associates Afghanistan and Pakistan with Taliban without realising that there is this rich and long history. History sets the stories straight when we engage with it.


    • Omg I LOVE that song!! As depressing as it is, it’s so powerful and true and beautiful 🙂 I like Naghma in general – she’s made some gear feminist observations, so she gets patriarchy!
      Yes, that’s a huge part of the reason I started this series … No time to work on it regularly, though 😞 InshaAllah soon …

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Pashtun Personality of the Week: Bushra Gohar – A Remarkable Leading Politician | Freedom from the Forbidden

  5. Hi orbala, can you please remove ‘Zubair Torwali’ from the list of “Pashtun Personalities”. I am surprised you have added him on the list, not only is he not a “Pakhtun”. He is also a well known social activist for the indigenous Dardic community of kpk & Pakistan. you can find his many columns and blogs where he has written extensively on the unexplored diversity of indigenous cultures /peoples, languages, education, social aid, lifestyle etc of communities in kpk./ rest of Pak.

    He has also written about the “Pashtunization” of non Pashtun people of kpk including the Torwali community who have been struggling to maintain their Culture & Heritage in the face of clear bias of promoting Pashto and Pashtun culture even on non Pashtun people by KPK authorities.

    This fact I mentioned to you about 7 months ago in December 23 2014 issue. where I said that non Pashtuns form a major component of kpk and kpk is as much as their land as Pashtuns perhaps even more due to historical significance of Indic civilisations/peopleS of which Dardics are a part of.

    You also dismissed this when I told you that just adding “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” by some shrewd ANP politicians will not lead to improvement but only more backlash. You know? there is a reason why Gilgit-Baltistan is known as Gilgit-Baltistan. Its because of Geography & Population in GB. Most Dardics are Sunni and are concentrated in the south of GB including Gilgit where as most Baltis & others are Shia and are concentrated in the north or east like Hunza. They are Split 40-20 between ismailis and Isna Asheri. The other 40% are Sunni. As a compromise the name “Gilgit-Baltistan” was agreed for the new province in 2009.

    “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” denotes none of that and is a straight up slap towards community cohesion in the former nwfp by some malicious Pashtun nationalists. i.e. every time a terrorist attack happens in Peshawar (a cosmopolitan city), they will say that only Pashtuns died and every else in rest of Pakistan was just watching them die & not care, which is not true.

    This link up with the name “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” and the notion that everyone who lives or dies in kpk is a “Pakhtun” is what I am strongly against! Therefore when ever I hear a name from kpk or other areas of Pakistan which some people automatically assume to be Pakhtun I look twice to ascertain the Truth.

    So please next time make sure the person you have with you is a “pakhtun” by having his background properly checked. its not only Pashtuns that sometimes wrongly label people as of their own races. Others can also get this wrong such as Dilip Kumar or some Punjabis or other ethnicities wrongly claiming Pashtun descent which is sometimes the case but often not proven.


    • No. I’m not going to remove him just because you don’t approve of his opinion or his identity as a Pukhtun. There happen to be a lot of Pukhtuns who don’t “practice” Pukhtunwali according to your understandings of it – that doesn’t make them not-Pukhtuns. Shahrukh Khan, for example, or Madhubala.


  6. Pingback: Pashtun Personality of the Week: Malalai of Maiwand, the Heroine of the Second Anglo-Afghan War | Freedom from the Forbidden

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