Best Defense

A better explanation than Churchill’s of the Pashtun worldview: We make men!

A Canadian reader writes in to respond to the quotation I ran from Churchill about Pashtuns. He argues this is a better one, and I agree. He writes: — By Laeeque K. Daneshmend Best Defense guest columnist Evelyn Howell writes this in the preface of his monograph "Mizh," first published in 1929. Howell had been ...

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A Canadian reader writes in to respond to the quotation I ran from Churchill about Pashtuns. He argues this is a better one, and I agree. He writes:

By Laeeque K. Daneshmend
Best Defense guest columnist

Evelyn Howell writes this in the preface of his monograph "Mizh," first published in 1929. Howell had been the "Resident Political Agent" in South Waziristan during the mid-1920s:

"I spoke above of political agents as the custodians of civilization. Against this definition, if he were to hear it, I am sure that Mehr Dad, or any other intelligent Mahsud malik, would emphatically protest. Their argument, which is not altogether in the sub-conscious plane, may be stated thus —

‘A civilization has no other end than to produce a fine type of man. Judged by this standard, the social system in which the Mahsud has been evolved must be allowed immeasurably to surpass all others. Therefore let us keep our independence and have none of your qanun [law (and order)] and your other institutions which have wrought such havoc in British India, but stick to our own riwaj [(tribal) custom] and be men like our fathers before us.’

After prolonged and intimate dealings with the Mahsuds I am not at all sure that, with reservations, I do not subscribe to their plea."

Laeeque K. Daneshmend is a professor at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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