The Economist surveys the luridly interesting moral code of the largest Afghan tribe:
As a reporter for the Daily Telegraph, attached to the Malakand Field Force, Winston Churchill wrote: “Their system of ethics, which regards treachery and violence as virtues rather than vices, has produced a code of honour so strange and inconsistent that it is incomprehensible to a logical mind.” ...
“Any man who loses his honour must be completely ostracised,” said Sandaygul, a long-beard of the Mangal tribe in Afghanistan's south-eastern Paktia province. “No one would congratulate him on the birth of child. No one would marry his daughter. No one would attend his funeral. His disgrace will endure for generations. He and his family must move away.” In Pushtu, to be disgraced means literally to be an outsider.
There are infinite ways to slight a Pushtun's nang, but most involve zar, zan or zamin: gold, women or land. The search tactics of American troops in Afghanistan, five years after they invaded the country, tend to offend on all counts. By forcing entry into the mud-fortress home of a Pushtun, with its lofty buttresses and loopholes, they dishonour his property. By stomping through its female quarters, they dishonour his women. Worse, the search may end with the householder handcuffed and dragged off before his neighbours: his person disgraced. America and its allies face a complicated insurgency in Afghanistan, driven by many factors. But such tactics are among them.
His honour besmirched—and here's the problem for the Americans—a Pushtun is obliged to have his revenge, or badal... According to a Pushtu saying: “A Pushtun waited 100 years, then took his revenge. It was quick work.”
In addition, the honourable Pushtun embraces two obligations. He will offer hospitality, malmastai, to anyone needing it. And he will give sanctuary, nanawatai, to whoever requests it. Stories of extreme generosity are common in Pushtun places. Near the village of Saidkhail, in the Zadran tribal area of eastern Khost province, a wandering Islamic student, or talib, killed a man with a knife, recounts Mohammed Omar Barakzai, the deputy minister for tribal affairs. The talib knocked on the nearest door and said to the woman who opened it: “I have killed a man. Shelter me.” She let him in. And sure enough, to trim an elegantly told tale, the murdered man was the woman's son. “I am a Pushtun and have given this man refuge,” the woman told her blood-lusting husband and brothers. “Take him to safety.” [More]