Tribal police: ‘Nanawatay’ on foriegn tourists first in Pashtun history

Nanawatay in Khyber

PESHAWAR: In an unusual occurrence in tribal history, foreign visitors experienced the tradition of ‘Nanawatai’ for the first time. The story started when two Russian tourists claimed on August 26, that they were stopped by police in Jamrud, District Khyber. Viral pictures of the incidence show the female tourist in tears.

Social media was quick to declare it a case of harassment of the tourists at the hands of local police.

Facing intense criticism, Khyber police came up with an explanation revealing that the male tourist was from Russia and the female was a Kazakh citizen. Both were trying to cross into Afghanistan via Torkham, but due to incomplete travel documents, they were sent back to Peshawar from Khyber.

“The female tourist was crying out of fear during the scrutiny if her documents,” police maintained while adding that the couple was treated “as guests” and sent back safely to Peshawar.

Serious crimes and offenses like murder have been pardoned through this practice across Pashtun history

Fearing a reputational damage, the district police also decided to hold a “Nanawatay” for the foreign tourist couple to make up for the misunderstanding.


Nanawatay is a term in Pashtunwali, the traditional ethical code of the Pashtuns, referring to a person seeking forgiveness and pardon for their mistakes. It is a customary practice to accept ‘Nanawatay’, forgiving the individual who seeks it. Even serious crimes and offenses like murder have been pardoned through this practice across Pashtun history.

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Often, during the traditional practice, the one seeking forgiveness brings along a sheep or a goat as a token of good will and repentance. Once the ‘Nanawatai’ is accepted, the animal is slaughtered and shared among the both parties and those mediating the situation.


The aggrieved couple was invited to the residence of police officer Amin Akbar Afridi in Godar, Jamrud, located in Khyber’s historic bazaar. In their honor, a traditional ‘Nanawatai’ was conducted where a sheep was slaughtered. Local residents, along with journalists, attended the event.

The guests were treated to traditional Pashtun dishes and beverages, and also enjoyed folk music played on the rabab and drum.

The tourists expressed their appreciation for the hospitality and warmth of the people of Khyber while forgiving the police officers.

“We have no resentment in our hearts; we are happy and invite all foreign tourists to visit these historical places.”

Aggrieved tourists

They acknowledged the initial inconvenience but emphasized the love and warmth they felt from the tribal people.

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