Azmat Tanha

BUNER: The centuries-old tradition of ‘Ashar’ is still alive in some areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakhtuns are known world over for their strong attachment to their culture, traditions and norms. Like the traditions of hujra, goodar and other traditions, Pakhtuns have also kept alive the centuries-old tradition of Ashar in which members of society help others in their work without consideration for monetary or any other favour in return.

Like the Pakhtuns’ local system of community welfare, the western countries through different NGOs have also set up community committees which work for community welfare. It shows that Pakhtuns have always provided guidance to the world for harmony and brotherhood and they are a peaceful community.

Under the tradition of Ashar, Pakhtuns help each other in construction work, farming and other collective works. The start and end of each kind of Ashar is almost similar. However, the Ashar of farming is unique as all the members go for the help of the host to the fields early in the morning and their women go to the house of the host to prepare meal for the male members. Participants of Ashar are served breakfast at 10:00am, lunch and Zuhr prayer break is observed from 1:30 to 2:30pm and tea is again served before evening. Then comes a heavy dinner in which the host often slaughters a cattle for the guests and all of them sit collectively to enjoy the occasion.

Meanwhile, local musicians also play music during day-time to provide entertainment to the participants of Ashar. Such musicians are present in almost every village. Sometimes a specific day is specified for Ashar to make sure availability of more people for work. The tradition is alive especially in Malakand and Hazara divisions and tribal districts. Musicians use different instruments in different areas according to their own specific cultural practices. In some areas, people also used to resort to festive firing to celebrate the occasion, but this practice is gradually coming to an end due to increasing population and dangers associated with the practice.

In Amazai area of Buner, a specific smoke is generated for the participants of Ashar in order to ‘protect them from bad eye’. After the daylong work, people sit in the evening and enjoy the local music and dance while taking tea.

Ashar is a tradition based on the principle of harmony and brotherhood. It promotes thinking of collective benefit and societal building.