Pashtoon society is oftentimes seen as a fragmented society, as Relphy Favre wrote in Interface between State and Society in Afghanistan. Much of this has occurred due to poor socio-economic and political development, which may be explained – at least in part – by the concept of Qawm.
A Qawm is a linguistic group – regardless of ethnicity, a tribe, a clan, a family lineage, or any other description of kinship. Qawm can be defined by location, such as a village or region, or a shared Watan (Homeland). A Qawm may even be based on occupation (for example military, agriculture, sole trader ship). More broadly speaking, a Qawm may be regarded as an ethnic group, an affinity with almost any kind of social group. Qawm essentially divides Pashtoons and help to distinguish member of one large ethnic or tribal group or one clan or village from another.
One can find a lot of tribes or ethnic groups within Pashtoon society. Some of the famous Pashtoon tribes include Yousfzai, Muhmand, Ghilzai, Afridi, Lodhi, Soori, Niyazi, Mandukhail, Masood, Kakarh, Mya, Syed, Kakakhail, Marwat, Sahibzada, and Durani.
In the event of rivalry, members of each Qawm are supposed to help each other, irrespective of whether they are right or wrong. This kind of relationship between people in the tribe is referred to as Qawmi Taroon (Tribal Bonding). During the Afghan war and its aftermath, Afghan War-Lords exploited this trend by engaging members of tribes in the war so that the rest of the tribe followed their lead automatically. The logic behind the cohesive concept of Qawm may be understood with the help of a Pashto idiom that translates as: “It is me against my brothers; it is my brothers and me against our cousins; and it is our cousins, my brothers and me against the world.”