This study reflects on Pakhtun sense of belonging and suggests a complex and dynamic process of identification that involves multiple aspects. The multilayered, contextual and contested identification process among Pakhtuns indicates segmentary ethnicity that has intra ethnic, inter ethnic and national aspects. It argues that the literature on Pakhtun identity highlights the internal stratification and ecological variation amongst Pakhtuns but stop short of establishing any relationship between this internal stratification and the process of identification. The literature also fails to see the significance of the continuous and progressive identification of Pakhtuns with Pakistan and Islam. Focusing on generative processes (internal and external identification) in time of flux this thesis remains contemporary in its approach to ethnicity and identity. It also contributes to the debate in Social Anthropology about the relative emphasis on ‘boundary’ or the ‘cultural stuff’. The research focuses on Malakand in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Pakistan), which in its changing administrative status has hybridity of the ‘autonomous’ Tribal Areas and ‘governed’ Settled Districts. Such transforming status has a greater significance to investigate identity processes in time of flux and in the context of Pakhtun ecological variation. I have argued in this study that Pakhtuns in Malakand categorize each other as Khanan and Ghariban in times of socio economic change. These categories in reciprocal opposition maintain categorical boundary through a meaning system that is informed by particular patterns of social conduct. The two categories are also involved in contextual contestation over the ethnic identity i.e who is Pakhtun? The contestation involves alternative emphasis on ascribed and performing aspects of Pakhtunness in local and non local contexts. Pakhtuns also reflect on their Pakistani and Muslim identities in a progressive way. Although Pakhtun identity remains primary in relation to Pakistani identity, they do perceive themselves as belonging to a multi ethnic Pakistani identity. The non ideological and non sectarian Muslim identity remains significant to Pakhtuns. However, the current religious unrest in the region has generated a discourse that reconsiders the relationship between Pakhtun cultural code and Islam. The thesis thus concludes that dynamic identification processes among Pakhtuns of Pakistan indicate multilayered, contested and contextual Pakhtunness. This also alludes to the segmentary nature of ethnicity and the complexity of relationship between ethnicity and Islam in Pakistan.\u
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