Pashto is a member of the southeastern Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian
languages spoken in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. There are three main
varieties of Pashto: Northern Pashto, spoken mainly in Pakistan; Southern
Pashto, spoken mainly in Afghanistan; and Central Pashto, spoken mainly
The exact number of Pashto speakers is not known for sure, but most
estimates range from 45 million to 55 million. Pashto is the first language
of between 40% and 55% (11 to 15.4 million) of the people of Afghanistan,
and 10% to 28% (2.8 to 7.8 million) speak it as a second language, and the
total is around 18 or 19 million.
Pashto has about 25 million speakers in Pakistan (15% of the population)
in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and the provinces of Balochistan,
Mianwali, Attock, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pashto at a glance
Native name: پښتو [paʂˈto]
Alternative names: Pushtu, Pushto, Pukhto, Afghan(i)
Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Southeastern
Number of speakers: c. 45-55 million
Spoken in: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, Tajikistan
First written: 16th century
Writing system: Arabic script
Status: one of the official languages of Afghanistan
There are also communities of Pashto speakers in the northeast of Iran,
Tajikistan and India, as well as in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and a number
of other countries.
Pashto was made the national language of Afghanistan by royal decree in 1936.
Since then, the Pashto spelling system has been revised to some extent. Today
both Dari and Pashto are official languages there.
Pashto first appeared in writing during the 16th century in the form
of an account of Shekh Mali's conquest of Swat. It is written with a
version of the Arabic script. There are two standard written forms: one
based on the dialect of Kandahar, the other on the dialect of Peshawar.
The name Pashto is thought to derive from the reconstructed proto-Iranian
form, parsawā 'Persian language. In northen Afghanistan speakers
of Pashto are called Pakhtūn; in sourthen Afghanistan they
are known as Pashtūn, and as Pathān or
Afghan in Pakistan.
Pashto alphabet (د پښتو الفباء)
Pashto sample text
Də bašar ṫol afrād āzād
naṙəy tâ rāźī au də
ḥays̱iyat au ḥuqūqo lâ palwâ
sarâ barābar dī. ṫol də ʿaqəl
au wijdān ḫāwandān dī au yo lâ
bal sarâ də warorəy pâ rūḥiye
sarâ bāyad čaland kəṙī.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)