Pashtuns are the second largest ethnic group, they make up 25 percent of the total population of Pakistan. Their rich cultural tradition and literature and varied political and economic contexts, reflect familiar notions of hospitality and pride. However, nearly four decades of continuous war in our neighboring Afghanistan (1979-till date), have branded Pashtuns on both sides as aggressive and violent.The United States (US) funding to Pakistan, to fight their proxy war in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union resulted in a mushroom growth of seminaries that produced a bevy of students turned jihadists; who were deceitfully persuaded to fight the ‘holy war’. It is not a secret that the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, the US and Saudi Arabia promoted the establishment of these seminaries by using the ethnic-religio card and designed a special curriculum to ideologically control the Afghan refugee children. There is no point in rehashing the political patronage that religious parties enjoyed under the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. Also, once the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban came to power, our intelligence agencies failed in their attempt to bring all groups together, leaving Afghanistan to deal with the internecine feuds until the rise of the Taliban in 1994. As the Taliban gained popularity, they received material and moral help from the Pakistani establishment, enabling them to bring the entire state under their control.A whole generation grew up in the violent shadow of the first Afghan jihad. Despite the stereotype about Pashtuns, empirical facts state that there is no general cultural trend that can point to them as being extremists. A study by a team from Princeton, Georgetown and Stanford universities show, that Pashtun areas in Pakistan are the least supportive of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This is because the Pashtuns have paid the most, socially and economically as well. In the war, an estimated fighting force of 45,000 were on the side of the Taliban, from which only 11,000 were Pashtuns and most of them were Afghans. Hence, the damage to Pashtun nationalism was done, by none other than the state itself and its institutions. A study by a team from Princeton, Georgetown and Stanford Universities show that Pashtun areas in Pakistan are the least supportive of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This is because the Pashtuns have paid the most, both socially and economically. In the war, an estimated fighting force of 45,000 were on the side of the Taliban, from which only 11,000 were Pashtuns and most of them were AfghansStereotyping Pashtuns as rigid, violent and terrorists, is an injustice to the people who have sacrificed everything for this country. Since 2003, Pakistan has lost over 50,000 civilian in the war against terrorism. It is the second most affected country by it according to the Global Terrorism Index. A recent research conducted by the Pakistan Political Science Association (PPSA), claimed that out of the 50,000, an estimated 37,211 were Pashtuns.Another research study conducted in 2014, by Professor Luqman Saeed, who took 329 files from Counter Terrorism Wing of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), showed that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) including Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) contributed only 16% of the terrorists. This implies that Pashtuns make up a sliver of the terrorists in Pakistan. They have been systematically deprived of their right to both religious and secular leadership, due to the stigma attached to their ethnic identity. After decades of neglect and disenfranchisement, the province and the adjacent tribal areas have remained underdeveloped. Under the guise of fighting the militants, operations like Raah-e-Nijaat, Zarb-e-Azb, and Raad-ul-Fasaad, thousands have died and hundreds have been displaced. Despite this, the Pashtuns struggle to regain their glorious identity while caught between mullahs, militants and the military. Pashtuns have become synonymous as the ‘bad’ Taliban, so no wonder US drones can operate with impunity, killing hundreds of innocent people with the backing of the state. Mocking them in jokes, presenting them as terrorists is disgraceful.The media does not portray the Pashtuns in a kind light. The culture of the Pashtun people have been highlighted since the time of Herodotus (484-425 BC) or Alexander the Great, who explored Afghanistan and what is now Pakistan, around 330 BC. A group that is as old as time, their systematic profiling and stereotyping by our state is condemnable. The majority of work done by the academia around the world in recent years on Pashtuns, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has been in response to specific military or policy requirements, and does not do them justice. We as a nation, should work towards having inclusive social policies that can bring back the Pashtuns into the mainstream administration and government.The writer has a PhD in Political Science and is a civil servant based in Islamabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet@zafarkhansafdar Published in Daily Times, September 7th 2018.