Some years ago while working on an academic project with Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, I noticed a small book on the shelf. I began leafing through it and was fascinated with what I found. It was an old worn copy of Ahmed’s book Mataloona: Pukhto Proverbs that, I discovered, dated back to the early 1970s and had been out of print for decades. The book was a collection of proverbs of the Pukhtun people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What jumped out at me immediately was the evident care that was taken in assembling the collection: It was clearly a labor of love. The proverbs were presented in the Pukhto language, translated into English by Ahmed with additional explanations of their meaning in English, and finally equivalent sayings and proverbs were included from international sources ranging from Italian culture to the Bible to English writers and poets like Shakespeare and Wordsworth. This method did a few things. It presented a unique insight into the culture of the Pukhtun, it allowed non-Pukhtuns, whether English speakers inside or outside South and Central Asia, to appreciate the proverbs and their meaning, and it additionally captured, with the inclusion of the equivalent sayings, something that was universal to humanity as human beings grapple with similar moral issues and experiences. For example, the Pukhtun proverb “On this side the staff, on that side the panther” was grouped with the comparable saying “between the devil and the deep blue sea.” So, when Ahmed told me recently that Mataloona (Proverbs) was being republished by Oxford University Press, I was thrilled. People would once again be able to access this work of insight and wisdom of the Pukhtun people (also known as Pashtun and Pathan), who number around 50 million and live in a crucially important part of the world. With the United States and the Western powers attempting to withdraw military forces from Afghanistan amidst the ongoing Afghan peace process, and the importance of both Pakistan’s role in this process and its relations with its own Pukhtun population in areas like the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, an understanding of the Pukhtun is crucial. The Pukhtun are also the largest ethnic tribal nation in the world and understanding them also gives us insight into peoples who identify as tribal with certain characteristics such as being in often difficult to access areas like mountains, living by a code of honor, being resistant to central authority structures, and the importance of values such as hospitality, egalitarianism, honesty, practicality, courage, and revenge. The book includes proverbs such as, “The Pukhtoon who took revenge after a hundred years said I took it quickly”; “To honour his word, the Pukhtoon will give his life”; “Who calls himself a Khan is not a Khan”; “Good health means permanent ‘Eid’”; “When a tree becomes old every spirit/calamity nests for the night in it”; “An hour’s luck is preferable to a hundred days on the throne”; and “One mountain does not go to another, but man goes to his fellow man (for aid).”I was moreover pleased that the new book not only includes Mataloona but another work on the Pukhtun, this time a classic study that is a century old—Mizh: A Monograph on Government’s Relations with the Mahsud Tribe by the senior British colonial administrator Sir Evelyn Howell. The story of how Mizh, meaning “we” or “ourselves,” came to be published by Oxford University Press in the first place back in the late 1970s is also, like Mataloona, a labor of love on Ahmed’s part. While serving as the Political Agent, the senior Pakistani government official in the Pukhtun area of South Waziristan on the Afghan border, Ahmed found an old faded copy of the monograph. It had been written by Howell as a study of the relationship between the British colonial government and a single Pukhtun tribe, the important and influential Mahsud tribe. The state, recognizing that this tribe was among the most difficult to administer, devoted an internal study to the topic and discussed the behavior of the sub-clans of the tribe, the tribal elders and leadership, the political organization of the tribe, and the role of religious leaders in tribal life and relations with the government. For example, there is a great deal of discussion on Mulla Powinda, the Mahsud religious leader who led an insurgency against the British government in the late nineteenth century and is described by Howell as “a champion of his tribe’s independence.” This proved of great interest to Ahmed because at that time he was also representing government authority in its relationship with the same people decades later. The difference was he was not administering on behalf of a colonial power but the independent nation of Pakistan, a Muslim government official administering Muslim citizens. Even so, he recognized certain important patterns and continuities in government’s relationship with the Pukhtun and specifically the Mahsud, who, as Ahmed found, remained resistant to state rule. How to administer in that region effectively without leading to a serious crisis and violence would require a great deal of tact, strategy, and most importantly knowledge of and empathy for the people themselves. There was much to learn from the rich context and background provided in Mizh, and Ahmed was able to successfully have the book published by Oxford so a wider audience could benefit from it.There was also a personal connection. Ahmed had met Howell as a student at Cambridge University, but he had no idea that some time later he would be in Howell’s shoes administering the Pukhtun of the Pakistani frontier. Ahmed would also meet and strike up a friendship with Sir Olaf Caroe, another former senior colonial British official in the Pukhtun region and author of a book on the history of the Pukhtun. Caroe’s original preface to Mataloona from the 1970s is included in the new book. While Ahmed was born as a colonized subject of the British prior to independence, he found in these administrators, elderly at the time he knew them, an affection for the Pukhtun and a nostalgia for their time of service in the Pukhtun areas which belied how difficult their assignments actually were. In Ahmed’s new introduction for this collection, he cites Howell’s exchange with Mahsud elders from Mizh, in which Howell told them that British government officials were “custodians of civilisation dealing with barbarians.” The elders responded, “A civilisation has no other end than to produce a fine type of man. Judged by this standard the social system in which the Mahsud has been evolved must be allowed immeasurably to surpass all others. Therefore let us keep our independence and have none of your ‘qanun’ [law] and your other institutions which have wrought such havoc in British India, but stick to our own ‘riwaj’ [custom] and be men like our fathers before us.” Howell concludes that he actually agreed with them and their “plea.” Since the time the book was last published, some four decades ago, much has occurred in Waziristan and the Pukhtun region of Pakistan. The same year Ahmed facilitated the publishing of Mizh, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, sending mass numbers of Afghans over the border into Pakistan and providing a host of challenges. There followed the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan among the Pukhtun, and after 9/11 and the start of the “war on terror” in Pakistan, the interest of the Pakistani state, and indeed the world, through modern technologies such as the American drone, were focused on the Pukhtun border region and tribes like the Mahsud. Where the Pakistani state had previously had a light footprint in many Pukhtun areas, in the new era government involvement, and also conflict, increased exponentially, as the Mahsud emerged to lead a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant rebellion against the Pakistan state with leaders like Baitullah Mahsud and Hakimullah Mahsud. There was a massive impact on the ordinary Pakistani Pukhtun citizens who struggled to survive as millions were displaced in the fighting. New organizations like the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM) arose from the Mahsud tribe in the turmoil with a civil rights platform that challenged state actions, beginning its life as the Mahsud Tahaffuz Movement. This is all to say that in this environment the republishing of this historical study of the Mahsud, given how important they remain in Pakistan, is highly welcome, timely, and useful. They even, Ahmed reminds us in his new forward, dominate the transport system of Karachi, seen as the “greatest Pukhtun city” because so many Pukhtun live there.It is wonderful that Mataloona and Mizh are being republished. As Ahmed wrote in his introduction to Mataloona, the proverbs are “part of the atmosphere of the land” of the Pukhtun and capture “the magic of the mountains, the joy and zest for life, the grim reality of poverty, the warmth of hospitality, and the priceless charm of wisdom.” When coupled with the political and historical perspective offered in Mizh, we have a unique gem of a collection about the Pukhtun. With the publication of Mataloona and Mizh: Pukhtun Proverbs and a Frontier Classic, both works are thereby preserved for the next generation of Pukhtun—especially the youth connecting with their history and culture, the political leadership of the Pukhtun and the Pakistani state whose job it is to deal with the Pukhtun, scholars, and nations that have relationships with Pakistan and Afghanistan and seek to promote stability in the region. I am hopeful it and works like it that promote knowledge can assist the Pukhtun effort to seek dignity, security, opportunity, and preserve their identity in a difficult and uncertain time, as well as advancing the cause of peace and an improved relationship between the Pakistani state and its Pukhtun citizens. Frankie Martin is an Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC and a PhD candidate in the university’s Department of Anthropology.