Pakistanis are just like Indians (not that there's anything wrong with it)

By Razib Khan | September 20, 2010 9:45 pm

In the comments below a strange conversation grew out of the politicized nature of Pakistani identity, and its relationship to India the nation-state, and India the civilization. I assume that a typical reader, or more accurately commenter, on this weblog would be sanguine if they found out they were 10% chimpanzee. After all, it’s what’s between your ears that really matters, not who your ancestors were. I do understand that some readers have strong genealogical-nationalist interests in human population genetics, and that’s fine so long as you don’t presume that the rest of us share such priorities (this is a problem for some commenters, so please be aware that I get annoyed when you project this way, though it’s obviously not a banning offense).

But readers who come via search engines are a different case, and that’s why I’ve started to get worried about over-reading of PCA and such. Nevertheless, I do think PCA can answer the question of whether there is any real genetic discontinuity between Pakistanis and Indians. The answer is no. Page 19 of Reich et al. supplement 1 includes in the HGDP Pakistani populations in their plot of genetic variation of Indian groups. I’ve added some labels, but the top-line is rather clear. AP = Andhara Pradesh, UP = Uttar Pradesh, GUJ = Gujarat and RAJ = Rajasthan. I assume Ind. and Pak. abbreviations are self-evident.


nature08365-s119

Obviously it isn’t strictly true that Pakistanis are just like Indians. But, Pakistanis are pretty much exactly where you’d expect from their position in relation to India. There is only a small component of recent Persian or Central Asian ancestry, as evident by the relative closeness of Muslim Pakistanis with Hindu groups, who would presumably lack this component. The point of this post isn’t to vindicate or refute a particular political position, it’s to reinforce what’s been pretty clear from genetics over the past generation.

P.S. Just a small warning, if you leave a crazy comment, I’m not going to publish it!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics
MORE ABOUT: India, Pakistan
  • Ian

    Now if only someone could have plotted the Gypsy samples from the other day against this dataset…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    fwiw, i’m sharing genes with someone who is 50% roma and 50% slavic (mostly serbian, but a little russian), and he’s on the border of southern and western european clusters on HGDP. firmly in the european cluster.

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  • gcochran

    “would be sanguine if they found out they were 10% chimpanzee”

    I bet not.

  • Ian

    I’d love to be able to plug my own genetics into a world map and see where I’d fall. I’m half Indian Trinidadian (mostly UP/Bihar ‘Pathan’, but with an allegedly Kashmiri Hindu great-great grandfather and his “very dark” wife…though my father looks like he has some ‘Mongoloid’ ancestry) and half German. Just fun to try to figure out where you’d fall on a scatter plot like that, though result would probably mostly say something about how the clustering algorithm deals with odd data, rather than telling me that I should join the Kurdish resistance in Turkey. :)

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Disagree with title “Pakistanis are just like Indians”.

    Pakistanis are Indians.

    We only differ on two (fundamental) points; what is the definition of India and the political arrangements within India.

    There was never any doubt that we were Indians but obviously the last 50yrs (and Bangladesh independence) have spurred on a distinct Pakistani identity (which is built on not-Indian). The boundaries of true India must have once reached deep inside Afghanistan now its arguable whether it is at Peshawar or Indus/Derajat; another century of sovereign independence and then it will be firmly at the Indo-Pak border, which would be rather sad.

    I remember growing up in ISB that the only thing India meant for me was Mughal and when we were watching Aladdin a kid explaining to me how “our people” (the Arabs) actually pronounced the name. Anyhow I should send this gene chart to my Quresh friends (every other Punjabi is a Quresh I tell ya) and gently explain that most likely they are Khatri converts.

    Finally Pakistanis are quite “arrogant”, sniffing down on other South Asians but complaining when they are sniffed down by Middle Easterners. Either way I think Pakistan is an interesting (and controversial) topic because we have a large diaspora, large nation, hitched to a growing superpower and our identity question is continually perplexing to one and all. Everyone claims to have an answer for it but still no one solution has been found.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Finally Pakistanis are quite “arrogant”, sniffing down on other South Asians but complaining when they are sniffed down by Middle Easterners.

    i don’t think that is a major issue, from what i can tell most south asians accept that pakistanis are better looking because they’re whiter. doesn’t seem to matter how luxuriant the mustaches of your women get because of the iranian blood, as long as it makes them light :-) of course the racial complex is kind of obnoxious in the west, because you’re just another bunch of sand n*****s here (this can be generalized to brownz in here in the west).

    but if pakistan keeps sucking on social metrics and bizarre stuff like painting “kafir” on people’s tombs keeps popping up, i think other brownz will start looking down on pakistanis despite the population’s perceived physical endowments. after all, punjab in india is a wealthy state.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Either way I think Pakistan is an interesting (and controversial) topic because we have a large diaspora, large nation, hitched to a growing superpower and our identity question is continually perplexing to one and all. Everyone claims to have an answer for it but still no one solution has been found.

    pakistan has a nuclear bomb. if it didn’t, i don’t think we’d (americans) would care as much.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    I was thinking more about the Desi community fascination with Pak.

    Anyway I think this whole “colour consciousness” thing is completely ridiculous but unfortunately so deeply ingrained in desi psyches. Conversely Dalit power in India is a positive sign because as Ambedkar says the case of caste discrimination is very overt and discussed constantly in Hindu society whereas in Muslim society “egalitarianism” (rather than myth of it) obscures any serious conversation and is answered by platitudes like Muslims pray together. I know it because I used to believe it but now its time for the South Asian “Ajlafs” to actually reassert the Indianess and indigenous of the Muslim community and knock some sense back. Its so much like Latin America not funny.

    The funny thing is that then we complain about Western discrimination; the contradiction abounds. If “white is right” then erm who’s the whitest of them all, our ex-colonial conquerors of course.

    Its a sign of the cultural immaturity of the “Rest” that they place such a premium on light skin. It reminds me so much of “Muslim defensiveness” whereby the West has to apologise but Muslims are not accountable for their actions. Brings to mind your earlier post, couple of weeks ago, about how the “ethnics” are not accountable for their actions.

  • Prasad

    North, east and south india cluster separately on such charts but sit close together. You are right – the only reason thats remarkable is due to the political discourse. If geography were the only point to consider, this is hardly a remarkable statistic

    As a comparison, I thought of this blog post on the han chinese genetic structure.
    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2009/11/wo-papers-on-genetic-structure-of-han.html
    “At a very local scale within the Guangdong province, we observed evidence of population structure among dialect groups, probably on account of endogamy within these dialects”

    Residing and working in Singapore, I meet many Chinese and notice the truth of that statement many a time. Its fascinating they find it just as difficult to discuss these differences out of the context of national politics – they freely admit differences between jap, korean and chinese but find it more difficult to accept differences in tibet, xinjiang or even sichuan vs mandarin.

  • Ian

    Missed this post from August http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/08/pca-razib-around-the-world-a-little/

    Seems you anticipated and answered my comment over a month ago. Now I feel like the student who, as soon as you’re finished explaining a topic, asks exactly the thing you just finished explaining. And all the other students in class roll their eyes, because everyone knows that student hasn’t been paying attention.

  • onur

    Pakistanis are Indians.

    So too are overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and most Nepalese, though I think we should deal with Pakistan as a country with two main etnic constituents: Indo-Aryans and Iranians (including Pashtuns and the Baloch) and should regard Iranian Pakistanis as different from Indians (though surely not different from Indians as much as Tibetans).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    , though I think we should deal with Pakistan as a country with two etnic constituents: Indo-Aryans and Iranians (including Pashtuns and the Baloch among others) and should regard Iranian Pakistanis as different from Indians (though not different from Indians as much as Tibetans).

    do you have real experience with how pakistanis view these sorts of divisions? from the outside the linguistic divide is pretty obvious, but there are other implicit variates besides language which many find of use. linguistically pashtuns share more with the dari speaking tajiks, but i have heard it said that pashtuns really span the iranian-central asian world and south asian, rather than being closer to the iranian-central asian world as language alone would tell you. similarly, the brahui are closest to the baloch socioculturally, despite their dravidian language.

    also, sri lanka is a peculiar case. it is clearly part of greater south asia, but unlike pakistan and bangladesh its separation as a political unit isn’t artificial. like england the islanders have a separate sense of themselves from mainlanders, and importantly the sinhalese are proud of being adherents of theravada buddhism when no one else is south asia is (except for neo-buddhist converts among dalits).

  • omar

    I disagree with Zachary about the border between “Indian and non-Indian” being firmly established at the Pakistan border in a hundred years. Their may BE no border, or the whole place may have turned to glass after a thermonuclear exchange, but IF the border is still there, the two countries will still look like cousins, recognizably the same family and equally recognizably distinct from Afghans and Persians.
    What I am saying is that Punjab and Sindh are not going to lose their “Indianness” because it runs too deep and because the links have never been severed as totally as advertised. Religion alone does not define Indian or non-Indian. What will they become if they are no longer “Indian”? My contention is that they would continue to be Indic cultures that are no longer part of the modern Indian state, but their food, their language, their films, their literature, their history, their family structure, their whole way of life, will remain visibly Indian; not just in the sense that remnants of Indian culture will survive, but in that they will display a lot of the NEW fashions to come out of India as well (closer to North India and East Punjab, of course)….the clothes, the fashions, the music, the slang, the weddings, the sports. And some of the traffic will be in the other direction as well.
    More to the point (and perhaps less familiar to someone not looking closely) very concrete things like who they do business with and how they do it, who they trade with, what the state structures look like, what the education system looks like, even what the army looks like, what the judiciary looks like, all of this IS, and will remain, similar …and foreigners will still wonder why they insist its not the same…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    omar, u may be right, but remember that once-upon-a-time there was a turkic world from western anatolia to transoxiana. the rise of the safavids, their turn to shiism, fractured that continuous identity between the turks of iran and those of anatolia, and now what became azeris are very much iranians and identify with iranian nation and not the turks of turkey.

  • onur

    I was thinking in terms of language, common pagan past (Hinduism for Indo-Aryans, Ancient Iranian religion for Iranians) and also genetics (Iranian peoples are clearly distinct from Indo-Aryan peoples genetically, though that difference may be less distinct among boundary populations).

  • miko

    pakistanis make more delicious kebab–karim’s in old delhi be damned. there i said it..

  • onur

    but remember that once-upon-a-time there was a turkic world from western anatolia to transoxiana. the rise of the safavids, their turn to shiism, fractured that continuous identity between the turks of iran and those of anatolia

    Connection between Anatolia and Iran and beyond was close to nil after the rise of the Safavids, but it isn’t clear how strong it was before the rise of the Safavids due to the paucity of documentation of so relatively early times. East Anatolia seems to be a part of the Azerbaijani Turkic world before the rise of the Safavids, while Central, North, South and West Anatolia were apparently distinct from the Azerbaijani Turkic world already before the rise of the Safavids.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    @ Omar I was thinking this.

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/irfan-husain-the-rise-of-mehran-man-740

    The rise of Mehran man

    “In Pakistan, the hierarchy on the roads reflects that of society. If you are poor, you use the overcrowded buses or a bicycle. Small shopkeepers, rural teachers and better-off farmers are likely to have a $1,500 Chinese or Japanese motorbike…. Then come the Mehran drivers. A rank above them, in air-conditioned Toyota Corolla saloons, are the small businessmen, smaller landlords, more senior army officers and bureaucrats. Finally, there are the luxury four-wheel drives of ‘feudal’ landlords, big businessmen, expats, drug dealers, generals, ministers and elite bureaucrats. The latter may be superior in status, power and wealth, but it is the Mehrans which, by dint of numbers, dominate the roads.”

    Burke continues his dissection of the rising Pakistani middle class: “Mehran man is deeply proud of his country. A new identification with the ummah, or the global community of Muslims, paradoxically reinforces rather than degrades his nationalism. For him, Pakistan was founded as an Islamic state, not a state for South Asian Muslims. Mehran man is an ‘Islamo-nationalist’. His country possesses a nuclear bomb….”

    As Pakistan’s social and psychological transformation from a South Asian to a Middle Eastern state continues on the track that was unwittingly set in 1947, there are huge implications for us and for the whole region. Unfortunately, not many policymakers are studying this trend. As usual, we will be caught by surprise when the metamorphosis is complete.

  • onur

    Pakistan is nothing but a transition zone between the Indian and Iranian worlds and mostly belongs to the Indian world (no matter how much Pakistanis reject it). No West Asian would see Indo-Aryan Pakistanis as belonging to West Asia, nor a Central Asian would see them as belonging to Central Asia. Belonging to the Islamic world is a very different thing, even Negroid and Southeast Asian Muslims belong to the Islamic world.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I was thinking in terms of language, common pagan past (Hinduism for Indo-Aryans, Ancient Iranian religion for Iranians) and also genetics (Iranian peoples are clearly distinct from Indo-Aryan peoples genetically, though that difference may be less distinct among boundary populations).

    1) do you know that much about the cultural history of the groups which became pashtuns? i presume they believed in the iranian, not indo-aryan, gods, but the mapping between language and tribal identity can get confused.

    2) if the pashtuns were zoroastrians your argument would be stronger, as that is the equivalent of puranic hinduism for the iranian peoples. as it is, i am not clear that the pashtuns, or the iranian groups which became pashtuns, were zoroastrian. i assume some were, but we know of the existence of hindu dynasties of possible indian origin in the kabul region which were conquered by the arabs. the paganism of nuristan also suggests that the pashtuns may simply have generally been lightly touched by world religions before islam.

    3) re: the genetics, the pashtuns aren’t that different from punjabis and sindhis. i was surprised that they weren’t. so in relation to the pashtuns i kind of reject your assertion of a strong genetic distinction. in fact some of the Y chromosomal haplogroup stuff showed that central iran served as a major gene flow barrier, so the clusters may not map well onto language.

    Pakistan is nothing but a transition zone between the Indian and Iranian worlds and mostly belongs to the Indian world (no matter how much Pakistanis reject it). No West Asian would see Indo-Aryan Pakistanis as belonging to West Asia, nor a Central Asian would see them as belonging to Central Asia. Belonging to the Islamic world is a very different thing, even Negroid and Southeast Asian Muslims belong to the Islamic world.

    i agree with your general point on the merits, but your make it as if you are the arbiter of the cultural geography of the islamic world. you should tone down your prose a bit, because your own perspective as a turk of turkey may be different from the central asian people whom you are speaking for.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onur,

    re: iranian vs. indo-aryan genetics.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/data/319/5866/1100/DC1/1

    there’s no diff. between sindhis and pashtuns really. what you really need is a sample from iran proper, but i’m willing to put down money that iranian speaking pashtuns are closer genetically to indo-aryan speaking pakistanis than they are to iranian speaking kurds.

    i am sharing genes with one iranian persian on 23andme, and all the south asians are much closer to the pashtun cluster than they are (well, perhaps except for me ;-)

  • milieu

    I think the article that Zachary links to in comment 19 is pertinent and makes a lot of sense to me. The rise of the Mehran man as well as the presence of lot of desperate rural youths, exemplified by the sole surviving Bombay gunman makes this a really dangerous place. I hope ppl in power are keeping track of it!

  • onur

    By Ancient Iranian religion, I meant the pre-Zoroastrian common Iranian religion.

    As to the genetics, I already acknowledged that the boundary populations may be genetically similar to each other. But the general genetic split between Iranians and Indo-Aryans is clear as day.

    i agree with your general point on the merits, but your make it as if you are the arbiter of the cultural geography of the islamic world. you should tone down your prose a bit, because your own perspective as a turk of turkey may be different from the central asian people whom you are speaking for.

    My tone was a reaction to the ideologically driven identification with the peoples of West Asia and/or Central Asia seen in some Pakistanis, but still I stand by what I said.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    But the general genetic split between Iranians and Indo-Aryans is clear as day.

    no it isn’t. i actually pointed you to a paper (it’s OA now, you can read it if you don’t have access if you register). there is no obvious distinction between sindhis and the iranian populations of pakistan in the HGDP. you can say that a genetic is split “clear as day”, but it isn’t, there’s continuity in genes that doesn’t exist in language. the split between semitic speakers in the middle east and germanic speakers in europe is clear as day, there are no germanic speaking groups who are closer to semitic speakers than they are to other germanic speakers. in contrast, for iranian and indo-aryan speakers you have a substantial number of groups “between them” which are actually much closer to each other than they are to other members of their respective linguistic families.

    now, you can still assert that you interpret the data which we can both agree on in such a way that that means “clear as day” to you. that’s fine, but please don’t assert that here, you’re just confusing readers as i think more of them would agree that the idiom “clear as day” is more clear and distinct than the data warrant (you can do it on dienekes or on your own weblog of course).

    My tone was a reaction to the ideologically driven identification with the peoples of West Asia and/or Central Asia seen in some Pakistanis, but still I stand by what I said.

    yes, but no one on these boards espouses such stupid points, so why bother to refute them? the way you wrote that implied that you were actually addressing real people, but none of those people are going to be reading your comment since they wouldn’t be commenting here (i wouldn’t publish their comments because those sorts are usually unhinged anyway).

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com/ Peter

    pakistan has a nuclear bomb. if it didn’t, i don’t think we’d (americans) would care as much

    We’d care because Pakistanis are Muslims, and we’re all scared s***less of Muslims.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan


    We’d care because Pakistanis are Muslims, and we’re all scared s***less of Muslims.

    as muzzies like to remind us, there are 1.5 billion of them. but we don’t care about the 100 million nigerian muslims, 200 million indonesian muslims, etc. etc. really, the comment is just stupid. step up or just don’t comment pete.

  • Ian

    Setting aside their own legends of being one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, aren’t the Pashtuns most likely the same people who were the Greco-Bactrians (and maybe the Kushans)? As for the religion of pre-Islamic Pashtuns – is there some reason not to suspect that they were Buddhist?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    aren’t the Pashtuns most likely the same people who were the Greco-Bactrians (and maybe the Kushans)?

    genetically they’re not transplants. the greek model is pretty much falsified (like the PCA and structure). the hazaras are. culturally perhaps. the greco-bactrians could have been hellenized non-greeks genetically by the end. the kushanas were likely migrants from ferghana, and perhaps xinjiang. but no one knows.

    is there some reason not to suspect that they were Buddhist?

    many probably were. the region under the suzerainty of the sassanian empire was religiously pluralistic and ethnically complex. before the rise of islam it seems that some of the turks were influenced by zoroastrianism, nestorianism, and buddhism. some ethnic persians were powerful within the nestorian church (and were clearly from families that had converted from zoroastrianism in their biographies). some ethnic groups seem to have avoided associations with some religions. the sogdians and persians for example did not take much to buddhism from what i have read, but other east iranian peoples did. many of the elites of central asia who assimilated to the muslim order were originally from buddhist families.

  • toto

    Do not underestimate the power of Indian pop culture in maintaining the “Desi” cultural link between Pakistanis and Indians, in spite of the politics. Bollywood and Bhangra tunes are massively popular on both sides of the LOC, government bans be damned.

    At least for middle-class Punjabis, they are intensely aware of their common cultural background with their turban-wearing neighbours down GT road.

    Yeah, they’re in love with Ahmadinejad and they’d gladly stone Koran burners to death (or a least they boast they would). Beyond that, they’re Hindustanis and they know it. When you transplant them to a foreign country, they associate with (Hindi-speaking) Indians just as readily as with Pakistanis, they queue at the cinema for every major Bollywood release, and they listen to the BBC Asian Network.

    Not to mention the food. What amount of propaganda could possibly overcome the unifying power of chana daal?

    As for the preference for fair complexion, it’s disturbingly real (that’s why Kareena Kapoor is a sex symbol) , but obviously it has limits. Uber-white Pashtuns are nevertheless the butt of uncountable jokes regarding their supposed backwardness, and of course their boy-loving ways. Perhaps whiteness is seen as highly desirable within the “in-group”, but has little effect when it comes to opinions of the “out-groups” ?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Yeah, they’re in love with Ahmadinejad and they’d gladly stone Koran burners to death

    perhaps. they loves them the radical shia dictator in iran, but back in the homeland perhaps they’d be burning their shia neighbors along with the other sunnis? can’t account for barbarity i guess.

    re: kareena kapoor. i don’t watch that stuff, but it’s disturbingly funny how predictably westerners tend to focus on this issue as their big “WTF!?!?!” it’s kind of like how in some “primitive” societies they really like the fatties, and anthropologists always recount that aesthetic preference for its exotic value. though to be fair even a lot of indians admit that that actress is just a perverse outcome of the skin preference, and after seeing genuine pale women i assume they’ve rescaled and aren’t quite as impressed (she’d surely be schwartz in norden).

    Uber-white Pashtuns are nevertheless the butt of uncountable jokes regarding their supposed backwardness, and of course their boy-loving ways.

    i think pashtuns could manage to “overcome” all their positive handicaps due to their cultural habits :-) a punjabi friend of the family was wont to say that arabic is the language of heaven, but pashtun is the language of hell. my father had some funny experiences with pashtuns when he was in university in west pakistan.

    Perhaps whiteness is seen as highly desirable within the “in-group”, but has little effect when it comes to opinions of the “out-groups” ?

    my personal exp. is that FOBs don’t appreciate blonde hair, find brunette europeans (e.g., italians) to be beautiful specimens, think blacks are ugly and east asians weird looking. they also won’t flinch from telling you you’re fat to your face :-)

  • onur

    you can say that a genetic is split “clear as day”, but it isn’t, there’s continuity in genes that doesn’t exist in language.

    Sorry, wrong choice of word. Sometimes I make such mistakes as English isn’t my native tongue. I should have used “distinction” instead of “split”. So my sentences should have read:

    “As to the genetics, I already acknowledged that the boundary populations may be genetically similar to each other. But the general genetic distinction between Iranians and Indo-Aryans is clear as day.”

    Notice that I said general, not wholesale. The average Iranian genetic pattern is clearly distinct from the average Indo-Aryan genetic pattern.

  • onur

    FOB

    What does that acronym stand for?

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Correct me if I’m wrong but Onur when you use the word “Iranian” who do you mean?

    Dasht-e-Lut and Dasht-e-Kavir are gene flow barriers so west of that Iranians aren’t “Aryan” (whatever that means) but a Middle East medley Iranianised in much the same way Anatolia was Turkified.

    If we are talking about Iranian-”Aryan” genes then that would be found in Turan the original heartland so Pashtuns (not Pathans) and Tajiks would be good sources of that. There is a distinction between Pathans and Pashtuns; there’s also a dialectal shift that corroborates that.

    Onur I feel your pronouncements are rather amusing because it requires definition. Pakistan is definitely desi (even “Iranian Pakistan” whatever that means) but then it also has very strong foreign cultural elements; it is a classic border region and subject to endless commentary.

    Bangladesh is a classic border region and coincidentally both these regions were the most heavily Islamicised. There is no doubt to their desiness/Indianess but there is also a level of distinction, which marks them off and is reflected in the “artificial” border.

    Let’s celebrate the differences and build on our similarities; I just don’t like imprecise terminology and blanket statements. Admittedly I used one when I said the Brits “reIndianised” the northwest but I meant that the economic transformation rendered by them converged the northwest to a more classical South Asian/Indian economic pattern and had a subsequent demographic shift.

    Jinnah (Quaid e Azam) should have just accepted the name “India” when offered to him. Would have made things so much simpler :-)

  • onur

    Zachary, I used “Iranian” for all Iranian (=Iranic) speakers and “Indo-Aryan” for all Indo-Aryan speakers. I agree with you that language-based categorizations are largely artificial, so my comment about Iranian – Indo-Aryan genetic differences is actually much more to do with geography, climate and vegetation than language. The main reason why I mentioned only Indo-Aryan Pakistanis as outsiders to West Asia and Central Asia is that the Baloch are also found in Iran and Afghanistan in significant numbers and Pashtuns are also found in Afghanistan in significant numbers while no Indo-Aryan-speaking group (including the ones in Pakistan) is found in significant numbers in any West Asian or Central Asian country. No need to say that Iran is a West Asian country and Afghanistan is a Central Asian country.

    BTW, what is the difference between Pashtuns and Pathans? Are you referring to the Pashto – Pakhto dialectal division (in a line passing through Paktika, Afghanistan)?

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Yes I was referring to the distinction.

  • onur

    Do they have genetic and physical distinction as well?

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    There is some but I haven’t been to Pak for 5yrs and counting.

  • omar

    Razib, re comment # 15: Your point is correct that just like the Azeri Turks in Iran have become very persian over time, so IN PRINCIPLE, there is no reason why the Indus valley may not become so “un-indian” over time that it becomes meaningless to call them “Indian”. But in all such discussions, we have general principles and particular instances. In this case, the particular instance (in my opinion) does not fit that pattern. There are both positive and negative reasons why Punjab and Sindh will remain “Indian” for the foreseeable future. Positively, I would count things like the very deep cultural roots of Indian civilization in this region (the language, the food, the family structure, the poems, the songs, the art, the literature, and so on) but what is even more striking is how much influence continues to travel across the Radcliffe line (and not just via movies, though they are indeed ubiquitous). But leaving that aside, there is a very strong NEGATIVE reason why it wont become “un-indian”. And that is the question of what will it become when it is not Indian? The Azeri Turks became Persian. But certainly no one expects Pakistanis to become persianized. In fact, the ruling elite was far more persianized in the past; both my grandfathers could read and write persian and to his dying day my maternal grandfather would say about Pakistan(a state he regarded as a tragic mistake) in persian “khisht e awal choon nahad maimar kuj, Taa surraya mi rawad meenar kuj” (if the builder lays the first brick crooked, the tower can rise to the sky and will still be crooked). It may be that some people expect us to become Afghanized, but I see no realistic chance of that either. That leaves Arabia and in spite of all the nonsense promoted in service of “Islamic unity”, that project is even more unlikely than the first two. In short, there is no alternative civilization pulling it away. It is, and will remain, a somewhat Islamicized Indian child with serious mother issues.
    Zachary: re “mehran man”, there is no there there. Relax, take a deep breath. Mehran man will continue to foam at the mouth about India and will still watch Indian movies, speak an Indian language, live like his fellow “Tata nano man” across the border, but spend his tourist dollars in Mecca instead of Kashi. Its a superficial and fragile construct, not worth the effort to analyze. Capitalism will swallow his historical illusions and myths and spit them out as marketable commodities. The true believers will explode in some faraway market or (if they are lucky) get arrested making some amateur bomb in their basement. The rest will spend their lives living and working in ways indistinguishable from the new middle class in Delhi (but not as well as their counterparts in South India; culture counts for something and some do better than others).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    omar, you make a good case.

  • onur

    Zach, to the best of my recollection, you are a Pathan (=Pakhto dialect speaker) from Pakistan, aren’t you?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    in case zach went to sleep, i recall that one of his parents is of ethnic persian origin (zoroastrian converts to the bahai religion who arrived in pakistan in the last few generations).

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Zach here.

    Ancestrally Pathan through my grandfather, Dr. Latif (the eponymous founder of our family). He was a Kakazai, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakazai. He was the only survivor of his train to Pakistan.

    Like most desis I have an interesting family history; I should write a book heh.

  • onur

    In fact, the ruling elite was far more persianized in the past; both my grandfathers could read and write persian

    Just until the middle decades of the 20th century, Persian and Arabic were both lingua francas (though Persian was probably more preferred as a lingua franca) in all the realms of the Turko-Persian Islam from the Balkans to the Hui lands and from the Russian Muslims to India (but in the Turkic-speaking parts of Central Asia Chagatai Turkic was also a lingua franca beginning from the Timurid times and was perhaps preferred more than Persian and Arabic as a lingua franca there).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Persian was a lingua franca in addition to Arabic (maybe even more important than Arabic)

    arabic was only a religious language to my knowledge in south asia, while persian was an administrative language (at least in origin). so it was more important than arabic depending on how you evaluate it (i guess religious people might just say that the religious language trumps all, but 99.9% of the usage of arabic in south asia lacks deep comprehension, while persian was a real language in comprehension).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    the only exception to my above assertion would be a few areas of southern india. where arabs from southern arabia were culturally influential, and there were always contacts.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    also, non-muslims in south asia used to know persian. kashmiri pandits and bengali kayasthas learned it in the course of their service in the retinues of muslim elites.

  • onur

    arabic was only a religious language to my knowledge in south asia, while persian was an administrative language (at least in origin).

    In Islam religion occupies law, so Arabic was also the language of law in the realms of Turko-Persian Islam as in all other Islamic realms. As to literature, Persian was much more preferred than Arabic in the realms of Turko-Persian Islam. Language of science was Arabic though.

  • onur

    non-muslims in south asia used to know persian.

    As Turkish (however mixed with Arabic and Persian) rised to the status of the language of administration and to a significant extent also of literature after the decline of the Rum Seljuks, many non-Muslims in Anatolia and, after its conquest by the Ottomans, the Balkans began to speak Turkish as a second language and some of them even ceased to speak their former language and adopted Turkish as mother language.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    In Islam religion occupies law, so Arabic was also the language of law in the realms of Turko-Persian Islam as in all other Islamic realms. As to literature, Persian was much more preferred than Arabic in the realms of Turko-Persian Islam. Language of science was Arabic though.

    i don’t know if the judges in south asia laid out their rulings in arabic though, so it would be a language only for religious professionals. in contrast persian was a common language among the upper strata, and spoken in elite circles.

    the analogy to anatolia is weakened though because the vast majority of people who knew persian used it as a professional second language. if the mughals had persisted another few centuries persian may have become a genuine mother tongue among some south asian elites, but that never happened.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    One could argue that the bastard child of Hindustani and Persian is Urdu; which is definitely a mother tongue of a certain part of the South Asian elites.

    But then language in South Asia is a very fluid concept; all the Elite speak English as a matter of course. Bilingualism is the norm compared to Arabistan, Turkey and Iran; its reflected in language acquisition by desis and Middle Easterners.

    The “Indian” accent is a bona fide English dialect because its been developing for the past two centuries. India and South Asia are/were extremely syncretic regions; they defy the rigid analysis that has often been imposed on it.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    urdu is clearly an indo-aryan language, not an iranian one. romanian has been shaped by slavic, but it remains romance.

  • Waqas Ahmad

    I don’t buy this notion that Pakistani and Indians are the same and one. I’m a Punjabi Sunni Rajput from Lyallpur and I can bet a crowd from Lahore looks distinctively different from a random sample of people from Amritsar or Delhi- people there are more of Dravidian extraction. Pakistanis are mostly Turks, Central Asians, Arabs and European mix. Only the Mohajir group has Indian blood. Pakistani Butts, Gujjars, Rajeh, Jatts, Qureshis, Chaudharis, Arians and Awans are very similar to Spanish or Italian in terms of the looks. Pakistani Punjabis tend to be taller than their Indian counterparts. In my own family, 6’3 or 6’4 is considered very short plus people are very pale complexioned with blue eyes.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    “waqas ahmad”, you’re wrong. the data entail you’re wrong (readers curious about the data can follow the links here, paper #1, 3, and the indian paper will make it clear why the previous commenter is full of shit). but i think you’re also a shit-stirring troll going by your IP location and facebook profile.

  • omar

    I can comment on the situation in North India: Persian was the official language of the Mughal court (the Mughals were surprisingly multi-lingual: They spoke Turkish at home, though less and less as time went on, Persian in court, and enough Hindustani to interact with their local subjects). Not only was legal and administrative business conducted in Persian, most scholarly books were written in Persian and Persian was the preferred literary language of the elite. All the famous local poets wrote in Persian (as well as local languages as time went on) and every educated and cultured person was supposed to be conversant with Persian. And this status continued in the courts of non-muslim rulers in the region as well (thus, Ranjit Singh’s Punjab was run in Persian, not in Punjabi). Until partition, it would have been inconceivable for an Urdu poet to have no familiarity with Persian (not just superficial familiarity but real literary knowledge and in almost all cases, the ability to write verse in Persian). Arabic was part of elite education, but not comparable with Persian in usage. Religious scholars were expected to know Arabic, but even they would frequently write their own books in Persian, and later in local langauges, not in Arabic. Arabic literature was little known and less studied (there were exceptions, but Persian literature was OUR literature, Arabic was not in the same category). Partition was, ironically, a death blow for the “high culture” (and “high church” discourse) of the North Indian Muslim Elite. While individual members of that elite did very well by moving to Pakistan and grabbing the opportunities to be found in the new state (especially since the local elites were less educated and Hindus and Sikhs had left vast properties behind, available to enterprising souls with connections in the new regime), their common culture, which had managed to survive a hundred years of British rule, collapsed in the wake of partition. Today, the elite in Pakistan can hardly appreciate Urdu literature, Persian is practically dead. And the “high church” scholarship of North Indian Islam is dying alongside the elite culture of Delhi and Lucknow. Islam in Pakistan is in the hands of the barbarians. The crowning irony may be that one day, after the taliban and their friends have finally blown each other to bits, Indian Islam will provide the scholarly BS that the Muslims of the Indus valley will need as they rebuild their society…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    i thought urdu was conquering all in pakistan? are you just saying it’s generalized barbarism, with minimal high culture production, period?

  • onur

    Pakistanis are mostly Turks, Central Asians, Arabs and European mix. Only the Mohajir group has Indian blood.

    What a BS claim!!!

  • onur

    Pakistani Butts, Gujjars, Rajeh, Jatts, Qureshis, Chaudharis, Arians and Awans are very similar to Spanish or Italian in terms of the looks.

    LOL

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    i think that there’s a strong chance that the person is engaging in caricature to provoke people. there’s a high probability they’re not even pakistani going by the nature of the FB profile associated with the email address.

  • omar

    Razib, re comment # 56: Yes. Minimal high culture production, period.
    I am not sure how much better things are in Delhi, but the barbarians are at the gates in Pakistan. Still, I am optimistic. I think after a period of disorder, we will see Pakistan and India develop enough of a cold peace to move on to other things, and as the taliban self-destruct the deeper layers of culture will reassert themselves. Urdu has become closely associated with the brain-dead cultural notions of the military elite, but regional languages are not dead yet and the elite will eventually transact business in English anyway….in short, I think we are already past the barbarian peak (or trough, as the case may be). Things will get better. slowly.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    omar, yeah, and the recession ended in june 2009….

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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