Pashtuns (Pashto: ????? Pa??tun, Pax?tun, also rendered as Pushtuns, Pakhtuns, Pukhtuns), also called Pathans (in Urdu: ????? and Hindi: ???? Pa?han) or ethnic Afghans (in Persian: ?????) are an Eastern Iranian ethno-linguistic group with populations primarily in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, which includes Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan. The Pashtuns are typically characterized by their usage of the Pashto language and practice of Pashtunwali, a traditional set of ethics guiding individual and communal conduct. Their true origin is unclear but historians have come across references to a people called Paktha (Pactyans) between the 2nd and the 1st millennium BC,who may be the early ancestors of Pashtuns. Since the 3rd century AD and onward, they are mostly referred to by the name "Afghan"
During the Delhi Sultanate era, many Pashtun emperors (sultans) ruled the Indian subcontinent. Other Pashtuns defeated the Safavid Persians and the Mughal Empire before obtaining an independent state in the early-18th century, which began with a successful revolution by the Hotaki dynasty followed by military conquests by the Ahmad Shah Durrani.Pashtuns played a vital role during the Great Game from the 19th century to the 20th century as they were caught between the imperialist designs of the British and Russian empires. For over 300 years, they reigned as the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan with nearly all rulers being Pashtun. More recently, the Pashtuns gained global attention during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan and with the rise of the Taliban, since they are the main ethnic contingent in the movement. Pashtuns are also an important community in Pakistan, where they have attained the presidency and high positions in the military, and are the second-largest ethnic group in that country.
The Pashtuns are the world's largest (patriarchal) segmentary lineage ethnic group. According to Ethnologue, the total population of the group is estimated to be around 50 million but an accurate count remains elusive due to the lack of an official census in Afghanistan since 1979. Estimates of the number of Pashtun tribes and clans range from about 350 to over 400