Monday, August 21, 2017

Postal system of Sher Shah Sur

The institution of Dak-Chowki of Alauddin Khilji was only of a military character and was for quick communication between his field armies and his capital. Sikandar Lodi later revived this system in improved form , developing it into a permanent institution for use in military as well as civil affairs. But Sher Shah Sur's mail system was a further advance on these earlier experiments. By integrating it with widespread roadside serai system, he enlarged its scope. There were separate quarters for mail horses and men in the serais. Every serai had two swift horses to carry news, official correspondence, parcels etc.. Additionally, there were two “Tariqh nawis” or post houses clerks, who  recorded the arrival and departure of mail carriers.The system functioned so well that Sher Shah Sur got the news of the disaffection of his umara , soldiers and zamindars of the distant provinces before they spread in the areas concerned. For the first time in history of India, postal system was made available for public use by Sher Shah. The "darogha-i-Dak-Chauki" was the head of the Dak chauki and the espionage system under Sher Shah. This was the origin of the News Department under the Darogha-i-dak-chauki appointed by the Mughals.

A Postal station (Dak Chowki) of Sher Shah Sur,  located on GT road in Wazirabad (Punjab). 

 Photo courtesy : Dr.Imran Sohail

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Administration and achievements of Sikandar Lodi


The standard official unit of land measurement which Akbar administration inherited from its predecessors was the Gaz-i-Sikandari. According to Ain-i-Akbari, the Gaz-i-Sikandri was first instituted by Sikander Lodi, who made it equal to (the diameters of) 41 1/2 of his Sikandari pieces. The gaz continued in use under Sher Shah and Islam Shah , who, bringing the whole of Hindustan under zabt, are said to have measured with this same gaz. During Akbar's reign it remained the official standard till the 33rd year (1589) , when it was finally superseded by the Gaz-i-Ilahi. ("The agrarian system of Mughal India", Irfan Habib, p-353)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tarikh-i-Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani

Book Review

Tareekh-e-Khan Jehani or Makhzan-e-Afghani

Dr. Sher Zaman Taizi

The book was written and compiled in Persian in 1021 H, when the Mughal Empire was at the apex of its glory in India. It was translated into English by Dr. Imam Din of Dacca University and in Urdu by Dr. Mohammad Bashir of the Punjab University. The under review edition is the latter.

Dr. Bashir, in his foreword, has discussed the book and its author, and, with all its drawbacks, considers it as a standard work. The biography of the author - Niamatullah Heravi - has been taken from the original prefaces, which goes like this:

In his early age, Niamatullah lived an obscure life. In 993 H, he was the Chief Conservator of the library of Sipah Salar Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khanan until 1006 when he joined the retinue of Prince Saleem. In 1014 H, when the prince ascended the throne and adopted the title of Jehangir, he appointed Niamat Heravi as the court-chronicler. In 1017 H, Emperor Jehangir dismissed him from the service for some sort of misdemeanour. Then he joined the service of an Afghan Amir Mian Pir Khan alias Khan Jehan Lodhi who had crushed Marhatta uprisings against the Mughal throne in Southern India through a series of battles in1019. Niamatullah Heravi took part in all those battles. In Deccan, he commenced compilation of the history at Malakpur on 20 Zilhaj 1020 and concluded it at Burhanpur on 10 Zilhaj 1021. Later, in 1024, he added to it the biography of Khan Jehan Lodhi and also mentioned the death of Sheikh Shahab Bakhtiar which occurred on 25 Jamad-ul-Akhir the same year. The book also contains material on the struggle for power between Aurangzeb Alamgir and his brother Dara Shukoh in 1067, in which the former succeeded to grab the throne. However, the author omitted the events related the revolution of Khan Jehan against Emperor Shah Jehan, in which the former lost his life. This leads the translator, Dr. Bashir, to confusion about the death of the author. He draws his own conclusion that since the author had developed some sort of difference with Khan Jehan Lodhi and lived in recluse, he had purposely omitted the events related to abortive revolution by Khan Jehan Lodhi.

If we analyse the account presented by Dr. Bashir, the Chief Conservator of the library of a man like Khan-e-Khanan must be a matured learned man in forties. So, the year of birth of Niamat could be around 95, and, in 1040, he was an octogenarian if he still lived, and in 1067 more than 110. So, it can be assumed with reservation that Niamat Heravi died before 1040 and the events of later stage were added to his work by someone else. His father, Habibullah Khan Heravi, lived in India in service of the Mughal Empire. It is, therefore, believed that Niamatullah was born at Agra or somewhere else in India.

The fifth, and the last, appendix gives an introduction of Haibat Khan and his dedication to Khwaja Yahya Kabir, an Afghan Saint, who spoke Pashto.

It gives an idea that the author enjoyed a good opportunity of reading and recording of day to day events at the court of Emperor Jehangir by virtue of his employment, which needed, of course, scholastic knowledge and good command on languages. But, he left no other work except the one under review, who which he was also inspired by Haibat Khan and Khan Jehan Lodhi. The motivation behind this work was ethical and biased. He was supposed to write something to aggrandise the Afghans as a nation and boost up their morale. But, he did not hide his fear of the Mughal power that reflected its cruel nature. He tried to balance his approach to both the rival forces, which, noticeably, led him to confuse the issue. His fear of the Mughal power is reflected in the titled he used for the Emperors and avoiding of mention of their names repeatedly. Babar has been titled as Firdaus-e-Makani, Humayun as Janat Ashyani and Akbar as Arsh Ashyani and so on. Looking through his experience, his language was not so fluent and rich, which is a common phenomenon if one writes in hesitation under some pressure or compulsion.

In his preface, Niamatullah Heravi, having used the prefix of Khwaja, has given his biography, the purport of his work, the bibliography and has also summarised the contents. It is followed by another preface, which gives genealogy of the mankind from Adam to Jacob, also giving ages of a few Prophets in the line. Then the book starts chapter-wise. Chapter No One gives the events to show as to who Saul was and how he became the first Israeli King with proclamation from Prophet Samuel. Saul fights Goliath, the strongest non-believer, who was killed by David the Prophet. Saul grudged against David and tried to kill him. But through a maiden saint, he established contact with dead Samuel, who suggested to him to abdicate in favour of David and then offer sacrifices of his sons and himself through Jihad against the non-believers for redemption. He did so. Then his two sons Armia and Barkhia, born after their father's and brothers' martyrdom, were appointed b David in his court. A son of Armia was named Afaghena - the forefather of the Afghans. The descendants of Armia, through Afaghena, were driven out of Babylonia. A part of them took refuge in the central parts of present Afghanistan, which are now known as Ghore. When Khalid bin Waleed, who himself related to that family, embraced Islam, he invited his kinsmen from Ghore. Led by Qais, they went to Mecca and were introduced to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by Khalid. They also embraced Islam and then participated in Jihad. Qais was given the name of Abdul Rashid.

From Adam to Qais Abdul Rashid, the events and genealogy have been covered in two chapters and one preface, which have been summed up in the preceding paragraph. It, however, needs some clarification. More or less similar line has been taken by other scholars also and still a number of interested writers rely on their information. But little is known about the primary source of the information, and none of the scholars has given any reference to it. Of late, certain Muslim scholars took notice of it and rejected this whole story as a fabrication of Jews. In 586 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar subdued Israelis and destroyed the whole structure of their culture, having burnt their religious and other literatures including the original Torah, the Israelis were so much depressed that they lost all hopes of their survival. The Jews rabbis and scholars realised the hanging threat of their total annihilation. They worked devotedly to prepare a sacred book, later titled as the Old Testament, in order to boost up the morale of their people. One part of this book deals with the evolution of God, creation of Adam and then Adam's posterity in a line, which has been, almost, copied in Makhzan-e-Afghani. The Pakhtun writers, commonly, refer to the lost ten tribes and try to prove that they had migrated to central parts of Afghanistan. But by that time, the Central Asia, including Afghanistan had already seen a sequence of changes and development of a sort of civilisation, which is elaborated by sociologists in different ways. So this theory is falsified by the history, when we see the Persian Empire expanded with glorious civilisation, its language and culture, and religion (Zoroastrianism) and the area was then called Sogdiana. The Muslim scholars take the Holy Koran as the source of information. The Holy Koran describes the creation of Adam and depicted his life in the Paradise and then his ouster from the Paradise. It mentions a number of Prophets for very significant events. The Muslim scholars, down to Maulana Maudoodi, although having slight variations in interpretation of these events, have reject the stories, which do not coincide with those mentioned in the Holy Koran and Ahadees, or with the well founded historical facts.

Chapter III deals with Lodhi dynasty in three parts: (a) Behlol Lodhi, (b) Sikandar Lodhi and(c) Ibrahim Lodhi with a passing reference to the victory of Babar over Ibrahim at Panipat, which was, in fact, a turning point in the history of India to usher in a new era with the Mughal Empire. Chapter IV discusses the period of Suri dynasty in four parts: (a) Sher Shah Sure, (b) Islam Shah Suri, (c) Feroz Shah Suri and (d) return of Humayun, and short notes on some Afghan Sardars. These two chapters have been copied from Tabqat-e-Akbari compiled by Mizam-ud-Din, although it has not been indicated by the author.

Chapter V on Nawab Khan Jehan Lodhi was added later as the sole purpose of the book was to magnify the character of the benefactor of the author, who was so much interested in the history of the Afghans. This chapter has been divided into five parts. As a fashion, the Nawab has been named after a long row of titles. He is put in the same lineage of Bani Israel.

Chapter VI explains the Afghan families in fourth parts: (a) Sarbani, (b) Bitani, (c) Ghorghashti and (d) Karlani, which are repeated more or less in the same pattern by most of the Pakhtun writers.

Chapter VII has been dedicated to Emperor Jehangir with all the benevolent praises in his favour, so much so that the weight of the chain linked with the gong for appellants, under the orders of Jehangir, has been shown as 489 maunds instead of four maunds. And this is the end of the book.

After the end, start the biographical sketches of the Afghan saints, 66 males and five females. This has also been divided into parts: 1-28 are Sarbani, 29-48 are Bitani and 49-66 are Ghorghashti, the rest 67-71 are females. These are quite interesting and gives an idea, if not complete picture, as regards the contribution made by the Afghan saints to propagation of Islam in India. It is followed by five addenda to give some more genealogies of the Afghan families, the last one speaks of Haibat Khan and Khwaja Yahya Kabir, which is, probably, the writing of Haibat Khan.

The honoured translator has added five valuable indices of the names of persons, places, quotations from the Holy Koran and bibliography, and corrigenda. These have seized a hundred pagers. In the last, there are eight genealogical trees of the Afghan families stemming from Qais Abdul Rashid.

But there is no mention of any other person contemporary of Qais Abdul Rashid. Here, the question arises; where have gone other people of the lost ten tribes, and where and who are their descendants?

Throughout the book, there are serial numbers in brackets at intervals. It has not been explained anywhere, but its shows that these numbers denote the pagers of the original work from which it has been translated. In the text, Persian verses have been quoted, and, at certain places, Urdu translation of some quotations has been given, which were of Pashto verses as indicated by the translator.

There are certain glaring mistakes in the chronology, which have been pointed out in the margin.
With all its drawbacks, the book is considered as one of the best works in the Mughal period. It has a standard and is lays down a system in its approach to the rise and growth of the Afghans in India. However, the theory of the origin of the Afghans is open to question.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


By M.Jamil Hanifi

Jerga, an assembly or council of local adult men sitting in a circular formation for the resolution of conflicts and discussion of issues and challenges that face the settled and nomadic Pashtun tribal communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The earliest published reference to jerga is provided during the colonial period by Mountstuart Elphinstone (1815), a representative of the British government of India to the court of the ruler of Kabul at his summer capital of Peshawar. English dictionary references to jirga are provided by Henry George Raverty, Henry Walter Bellew, and John Gordon Lorimer, all colonial officers of the British government of India. Other early references to jerga are available in official British colonial records about Pashtuns.

The jerga functions as a sodality, invoked when the need for it appears and disbanded when it is not needed. It is the symbol of the political and legal autonomy of a Pashtun male and his tribe. As such it is an integral part of pashtunwalaey (pashtunwali), Pashtun charter for appropriate behavior, including upholding male honor (nang or ʿezzat) and avoiding shame (sharm), both through the proper sexual behavior of his female dependents (namus, especially wife, daughter, sister, and mother), revenge (badal, a form of balanced or negative reciprocity in response to real [bodily] or symbolic [verbal] injury), offering food (melmastia, hospitality) to those accepted as guests, providing asylum or refuge (nanawatay) to those who sue for peace or ask for forgiveness or protection, professing Islam, and abiding by other components of Pashtun custom

Although the concept of jerga is familiar to non-Pashtuns in the region, it is not their native label for local assemblies or councils for conflict resolution. In Persian, jerga refers to a social network, group, coterie, or clique, but it is not used as the label for tribal or other local mechanisms for conflict resolution. Among the Marri Baluch the term jerga applies to a relatively stable and structured arrangement in which “the hierarchy of tribal leaders, the organs of external administration, and the framework of sections meet and articulate in a manner that is decisive to the function of each” (Pehrson, p. 23). Some contemporary Afghan nationalist writers argue that Pashtun tribes have inherited the concept of jerga from their Aryan ancestors (ʿAṭaʾi, 1978, p. 1; idem, 1979 and 1982 Khadem, p. 52).

Jerga is sometimes interchangeably used with maraka (discussion, conversation, or dialogue), but maraka, a form of small-scale jerga, is used among Pashtuns to deliberate and make decisions about specific local policies or problems or to settle minor disputes. Participants in the maraka are male elders of the village or local lineage(s) and are called marakachian. The maraka is convened at the request of an elder or of disputants and is held in the open air courtyard of the local mosque or near a shrine. There are two kinds of marakas. In one the disputants argue in front of the marakačiān, who will decide which side has a more persuasive argument. In the other, the maraka examines the evidence and argumentation from each party and acts as an arbitrator and imposes a compromise. In both cases the decision of the maraka is based on consensus and is final (ʿAṭaʾi, 1978).

The jerga, on the other hand, deals with major intra and inter-tribal conflict. In principle the jerga represents the tribe as a whole and acts as a judicial, legislative, and executive agency. In inter-tribal conflict or when a number of tribes wish to participate in a collective response to a challenge or initiative from the state or from another tribe or consortium of tribes, the jerga will include representatives from all tribes involved. Regardless of size or the number of tribes involved, no qualifiers (small, large, etc.) are used with the label jerga. The phrase “great jirga” was once used by the British colonial government of India when it wished to engage the Masʿud tribe as a whole, but the event turned into a “disorderly mob” (Caroe, pp. 401-2). Borrowing from and manipulating European sources, some prominent Afghan authors argue that a loya jerga (great assembly) was convened in two historical settings for the selection of Afghanistan’s political leaders: during 1708 for the approval of Mir Wais Hotak’s opposition to the Safavid rule in Kandahar (Qandahar), and during 1747 for the selection of Aḥmad Khan Abdali (q.v.) as the ruler of Afghanistan (Gobar, pp. 319, 354). However, neither claim is supported by the historical record.

In its traditional format, the jerga operates on the margins of state structure, in opposition or alternative to the latter. During the colonial and postcolonial period, a jerga from a single tribe or a jerga composed of members from several tribes negotiated with agents of the adjacent state. Such instances are noted in the available ethnographic and historical records. Only landowners may participate in a jerga and, in theory, any adult male member of the tribe can request the convocation of the jerga. Theoretically only a Pashtun tribesman whose father’s name appears in tribal genealogical charts can hold land. In practice, however, mashran (elders, sing., mashr) or spingiri (singular, spingiray, white beards, elders) of the constituent lineages (khels or zais) of a tribe initiate and participate in the assembly. The initiative for convening the jerga originates with the tribe(s), not with the state. At least one member of the tribe who knows tribal norms (narḵ), including the rules and procedures of the jerga, must participate. This individual is known as a narḵai (plural, narḵian). A mullah (a religious leader who leads communal prayers at and keeps up the local mosque) attends the jerga but only to pray for its success and to bless its decision. Some Pashtun tribes allow sayyeds (non-Pashtuns who claim descent from Prophet Moḥammad and who usually live among Pashtuns and speak Pashtu) to participate in the jerga. No one officially presides over the jerga and every participant is entitled to speak. The jerga convenes near a local shrine, cemetery, or in the courtyard of a mosque in open space. Open space is explicitly preferred to space under a roof. Every tribe and local community has a designated place for its jerga. Among nomadic Pashtuns, the assembly meets in any open space designated by the elders. The place where the jerga meets is considered sacred and, among some tribes during important jergas, the location is ringed by tribal flags and banners. The Afridi (q.v.) Pashtuns occasionally surround the location of important jergas by black flags. It has been suggested that these flags were supplied to the Afridis by Amir Aman-Allah (q.v.) of Afghanistan during the 1920s in order to dramatize Afridi opposition to the British government of India (ʿAṭaʾi, 1978, p. 2).

To underscore equality, the jerga participants sit in a circle on bare ground, simple mats, or other floorings of uniform quality. All members of the jerga are considered equal. Non-members may sit near the jerga to listen to its transactions. When the jerga is in session no one shall disrupt or interrupt its transactions. Violators of this rule are subject to punishment. Occasionally a jerga may convene in secrecy in which case no observers are allowed near the jerga. If someone violates its secrecy, he will be severely sanctioned. The punishment ranges from shaving the culprit’s mustache and beard to setting his residential property on fire to execution.

A local jerga seldom has more than twenty-five members and rarely more than fifty. Inter-tribal jergas will have larger numbers but seldom more than one hundred. In the past, when jergas were convened in order to deal with the British government of India or the Kabul government, the numbers increased substantially, sometimes running into the hundreds. Both governments regularly distributed allowances or occasional gifts to tribal leaders and other real and potential jerga participants within their spheres of influence. The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan have, in principle, continued these practices in dealing with tribal Pashtuns within (and occasionally beyond) their borders. It is likely that these policies have directly and indirectly encouraged larger jerga attendance. In general, however, it could be argued that the more remote a tribe was from state influence, the more egalitarian was its format and consequently the larger the number of its jerga participants. The role of the jerga in the resolution of conflict appears to have declined in Pashtun areas that are encapsulated by state structures, as well as in areas where an individual has achieved the status of malek (village leader or spokesman), or where the position of khan (village and lineage leader) has evolved into a hereditary rank, or where charismatic Sufi personalities have appeared.

Decisions of the jerga derive from discussion, debate, and mediation and are based on overt consensus or, when there is no explicit disagreement or surrender, to a majority view. Open robust dissent is strongly discouraged and rarely acknowledged. In some local traditions, when during the proceedings of the jerga a minority faction in the assembly disagrees with the prevailing tenor or direction of discussion or debate, its members will express their dissatisfaction by briefly clicking two small stones. When a decision is reached, members of the assembly symbolically express their sincere participation in it by taking a scared oath by collectively placing their hands on a Qurʾan, on which are placed salt (mālga) and a sword (tura). The attending religious leader presides over this ritual (ʿAṭaʾi, 1978, p. 76).

The decision of the jerga is final and binding on all members of the tribe. The Pashtun jerga generates its own enforcement and executive arrangements. Usually an individual, symbolically called tsalwekhtai (one of forty) or tsalwekhtey (a set of or group of forty) or tsalwekhtian ([those] of the forty), is assigned to execute the decisions of the jerga. In reality the actual number of the enforcement body varies with the importance and complexity of the task at hand. A person who does not abide by the decision of the jerga risks being expelled from the community and/or having his residential property destroyed. In the forested Pashtun tribal territories, where an active lumber industry exists, the group of men assigned to patrol the forests is also called tsalwekhtey. In some Pashtun areas this executive agency is called arabakey or rabakey. The concepts tsalwekhtey and arabakey, are symbolic and formulistic and are probably related to the Arabic word arbaʿun (forty) and the importance of this number in Muslim rituals and lore.

The popular term in non-Pashtun areas of Afghanistan for a local assembly or a deliberative or advisory body is shura-ye maḥalli (local assembly or council), or majles-e mashwara (consultative council attached to the provincial government). During the reigns of Amir Ḥabib-Allāh (1901-19) and Amir Aman-Allāh (1919-29), the Afghan government instituted a shura-ye dawlat (state council) composed of high-ranking members of the central government and the inner circle of the amir, but this practice was discontinued after the fall of Amir Amān-Allāh in 1929 (Hanifi, p. 299). Starting in 1921 and continuing to the present time, governments of Afghanistan have used an ad hoc mechanism in the construction of which the concept of Pashtun tribal jerga has been creatively manipulated. They have used the historical prestige of tribal Pashtuns and the myth of their numerical majority in Afghanistan by convening the so called loya jerga in times of instability and crises, especially during tribal uprisings or widespread discontentment with the central government. On these occasions the government has, at its own expense, summoned “representatives” of the people from Afghan provinces to visit Kabul to participate in an assembly in which it presented and received rubber-stamped approval of its real or potentially controversial policies and programs, including new constitutions and international relations and treaties. About forty percent of the participants in these loya jergas consisted of the current members of the parliament, members of which had routinely been hand-picked by the government, and the country’s high-ranking officials of the military and civil services. Members of these loya jergas (especially for those from the provinces) received a fully paid visit to and stay for about two weeks in the capital city, with the king and his government acting as the official hosts (Hanifi, pp. 309 ff.). It was this model of the loya jerga, this time subsidized by the United States and orchestrated by the United Nations, which created the post-Taliban government in Kabul and the current constitution of Afghanistan (Hanifi, pp. 319-21). Since 1921, approximately twelve loya jergas have been convened by the various governments of Afghanistan.

Over the life span of the state of Afghanistan (1880-present), ideas for the legislative institutions of the central government were inspired by and symbolically associated with the concept of Pashtun tribal jerga. Majles-e shura (consultative assembly) was introduced during the reign of Moḥammad-Nāder (r. 1930-33), and the adjective melli (national) was occasionally added (majles-e šurā -ye melli) to signify national assembly. In 1933, a majles-e aʿyan (assembly of nobles, elders, or grandees) was instituted. During 1964-78, the labels majles-e shurā and majles-e aʿyan were changed to wolosi jerga (people’s [i.e., commoners’] assembly) and da mashrano jerga (elders’ assembly) respectively (Hanifi, p. 299). The post-2001 constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan includes specific provisions for the use of these labels for the legislative institutions of the state and for the invocation of the loya jerga in times of national crises.

Source :

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Khirqa Sharif, Kandahar

"The most significant aspect of the Afghan-Bukharan treaty of 1768, namely the surrender by Shah Murad of the khirqa , or mantle , of the Prophet to Ahmad Shah Durrani , was completely missed by European historians in the last century. In order to avoid a confrontation with the Afghans, the Manghit ruler of Bukhara agreed to hand over this most sacred of relics after the Afghan amir requested it as part of the terms of peace. The khirqa was a powerful religious symbol, visible evidence of a cult as popular as the 'Alid Shrine at Mazar-i-Sharif'. As in medieval Europe , the possession of relics directly associated with , or which had been in the possession of, the founders of Christianity, was a means of legitimizing sovereignty, so the transfer of the khirqa from Bukhara to Ahmad Shah, provided the nascent Durrani state with the credibility it lacked. The khirqa had been in the possession of the dominant Hanafi power in Central Asia for over five centuries, and its surrender signified a dramatic shift in regional balance of power in favour of the Afghans. The glory, as it were, had departed, and with it, by implication, went the divine sanction which had maintained Chingizids in power .

Its no wonder that Ahmad Shah Durrani made the most of this acquisition. The relic's progress to Qandahar was accompanied by an extraordinary show of religious devotion, donations and pageantry and the establishment of qadamga at every stage to act as reminder to all and sundry of its passing. When it finally arrived in Qandahar, at that period still the Afghan capital, Ahmad Shah commissioned a building  which was to house both the khirqa and his own body after he died. However, it seems that the mantle was never actually placed in the mausoleum , for the ulama of the city opposed the use of such an important relic as a political tool."

 [Reference:  The "Ancient Supremacy": Bukhara, Afghanistan and the Battle for Balkh, 1731-1901", By Jonathan L. Lee, p-91]

Khirqa Sharif, Kandahar, 1880

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tanolis or Tunawalis

A Tanoli, Hazara, 1868

Tanolis or Tunawalis  (تناولی) claim descent from Barlas Mughals. They are divided into two divisions, Pul-Al and Hando-Al, the former occupy Lower Tunawal, and the latter occupy Upper Tunawal . In 1907 they numbered 58,700.(Hazara Gazetteer 1907, p-29)

In 1792 surveys, Tanolis are described as ;

"Tunawal is the name of a small territory lying on the east bank of the Aba-Sin, about twenty kuroh in length, and about the same in breadth, through which the Siran river flows from north to south, but inclining a little to the south-west. It is a very mountainous tract of country, and its inhabitants belong to different tribes, a number. of whom are Afghans; and the Pushto language is spoken among them all. The chieftainship lies with the Tunawalis, who account themselves to be of Mughal descent; but, at present, they are scarcely distinguishable in their appearance from the Afghans and various other peoples of this part. Latterly, according to some accounts, they have laid claim to be descended from the tribe of Birlas –Amir Timur's own tribe. “The Tunawal's number about 20,000 families, and consist of two septs or divisions, named respectively Pul Al, and Hando or Ando Al, the words being written both ways. The former hold the parts east of the Siran, or south-east portion of Tunawal, and the latter those on the west or north-west part. The latter tracts belong to Pa'indah Khan, and were held by his ancestors before him. Their chief places and seat of authority are Bir, Puhar, and Dera'h."

Tanawal, or Tunawal, as the Akhand, Darwezah, and the people of the district itself, write the word and pronounce it ——was overrun by the Afghans in the latter part of Akbar Badshah's reign. The contemporary writer Akhund Darwezah, says in his Tazkirat, that, from the time of Malik Ahmad and Khan Kaju up to his own time, the most powerful chief among the Yasufzís and Mandars was 'Ali Asghar, and the most successful in his enterprises. No chief among them had reduced the Kohistan of Tunawal, but he accomplished it, with the aid of other headmen of the subdivisions of the two tribes, such as Malik Hindal, the Akozi; Malik Bábá, Malizi; Matah Khan, and Mulla Ibrahim, Ilyaszi; Malik Tarki, Mandar; and others. 'Ali Asghar completely reduced that tract, and expelled its former inhabitants. From that time portions of Afghan tribes have been settled on the Indus, in parts formerly included in Tunawal ("Notes on Afghánistan and Part of Baluchistan", Henry George Raverty, pp-275-276)

From Asiatic Journal, 1841 (p-223) ;

"There is one chief who, though not an Eusofzye, yet from his position in the midst of, and intimate connection with, the Eusofzyes, and his singular history and character, must not be omitted in a description of the Eusofzye country. Paieendah Khan, of Tanawul, is a Mogul of the Birlas tribe, the same from which the Ameer Timoor was descended. All record of the first settlement in Tanawul of his family is lost, and it has long ago broken off all connection with the other branches of the Birlas, which are still to be found in Turkestan. The Tanawulees, who from their dialect, a corrupt Hindoostani, seem to be of eastern origin, are divided into two " tuppahs," the principal of which is Pulal, the other Hindowal, and these two divisions are, or were, respectively governed by two branches of the Birlas family. Paieendah Khan is descended from the junior branch, the Khans of the Hindowal, who had little power till the time of Nawab Khan (father of Paieendah), whose father having been killed by the chief of the Pulals, set himself up against them. Nawab Khan had the advantage of possessing the Douranee road, and enriched himself by a toll on all who travelled his way. The Douranees were constantly passing and repassing to and from Cashmeer, and their pride, as may well be conceived, could ill brook paying tribute to a petty tribe like the Tanawulees; much quarrelling and heart-burning was the consequence. "

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jihad of Haji Sahib of Turangzai and the Mohmand blockade during the First World War

Haji Sahib of Turangzai, after his migration to the Tribal territory, started his Jihad movement against the British. In June 1915 with a lashkar 4,000 strong , he invaded British territory on the north-eastern border of Peshawar. In August 1915, he had raised a laskar in Buner and fought against the British forces at Pirozai, Malandri and Ambela passes while his eldest son Badshah Gul-I was then busy organizing Mohmands against the British. Haji Sahib moved to Swat, Bajaur and finally settled in the Mohmand territory. His religio-spirtual reputation enabled him to raise Mohmand lashkars against the British many a time. British troops were rushed again and again to Shabqadar , at the main approach to Mohmand territory.

In August 1915, Mohmands fought a  fierce battle with the British forces at Michini-Abazai near Shabqadar. Both sides suffered heavily. The Mohmands lost 400 killed and 1,000 wounded. This did not deter them. They in October 1915, once again attacked the British force , with a lashkar of about 9,000 men. The Babra Mullah Sahib of Bajaur led a 1,000 strong tribal lashkar against Shabqadar in September , 1915, and 3,000 in October, 1915. The Bajauris had also brought lashkars to attack the Dir Levy posts in August , September and October , and the Swat Levy post of Kalonji and Kot Totai in November , 1915.

A blockade of the Mohmands against the upper section of the tribe had been ordered in August 1915. Negotiations led to a settlement in April, 1915. Once again a close blockade of the offending sections, the Halimzai, the Tarakzai and Pindiali Mohmands, was ordered. A barbed wire fence was raised , with alive wire charged with electric current on the Mohmand side of it ; nevertheless the tribal lashkars continued to carry out raids on the British territory. On the 15th November , 1917, Haji Sahib,  assisted by the Babra Mullah Sahib and Doda Jan of Bajaur , fought valiantly against the British troops. The tribal lashkar on this occasion was 6,000 strong but only about 1,000 soldiers could be deployed in the field.  


1- "The life and times of Haji Sahib of Turangzai" by Muhammad Fahim Khan,  Islamic Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring 1977), pp. 329-341

2- "History of the Pathans" by Haroon Rashid, Volume-2

No.12 Blockhouse on the Mohmand Blockade

‘Live wire’ on the Mohmand Blockade Line c.1917
The Mohmand Blockade

The 2/4 Border Regiment constructing the Mohmand Blockade line

The Mohmand Blockade - note the armoured car.

Haji Sahib of Turnagzai