Sunday, January 20, 2019

Shalmani tribe

Shalmanis of Ashnaghar

Shalmanis of Ashnaghar were people of Dehgan or Dardic roots, usually but erroneously styled Tajiks. According to Tawarikh-i-Hafiz Rahmat Khani, the original abodes of Shalmanis were Shalman (i.e Shaluzan) and Karman valleys (of present-day Kurram district) which were dependencies of Tirah at that time. They migrated to and settled in Ashanghar on the orders of Sultan Pakhal of Swat who also belonged to Dardic race. When Yousafzais and allied tribes moved to Peshawar valley in late 15th century, they found Ashnaghar to be in possession of Shalmani Dehgans as subjects of Jahangiri Sultans of Swat. They lost Ashnaghar tract when Yousafazais and allied tribes overran it in the times of Babur.

Shalmanis of Khyber

They consider themselves Mohmands. The tribe is settled in the North of Khyber Pass. They extend from the crest of the Dabrai Kotal on the east to the Shilman Ghakha on the west, the boundary on the north being the Kabul River whilst on the south lies the Landi Kotal plateau and the Torsappar, Spinsooka Range. The Shilmanis' country is mostly barren and desolate: the chief wealth of the residents consists of large flocks of goats, which spare nothing green that grows in the valleys and hills. The Shalmanis are divided as Loe Shalmanis and Kam Shalmanis.

Before the Khyber Pass was permanently opened, the chief trade between Kabul and Peshawar was carried through the Shilman and Mullagori country who were then exceedingly well off. However, the British paid subsistence annual allowances of Rs.2,000 to Kam and Loi Shilmanis at the scale of Rs.400/- and 1,600/- respectively. In 1881, it was paid to Jamal Khan and Azam Khan, both Dilkha Khel Kam Shilmanis , and to Khaista Khan, Ghulam Kadir, and Gulistan of Shah Mansoor Khels and Mir Hamza Halimzaey of Loy Shilmanis. It is said Khaista Khan Shah Mansoor Khel, who was in late nineteenth century was 90 years old, was considered to be an authority on the terrain and politics of Khyber range.


1- Notes on the Pathans of the Pathan Recruiting District, by G. P. Ranken, 1895.
2- Tawarikh-i-Hafiz Rahmat Khani, translated by Roshan Khan.
3- 'History of the Pathans', by Haroon Rashid, Vol-II

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Chasing 'A boy across the river'

By Dr.Nafees Ur Rehman

Last summer, I was reading the memoirs of Major Maurice Patrick O'Connor Tandy, who had worked for the British-Raj and was posted Assistant Commissioner Kohat through1940-41. In this book THIM DAYS IS GONE, I came across a love-song Zakhmi Sandara which he says was being played endlessly on loud speakers in Peshawar. The alleged translation by the British, according to him, of a couplet of which go like this.
There is a boy across the river with a bottom like a peach
But alas! I cannot swim

I was really surprised that such an explicit (rather obscene) song could have been played at Peshawar that too in public and on loud speakers. We know that in those times even loud-speaker was termed as a tool of devil and religious fanatics had issues fatwas against its usage. However, I kind of believed that this love-song might have existed owing to the deplorable practice of Shahid Bazi /Bacha Bazi in this part of the world. I went on and posted this excerpt on Twitter. There Barmazid, a Pashtun history enthusiast and blogger responded to it saying that he had seen mention of this love-song in the works of the novelist John Master. John Master is the same novelist who invented the Execution By Golden Shower theory where he fancies that the tribal Pashtun women would kill captured British soldiers by urinating into their mouths.

What I didn't know that William Dalrymple, a celebrated historian from Scotland based in India, had also mentioned this couplet in his book Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan on page 17. He had posted it on Twitter in 2013, as attached below.

It strucked me when I saw that these couplets were attributed to Khushal Khan Khattak, a celebrated Pashto poet whose poetry was first translated into English in 1880s for that it talks of courage, bravery, character and love. Elphinstone remarks on Khushal Khan Khattak in his History of India as "Khushhal Khan, the Khan of the Khataks, who was a voluminous author and has left several poems written at this time for the purpose of exciting the national enthusiasm of his countrymen. They are remarkable for their high and ardent tone, and for their spirit of patriotism and independence, so unlike the usual character of Asiatics."
د افغان په نـنګ می وتړله توره
نـنګیالی د زمانی خوشال خټک یم
It is for the Afghan honour that my sword I have bound beside me,
I Khushhal Khatak am the only proud Afghan of the day!

So it was troubling to accept that a chieftain of Khattaks, a warrior and poet could have written such obscene couplet. Upon inquiry of the source of this couplet, William Dalrymple pointed to Soldier Sahib by Charles Allen. However, there is no mention of the love-song, let alone any primitive source for this couplet. This left us confused.

The confusion, however, served as motivation to trace the origin or any earlier mentions of the couplet in Pashto and in the colonial literature. I came across multiple mentions of this love-song in the colonial-literature some calling it Zakhmi Sandara (Wounded Song), others Zakhmi Dil (Wounded Heart) but, unfortunately, none in Pashto. Fortunately enough, it is now possible to solve the riddle of the love-song, from the colonial literature alone.

This love-song appears in the book On secret patrol in high Asia by Latham Valentine Stewart Blacker, published in 1922. I quote the lyrics and the musical tune from this book below.

There's a girl across the river,
And her cheeks are like a peach,
But, alas ! I cannot swim,
Though we all know what would happen
If a Pathan hove in sight,
And if he could only reach.

So now we have part of the answer i.e, the original lyrics do not talk of boys neither of bottoms; but of girls and cheeks. This also confirms that the later usage of the couplet was, surely, result of corruption or modification. Now read with me the following excerpt from The Pathan Borderland by James W. Spain, published under auspices of Near and Middle East Institute of Columbia University in 1965.

"Many of the songs and stories which are repeated in Pathan villages are reminiscent of the versatility of the folk literature of medieval Europe. One of the best known is the Kabuli love song, Zakhmi Dil, "Bleeding heart", which in altered cadence and with revised (and very obscene) words was a favorite marching tune among Pathan soldiers of the British [Raj]."

Based on the above excerpt, we can confidently say that the original lyrics were modified. I came across two other mentions that the British-Indian soldiers would march to this tune during World War I, which means that the original love-song was there before the World War I and the modifications to it took place either before or during the war period.

The last and important question is, when was the modified couplet attributed to Khushal Khan Khattak. As mentioned above, William Dalrymple has quoted Soldier Sahib by Charles Allen published 2000 as source of the couplet but as I have said earlier, the book does not mention it at all. However, Charles Allen had talks about it in one place in his earlier work Plain tales from the Raj: images of British India in the twentieth century published in 1986. He talks just in one place of the love-song as shown in the following excerpt.

But gives no detail of the poet. I have not [yet] found any mention of the original or of the modified lyrics that attributes it to Khushal Khan Khattak except that of William Dalrymple's. in Return of the King.

I can confidently say that it is because of the absence of any reference that when Barmazid asked him again the other day, William Dalrymple tweeted that the attribution of the couplet to Khushal Khan Khattak is an error and, that this error will be corrected in the future editions of the book.

On a last note, I thank Barmazid for pointing out this error and for standing to correct it. I also thank William Dalrymple for his friendly yet professional interaction with us on this topic and for having agreed to correct the error.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Asad Umar of PTI and Sher Shah Suri's road

An old clip of Asad Umar (now Finance Minister of Pakistan) in which he is dismissing Sher Shah Sur's GT road as trivial , a pastime of kings, that it was a showy spectacle like Taj Mahal. He is comparing apples with oranges (roads with univeristies). His political opponent Nihal Hashmi declared Nawaz Shareef as Sher Shah Sur II for building motorway, Asad Umar is responding to that.

I am not an expert in econmonics but historians inform us that the vast network of roads built by Sher Shah and the security provided along the roads, increased trade and commerce. The roads were provided with serais or rest-houses. Market towns developed near these sarais and gave impetus to trade.To encourage foreign trade, Sher Shah reduced custom duties and taxes were collected only at the point of entry and the point of sale, and abolishing all irregular levies.To promote commerce, Sher Shah also reformed the currency. This was accomplished in less than five years while there were other tasks at hands. Sher Shah did have fondness for education. He did built madrassas/colleges. Ruins of a madrassa founded by him were discovered at Narnaul and the inscription at the site reveals that it was built by him in 1520 AD when he was not even a king, just young Farid Khan at that time.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Khwaja Muhammad Khan from Kandahar

Khwaja Muhammad Khan from Kandahar at Gundamuck, 23rd April 1879. Sketch by William Simpson. [Brown University Library]

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mohmand tribe

Muhammad Gunge, an Utmanzai Mohmand of Dakka. The Illustrated London News, August 9, 1879

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Months of the year in Pashto

The Pashtun tribes bordering on the Punjab, use the months of the Hindu calendar when referring to the matters of agriculture . The names of the Pashtun months are :-