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 During Akbar's reign it remained the official standard till the 33rd year (1589) , when it was finally superseded by the Gaz-i-Ilahi.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

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


Sunday, July 9, 2017

History of Quetta or Kwatta’h

By Khan Barmazid

Kwatta’h (کوټه) in Pashto means 'a mound, a heap, a pile of earth, stones, etc'. The town of Afghan district of Shal was called Kwattah from its being situated on a mound. English writers erroneously called the town Quetta. A story is told by Brahuis that that Ahmad Shah Abdali in conferring the district on the mother of Nasir Khan, Bibi Mariam, said “this is your shal,” i.e., your present.” This statement does not have any historical evidence. The historical incidences show that Shal is an ancient name and the place was known by this name a thousand years ago. Geographers of the Islamic period have mentioned this region, which stretches from Mastang to Seyoon, as Walishtan.  Arab traveler Abu Abdullah Mohammad bin Maqdasi, writing in 898 AD, name the cities of Walishtan as Eishin (Pishin) Asbedja, Mastung, Shal, Sekeera, and Seywa (Siwi or Sibi). He repeats these names in page 297 of his book. Shal is also mentioned in 'Tarikh-nama-i-Herat (written in 1318 AD) to be a place in Afghanistan in the narration of events of 1250 AD.  According to historian Allama Habibi ," It (Shal) is not a new name and the people of Kandahar, until the present time, call the fruit merchants of Quetta as Shaalkotyan. Kote is an old Pashto word which means a fortress and Shaal Kot means the fortress of Shaal".

Babur in his memoirs mention Shal and Mastung..... "Shah Beg (Arghun) went towards Shal and Mastung , Muqim towards Zamindawar". .....("Baburnama", p-337, English translation by Annette.S.Beveridge)

Shah Beg Arghun (d. 1522)  was expelled from Kandahar in 1517 and he established himself at Shal , and at Sibi (Siwi) . From these bases, he conquered Sind in 1520.

Gulbadan-Begum (sister of Emperor Humayun) mentions Shal and Mastung in the biography Humayun-nama ;
".....The Emperor (Humayun) was stupefied and bewildered , and said : 'What is to be done? where i am to go?' They all consulted together. Tardi Muhammad Khan and Bairam Khan gave it as their opinion that it was impossible to decide to go anywhere but to the north and Shal-Mastun(g), the frontier of Qandahar. 'There are many Afghans in those parts', they said , 'whom we shall draw over to our side." (Humayun-nama, English translation by Anetta.S.Beveridge, p-165) 

According to Ain-i-Akbari of Abu Fazal (written around 1590 AD) , Shal was dependency of Kandahar in later half of sixteenth century . Shal had mud fort at that time and its lands were assessed at four and half tumans in money, 940 sheep and 780 kharwars in grain. The Kasi Afghans of Shal (along with Balochs) had to furnish 1,000 horse and 1,000 foot.

In the reign of Shahjehan (1628-1655) Rajo and Zangi, Rind chiefs raided Shal by way of the Bolan. They were defeated by the Kasis after a severe engagement about three miles south of Quetta. Since then the small stream of Zangi Lora was given its name , as the action took place at its source when Zangi, the Rind chief, was killed. (Memoir on Kalat by G.P.Tate as quoted by A.Aziz Luni in 'Afghans of the frontier passes' p-228)

During the lifetime of Shah Hussain Ghilzai (Reign 1725-1738) , Mihrab Khan, the Khan of Kalat,  had encroached upon the Afghan district of Shal , or Shal Mastung and had possessed himself of its town and of its fort situated on high mound. Shah Hussain , the Ghilzai King of Kandahar, determined to recover it and reduce the rebellious Baluch to submission. Setting out from Kandahar, In the beginning of 1145 H (June or July 1733) , with a force composed of Afghans and Hazarah levies, he first crossed the Kojzakk Kotal and reached Pushang (Pishin) . He first crossed the Khojak Pass and reached Pushang or Pishin. The fort there again put into an efficient state of defense ; and the Ghilzai king left a garrison to hold it , after which he crossed Kotal-i-Gaz into Shal . The Baluchis retired into the fort on Kwatah. They sallied out under their leader Salar Khan, however, he was defeated. After another sally having again been unsuccessful some days after,  the Baluchis under cover of night , evacuated the place and made for Mastung and Kalat. Shah Hussain occupied the fort of Shal with 500 Jazailchis and a body of 200 cavalry under Sher Dil Khan Babuzai and then pushed on to Mastung. ("Notes on Afghanistan and part of Baluchistan", pp-611-612)

When Ahmad Shah Abdali became king, the valley of Shal formed a part of his dominions and the office of Arbab was conferred upon Muhammad Thalib Kasi. Mahbat Khan Brahui of Kalat killed him when he was at village Katir. News of the occurrence immediately was dispatched to Kandahar, and Ahmad Shah summoned Mahbat Khan to Kandahar to explain how he came to slay the Shah's representative in Shal.  (Memoir on Kalat by G.P.Tate as quoted by A.Aziz Luni in 'Afghans of the frontier passes' p-229)  

Qazi Nur Muhammad Kalhora (a servant of Mir Nasir Khan) in his Jangnama contends that Ahmad Shah Abdali, on return from one of his Indian campaigns, on a written request from Mir Nasir Khan, granted Shal to and also sanction some cash awards for the Brahui Mujahids. Kasis say Shal always remained theirs. Compiler Hatu Ram, also, on page 624 of his Tarikh-i-Baluchistan (1907) quotes a Sanad granted by Ahmad Shah Abdali to Tarin Afghans in which the Shah incidentally acknowledged the fact that Shal valley belongs to Kasi Afghans. This the compiler considers an astonishing statement especially in view of the common impression that Ahmad Shah Abdali bestowed Shal on Naseer Khan Brahui. Hitu Ram therefore, conjectures that it is quite possible that the Shah subsequently restored Shal to Kasis because of his annoyance at the subsequent rebellious conduct of Mir Nasir Khan. Hitu Ram also quotes a document given to Kasis by Nasir Khan I in which the precise outer limits of the Shal valley (owned by Kasis) were defined. This shows that at least Abdali and Nasir Khan both considered the valley of Shal to be a legitimate possession of the Kasi Afghans. (Afghans of the frontier passes' by A.Aziz Luni, p-229)    

Description of Quetta by Sir Keith Alexander Jackson who was a captain in the Fourth Light Dragoons in the British army, part of the Anglo-Indian force that set out for Afghanistan from British India in December 1838 ;
"Kwettah , the capital of the Beloochie (Kalat's) province of Shawl, is a small town surrounded by a wall of mud ; the houses are built of the same material , and are but few in number, the population being poor and inconsiderable. In the center, is the citadel , where is the residence of Governor : it is built upon an elevation, overlooking the town, which may be about four hundred yards across. There are four gates in the wall surrounding it , which open on to a very luxuriant part of the valley. The situation of Khettah, from its proximity to the mountains, is grand and striking. It was from this part of the valley , during its occupation by the Bengal column by the army , that the Kakur (Kakar) freebooters carried off about fifty of the commiserate camels ; they were pursued by a party of troops of the 2nd light cavalry , and a company of native infantry, but without a success, as the booty had been driven into the mountains , and no trace of them could be discovered. They afterwards made another sally from their mountain fastnesses, and carried off some camel that were grazing , belonging to the troops. Sir John Keane and Shah Shoojah , on their arrival, shortly afterwards, made Kwettah their headquarters. The gardens surrounding the town are full of English flowers and fruits , and its vicinity abounds in the buttercup and cyanus, and many other varieties of English field vegetation. "  

H.G.Raverty in his article "Kwatah (Quetta) and the Afghans", published in Geographical Magazine, 1877 (p-286), says ;
"A series of letters , signed "T", have lately appeared in Allen's Indian Mail, on "Quetta", so-called, which i have read with some interest, particularly No.IV, ; and, with your permission , i will say a few words on the same subject, which may tend to remove some misunderstanding and correct some errors.

It is not surprising that the writer of the letter in question has found a map of the boundaries of Afghanistan "in which Quetta and the whole valley of the Shahdezee Lora (Shawl) is included in Afghanistan ; indeed Mastoong is also coloured as belonging to the Afghans." He , doubtless, is aware how the boundaries in Elphinstone's are coloured. In that map "Quetta" and the "district of Shawl" is included in Afghanistan , together with part of the Dasht-i-Be-Daulat , as far south as Sar-i-Ab ; but Mastang is included in Baluchistan. This is not to be wondered at, for more reasons than one. The tract in question is part of Afghanistan , and is peopled by Afghan clans of the great tribe of Kakar, while south of Sar-i-Ab, the people are Baluchis.

The chief town of the district of Shal is, correctly called Kwatah an Afghan word with the peculiar t (ټ), which sound is obtained by reverting the point of the tongue to the palate , and is similar to the Sanskrit ta. The word signifies "a mound" , "a heap", "a pile of earth , stones, or rocks" , as given in my Afghan dictionary ; and any one who has ever seen the place , or seen a view of it , must have perceived it , at a glance , the appropriateness of the name.

That Shal , or Kwatah, "has been included in Afghanistan" is not to be wondered at. The district, as noticed before, is peopled by Afghans ; and the true south-eastern half or portion of the boundary of the Afghan country is clearly defined by a range of mountains somewhat in the shape of a bow , with the apex to the south , stretching from Dajal, near the Indus, in the southern Derah-jat, to Sar-i-Ab. All the people north of it are Afghans : all to the south Baluchis.

Elphinstone says – "Shawl is inhabited by a tribe of Caukers called Cassye (Kasi Kakars) ; but , as it was granted by Ahmed Shauh to Nausser Khaun , the Prince of Beloches, it is no longer to be considered as part of the Afghaun country." This is not quite correct : the tract in question was only placed temporarily under the control of the Baluch chief by Ahmad Shah , as a vassal and tributary , who acknowledged the suzerainty of the Durrani empire ; and , up to the downfall of the Sadozi monarchs , that vassalage was observed , and a contingent of Baluch troops was furnished to the Durranis , to the number of 7500 horse and camel sawars , in time of war. The Wazir, Fath Khan, Barakzi, was the last who appears to have coerced the Baluchis for rebellion , when he restored Shah Mahmud to the throne , and when the Sadozi fell, and the Barakzi brothers divided their sovereign's dominions among themselves, the Baluch chiefs seems to have gradually shaken off or weakened the bonds of their Afghan yoke , which the later Barakzis were never after inclined or able to enforce. "

'Kwettah', 1839 (c).

Quetta, view looking to the fort with hills in the background ,1880.  From Macnabb collection

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Shah Tahmasp's advice to Humayun on Pashtuns

Tahmasp I (1514 – 1576) was an influential Shah of Iran of the Safavid dynasty. After getting defeated by Sher Shah Sur, Humayun sought refuge with Shah Tahmasp. Zakhirat-ul-Khawanin (Eng.trans, Vol-I, pp-103-104) records an interesting conversation that took place between Humayun and Shah Tahmasp ;

Shah Tahmasp: "Among Indian which class commands the obedience of big tribes , possess princely grandeur and are brave" ?

Humayun: "The Afghans and the Rajputs"

Shah Tahmasp: "Are they friendly with each other" ?

Humayun: "No"

Shah Tahmasp: "You can not win the friendship of the Afghans ; deprive them of military service and force them to become merchants and artisans"

According to Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh, Sher Shah Sur had contemplated to form an alliance with the Ottoman Sultan against Safavid Persia. For this purpose Sher Shah Sur sent Mir Saiyid Rafiuddin with his letters to the court of Sultan of Rum . (Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh, English transl. Vol-I, pp-480-481.

The painting below shows the meeting between Shah Tahmasp and Humayun at Isfahan.