Sunday, April 30, 2017

Yaghistan, the land of the free and unruly

By Khan Barmazid

 Pashtun highlands in the past have been called Yaghistan which means the land of the free and unruly (Yaghi means uncontrollable and unmanageable). Amir Abdur Rahman Khan referred to the tribal belt between British India and Afghanistan as Yaghistan in his autobiography. Colonel Brazier Creagh of the Indian Army, who visited the area in 1893-4, wrote, "When went to the frontier it was Yaghistan ; it was a forbidden land, and no Englishman had ever been there before.....It was impossible to go [inside] and if you did your bones would be left there.”

Yaghistan, referred to as Roh in medieval times (Roh means mountains) was the land where no man was above another. They were not subjects of any body and they were not the part of any kingdom of a king according to Afsana-i-Shahan. The fiercely independent Pakhtun tribes of Yaghistan remained independent during the Ghaznavid period and Ghaznavid sources reveal that Turkish Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni attacked Afghans who used to raid his frontier districts and killed large numbers of them but Afghans remained unruly and his successors had struggle with ever rebellious Afghans. These Afghan tribes of mountains maintained their independence during Ghurid, Mongol,  Timurid, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal , Durrani and Sikh periods. They did not recognize any imperial authority and could not be forced to pay any taxes. Lavish subsidies were paid by the Mughals as protection money to keep the passes through Yaghistan open. In 19th century (before 1893) the tribes of Yaghistan did not belong either to the British raj or Amir of Kabul.


1887 : 'The Afghans of Yaghistan do not belong either to the British raj or to the Amir (of Kabul) but live in the native national anarchy in the western basin of the upper India.....Swat, Buner , Panjkura, Dir etc. The Afghan of Yaghistan is the true, unsophisticated Afghan. '  The Library Magazine - Page 280

In Ghilzai usage, Yaghistan (lands of freedom or unrestrained)  is where no man is above another , in contrast to hukomat where there are governors and governed.  Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan 

The fiercely independent Pakhtuns of Yaghistan maintained their independence during the Ghaznavid, Ghurid, Mongol, Timurid, Mughal (Babur's dynasty), Durrani and Sikh periods.

Colonel Brazier Creagh of the Indian Army, who visited the area in 1893-4, wrote, "When went to the frontier it was Yaghistan ; it was a forbidden land, and no Englishman had ever been there before.....It was impossible to go [inside] and if you did your bones would be left there.”    . Frontier of Faith: Islam, in the Indo-Afghan Borderland

Friday, April 28, 2017

Notes on Orakzai tribe

Group portrait of an Orakzai Chief and three tribesmen, ca. 1900, , the Chief sits in an armchair wearing a striped turban, an embroidered woolen full-length embroidered coat over a velvet gold-embroidered waistcoat, he wears baggy Pathan pants and traditional leather shoes with curling toes, he carries a Khyber knife in its scabbard with metal locket and chape, the three tribesmen around him are armed with jezail matchlocks, Khyber knife and a metal shield dhal with 4 bosses. This image was published by the Arts Photo Works of India as `Our restless neighbours the Pathans’

Origin legend

According to the legends prevalent amongst the Orakzai elders, Tirah was formerly occupied by the Hindu non-Pashtun race, called the Tirahis whose descendants are, to this day, found in some villages as 'Hamsaya' (dependents) of the Orakzai. Tirahis were ruled by different rajas whose names can still be traced in several places in Tirah such as the Rajgal valley , Darbar Ghundi and Moula Ghar, named after King Rajgal, Raja Darbar and Raja Moula respectively.

White King conjectures that about 1,000 years ago, a Persian Prince, Sikandar Shah, captured the Tirah region , and he is considered by some as the ancestor of the Orakzai tribe. As the legend goes, Prince Sikandar, in his own country used to amuse himself by breaking the pitchers carried by the women drawing water from the springs near his palace in Isphahan, a hobby of majority of the princes of old legends. The people complained to the king about the prince's leisure-sport who chided the prince, but to no avail. The prince continued his sport and one fine morning he, to his dismay, found that his shoes had been turned upside down, meaning thereby his expulsion from the kingdom. He was henceforth known as the , 'Wrukza', that in Pashto means 'get lost or be exiled'. The prince left his country and came to Urghan in the Waziristan territory, the capital of the Muhammadan King of Kohat, who gave him employment at his court. After sometimes, the Persian King repented his action and sent a court musician (Dum) named Banga to bring back the exiled prince. Banga had been the Prince's friend since childhood. In course of time, Banga found his way to Kohat where Sikandar Shah welcomed him, called him his brother and gave him a seat next to him in the royal durbar. From Banga, the King at Kohat learned that Sikandar Shah was exiled son of the King of Persia. The King married to him one of his daughters. At about that time, the Tirahis started raids on the suburbs of Kohat ; consequently , the King of Kohat sent Prince Sikandar Shah to subdue the Tirahis. He set out by the Tora Pakha route and reached Tanda in the Mastura valley . He defeated the Tirahis and drove them into the Maidan of Tirah and thereafter across the mountains of Nangarhar where their descendants are still said to be settled . In the meantime, the King of Kohat died and Banga established himself as the new King of Kohat. Sikandar Shah fought Banga's forces at Muhammadzai, near Kohat and was defeated. So Sikandar Shah was obliged to settle down in Tirah where he established himself and married a Tirahi woman as his second wife. From Banga originated the Bangash tribe of Kohat. Sikandar's descendants were called by their neighbors as the sons of 'Wrukza' which got corrupted into Wrukzai or Orakzai.

(Reference: "History of the Pathans" by Haroon Rashid, Vol-IV, p-52

Conflict with the Mughals

In 1619 or 1620, Mahabat Khan, Subahdar of Kabul,  under the emperor Jahangir, treacherously massacred 300 Daulatzai Orakzai, who were Roshania adherents; and, during his absence on a visit to Jahangir at Rohtas, Ghairat Khan was sent with a large force via Kohat to invade Tirah. He advanced to the foot of the Sampagha pass, which was held by the Roshanias under Ihdad and the Daulatzai under Malik Tor. The Rajputs attacked the former and the latter were assailed by Ghairat Khan's own troops, but the Mughal forces were repulsed with great loss. Six years later, however, Muzaffar Khan, son of Khwaja Abdul Hasan, then Subahdar of Kabul, marched against Ihdad by the Sugawand pass and Gardez, and after five or six months' fighting Ihdad was shot and his head sent to Jahangir. His followers then took refuge in the Lowaghar; and subsequently Abdul Kadir, Ihdad's son, and his widow Alai, returned to Tirah. The death of Jahangir in 1627 was the signal for a general rising of the Afghans against the Mughal domination. Muzaffar Khan was attacked on his way from Peshawar to Kabul, and severely handled by the Orakzai and Afridis, while Abdul Kadir attacked Peshawar, plundered the city, and invested the citadel. Abdul Kadir was, however, compelled by the jealousy of the Afghans to abandon the siege and retire to Tirah, whence he was induced to come into Peshawar. There he died in 1635. The Mughals sent a fresh expedition against his followers in Tirah ; and Yusuf, the Afridi, and Asar Mir, the Orakzai chief, were at length induced to submit, and received lands at Panipat near Delhi. Simultaneously operations were undertaken in Kurram. Yet, in spite of these measures, Mir Yakut, the imperial Dlwan at Peshawar, was sent to Tirah in 1658 to repress an Orakzai and Afridi revolt.

(Reference:  Imperial Gazetteer of India, Provincial series : North-West-Frontier", page-235)

Orakzai notables in India, Dost Muhammad Khan and Jalal Khan

Dost Muhammad Khan, born in 1672 A.D, was the son of Nur Muhammad Khan, and belonged to Mirazi Khel clan of Orakzais of Tirah. He emigrated to Hindustan , some where between 1697 and 1703, during the final years of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. He founded the Bhopal principality in 1707 and expanded it till his death in 1728. At its zenith, the Bhopal state comprised a territory of around 7,000 square miles (18,000 km2).The state became a British protectorate in 1818, and was ruled by the descendants of Dost Mohammad Khan till 1949, when it was merged with the Dominion of India.

Jalal Khan 's father , Hazar Mir Orakzai of Miranzai Khel, came to India during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan and obtained the zamindari of certain villages in the Jamuna-Gangetic Doab. After his father's death , Jalal Khan succeeded to the zamindari and obtained, in addition thereto, some more villages in the pargana of Thana Bhawan , near which he built a fortress and founded the town of Jalalabad (Saharanpur, U.P). In 1709 Jalal Khan faced seventy or eighty thousands Sikhs of Banda Singh and successfully defended his fort with just few hundreds men. For the victory over the Sikhs, Jalal Khan was rewarded by the Nazim of Delhi , on 31st August 1710 AD, with the Faujdari of Saharanpur . He was raised to the rank of two thousand and five hundred in the reign of Jahandar Shah , with a further promotion during Farrukh Siyar's time. He died in  September 1718 AD.

Islamnagar Palace, Bhopal, built by Dost Mohammad Khan Orakzai

Orakzais during the Durrani period

Since the decay of the Mughal empire, Orakzai tribes had been virtually independent, though owning at times a nominal allegiance to Kabul. Syed Ghulam Muhammad in  Timur Shah's reign, has following description of Orakzais;
 "The Afghan tribe (Orakzai) contains some thousands of families, and they dwell in mountain tracts of Tirah, the Khyber, and Jalalabad. They have to furnish a contingent of soldiers to the Badhshah of Kabul, and their Sardars hold jagirs or fiefs in the Peshawar district for guarding and keeping open the passes within their boundaries." (Reference: Raverty, "Notes on Afghanistan", p-95)

During the Durrani period, the titular chief of the Orakzai belonged to the Abdul Aziz Khel clan. He had very cordial relations with the Saddozai Kings at Kabul. The Abdul Aziz Khel 'Khan Khels' had a 'sanad' from Ahmad Shah Abdali , granting them a 'jagir' and some monetary allowances. In 1796-7 AD, Orakzais provided an infantry contingent of ten thousand men to Zaman Shah for his invasion of the Punjab. The Durranis, from the very beginning , managed the Orakzai tribe through the Bangash 'Khans' of Hangu. During the Barakzai and Sikh domination of the area, the Orakzai were under the management of Sultan Muhammad Khan Barakzai, the governor of Kohat.  (Reference: "History of the Pathans" by Haroon Rashid, Vol-IV, p-70)  

Orakzai tribesmen, 1868

See also : Jalal Khan Orakzai

                 When Orakzais defeated the Mughal army in Tirah

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Debunking a malevolent statement of Jadunath Sarkar about Ahmad Shah Durrani

By Brigadier (R) Haroon Rashid

In any confrontation, a hero of one side is often the villain  of another. Sir Jadunath Nath Sarkar on the authority of a Maratha while mentioning Ahmad Shah's marriage with Princess Hazrat Mahal casts aspersion on the former as under:
"This tender lamb was to be pounced upon by a fierce Afghan of  grandfatherly age whose two ears docked and nose was rotting from a  leprous carbuncle."
Ahmad Shah, in 1747 AD, at the age of 23 years became King of Afghanistan. In 1756-7 AD, when he married the Princess he was about  33 years of age, which by all standards is a marriageable age. Such  political marriages were in vogue amongst the Mughals, Afghans and  Rajputs of the time. Babur had married Bibi Mubarika daughter of  Malik Mansur Khan Yousufzaey soon after his invasion of the Yousufzi  territory (William Erskine "A History of India under Baber", p- 338.  and Annette S. Beveridge, "Babur-Nama", Appendices `K-AN', p-xxxvi.). Likewise, Emperor Akbar had married daughters of Rajput rajas.

S. Fida Yunas, an authority on the history of Afghanistan writes:-
 "Alamgir Tsani, got his niece married to Prince Taimur (son of Ahmad Shah Durrani) while Sabiha Mahal, wife of Muhammad Shah Babri (mother of Ahmad Shah Moghal) gave her own daughter in marriage to the Durrani King. Seeing the downfall of the Moghals in India, Sabiha Mahal expressed her desire to accompany her son-in-law to Kandahar." (Afghanistan, A Political History" p-105).

Ahmad Shah Abdali had contracted the nose cancer a few years before his death in June 1773 AD. He had been out in the field even in 1770 AD. J. Nath Sarkar's malevolent statement is therefore
absolutely baseless which is contradicted by many authentic historical accounts.

Likewise, the writings of Mir Taqi Mir, whose patron was a Hindu Jat Raja Nagar Mal, are biased. According to him `the Afghans looted grains from some and  sold at higher prices to other wealthy persons'. They could have  easily looted the wealthy people in the first place; why undergo rigmarole of first looting and then selling it. It does not stand to logic.

Haroon Rashid

The writer is a retired brigadier and author of a ten-volume book "History of the Pathans"

Jadunath Sarkar

Friday, April 21, 2017

Zaman Shah Durrani's invasion of India and Tipu Sultan

In the late eighteenth century, the Durrani empire was the only force that could neutralize the increasing influence of the East India Company or support the waning Indian Muslim power. Shah Zaman's frequent attacks on India kept the British in a chronic state of unrest. However, because of his internal problems , he could never advance farther than the Lahore. By the end of 1797,  Muslim rajas and nawabs of India had turned their eyes upon Kabul with a hope that it would save them from the impending yoke of the usurping British. From northern Oudh to southern Mysore , Muslim petty rulers had sent invitations to Zaman Shah Durrani, with large promises of aid in money and men. Wazir Ali and Tipu Sultan had encouraged him to declare jihad against the infidels and lead an army of all the Muslims of India reviving the gallant deeds of his grandfather. The Raja of Jainagar offered him a lac of Rupees as soon as the grand army should enter his state.

 Lord Wellesley, said:-
"Every Muhammadan , even in the remotest region of Deccan , waited with anxious expectation for the advance of the Champion of Islam"  (J.W.Kaye, "History of the War in Afghanistan", Vol-1, p-3)

Sir John Shore wrote to Dundas just before setting off on a trip to Lucknow (January 27th , 1797)  ;
"...He (the Nawab of Awadh) has earnestly solicited me to meet him , alarmed probably by an apprehension of Zaman Shah. I can not yet bring my mind to entertain any fears on this account , but i have taken the same precautions as if i was morally certain of the Shah's approach. If he should reach Delhi , he can have not motive but the plunder of Lucknow.......It has also been suggested that the Shah acts in concert with Tipu and by French intrigues ; I am equally an infidel on this point , but at the same time aware of the influence which his success might have on the resolutions of Tipu and the politics of the Nizam"
Fifteen thousands troops were accordingly stationed along the northern borders until the close of  Zaman Shah's invasion. ("Tiger of Mysore - life and death of Tipu Sultan" , p-244)

For some of the letters exchanged between Zaman Shah and Tipu Sultan refer to the pages from 59 to 68 in the following book available on Google Books in full view;

Official Documents, Relative to the Negotiations Carried on by Tippoo Sultaun, with the French Nation, and Other Foreign States, for Purposes Hostile to the British Nation (printed at the Honorable Company's Press, 1799)

By pitching the Persians against Zaman Shah , the British could forestall his much dreaded invasion of India. It was obvious that while threatened from the west , Zaman Shah could never conduct a successful expedition into India. So, to instigate the Shah of Persia against Zaman Shah, at the end of 1796, Captain Malcolm's mission was sent to Persia to relieve India from the annual alarm of Shah Zaman's invasion. In October 1800, he wrote from Isfahan :-
"That Zaman Shah could do nothing in India before the setting in of the rains of 1801. He has no time if he had the power for such an attempt ; and by the blessing of God he will for some years to come be too much engaged in this quarter to think of any other" (J.W.Kaye, "History of the War in Afghanistan", Vol-1, p-6)
Zaman Shah planned an expedition into India in 1799-1800. The internal strife had exhausted his coffers . He could have led 2,00,000 men into the field if he had money to pay them. Even the Qizalbashes refused to accompany him , apparently on the plea that they needed arms to fight the battles and money to support their wives. In fact they were in league with the King of Persia on whose instructions they tried to weaken the Durrani army. Shah Zaman was continually being deserted at this critical time for the want of sinews of war. His artillery consisted of some twelve brass field guns and five hundreds Zumboorucks or camel guns. There were not more than 500 good horses in his army. Such was the army with which he planned an invasion of India to fight the anti-Islamic forces. The Persian activity in the west and the internal intrigues broke up the Durrani army and kept the Shah at home. Finally the death of Tipu Sultan dampened his designs on India for the time being. ("History of the Pathans" by Haroon Rashid, Vol-1, pp-180-181)

Tipu Sultan aged 30 . Artist: Johann Zoffany, 1780

Zaman Shah Durrani enthroned, circa 1795

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rohtasgarh or Rohtas fort (Bihar)

The Rohtasgarh Fort or Rohtas Fort is one of the ancient forts of India located in a small town of Rohtas in Bihar. This fort rose to prominence after captured by Sher Shah Suri in 1539 from a Hindu Raja. Sher Shah kept his treasures in this Rohtas Fort, and it was held by garrison of 10,000 matchlock men or troops armed with fire-arms, and the command over them was entrusted to Ikhtiyar Khan Panni, one of his Amirs. The Jami Masjid of Rohtasgarh bears a Persian inscription recording its construction by Azam Humayun Haibat Khan Niazi in 1543.

It is recorded that there were thirty villages on its top ; it was spacious and there was so much cultivation there. There was considerable flow of water from its top. There were fruit-bearing orchards and a single narrow path led up to it which could not be negotiated on horse-back.

As regard the size of the fort of Rohtas , the imperial gazetteer of India records that it remains now occupy a part of the plateau about four miles east to west and five miles from north to south with a circumference of nearly twenty eight miles. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hemu did not declare himself an independent king

Some of the modern historians have taken the allegations of the prejudiced medieval writers leveled against Hemu seriously without making the critical examination of historical facts. None of the historians, Abu Fazal, Nizamuddin and Badauni, suggests that Hemu set himself up as as independent monarch. They merely state that he assumed the title of Raja Bikramjit and other great names. The title Raja Bikramjit was already given to him by Sultan Adil Shah in Chunar (Tarikh-i-Daudi, p-191). No coin of Hemu has been found any where. Only Ahmad Yadgar states that Hemu declared himself sovereign , struck coins and read khutba in his name. But Ahmad Yadgar himself confesses that Hemu acknowledged Adil Shah as his master even after the conquest of Delhi, October 6, 1556. Hemu, therefore, could only assume the insignia of royalty in the interval of a month between Octb. 6 1556 and the battle of Panipat November 5, 1556. But it is extremely improbable that he would commit to such a hazardous enterprise and alienate the Afghan soldiers at a time when he had to concentrate his whole strength against the Mughals. Surrounded by powerful Afghan nobles , he could not become independent of Adil Shah. The Afghan nobles mentioned in the army of Hemu, Shadi Khan Kakar, Husain Khan Faujdar, Rukn Khan Nuhani, Mian Mahmud Lodi, Mian Khwaja Kakar, Ikhtiyar Khan and Mangali Khan were the highest nobles of Adil Shah Sur. As regard the Hindu nobles, they still constituted comparatively a small portion of the nobility. They were Rajya, son of Hemu's sister and commander of the left wing, Sangram Singh, Teharpal (son of Hemu's brother) and Bagwan Das. Abu Fazal says, "from foresight he preserved the nominal sovereignty of for Adil and waged brave wars against his opponents. Therefore there is hardly an justification for asserting on the sole testimony of Ahmad Yadgar that Hemu cut off the slender tie of allegiance to Adil Shah and seized the throne for himself. (Book references ; 1-  "The Successors of Sher Shah" by Nirod Bhuson Roy, pp-91-92, 2-"Sher Shah and his dynasty" by I.H.Siddiqui, p-211)

The defeat of Hemu at the Second Battle of Panipat, a c. 1590s painting by Kankar from the Akbarnama. Neither Hemu nor Akbar are depicted here suggesting that this might be part of a double-page composition.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Desecration of Pir Roshan's grave and dead body

 By Khan Barmazid

Bayazid Ansari (Pir Roshan) died in 1572 AD .Bayazid was followed by his eldest son, Shaikh Umar. Akhund Darweza , along with his followers , continued his opposition , even after the death of Bayazid. He instigated the Gujjars (The Yousafzai's 'hamsaya') against Shaikh Umar. The Gujjars dug out the dead body of Bayazid. Shaikh Umar got timely information and before the Gujjars could take away the coffin, he reached the graveyard , intercepted the Gujjars, some of whom were able to escape while some were captured. He brought the coffin to his house. On interrogation, the captured Gujjars told them that they are Hamsayas (dependents) of Hamza Khan Akozaey Yousafzai. The followers of Shaikh Umar retaliated and took away the cattle belonging to Hamza Khan Akozaii . Consequently, because of Akhund Darweza's pressures , Shaikh Umar had to quit and cross over into the Mandar's territory. Hamza Khan chased him out to Khanpur. Shaikh Umar carried along his father's body also. He took refuge with the Dilazaks along the river Indus where he was betrayed and killed along with his staunch followers , namely Mullah Zikriya, Mullah Umar Kheshgi , Mullah Meru and Ayub. The Dilazaks threw away Bayazid's coffin in the river Indus. However , it was recovered by some followers of Bayazid.  They informed the surviving son of Pir Roshan Jalaluddin about it (the injured Jalaluddin had escaped Dilazaks by jumping into the river Indus).  Jalaluddin buried his father's coffin in Bhat Pur (Bamaitur) near the grave of Kamal-ud-din (his brother). Reportedly, the bones of Bayazid were recovered and burnt and his widow, to humiliate her, was made to marry a menial drummer (dam). 


1-  "History of the Pathans" by Haroon Rashid, Vol-1, p-446

2-  "Bayazid Ansari" by Sher Afzal Khan Barioti, p-170, pp-172-173

3-  "Rokhanya the Mughalo Tarikyan", by Abdul-Akbar Khan Akbar, pp-35-36