Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sayyids of Kunar

Sayyid Mahmood, the Badshah of Kunar, 1879.

For centuries the long and narrow valley of Kunar with Pashat as its main town had been ruled by a Pashtunized Sayyid family of Arab descent. Sayyid Ali Tirmizi, known as the Pir Baba, who had accompanied  Zahir al-Din Babur from Tirmiz, was the founder of the family. His shrine in the village of Paucha in Buner is venerated to the present day. Emperor Humayun, who was the son and successor of Babur, had granted him Kunar free of revenue. His descendants known locally as de Konarr pachayaun (kings of Kunar) as well as de Konarr sayyedaun (Sayyids of Kunar) gradually became secular. They took the revenue at the rate of one-third of the production of the land and in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries their annual income fluctuated between sixty thousand and eighty thousand rupees. ["A Political and Diplomatic History of Afghanistan, 1863-1901" , p-69, M. Hasan Kakar ]

Friday, July 13, 2018

Islamia College, Peshawar

Roos Keppel, then chief commissioner of the North West Frontier province, wanted to ' tame' the Pashtun people through higher education. As such, he went forward with a movement that led to the foundation of Darul Uioom and the affiliated lslamia School and lslamia College. The lslamia College Committee was formed to raise funds and make arrangements for establishing the mentioned educational institutions. Roos Keppel remarked, " I shall try to get all the sons of the tribal maliks, the chief of the next generation, to attend the school and learn that the ‘Firangi’ and his administration are not as black as they are painted.” The pro-government camp under the leadership of Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan joined hands with Roos-Keppel in establishing Islamia College at Peshawar.

Islamia College Peshawar, 1930

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Surkhab River

Surkhab river rises in the Safed Koh range to the west of the Lakarai Kotal, and runs north-eastwards until it falls into the Kabul river, 4 miles northwest of Jalalabad, receiving in its course numerous shall tributaries from the northern slopes to the west of Sikaram, and giving its name to a subdivision of the Jalalabad district. The Surkhab river is crossed by an ancient bridge, 7 miles northwest of Gandamak, or the "red bridge." The bridge, which is of brickwork and masonry, consists of one arch of about 60 feet span and 30 feet above, and was in good repair when seen in 1905. It is including approaches, 170 yards long by 5 yards broad. There is a good and permanent ford just below it. The Surkhab is here a fine stream, 60 feet in breadth, running (in October) about 3 miles an hour. [Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan - Volume 6 - Page 766]

Bridge over the Surkhab River 1878-9. Photo by John Burke

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Afridi of the Kohat Pass

Afridi of the Kohat Pass, 1868. From Watson and Kaye colection.

"The subject of the plate is fully armed. His gun has a rude flint lock instead of a match, and he wears a short sabre with knives or daggers in his girdle. He has a turban scarf of coarse blue muslin, and wears a white tunic and loose drawers."

Tochi scouts

Mounted Infantry of the Tochi Scouts about to set out on patrol from Fort Miranshah (North Waziristan), c.1940


Friday, June 29, 2018

Waziris coming in for the winter near Bannu (1897)

" Waziris coming in for the winter near Bannu", 1897. Antique Print .

From Hayat-i-Afghani (composed in 1867) ;

"A very important and characteristic phase of Waziri life is the annual march to and from the plains. Most of the clans of Utmanzai and Ahmadzai have the plains in April or May for the cooler latitudes of the Koh-i-Sulieman , of Shawal, Wana, Birmal etc, and at the beginning of the cold weather , that is in October or November , again descend to the foot of the mountains. Most of the clans that frequent the Bannu district have land both above and below. The toil of these annual migrations are far greater than can readily be imagined, and a very heavy share of the common burden falls upon the women. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman bearing on her back a skin (mashak) of water, and on her head her infant, while she also carries on her shoulder a javelin or short wooden spear. Thus burdened , she will contrive to drive before her a flock of sheep, and ever and anon give breast to her crying child. The men, laden with their arms, and also carrying bags filled with flour for the journey's food, drive the flocks and herds. A Wazir lad of five or six years of age, barefooted on strong ground, bareheaded under a firm sun , may be seen in charge of a herd of camels, and if in his headlong rushes after the unruly beasts , a thorn runs into his foot , without a moment hesitation or cry of pain , he drags it out , and re-commences his toilsome efforts" [ Henry Priestly's translation]

Saturday, June 9, 2018


A man with the mule over the bridge, Chagha Sarai / Asadabad, Kunar (Afghanistan), 1935.