Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Afghan principality of Kasur (1526–1807)

Ghulam Husain Khan, an Afghan , 1815, inhabitant of the Fort of Ali Jan Khan in Kasur (Punjab). From Fraser Album.

Kasur was colonized by Pashtuns in the reign of Babur. The Pashtun immigrants founded a considerable principality, with territory on both sides of the river Sutlej. When the Sikhs rose to power, they experienced great opposition from the Afghans of Kasur; and, though the chiefs of the BhangI confederacy stormed the town in 1763, and again in 1770, and succeeded for a while in holding the entire principality, the Afghans leaders reestablished their independence in 1794, and resisted many subsequent attacks. In 1807, however, Kutb-ud-dln Khan, the last chieftain, was forced to give way before Ranjlt Singh, and retired to his property at Mamdot, beyond the Sutlej. The town of Kasur was then incorporated in the kingdom of Lahore.The Indo-Afghan element has now declined. [Reference: Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol.XV, p.149]

Kheshgi was one of the son of Zamand or Jamand. Kheshgis along with other Zamands were settled on the banks of the Arghandab river and the surrounding area of Kandahar. Most of the Zamands followed the Khashis initially to Kabul and subsequently to Peshawar valley. Most of  the Kheshgis did not move to Peshawer valley with the Khashis, its sub-clans Salmahak , Azizi, Umarzai, Hussainzai, Khalafzai and Watuzai remained behind in Kabul valley. Because of lack of pasture and fertile land , they were planning to migrate to other suitable areas when Babur , the Mughal appeared on the scene . He was then recruiting his army for the invasion of India. The major portion of the tribe (about 6,000 men) under the leadership of Salim Khan , on the advice of their ‘Pir’, joined Babur’s army and subsequently gallantly fought in the battle of Panipat against Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. It is said that the Babur’s Mughal contingents were almost routed when Zamands took off their turbans and gird up their loins and holding a turf of their beard in their mouths , fought courageously and turned the table on the Lodis. At this unexpected victory Babur said that the Pashtuns only deserved the title of ‘Khan’ and not the Mughals. He gave Salim Khan an iron peg into the ground that whole tract would be granted to his tribe. [Muhammad Hayat Khan, “Hayat-e-i-Afghani, , p-227-28]

Salim Khan chose the present area of Kasur in Punjab , which Babur granted him. Hardly had the Zamands settled in their new location when the Saorah clan of Baloch tribe, residing in the neighborhood , started harassing them. Salim Khan readjusted his settlement and fortified their positions. He allotted specific areas to different clans for guarding the settlement . The Batezai; Hussainzai; Arifzai; Shahabanza;  Kazlani; and Salmahak clans established themselves on the western side called the Bar Kalay. The Azizi, Chanozai and Brahamzai took over the eastern side called the “Lar Kalay”. While the remaining tribe defended themselves on the North. The assaults and clashes continued but the Zamands made the proposition costly in men and material for the Balochs, who , reconciled with the presence of the Zamnads in the area with the passage of time.

However it was the disunity within the tribe that weakened them . The Brahamzi picked up enmity with the Chanozai clans and the former moved over to village Khujra. Likewise , the Salmahak clan because of bad blood with the Hussainzai and Amchzai went over to the village of Tandaand the Batezai to village Heruwal. Thus they lost their collective strength and influence. The families that had moved over to Tanda and Heruwal are settled there till today and are known as Kasuri Pathans. [Tarikh-i-Punjab wa Afghana-i-Kasur by Muhammad Ayub Khan]

Arzani Kheshgi

Mullah Arzani Kheshgi was a Pashtun Sufi poet of Roshniya movement and originally belonged to Kasur. Arzani Khesghi belonged to the Zerzai sub-tribe of Kheshgis. He was a profound scholar and a prominent figure in Pashto literature. He is the earliest known Pashto poet after Shaikh Isa Mashwani. He was the first poet to compose his "Deewan". He was a closest associate and follower of Bayazid Ansari (Pir Roshan). Mullah Arzani returned to India to propagate Bayazid Ansari's mission there. After a long residence in Patna , he died there in 1623 and is buried there. His tomb is in the Sultanganj area of Patna city.

 Shrine of Arzani Kheshgi in Patna, 1814's Water-colour painting by Seeta Ram


  1. Salam,

    Khashi and Kheshgi are the same? Are these two names of the same tribe or are they both separate?

    1. They are kin but they are not same. The closest kin of Kheshgis (also written as Khweshgi) in Peshawar valley are Muhammadzais of Charsadda.