Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sumbal Niazis of Mianwali - the story

Sumbal is a tribe of Niazi Pashtuns, remnants of which are still found in Mianwali. It was nearly exterminated in the reign of Sher Shah suri under the following circumstances.

When Haibat khan Niazi, was the governor of Multan and Punjab, sher shah nominated his nephew mubarak khan, his brother’s son by a slave-girl, to the charge of the part of Roh which was in the Niazi's possession.

It so happened that a Sumbal freeholder named Allahdad had a daughter of unequaled beauty, whose good looks were the theme of general talk. ‘Her lashes’ arrow she had pulled on the bow of her eye-brows, her cheeks were a living flame, and her long tresses as the smoke that rises from the fire.’ Mubarik Khan saw her once only and became enamored of her. Forgetting the pride of race among the people of Roh, he dispatched a confidential messenger to Allahdad to ask his daughter’s hand in marriage. Allahdad presented his duty to the governor, but answered with all respect that the Khan, holding as he did the authority, must have in his harem many noble ladies and beautiful slave-girls. Moreover the Khan, who had been brought up in Hind, possessed a refined taste, while his poor child was of a rustic temperament and had only the qualities of Roh. In short, the inequality between them was so great that a marriage could not be thought of. Mubarik, frustrated, turned to molest the Sumbal clan, thinking to force Allahdad’s hand. A jirga of three notables then waited upon him. While agreeing that there had been previous instances of alliances between Niazis and Sun, they observed that these had been between equal and equal, the free-born with the free-born, the slave with the slave, falcon with falcon, pigeon with pigeon. One of them had a daughter by a slave-girl, and the Khan could have her. Let him in any case refrain from oppressing the clan, Allahdad was free-born, and would never consent to the alliance proposed, even at cost of his life. But Mubarik, full of the pride of authority, refused to listen, and thinking to teach the clan a lesson, plundered one of the Sumbal villages and carried off a slave-girl.

The jirga of the whole tribe then proceeded in a body to his presence, protesting that the honour of their ‘women and dependants was to them the same as the honour of his to himself they requested him, still with respect, to give up the girl. But, getting only a sharp answer, they opened their minds and said, ‘You were born in Hind and know not the ways of the Afghans. Hitherto the heron has not dared to play the tyrant over the falcon. Out of respect for your uncle, the Shah, we have shown respect to you, the son of a bondwoman. Leave us alone, oppress us not, and let this woman go.’ ‘You prate of honour,’ replied Mubarik in a fury, ‘but I measure honour by the fulness of my house. I will keep this girl, and what is more, will take Allahdad’s daughter from him by force.’ The maliks answered fiercely that if he valued his life, he would keep his eyes and hands off their women, where upon Mubarik ordered his men to drive them out with rods. Their anger roused, the tribesmen, though they had by custom left their weapons outside the audience chamber, fell on the governor with their bare bands, and killed him and every one of his attendants. When this got to Sher Shah’s ears, he wrote to Haibat Khan saying that the tribe of Sur, his own, was few in number. If every other Afghan should slay a Sur, not one of them would be left. The Sumbals were of Haibat Khan’s own tribe; let him deal with them and punish them in such a way that others might not get into the bad habit of killing governors.

Hearing of haibat khan's advance, sumbals sought retreat in hills, determining to withdraw towards kabul, for Sher Shah’s writ did not run so far. So, a Niazi himself he resorted to finesse. Pretending that, if they came in on safe-conduct he would arrange a composition and emphasizing that they could trust him as a fellow-tribesman, he induced nine hundred of them to come in with their families. The men he slaughtered and sent in the women to the presence of Sher Shah. The Niazis offered those of sumbals who were related to them , an opportunity of escape , but they refused it and perished with their fellow tribesmen.

The emperor disapproved most strongly, saying that, as between tribesmen, so base an act had never before been committed. ‘At least,’ be added, ‘Haibat Khan evidently nourishes no thoughts of sovereignty himself since he has slain so many of his own tribe; if he did, he could never have forgotten his Pashtu so far as to shed the blood of his people unjustly.’ On this Sher Shah meditated the removal of Haibat Khan from the Panjab, but shortly alter this event, in 1545, he died. He was killed by an accidental explosion of gunpowder at the siege of a fortress at Kalinjar in the Bundelkand hills south-west of Prayag.

Again in 1662-3, in the reign of Aurangzeb, the sumbals then settled on the west of the indus, held also dhankot to the east of that river. Aurangzeb instructed his fawjdar to remove them altogether to the west bank, but they returned and attacked the imperial thana or military post on the east bank and slew the thanadar. The master of ordinance was deputed to punish them and though most of them recrossed the indus, a portion stood their ground and were killed.

Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier Province - IBBETSON, Maclagan - Google Books
The Pathans, 550 B.C.-A.D. 1957 - Sir Olaf Kirkpatrick Caroe - Google Books