Monday, 23 June 2014

Afghan invaders and Waris Shah (of Heer Ranjha fame) – a debate between Shafqat Tanvir Mirza and Haroon Rashid

A writer and journalist Shafqat Tanvir Mirza published the following article, appearing under 'Punjabi Themes', in Dawn news (July 22, 2003) ;

Afghan invaders and Waris Shah

The sectarian and religious prejudices of Aurangzeb had played a major part in the destabilization of the subcontinent and Kabul which was then part of the Delhi empire. The insights of the Mughal dynasty and the failure of the economic structure of the state were also responsible for the deterioration which ultimately led to its complete collapse. But one of the other major factors was the role of the Afghan invaders, including Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali and his two successors. The invaders were called Turks and the great Punjabi poet Waris Shah depicts the social conditions of the era:

"Waris kurri na pind vich rahee kai, fojan Hind noon Turk nein chahrrian nay.

"Waris Shah was born in the most troublesome period after the death of Aurangzeb and Shah Alam and it was the Punjab which suffered the most. First come Nadir Shah with the lame excuse that Islam was no more safe in India and he wanted to strengthen the Muslim rulers of Delhi who were getting weak against the Sikhs and the Marhattas.

The hatred against the Afghan invaders had reached an extent that Waris Shah was obliged to say:

Wang Kabuli kuttian gird hoyan dow dow alalhisab laga gayyan.

A Persian poet, Muhammad Bukhsh Aashob, laments the destruction of the city of Lahore:

Za bedad-i-Afghan kiran ta kiran,
Azan shehr bar shud bagardoon fughan.
Hazar az chunan dushmani purstaiz,
Aman al-aman az chunan rustkhez.

Waris Shah, though engaged in teaching and leading prayers in the mosque of Malka Haans in Deepalpur tehsil, was a distant witness to the oppression committed by Nadir Shah in Delhi and later in southern Punjab and Sindh. Waris Shah had referred to the massacre in Delhi.

Qizalbash, jallad, aswar khooni, nikal dorria Urd bazar vichon.

Nadir Shah’s invasion was followed by Ahmad Shah Abdali, a Multan-born warlord whose lust for loot was limitless. In that time, peaceful people like Waris Shah resisted him. He joined the force of Lahore governor Shahnawaz Khan, a debauch who had keeps, including a Sikh and Hindu women. He had murdered a religious emissary of Ahmad Shah and thus invited the wrath of the Afghan tyrant.

As Shahnawaz had killed the emissary, it was expected that an all-out war was inevitable between Lahore and the Afghans. Waris Shah had also joined the Mughal forces as a volunteer. But after insignificant clashes on the Booti Bund side in which Waris Shah was also involved, governor Shahnawaz left the city at the mercy of Afghans who plundered it for a month.

Waris Shah calls the Afghans ‘thieves’.

The Delhi rulers had refused to extend military support to Shahnawaz who was not in the good books of prime minister Qamruddin at Delhi. The reason was a family feud. Shahnawaz had defeated his elder brother Yahya Khan who was the son-in-law of Qamruddin. As was the practice of the Afghan invaders, Abdali and his forces mercilessly plundered the city and the citizens at large. Waris Shah narrates the conditions prevailing in the Punjab capital:

Tay, tor Lahore day vaikh kay ji daur-i-zameen tey sakht bhoochal hoya,
Waris Shah jiven jal bahj mahi, tivain shehr Lahore da haal hoya.

Being a nationalist, Waris was very happy when Ahmad Shah Abdali was defeated by the Mughal forces near Delhi and he had to retreat to Kabul through Lahore, where he was never welcomed. It was only Shah Waliullah, a renowned religious intellectual of Delhi, who had invited Ahmad Shah to strengthen the Delhi Mughal rulers at whose success Waris Shah was tremendously happy:

Yey, ya Rab toon mehrban hoyon, tadey pher Choghatian da raj hoya,
Toen diti shikast Qandharian noon, Dilli walian day sir taj hoya.
Waris Shah Qandhari khidar naheen, akheen vaikh, bazi hun harda ee.

In Waris Shah’s view, the whole of the Punjab was devastated by the Afghans and in their absence the Sikhs ruled supreme. It was the turn of the Sikhs marauders.—STM

 Historian Haroon Rashid posted the following reply in response to STM (Shafqat Tanvir Mirza)

 No, Ahmed Shah Abdali never plundered Punjab: A rejoinder to STM

This is with reference to the article entitled "Afghan Invaders and Waris Shah" (Dawn, July 22) published under the generic head 'Punjabi themes.' The Article by "STM" abounds in baseless vituperative remarks, some of which amount to naked abuses to the race of Afghans known for their valour and religious pursuits.

The irresponsible accusations have hurt the feelings of Afghans and non-Afghans alike. To quote Waris Shah according to the author: "Wang Kabuli kuttian gird hoyan dow dow alalhisab laga gayyan."

A dispassionate perusal of the article, testing its salient points on the litmus of the logical inferences drawn from the relevant historic facts, shall help us in validating or rejecting the STM's acrimonious comments and the accusations of his 'Sufi.'

The writer makes, inter alia, following observations:

* Nadir Shah Afshar, Ahmad Shah Abdali and his two successors, called 'Turks', invaded India under the lame excuse of 'strengthening the Delhi Rulers against the Sikhs and Marhattas.' Nadir Shah massacred and devastated Delhi.

* Inhuman atrocities were committed on the locals by them, particularly by Ahmed Shah Abdali when he invaded Punjab and defeated Shah Nawaz Khan, the Governor of Lahore.

* Waris Shah volunteers to join Shah Nawaz Khan against Ahmad Shah Abdali.

* Ahmad Shah Abdali mercilessly plunders Lahore after defeating Shah Nawaz. His lust for loot was limitless

* Waris Shah rejoices over the so-called defeat of Ahmad Shah Abdali at the hands of the so-called Mughals near Delhi.

* The whole of Punjab was devastated by the Afghans.

It is an undeniable fact that the Afghans played a very important role in the mediaeval history of India. The poverty of the soil, lack of economic and sustenance resources and the struggle for existence made the Afghans to leave their homeland and descend into the plains to sustain themselves.

They made their first expedition into India in 705 AD, when their contingent from Khurasan, then under the rule of Abdul Malik Hijjaj bin Yousuf joined Muhammad bin Qasim to Sind (Henry Priestly, "Inhabitants of Afghanistan" p25.).

In Punjab, the Afghan settlements can be traced as early as 10th century. Most of the Afghans who accompanied Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna and Sultan Shahab-ud-Din Ghori remained behind on the newly acquired land and founded their settlements all over Punjab and Sirhind. The country between River Beas and Sutlej was once called the Afghanistan of Punjab (Afghanai-Hoshiarpur). Subsequently, the Mughals used the Afghans to neutralise the refractory Rajputs.

While describing the historic events I shall only quote and refer to non-Afghan writers and scholars to have an unbiased view of the events.

1. Nadir Shah Afshar belonged to a clan of Tatar tribe which is of Turk origin and has nothing to do with the Afghans (S M Lateef, "History of the Punjab", 1891, p-194). In fact Nadir Shah was a bitter eliminator of the Afghans. It was this obsession that became the cause of his invasion of Hind. During his siege of Kandahar a large number of Afghans had fled and took refuge in Hind. Nadir Shah sent his confidant, Ali Mardan Khan, as ambassador to the Court of Muhammad Shah, the Emperor of India, to prevent the influx of the Afghans to Hind.

Nadir Shah was determined to extirpate the whole race of the Afghan fugitives from Ghazni. He requested Emperor Muhammad Shah to expel those Afghans who had already found an asylum in Hind. The Emperor promised to do the needful but because of the Marhatta menace he did not take any concrete measures. Nadir Shah reminded the Emperor three times, but to no avail. Ultimately he decided to invade India. (S M Lateef, "History of the Punjab"p-198-204).

2. Ahmad Shah Abdali, except for his invasion of Punjab when he came to punish the debauch Shah Nawaz Khan who had killed his religious mentor Pir Sabir Shah, had been asked time and again by the Muslims of Punjab and Sirhind to protect them from the atrocities of the Marhattas and Sikhs.
Throughout his life he had been fighting against them for they were a menace to the Muslims of Punjab.

After him, even his grandsons had been invited by Tipu Sultan to come to the rescue of the Muslims of Hind. (Mir Hussain All Khan Kirmani, "History of Tipu Sultan", 1864, translated by Colonel W. Miles, p-182). Lack of money and the local intrigues were the main causes of theirs being unable to
respond to such calls in time. I shall quote two instances out of many of Ahmad Shah Abdali's struggle against the Sikhs and Marhattas.

a. In 1762, Ahmad Shah Abdali arrived first in Jandialah and then Lahore. The Sikhs fled to Sirhind. With Shah's presence at Lahore, and the rumours that this time he wanted to advance beyond Delhi made the Sikhs complacent. They did not speedily march into Malwa hills as usual. The Shah soon made them repent their blunder. He had come to know about their presence near Maler Kotla.

He sallied out from Lahore at the head of his troops with utmost precaution and secrecy. Covering a distance of 150 miles in about 36 hours, he caught the Sikhs unaware near Kot Rohera. Joined by the Afghan chiefs of Maler Kotla, Ahmad Shah on 5th May 1762 cut their route of retreat and surrounded them from all sides. But as the Afghans stopped at a pond to let their horses drink water, the Sikhs availed the opportunity and fled towards Hariana and Barnala leaving behind about thirty thousands dead. Historians variously estimate the Sikhs' casualties from 12000 to 30,000. The survivors were wounded to a man.

In the absence of Ahmad Shah Abdali from Punjab, whenever the Sikhs got an opportunity they literally devastated the whole country, subjected the Muslims to many outrages, indignities, and hardships.

b. As far as the Marhattas are concerned, the Third Battle of Panipat is the biggest proof of Ahmad Shah Abdali's desire to liberate the Muslims of Sirhind and Punjab from the Marhatta's clutches. The incident on which Waris Shah rejoices is the massacre of a small Afghan contingent at Delhi at the
hands of Sooraj Mal Jat and not the Mughals. The Marhattas army easily occupied Delhi where the small Durrani contingent that held it was cut to pieces after a spirited defence.

Kanjpura on the banks of Jamuna River, sixty miles to the north of Delhi, was next besieged and the whole Afghan garrison was killed (Also see Syed Altaf All Brelvi, "Life of Hafiz Rahmat Khan", p-108-9). Ahmad Shah was encamped on the left bank of the Jamuna River, which was swollen by rains. The massacre of the Kanjpura garrison, within the sight of the Durrani camp, exasperated him to such an extent that he ordered crossing of the river at all costs.

The Durranis crossed the Jamuna on 23rd October. Ahmad Shah, along with other Afghan chiefs of Hind, rushed to punish Marhattas. The Afghans caught the advance guard of Marhatta army at Sarai Sanbhalak. The Marhattas retired to Panipat. The Marhatta force consisted of 300,000 men, including 55,000 Marhatta Cavalry, and had three hundred pieces of cannon. The "Gul-i-Rahmat" and the "Tarikh-i-Najibabad" by Akbar Shah Khan put the number of the Marhatta forces at three lakhs. In local tales common among the people of Panipat the number is raised to nine lakhs, which seems an exaggeration.

Ahmad Shah had 40,000 Afghans and Persians, 13,000 Indian Afghan cavalry and 38,000 Indian Afghan infantry, with 70 pieces of cannon borrowed from the Indian allies. According to authentic accounts, the number of Marhattas slain numbered about 200,000, while 22,000 were made prisoners, 50,000 horses and an immense booty fell into the hands of the victors. News of the defeat spread throughout India, couched in this code: "Two pearls have been dissolved, twenty-seven gold 'mohurs' have been lost, and of the silver and copper total cannot be cast up". (Lt-Gen Sir G. Macmunn, "Afghanistan - From Darius to Amanullah, p-70.)

The Marhatta Peshwa or the king died of despondency. They retired beyond Narbada, never to recover their power.

3. About Ahmad Shah Durrani, S M Lateef writes "After the victory at Panipat, the whole of Hindustan lay at the mercy of the Abdali conqueror. But he had no wish to ascend the vacant throne of the Mughals; so after remaining at Delhi for a few days and arranging the affairs of India, he returned to Punjab, which had already been ceded to him, and with which he appeared contented."

4. Abdul Karim Alvi, the historian, narrates an interesting conversation between Mir Mannu and Ahmad Shah when the former presented himself before the latter. At the end of the conversation Ahmed Shah asks him, "now that you are at my mercy, what do you expect of me"? "If you are a merchant," said Mannu, "sell me: if executioner and tyrant, cut off my head: but if you are a king show me kingly generosity and pardon my life." The Shah was pleased with the dauntless spirit of the youth, and conferred upon him the title of 'Farzand Khan Bahadur Rustam-i- Hind'.

5. Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote about Ahmad Shah Abdali: "His military courage and activity are spoken of with admiration, both by his own subjects and the nations with whom he was engaged, either in wars or alliances. He seems to have been naturally disposed to mildness and clemency and though it is impossible to acquire sovereign power and perhaps, in Asia, to maintain it, without crimes; yet the memory of no eastern prince is stained with fewer acts of cruelty and injustice."

"... He treated Moollahs and holy men with great respect, both from policy and inclination. He was himself a divine and an author and was always ambitious of the character of a saint. ("Account of the Kingdom of Caubul" 1815)

6. Ahmad Shah Abdali was a distinguished warrior, religious, generous and a kind-hearted king. He was a true Muslim and never believed in pomp and show of the royal courts. Unlike his contemporary kings and rajas, he did not even have a crown. His devotion to Islam further added to his simplicity and service to God.

Being an accomplished poet and writer himself, he once wrote: "I capture every province with the aid of God; It is with His help that I go everywhere without failure. Yet I, Ahmad, consider the world worthless and unimportant. I shall leave the world behind and go to the next, armed only with my

Following conclusions can be drawn from the facts narrated above:

1. Nadir Shah Afshar was a Tatar and not an Afghan. Hence, Ahmad Shah and his two successors or any other Afghan could not be held responsible for the deeds of Nadir Shah.

2. One may note that the writer (STM) and his Sufi (Waris Shah) do not say anything about the brutalities of the Sikhs and Marhattas inflicted on the Muslims of Punjab, but rather rejoice over the massacre of a small Muslim Afghan garrison in the Delhi Fort and Kanjpura. Furthermore, they are
ignorant of the complete victory of the Afghans over the Marhattas, which is universally accepted and appreciated as a classic strategy of the Afghans against a force many times superior in men and material.

3. The pages of history bear out that Ahmad Shah Abdali was a kind-hearted person, prone to clemency and forgiveness. He spent his life in chasing the Sikhs and the Marhattas so that Muslims of the Punjab and Sirhind could live in peace.

4. There is no evidence that Ahmad Shah Abdali ever looted the Muslims of Punjab or elsewhere for whose protection he used to come from Kabul and Kandahar.

5. There was no dearth of Muslims in Punjab and Sirhind, yet they looked to the Afghans to shield them against the Sikhs. The trust reposed in them by the former is a testimony to the Afghans' gallantry, chivalry, the will to fight for their co-religionists, their expertise to administer the conquered territories, and perseverance and steadfastness to bear the hardships of war and weather for their Muslim brethren in Punjab.

6. I have not been able to find the answers as to why:

a. Waris Shah should rejoice on the massacre of the Afghans who, according to the writer, had been invited by Shah Waliullah of Delhi and fought for the Muslims.

b. Waris Shah should call the Afghans 'the thieves'; a thief steals, while the Afghans were the conquerors and could get any thing by force if they wanted to.

c. Waris Shah and the writer should close their eyes to the Sikhs' 'Satnami Movement', their atrocities committed on the Muslims in Lahore and elsewhere and as reported by many historians of the time.

d. Waris Shah should abuse the proud race of the Afghans as 'Kabuli Kuttian

e. Waris Shah should join a debauch, who had Hindu and Sikh keeps, a licentious and a pervert, a killer of a religious and pious man, and fight a Muslim who came to punish such an enemy of Islam.

The writer is a retired brigadier and author of a ten-volume book "History of the Pathans" published in 2002.

He had an eye on the wealth of India: Debate on Abdali's role

By Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

This is with reference to Haroon Rashid's comments (Encounter, August 16) on my article published under "Punjabi themes" on July 22, 2003. Waris Shah and Bulleh Shah with Ali Hyder from Toba Tek Singh were witnesses to the havoc played by Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali, who was born in Multan. Waris Shah spoke about Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah and he had expressed the sentiments of the Punjabi people through his poetry.

He never spoke against the Pathans as a race because in Waris Shah's views the Sikhs and the Sadozai Abdali and the Turk Nadir Shah had made the life of the Punjabis miserable.

He was sorry for the plight of the noble races of his time about whom he says:

Aamil chor, tey chaudhry Jat hakem, saman horhee Rabb
vikhaya ee/ Ashraaf, Pathan tey Mughal Syed Sabh Khak
Dar Khak Samaya ee.

Haroon Rashid is a scholar and he must be aware of what Waris Shah meant by Chaudhry Jat ... it were the Sikhs. His fault is that he never sided with the Sikhs or the Afghans, the Turks and Kizilbashes.

Haroon Rashid, a retired brigadier, says: "Waris Shah should join a debauch, who had Hindu and Sikh keeps, a licentious and a pervert, a killer of a religious and pious man, and fight a Muslim who came to punish such an enemy of Islam". Waris Shah says about this "debauch" Shahnawaz and his companions:

Oh chhad havelian nass utthey jehrray shahnawaz dey
sang aahey/ Wang loomarran chhad maiden gaey, jehrray
disdey sheran dey rang aahey.

Waris Shah has outrightly condemned Shahnawaz, the debauch, and his companions who used to pose as lions but left the field like the coward jackals. It was not only Waris shah who had condemned the invaders from Kabul but his contemporary, Dilshad Pasruri, also joins him in Persian language.

Afghan key ba Hind aayad-o-geerad sar-i-khud ra/
Dilshad za aamed shud-i-oo jaey fughan ast.

Dilshad like Waris Shah never spared the
trouble-creator Sikhs and about them, he says:

Clahi qat-i-hasti kun sagan-i-gurg-i-taza ra/ Za la
miqraz may gardan sar-i-een moo-darazan ra.

If Waris Shah talks about the "dogs of Kabul", Dilshad calls the long-haired Sikhs as dogs and wolves.

Waris Shah and Dilshad Pasruri both were right and history proves them right. Here are some quotations from S.M.Latif's "History of the Punjab" which may be taken as the annextures to this small humble rejoinder to Haroon Rashid, who has also quoted from his book extensively.

"He (Abdali) reduced the Khilzais and put to flight Nadir's governor of Ghazni. His eyes were fixed on India, as the source of wealth ... He expelled Governor Nasir Khan ... whose valuables and munitions of war fell in the hands of the Afghan commander Jahan Khan" (P. 216).

"Shahnawaz Khan, the Lahore Governor, resolved upon opposing the arms of the invading Durranis (whose) messengers Sabir Shah and Uza Khan could not convince Shahnawaz Khan for his allegiance to Abdali. Ahmed Shah was greatly incensed at the murder of his high priest and immediately crossed the Ravi ... Moghalpura, then the richest and the most populous
mohalla in the city of Lahore, was pillaged by the invaders, and the omeras of state who lived there were plundered .... He (Abdali) levied heavy contribution on the city. And it was sometime after that Momin Khan, the Kasur Afghan and Lakhpat Rai, the dewan, having paid their quotas of the contribution obtained their freedom. The zamindars of the Punjab paid their homage, and the hill rajas sent their agents to him with presents and tendered their submission." (P. 217)

"The king stayed at Lahore for about more than a month ... during which he appointed Lakhpat rai as the governor of Lahore. Abdali had retreated across the Indus with no inclination to relinquish his designs on Hindostan, whose glittering gold had dazzled his eyes when he had first visited India in the train of his more formidable predecessor, Nadir Shah ... (P. 221)

"At the close of the rains of 1748, he recrossed the Indus ... The Durrani laid waste the country around Lahore. Abdali thought it prudent to withdraw on the condition that the revenues of the four districts of Pasrur, Gujrat, Sialkot and Aurangabad, the most fruitful principalities of the Punjab, should be assigned to him". (P. 221)

"The Lahore governor further agreed to hold the government of the Punjab in the name of the invader
and to remit the tribute regularly to Ahmed Shah. The viceroy, Mir Mannu, laid at the victor's feet fifty lakhs of rupees, eleven horses with gold and silver trappings and two elephants with howdaha wrought with silver and gold". (P. 224)

Prof Abdur Rashid in his "History of the Muslims of Indo-Pakistan Sub-continent, 1707-1806", says: "Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded the Punjab again in 1751 and laid siege to Lahore. The country at around it was laid waste and such was the devastation that in the words of a contemporary writer "no lamp was lighted in any house for a distance of three marches and an extreme scarcity of grain prevailed in the camps of both the enemies". (P. 390)

Ahmed Shah Abdali accompanied Nadir Shah to Delhi and had witnessed how the country from Peshawar up to Delhi was plundered. Prof Rashid quotes Fraser as saying, "2,00,000 persons were killed and in addition to 70 crore of rupees, the Peacock throne, Koh-i-Noor, and other jewels, Nadir Shah carried away with him 100 elephants, 7,000 horses, 10,000 camels, 100 eunuchs, 130 writers, 200 smiths, 300 masons and builders, 100 stone-cutters and 200 carpenters". (P. 82)

Nadir's mission to India was to save Islam as after an attack on Kabul and conquering Peshawar he writes in a letter to the Shah of Delhi: "Be it clear to the enlightened mind of your majesty, that my coming to Kabul and possessing myself thereof was purely out of zeal for Islam and friendship for you. I never could have imagined that the wretches of the Dekkan could have imposed tribute on the dominion of the king of Musalmans .... by Ali Murtaza I swear that, excepting friendship and a concern for religion, I neither had, nor have, any other view". (Latif, P. 200)

And Prof Rashid, writing on the role of Abdali in his so-called efforts to save Islam, Muslims and the
Muslim rulers of Delhi, says: "His role as the protector of the Faith which later Muslim generations
have nourished with nostalgic reverence is difficult to evaluate. That he was genuinely anxious to save the Indian Musalmans from the predicaments they were in, may not be doubted but in the process he hastened the dismemberment of the Empire and opened roads to the Punjab's domination by the Sikhs, Marhatta depredation and for the final fall of the province to the British.
Whether Ahmed Shah had entertained undertaking such a mission in the interest of Muslims is a controversial subject". (P. 375)

And how the Afghan missionaries had returned, Prof Rashid narrates: "The Afghans completely exhausted after the strenuous war against the Marhattas, laden with untold booty so precious to them, were harried throughout the march by elusive but hard-hitting bands of the Sikhs, who not only recovered some of the spoils but succeeded in freeing a number of female captives from the Afghans and were practically in possession of what is now East Punjab". (P. 375)

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza writes the 'Pubjabi Themse' column in Dawn under his initials STM.

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