Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shah Hussain Hotaki



Within the short period of seven years of Ghalzi rule over Persia, nearly four million Persian inhabitants had perished and its finest provinces had been converted into deserts while her proudest edifices were leveled to the ground. Nadir Quli marched out of Mashad (1731 AD) against the Abdalis of Herat, his object being to defeat the Afghans in detail.  He asked his ally Abdullah Khan Baloch, a feudal of Ganjaba, to engage the Afghans so as to ease the Nadir's advance on Kandahar. Shah Hussain Hotak had dispatched 3000 men against the Baloch chief under the famous Chief Saidal Khan, the Nassari. While Abdullah Khan was preparing to carry out Nadir's request, the Kalhora chief of Sindh marched against Abdullah Khan Baloch. A battle was fought, the Baloch were overthrown and Abdullah Khan Baloch was killed. Nadir's agent, Abdul Momin Khan , who had been sent to Abdullah Khan to request him to engage the Afghans, returned to the camp near Herat, bringing along with him Mohabat and Iltaz, the two sons of late Abdullah Khan Baloch. They do not appear to have been brought as hostages, but these Balochs were subjects of Safavi dyansty is beyond dispute, for Nadir confirmed Mohabat Khan, the eldest son , in his father's position.[1]

The Baloch , beaten by the Kalhoras, retired to the fort on the Kwatah mound. Shah Hussain Hotaki besieged them. The Baloch attempted to break the siege but were repulsed. After another attack some days later, the Baloch, under cover of night , evacuated the place and made for Mastung and Kalat. Shah Hussain occupied the fort with 500 Jazailchis and a body of 200 cavalry under Sher Dil Khan Babuzai and then pushed on to Mastung. On his arrival, Shah Hussain found the Baloch had abandoned Mastung and had fled with the others from Shal towards Ganjaba Kachhi area and Kalat. The Ghilzai perused them and overtook a body of the fugitives on the boundary of the Kalat district. The Baloch took to the hills,  leaving their families , cattle, flocks and other property in the hands of the Afghan force under Asadullah Khan Ishakzai Hotak. The Afghan did not molest the women and children and only captured the men. When the flying Balochs reached Kalat, Mehrab Kha, the sardar of all Balochs, expecting that the next movement would be against Kalat, tendered his submission and sought terms of accommodation , accompanied with offerings of horses and other presents. Sher Khan Baloch, hakim of Naushki and Mohabat Khan of Ganjaba, also submitted and tendered their allegiance.The former agreed to the terms offered whereby he ackonoledged his allageinace to Shah Hussien Ghilzai and stipulated to restore the cattle carried off from Pishin and Shorabak (Naushki). He also agreed to make the losses sustained by people of Shal; to furnish a contingent of 5,000 men whenever the soverign of Kandhar required troops; and to give up some chiefs as hostages for the performance of these terms. This ratified, Shah Hussain returned to Kandahar, taking five chiefs along with him as hostages , according to the terms agreed upon.[2]

During the final operations against Herat, Nadir had despatched troops to take possession of the forts in the country to the south, and others in the direction of Kandahar, and this expedition had succeeded in capturing the forts at Girishk and Kala-i-Bist, places almost on the outskirts of Shah Hussien's capital. The latter despatched troops under the leadership of Babo Jan, the Babi Afghan, who had been governor of Lar in Persia, under Mahmud and Ashraf, and who, on the downfall of the latter, had made his way to Kandahar and had joined Hussien. Babo Jan recovered both Girishk and Kala-i-Bist and drove the Persians back to Farah.


Nadir Shah marched for Kandahar in April 1736 AD. When news reached Kandahar, that Nadir Shah was about to march towards that place, the Hotakis thought it would be as well to thoroughly crush the Tokhis, their hereditary enemies, whom they had driven from the Tarnak into the valley of the Arghandab river. The whole of the fighting men of the Hotakis were, therefore, mobilized for this purpose ; and 4,000 horsemen were borrowed from the garrison of Kandahar. The combined force fell up on the Pirak Khel (Tokhis) at Umakai, practically destroying that tribe, not even sparing women with child. The chiefs of the massacred tribe were away collecting troops, and upon hearing of the destruction that had befallen their people they took to flight, and joined Nadir Shah's army, vowing a bitter revenge on the perpetrators of the slaughter of their people.

On the 13th of October 1736, Nadir Shah marched out of Isfahan and took the route through Kirman and Seistan. In this country he left his own Harem and the families of his officers under an adequate guard, and leaving Seistan on the 25th December, he arrived at Girishk on the l0th of January 1737, having marched by way of Dalkhak and Dilaram. From Girishk he despatched expeditions into the Zamindawar, and also against Kala-i-Bist, and then he continued his march and crossed the Helmand on the 13th of January.

Ordinarily in the winter, forage and other supplies are scanty, but Husein removed all the supplies he could lift, and what he was unable to take into Kandahar he had burnt on the spot. Nadir Shah was, therefore, compelled to halt at Shah Maksud for twelve days, to allow of supplies being collected in Tizin and Derawat and brought into his camp. Shah Husein took advantage of this respite to put the finishing touches to his scheme of defense. He hurried reinforcements to Kala-i-Bist, and leveled buildings that were near the walls of his capital ; strengthening the works. His son Muhammad Khan was detailed to hold Kalat (the stronghold of the Ghilzais), about 50 miles to the north-west of Kandahar.

From Shah Maksud, Nadir Shah marched to the banks of the Arghandab and placed his camp abreast of the shrine of Babavali. The same evening Shah Husein Hotak saddled his horses and rode out of Kandahar to attack the Persian camp. Under cover of the darkness he entered their lines with the impetuosity of a flood in spring time. Although they inflicted heavy losses on their antagonists, the Persian troops became panic stricken, and it was only with the greatest personal exertions that Nadir was able to rally his men on the high ground of Ashukah, and lead them back to the camp they had abandoned. Owing to the darkness Shah Husen himself was unaware of the measure of success he had obtained and retired to Kandahar.

In order to conceal the reverse he had sustained, Nadir crossed the river next morning by a ford which had been discovered opposite the village of Kokaran, and skirting the Pir Paman hills he marched past the city under fire from the heavy guns, mounted on the Chahilzina Bastion (to which he paid no attention), to a position on the east of Kandahar (end of January or early in February 1737).

Abdul Ghafur, the Hotaki, was in Kalat at this time and his brother Abdur Rasul had gone to raise the Kharoti levies against Nadir Shah. The latter obtained news of the gathering and dispatched a column to disperse the tribesmen, under the guidance of Musa Khan, " Dungi," the famous Sakzi (Ishakzai) chief, and this column fell on the assembled Kharotis at Shibar and scattered them with great loss. The day after the Nauroz festival, which had been celebrated with great pomp, a detachment of Nadir's troops was sent out to act against Kalat (9th March 1737). A deserter, who had escaped out of
Kandahar, on the second night after the march of the column, gave news to the effect that Husein Ghilzai had heard of the movement and had dispatched Saidal Khan, with 4,000 picked men, to follow up and surprise the Persians. Such was Saidal's reputation, that Nadir decided to march in person to the rescue of his men, and joined them all unsuspicious of danger, as the Afghans were on the point of surprising the negligent commander. Foiled in their purpose by the arrival of Nadir Shah, the Afghans scattered over the hills at the onslaught of the Persians, and made their way to Kalat, where. Saidal joined Muhammad Khan and the other chiefs.

A large gathering of Ghilzais was dispersed on the banks of the Arghandab ; and in order to prevent sorties from the beleaguered city being made, it was decided to build redoubts and block houses round the city. On a perimeter of from twenty-four to Twenty-eight miles redoubts, each of which was capable of sheltering 1,000 men, were constructed at intervals of a mile. Between each of these aain at intervals of 100 paces, towers were constructed in which 10 musketeers were placed. As the Afghans were even then able to steal past the towers in the darkness singly and on foot between each of these last two other towers were erected, by means of which egress from the city was rendered impossible.

On the 3rd May 1737 news arrived of the fall of Kala-i-Bist, and the next day brought tidings of the capture of Shahr-i-Safa. At the end of the same month, the families that had been left in Seistan reached Nadirabad. In the meantime, however, the expedition into the country of Zamindawar had failed to effect the conquest of the principal fort in that district ; and the luckless commander was recalled, and was condemned to receive the bastinado in Nadir Shah's presence. Thus encouraged, his successor proved a more energetic officer, and the place was soon after made over to the Persians.

The Afghans for several years had been preparing- the town of Kandahar for a siege, and the place contained great stores of provisions and also a very large garrison, who stood manfully on their defense. As ten months had passed by, Nadir decided to capture it by assault ; and on the 21st of December the outer defences were attacked and one by one these were gained. The principal work was the Azimi Bastion, on which there were several guns mounted. It was situated on a lofty mound and was equal in height to the Chahilzina work. The garrison of Azimi were taken prisoners. The Sangin fort was next assailed. This was on the summit of a very high spur and commanded the citadel. It was situated on the north-west side in the direction of the Chahilzina work. The attack on Sangin was successful, and the garrison of 300 men were either taken or killed. Fourteen other works had also been taken and the defenders had fallen by the sword. Large bored mortars, and guns firing shot which weighed from 35 to 4C1 lbs. , were dragged up by a very difficult and crooked path and placed in position on the crest of the hill, to bear on the Dahdar work (on the west of the citadel), in the fort Sangin. After battering Dahdar till its foundations trembled, 300 men of each of the
contingents of the Bakhtiaris, Kurds and Afghans were told off to assault the position on the night of the 3rd March 1738. The garrison of Dahdar, however, were on the alert, and they beat off the storming party with a loss of 200 men.

After the Nauroz Festival had been celebrated, the Bakhtiaris were ordered to make a second attack on Dahdar, supported by 4,000 other troops. They moved up under cover towards the Dahdar fort and passed the night concealed from the view of the defenders in the ravines and chasms of that furrowed hillside. Next morning when the attention of the garrison was drawn to the assault on the other side, the Bakhtiaris scaled the rocks and swarmed over the walls into the place (13th March 1738).

The Chahar Burj was next attacked and carried on the third assault, the Persians having suffered greatly in the two attacks which failed. A general assault put them in possession of several other parts of the defenses, and also of a gateway. Shah Husein fled into the Kaitul Fort accompanied by a few of his leading men, and with several of his women folk, while a great slaughter was made in the city. He perceived that his only chance of safety lay in surrendering. He, therefore, sent his own sister, Zinab by name, in company with some of his chiefs, to Nadir Shah to obtain terms. Having received assurances of safety, he made his submission to Nadir outside the Babavali Gate. Shah Husien with his relations and dependants, with such of their personal possessions as had remained in their hands, were exiled to Mazenderan.

Nadir Shah had fully made up his mind that Kandahar should be destroyed and rendered uninhabitable, and on the 29th of March 1737 a site had been selected in the vicinity of the shrine of Sher Surkh Baba, and a complete city was laid out here, all the details as to public buildings, bath houses, and residential quarters, were de- finitely settled, work was commenced at once, and by the middle of December the place was pronounced to be ready for occupation. This city was declared to be the future capital of the province, and it was named Nadirabad.

While Nadir Shah's military chiefs were battering- the fortifications of Old Kandahar, his civil officers were planning the settlement and assessment of the land immediately round the newly built city.'

After that Kalat-i-Ghilzai had been taken by the Persians, it was handed over to the care of the famous Ghilzai Chief, Jan, the Taraki, who exercised such power over his tribe, that even during his life- time his influence had become proverbial : — " It rests with God and Jan the Taraki," was a saying which was current in the mouths of his and Nadir made Ashraf Sultan chief over the Tokhi and other Ghilzai tribes, and avenged them on the Hotakis, who were deported to the lands held by the Abdalis, to the west of Meshed in the Sabzawar district, and on the 4th April 1738 the exiled tribesmen crossed the Arghandab on their journey to their new habitations.

Thus passed away the sceptre of authority from the Ghilzais. theirs is a proud record. Shah Husen died soon after arriving in Mazenderan. The dissensions among the Ghilzais was the cause of his downfall. [3]


1.Haroon Rashid, "History of Pathans", Vol.III, p-272"
2.Raverty, "Notes on Afghanistan and Balochistan:, p-612
3.Tate, George P, The kingdom of Afghanistan: a historical sketch