Thursday, August 27, 2015

Multan Khan Afridi

Multan Khan, Anai Zakha Khel of Tirah,  was a marauder, 'Paladin' and a hero of the anti-British locals of Peshawar valley. He was a tall and handsome Afridi , who had served as a Sepoy in the 26th Punjab regiment , and therefore was well versed in platoon level tactics, which he used with effect for escape and evasion and in deceiving the Police.

He along with one Jaffar , started his marauding career on the government territory from 1902 onwards. In 1904, he was exiled and he settled in Hazaranau (Afghanistan). But the same year, he returned to his native village in Tirah and from there led a raid against the Hindu shopkeepers of Teri Tehsil (now Karak district). In 1905, Multan Khan and his accomplices launched 10 raids , all inside Peshawar and surrounding areas. During 1906-7, he was responsible for 19 similar acts along the border. On 12th January 1907, Multan Khan looted the Hindus of Talab at Matani. On the night of 14th January, he took away 37 camels from Multan Sarai. On 2nd February 1908, he snatched 53 camels from a Hindu. On 15th March 1908, he launched an attack on a Police party and seized 3 rifles from the Police. On 23d October 1908, he raided Pabbi and took away some Hindu hostages with him. During the raid, he had confrontation with 45th Sikh Regiment, in which one soldier was seriously wounded. On his way he looted the camp of Ghani Shamdas , a government official. On 20th November , Multan Khan, alongwith one Dadi, fired at the border militia at Bara fort and killed two militiamen. During 1907, Multan Khan had commited 17 violent actions. On 3rd January 1908, Multan Khan attacked the Jalozai camp , and killed one soldier and took away 41 government mules. On the 24th January , he attacked Katcha Garhi railway station. One of his most daring raids was on the Andar Shehr Bazaar, the jewellery market inside Peshawar city. It took place on 28th January 1908. In this attack , Multan Khan and his men plundered the entire market and took away gold and jewellery worth Rs. 4,00,000/-

In the meantime there was trouble brewing in the Afridi country between the British government and the tribes. On 13th February 1908, the British forces under the command of Maj.General Sir J.Willcocks attacked the Zakha Khel area in which the British forces suffered severe losses . 40 men were wounded or killed including a British Major. With this attack of the British , Mullah Syed Akbar Aka Khel, or known as Dadar Mullah, a Mullah of the Qambar Khels, , and Qazi Mir Haider , openly joined hands with Multan Khan.

Multan Khan Afridi continued his incessant attacks on border outposts and doggedly harassed the British. In one such fracas, he was seriously wounded and took refuge in Jalalabad , from where he sent a letter to the British , saying that he wanted to return back and also extended an invitation to the authorities to arrest him. The British kept the Border Military Police on full alert. Like this for years, he had ridiculed all the precautions taken by the British.

In December of 1908, Multan and his followers, dressed in Police uniform , went to Aman Kot (Pabbi) and looted a Hindu house. In 1909, with the help of a paid informant, Sher Ghulam, the British finally brought Multan to bay and killed him. Six of his men were arrested at Sorezai, Peshawar. Sher Ghulam was awarded ten thousands Rupees in cash by the Political Agent Khyber Agency. But he did not enjoy his reward money. The Afridi as a tribe were roused in anger for his act of treachery. They burnt down his house , and later he was killed by one of Multan Khan's relative. legends of Multan's deeds of derring do today form a part of the Afridi folklore.

(Excerpt from "Some major Pukhtoon tribes along the Pak-Afghan border", by S. Iftikhar Hussain, pp-57-59)

An Afridi tribesman on lookout on a Mountain , Khyber Pass, 1919. Photograph by R.B.Holmes