Sunday, 1 November 2015

Potohar and the Salt range under the sway of Pashtuns

Earliest Pashtun settlements in Chhachh (Attock)

The earliest Pashtun comers to Attock were the Lodis who accompanied Mahmud Ghaznavi  as mercenaries on his invasion of India[1]. In the late 11th century Dilazak tribe of Afghans had possession of all the plain of Peshawar, and extended even to Chhuchh-Hazara and the Jhelum.[2].


Lodi Sultans of India
Ghakkars were subjects of Lodhi Sultans and remained peaceful till the time of invasion of Babur. This is also verified by Babur who records in his tuzk-i-baburi, "Tatar Ghakkar had waited on Daulat khan and was in a certain way subject to him" .(3)


Sind-Sagar Doab under Suri Sultans

 In 1541, Sher Shah, having driven the Emperor Humayun from India, led an expedition against Ghakkars who sided with Humayun.Sher Shah threatened to construct such a fort in that country that it should not only effectually restrain the Ghakkars, but also the passage of the Mughals. He therefore himself made a tour through the hills of Girjhak Nlnduna [mountains circumjacent],‘ and finding a fit spot, he laid the foundations of the fort, which he called Rohtas.

Besides that, he sent a large force against Rai Sérang, the Ghakkar, and not only was the country subdued, and the hill of Balna'th plundered, which was then the residence of the Darogha of that tract, but the daughter of its chief was taken prisoner, and conducted before Sher Shah, who presented her to Khawas Khan; upon which Rai Sérang, they relate, sent a quantity of [hemp] blankets and millet to Sher Shah, with the remark that in such only consisted their raiment and food, besides which they could afford nothing; according to others, he sent a lion’s skin and some [arrows] spears, which he said was their only property. With this conduct, however, Sher Shah was by no means satisfied. Sarang [Sarang’s troops] being weakened by [skirmishes] the attacks of“ the holy warriors, and greatly reduced and straitened, submitted himself in person to Sher Shah, who ordered him to be flayed alive, and his skin to be filled with straw, and so pay the penalty of his misdeeds.

Sher Shah issued farmans to complete the fortifications of Rohtas ; but Todar Khatri represented that the Ghakkars, to whom that country belonged, would not allow any one to work for wages; and that they had agreed amongst themselves, upon oath, to expatriate every person that should contravene their wishes. Sher Shah, in answer, told him [that he should noways be allowed to give up that work, which he only wished to do in consequence of his greediness for gold] that the work did not seem to advance under his superintendence, and that a man who was fond of money, and was alarmed about disbursing it, would never accomplish the king’s designs. Todar, on the reception of this fresh command, fixed first a golden ashrafi as the enormous remuneration for one stone, which induced the Ghakkars to flock to him in such numbers that afterwards a stone was paid with a rupee, and this pay gradually fell to five tankas, till the fortress was completed."

After the defeat at the hands of Islam shah, Niazis took refuge with the Ghakkars, in the hill-country bordering on Kashmir. Islam Shah advanced in person with a large army for the purpose of quelling the Niazi rebellion, and during the pace of two years was engaged in constant conflicts with the Ghakkars, whom he desired to subdue. He strove by every means in his power to gain possession of the person of Sultan Adam Ghakkar, who had been a faithful friend of the Emperor Humayun, without success; but he caught Serang Sultan Ghakkar, who was one of the most noted men of his tribe, and caused him to be flayed alive, and confined his son, Kamal Khan, in the fort of Gwalior. When Islam Shah had thus taken a proper revenge of Sultan Adam Ghakkar, and destroyed many of his tribe, many of the zaminda'rs whose possessions were at the foot of the hills submitted themselves to him. Skirting the hills.(4)

Rohtas fort

Khan Gaju's sway over Sind-Sagar Doaba

Ghakkars were subjects of Afghan Lodhi Sultans and remained peaceful till the time of invasion of Babur. This is also verified by Babur who records in his tuzk-i-baburi, "Tatar Ghakkar had waited on Daulat khan and was in a certain way subject to him"

Awans, Ghakkars and other Hindki tribes of Potohar and Salt range were subject to, or owned allegiance to Khan Kaju (or Gaju), the chief of Yusufzais. The authority of  Khan Gaju was recognized from Nek-Anhar to the Margalah pass. And from the Lahori Kotel and upper Swat to to Gahep; and Adam, the chief of Gakhars, acknowledged his sway in one direction , while the Kafirs acknowledged it in the other, and from Pakhli and Dharamtaurs to Kalabagh.


Jehangir's action against Dilazaks

Mughal Emperor Jehangir caused the Dilazak Afghans to be removed from the two hazarahs, together with the Kathars, a non-Afghan tribe. He set out for the Punjab in 1015H , and in the first month of the following year 1607-8 AD, when about to proceed to Kabul, he made Zafar Khan , son of the late Zain Khan Kokaltash, governor of Attock and its districts, and gave him directions to have the Dilzaks and Kathars , on account of their depredations, removed near to Lahore , and to have their removal affected before his return from Kabul. The command was carried out ; and some 100,000 families are said to have been removed on this occasion.(5)



The Ain-e-Akbari, containing a complete and detailed survey of the empire of Akbar Badshah was completed in 1596-97 AD. At that time the Northern half of the Sindh-Sagar Doaba constituted the Sind-Sagar Sarakar, so called, of the Subah  or province of the Punjab or lahore. The Sind-Sagar sarkar contained forty-two mahals or parganas or districts, one of which was Khushab on the Jehlum, the inhabitants of which were Isa Khel and other Niazi Afghans, who paid 1,80,704 dams of revenue , and who are rated as able to furnish 500 horse and 3,000 foot for militia purposes. In 1587 AD, an expedition was sent under the command of Abdul Muttalib Khan , son of Shah Budagh,  and other commanders to root out Jalala and Roshnias from Bangash. When the troops reached the Sind near Sunbulah , Zanagaey Khan , and other of the Niazi Afghans, who dwelt in that neighborhood, joined the Badshah officers with their contingents; and they crossed the Sind at Chauparah Ferry , and entered into the lands of Isa Khel. Firoz Khan, Jamal Khan, Ali Khan and other Niazi chiefs of that part , also came and presented themselves before the Badshah’s commander.

Khattak invasion of Sind-Sagar Doab

 When the Khattaks ,under Malik Ako, began to push northwards and eastwards towards the Shakar Darah, the Awans of Bagh – by which name , and Bagh of the Awans, the Khattaks style Kala or Kara Bagh – as soon as they became aware of their movements , concluding that they had designs upon their districts, made an attack on them , and many were killed on either side. The Khattaks however were not checked in their movements, and they took possession of (what was subsequently called) the Khwarah and Sunialah.

The Khattaks after this waged war with many of the surrounding tribes , and among them were the Awans of Suhan-Sakesara, whom they didn’t consider nit necessary to “conciliate”. They crossed the Indus into Sind-Sagar Doabah , ravaged and wasted the country round Sakesera, and took both males and females captive; indeed 40,000 Awans more or less fell into captivity. Such is Khushal Khan Khattak’s account of his tribe’s invasion of Awan’s territory, in his grandfather’s time.


Kalabagh was formerly known as Kara-Bagh. The Hindi translation for Kara, the Turkish for black, etc, is Kala. Kalabagh as well as great part of western Punjab was held by Turks before the period of accession of Lodi dynasty, as Babur badshah likewise mentions. As the Turks became weak, the Afghan tribes began to appropriate large tracts of country towards the Indus. When Niazi Afghans had been nearly annihilated in 16th century, the Hindkis (Awans etc) around began to raise their heads , and to follow the example of Afghans.

After Dhankot of the Niazis had been swept away by river Indus, one of the head men of the Awan tribe of Hindkis, who appear to have been vassals of the Niazis, took up his residence and built for himself a dwelling on the spot where Kalabagh now stands, which site must, evidently, have previously borne the same name. By a dehree, a town sprung up around , which on account of its favorable position , and nearness to the salt mines, went on increasing.

“the Bangi Khel amount to about 6000 to 7000 families, and dwell in the mountain tracts to the west of Sind river. Their territory , from North to South, is just thirty Kuroh in length and between ten and twelve Kuorah in breadth, from west to east . The chief of this sub-tribe is , Surkh-ru Khan by anme, dwells at the town of Kalabagh. He pays a sum of 5000 rupis yearly , as ushr or a tenth , into the treasury of Timur Shah Sadozai, Durrani, Badshah of Kabul; and has to furnish a contingent of 200 horsemen to the Badshah army”

The Khattak historian, Muhammad Afzal Khan (son or nephew of Khushal Khan Khattak) , in his work, call this place Bagh of Awans because it was chiefly peopled by Awans. Bagh had been held by the Khattaks in jagir or feudal tenure. The prince Shah Alam, Bahadur, while acting as subah-dar of Kabul province immediately before his father death (Aurangzeb), sustained many losses at the hand of the Afghan tribes of these parts

Potohar and Salt range under Ahmad Shah Abdali

Ahmad Shah Abdali made Saadat Khan Khattak ruler of all the country as far as Jhelum. The King Timur Shah afterwards bestowed on him the title of Sarfraz Khan by which he is generally known. (6)

Notes and References:

1-   Attock District Gazetter, 1907, p-76
2-- Hugh R. James, Report on the Settlement of the Peshawur District, p-23 (1865)
5- Raverty, Notes on Afghanistanand part of Baluchistan, p-220
3-  The Frontier Policy of the Delhi Sultans By Agha Hussain Hamadani, page-179
4-  The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians the Muhammadan ..., Volume 5, page-115
6- Sir.G.Tucker, Report on the settlement of Kohat district, appendix-xiv

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