Sunday, April 10, 2016

Morcha Khel Mohmands




Malik Morcha (from Tarakzai clan of Mahmands) was the progenitor of the Khans of Lalpura and Morcha Khels.

Malik Morcha, a leading man in the Darma Kor sub-section of the Shah Mansur clan of the Tarakzai tribe, settled at Lalpura, which, in those days, lay on the right bank of the Kabul river, about three- quarters of a mile below Fort Dakka, where a few grass- grown mounds near Srikn ziarat mark the site of their ancestral home. According to popular tradition Malik Morcha had rescued a maidservant of Saint Murzad Wali Baba from the Khawaezi robbers and in gratitude he prayed for prosperity of his progeny. It shall be seen that the saint's prayers were answered and Malik Morcha and his progeny did become prosperous but at the cost of bloodshed and disunity. Very few members of the Khan Khel family of the Morcha Khel died a natural death, being generally killed by their nearest relations. ["The Mohmands", William Rudolph Henry Merk, p-46]

Malik Morcha was a contemporary with Mughal Emperor Akbar. In 1586 A.D, he joined by the other Ghoria Khels , having nominated Jalala (son of Pir Roshan), their leader, revolted against Mughals and stormed the fort of Bagram (Peshawar) killing Syed Hamid , the Mughal faujdar. Later Akbar won him over by conferring on him honours and awards. He along with his other family members, joined the Mughal service. Later he was appointed commander of the Mughal fort at Dakka, of which he and his sons acquired the hereditary command. The Morcha Khels thus became leader of the whole tribe. Their exceptionally favourable location for harassing, simultaneously, Nangarhar and the Peshawar plains and closing off several trade routes from Kabul to India, induced the governor to confer upon the Morcha Khel leaders large and valuable 'jagirs' and to permit them to levy heavy tolls on tracks and rivers so as to stop their marauding habits. On top of it, the imperial service and favours, rapidly eclipsed rival leading families.

His son Kalandar Khan, who on his death, was succeeded by his sixth son Shat Khan, followed Malik Morcha. His other five sons remained obscure and their descendants got scattered in Nangarhar. Shat Khan remained in the service of Emperor Shahjahan. He was killed in skirmishes with the Shinwaris. Muquarrab Khan succeeded his father. He shifted the village of Lalpura to its present location on the left bank of the river at the request of Mazub Baba, a disciple of Murzad Wali Baba and whose shrine is located below Parchao. Muquarrab Khan had two wives, Jahana, a Morcha Khel and Araba, a Khwaezai woman. By Jahana he had Ahmad Khan, Lashkar Khan and Fateh Khan who constitute the Jahanai Kor. None of them had ever been the 'Khan' of the tribe. By Araba Muquarrab Khan had three sons namely, Zain Khan, Painda and Hakim. Their descendants constitute the Arabai Kor and are the 'Khan Khel'. Muquarrab Khan had accompanied Nadir Shah to Delhi. His eldest son Zain Khan who is considered the first Khan of the Arabai Kor succeeded him. He, along with his other two brothers namely Painda and Hakim, joined the service of Ahmad Shah Durrani. The last two were killed while fighting in Kashmir. Ahmad Shah appointed Zain Khan Governor of Sirhind. In his absence the 'Khan' of Nawagai attacked Kamali and ravaged the Tarakzi clan. A Mahmand Tarakzaey courier was hurriedly sent to Hind to inform Zain Khan about the situation. It is said that the courier, tired, clad in a worn out coarse blanket and leaving his pair of grass sandals at the door, entered the ' Durbar' hall and sat down at the side of Zain Khan. The astonished beholders kept silent. Zain Khan recognised him from his tribal dress and asked him what he thought of some dancing girls who happened to be singing in a corner of the hall. The courier curtly replied that they did not sing so loudly as the wails of Mahmand women, carried off to Bajaur by the 'Khan ' of Nawagai.

Zain Khan, with the Afghan troops, immediately set off to his area. He attacked Nawagai and captured Sardar Khan, the 'Khan' of Nawagai who was later executed. Subsequently, Zain khan was killed at the battle of Panipat. His son Balot Khan who had three sons,1 Arsala, Mazullah and Sadullah, succeeded him.

The eldest Arsala Khan succeeded his father Balot Khan about 1782 AD. He was opposed by the Baezi, who under Dindar Khan fought bloody battles against Arsala Khan, the grandson of Zain Khan, each having already slain the other's father. Arsala Khan married his sister to the son of Sardar Khan, the late 'Khan' of Nawagai and gave Nawagai as dowry to his sister. In 1789, he plundered King Taimoor Shah's treasure while being escorted from Peshawar to Kabul. The King attacked Lalpura. The Khan fled and took refuge in the hills. He rebelled against Taimoor Shah and succeeded in winning over the Afridis and other local tribes. He closed the Khyber Pass to Taimoor Shah's forces and levied tolls on caravans on his own account. Taimoor Shah induced him to visit him at Kabul under a safe conduct. Arsala believed in him and was treacherously imprisoned by Taimoor Shah. Eventually in 1792, he tied him to the forefeet of an elephant and got him crushed to death . ["History of the Pathans: The Sarabani Pathans - p-484]



The Khan of Lalpura and followers, with political officer, 1878. Photograph by John Burk


Kabul River opposite Lalpura village (Nangarhar province) 1878-9. Photo by John Burke.

1906: Lalpura is a village in the Jalalabad district, 47 miles from Peshawar. It is situated on the left bank of the Kabul river, immediately opposite Loe Dakka. It is the chief village of the Mohmand tribe and includes the minor villages of Sada and Malikhana. There is a ferry of boats between Lalpura and Dakka and a difficult ford when the river is low; a bridge of boats also is maintained in the cold weather, but is usually either dismantled or washed away when the melting snow causes the river to rise in the spring. ["Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan" ,Vol-6, p-503]



Four sons of Khan of Lalpura with Attendants, c 1878. Photo by John Burke


Four sons of Nowruz Khan, ruler of Lalpura, Afghanistan, 1878. Photo by John Burke


Khan of Lalpura (Upper Mohmands). From London Illustrated News, 1879.

Nowruz Khan, the Khan of Lalpura




Hassan, a Tajik, attendant of Khan of Lalpura, 1878. Water colour painting by William Simpson


Muhammad Sadik Khan, a Mohmand of Lalpura. From The Illustrated London News, June 21, 1879