Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Chamkanis

The Chamkani tribes, also known as Chakmanis‘, is traditionally supposed to belong to the Ghoria Khel main Division of the Sarabani Pashtuns. Some authorities assign them a Persian origin. Muhammad Hayat Khan (author of Hayat-i-Afghani) considers them as the descendants of Ibrahim Ghoria and by their Sarbani descent they are related to the Mohmands, Daudzai and Khalils. According to him they had a quarrel with their other kinsmen and moved out of their original location to Sufed Koh. The major portion of the tribe appears to have joined forces with the Khattaks, who were settled around Waziristan in the fourteenth century; and when the Khattaks moved into their present location in Karak and Koh'at districts, the Chamkanis remained in Waziristan. Subsequently, they moved into the Kharmana valley to the north-east of Kurrum valley. The tribe is at present located in the Thabai and Awi darrahs, in the Kharmana valley, and in the Karman darrah on the northern slopes of the Sika Ram Range. Their neighbours are the Afridis on the east, the Orakzi on the east and south-east, the Turis on the west and south-west, while the Sufed Koh Range is the boundary on the north, beyond which lies the country of the Shinwaris. According to Solat-i-Afghani,  at the time of Ahmad Shah Durrani the Chamkanis could muster about nine thousand fighting men, and in the nineteenth century they could hardly muster about six thousand armed men.

Some of the Chamkani families had moved into Peshawar valley and had founded a village and named it after their tribe. However, it is not known as when they arrived here and who was the chief of this splinter group. Presently, Chamkani village is mostly populated by the Mohmands. Munshi Gopal Das writes that Ibrahim, a descendant of Mohmand son of Ibrahim Ghoraey was in the service of a king and was given the title of ‘Chakbani’. This Ibrahim ‘Chakbani’ founded this village and named it after his name, which with passage of time got corrupted into ‘Chamkani’. However, he further writes that the above-mentioned legend seems unlikely and that the village would have been founded by one of the chiefs of the Chamkani tribe who lived in Kurrum valley. The said village was depopulated because of the depredations of the Mohmands of the Hazar Khani, and that it was subsequently re-inhabited by one Darya Khan Mohmand who was a descendant of Ibrahim Khan Mohmand mentioned above.

 Plowden, however, divides them into four main sections namely, Khani Khel, Azzi Khel, Dari Khel, and Laghar. Colonel Wylly also divides them into four main sections but with different names', namely, Bada Khel, Khwajak Khel, Haji or Para Khel, and Khani Khel. There is a small band of Chamkanis, living in Kurrum valley above Kharlachi who claim to be Ghilzai.

With few exceptions the Chamkanis are all Sunnis, surrounded by Shia Turis and the Massuzi clan of Orakzi who border them on the east. The threat from their Shia neighbours had kept the tribe united, though they had scattered hamlets but in strong positions on the slopes of the hills. Gondal and Khazina had been once their main settlements, however, the Massuzi Orakzi supplanted them from there and they moved into the clearings in the forest and founded small hamlets. Owing to the feuds with their neighbours they did not pose any problem to the Kabul rulers and later to the British Government, however, on occasions had joined with their more powerful neighbours against the government, their own comparative insignificance had helped to preserve them against the consequences. During the 1897 Uprising, in the Kurrum valley several points of the border had been portioned out for attacks by the local tribes. The general ‘jirga’, held on the 20th August 1897, had decided that the Chamkanis and their neighbours, the Massuzi Orakzis, should move against the Kurrum. The Chamkanis remained quiet until night 16/ 17th September, when some of their men suddenly attacked Colonel Richardson's camp at Sadda, at the junction of the Kharmana and Kurrum Rivers. To Sir William Lockhart's proclamation of the 6th October they returned insolent and defiant replies, offering peace upon their own terms. They built a barrier right across the Kharmana darrah. However, presence of Kurrum Moveable Column under Colonel Hill in the close vicinity kept them and the large tribal 'lashkar' in their neighbourhood in check from open acts of hostility. Till then the Chamkanis as a tribe had notjoined the firebrands of the frontier.

On 7th November 1897, the Commander of the Kurrum Moveable Column, taking advantage of a temporary suspension of hostilities in the neighbourhood of Sadda, moved out into the Kharmana defile. He sent out a reconnaissance patrol to judge the strength of the tribal concentration in the defile, which is seven miles long. The tribes were evidently taken by surprise by the presence of the troops in the area. Even the barrier erected across the defile by the Chamkanis was not held. The troops after the minor skirmishes at the villages of Hissar and Janikot had withdrawn, however, a platoon consisting of thirty-five men and commanded by a Havildar of the Kapurthala Infantry lost the way and found themselves surrounded in a ravine with further retreat cut off by ajungle fire. The Chamkanis shot them to a man.

This comparative success inflamed the spirit of revolt on the northern side of the Kurrum valley. Other tribesmen who had hitherto held more or less aloof reinforced the Chamkanis and Orakzi, and the strength of the ‘lashkar’ near the village of Hissar, (which Colonel Hill had earlier destroyed), was continually increased. For their complicity in this resistance the Chamkanis were ordered to pay a fine of Rs. 1000/, to surrender thirty breech-loading rifles, and to restore all Government property. The Chamkanis refused the demand. On the 26th November,  therefore, the Kurrum Moveable Column took part in the operations alluded in the Khani Khel country of the Chamkanis in two bodies, destroying Thabai and other villages, and inflicting heavy loss upon them, however, one of the ten Battye soldier brothers was killed1 .

Unlike the rest of the tribes in 1898, the Chamkanis failed to make formal submission, and thus encouraged, they broke out in revolt again in 1899, raiding two villages in the Kurrum valley, killing and wounding several villagers, and carrying off a large number of cattle. A counter-raid, however, quickly organised by Captain Roos-Kepple, and directed against Chamkani villages in the Kurrum valley, soon brought them to terms. Over a hundred prisoners were taken, several villages burned, and large number of cattle and firearms were seized. Upon this the Chamkanis paid up the fine and thereafter lived in peace and harmony.


1- Hayat-i-Afghani, p-220 and p-224
2- Solat-i-Afghani, p-373
3- Tarikh-i-Peshawar, p-178
4 . Colonel WyIIy, “From the Black Mountain to Wazirstan", p-407.

(Source: History of the Pathans, Vol-II, Haroon Rashid)