Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Niazi uprising against the Sikhs (1829-30)

In 1821, Ranjit Singh occupied Mankirah in the Sind Sagar Doab. The conquered Nawab, who was given possession of the trans-Indus territory of Dera Ismail Khan, also held Niazi lands in fief for Ranjit Singh. In 1829 Sher Muhammad Khan, the Nawab of Dera Ismail Khan, asked Ahmad Khan Zaku Khel (Khan of the Isa Khel) to build forts at Isa Khel and Trag, a wealthy village about fifteen kilometers to the North of Isa Khel. Apparently, this occupation of their country by the Nawab's troops did not bother the Niazis one bit, but they also did not care to take measures to protect themselves against other attackers as well. Consequently, the Sikhs occupied their territory. Soon after, Nau Nihal Singh (grandson of Ranjit Singh) marched through the Derajat, visiting Isa Khel en-route. He replaced the Pashtun garrison of Nawab of Dera Ismail Khan with the Sikhs and moved on to Dera Ismail Khan via Panniala. The Niazis were unable to compete with the trained and powerful Khalsa army.

Within a few months,  a dispute between a Mullah and a Sikh soldier in Isa Khel gave the Niazis long sought opportunity of ridding themselves of their detested conquerors. The dispute escalated from words to blows and soon it became a general brawl. The Sikh soldiery , despising their foes, sallied out of the fort to aid their comrades , who were getting seriously mauled in the streets of town. They , regardless of the consequences , fired on the angry crowd of Niazis, who collecting weapons of all sort, attacked the small band, inflicting heavy losses and finally driving them back into the fort. The Niazis pushed on with their successes, and before nightfall, only four men of the Sikh garrison survived and burj of Fateh Singh was a heap of ruins. Elated by these successes, marched onto Trag, but the garrison there, already forewarned , put the river between them and their adversaries by retreating to Attock. The fort , however , shared the same fate as that of Isa Khel and for a while the Niazis rejoiced in their independence.

The following year Raja Suchet Singh and Fateh Singh Mann marched against the Niazis to avenge the rout of the garrison. The Niazis moved to Kotki , a fort on the eastern mouth of Chichali pass and awaited the Khalsa army. Allah Yar Khan of Kalabagh , with the portion of Sikh forces , was sent via the Bulbuli pass to take them on from the rear. The defection of their ally frustrated the Isa khels and they fled to Choantrah  valley and thence to Bannu. After strengthening the Kotki fort , the Sikhs marched on Isa Khel town , ravaging the whole country (which was entirely deserted) and burning all the Niazi villages. The army encamped there, long enough to rebuild the fort and to throw up a formidable tower in the center. They also mounted the guns and left a strong garrison. Ahmad Khan , chief of Isa Khel, took refuge in Bannu with Malik Sohan Khan, chief of Ahmadzai Wazirs.

(Reference: "History of the Pathans, Vol-III, by Haroon Rashid, pp-368-369)

The bank of river Indus, Isakhel