Sunday, April 30, 2017

Yaghistan, the land of the free and unruly

By Khan Barmazid


 Pashtun highlands in the past have been called Yaghistan which means the land of the free and unruly (Yaghi means uncontrollable and unmanageable). Amir Abdur Rahman Khan referred to the tribal belt between British India and Afghanistan as Yaghistan in his autobiography. Colonel Brazier Creagh of the Indian Army, who visited the area in 1893-4, wrote, "When went to the frontier it was Yaghistan ; it was a forbidden land, and no Englishman had ever been there before.....It was impossible to go [inside] and if you did your bones would be left there.”

Yaghistan, referred to as Roh in medieval times (Roh means mountains) was the land where no man was above another. They were not subjects of any body and they were not the part of any kingdom of a king according to Afsana-i-Shahan. The fiercely independent Pakhtun tribes of Yaghistan remained independent during the Ghaznavid period and Ghaznavid sources reveal that Turkish Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni attacked Afghans who used to raid his frontier districts and killed large numbers of them but Afghans remained unruly and his successors had struggle with ever rebellious Afghans. These Afghan tribes of mountains maintained their independence during Ghurid, Mongol,  Timurid, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal , Durrani and Sikh periods. They did not recognize any imperial authority and could not be forced to pay any taxes. Lavish subsidies were paid by the Mughals as protection money to keep the passes through Yaghistan open. In 19th century (before 1893) the tribes of Yaghistan did not belong either to the British raj or Amir of Kabul.






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1887 : 'The Afghans of Yaghistan do not belong either to the British raj or to the Amir (of Kabul) but live in the native national anarchy in the western basin of the upper India.....Swat, Buner , Panjkura, Dir etc. The Afghan of Yaghistan is the true, unsophisticated Afghan. '  The Library Magazine - Page 280

In Ghilzai usage, Yaghistan (lands of freedom or unrestrained)  is where no man is above another , in contrast to hukomat where there are governors and governed.  Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan 

The fiercely independent Pakhtuns of Yaghistan maintained their independence during the Ghaznavid, Ghurid, Mongol, Timurid, Mughal (Babur's dynasty), Durrani and Sikh periods.

Colonel Brazier Creagh of the Indian Army, who visited the area in 1893-4, wrote, "When went to the frontier it was Yaghistan ; it was a forbidden land, and no Englishman had ever been there before.....It was impossible to go [inside] and if you did your bones would be left there.”    . Frontier of Faith: Islam, in the Indo-Afghan Borderland