Saturday, July 1, 2017

An eighteenth century account of the Wazir tribe

A Waziri tribesman with rifle, 1919. Photograph by R.B.Holmes

An early notice of the Wazirs in an original Muslim source comes from the times of Timur Shah Durrani about the year 1780. The author of the surveys, Syed Ghulam Muhammad, describe the Wazirs in the following manner ;

"The Waziri Afghans are a great and powerful tribe numbering nearly 100,000 families ; and they dwell in an extensive tract of difficult mountainous country , with few exceptions , after the manner of ilats or nomads. They are not much better than the brute beasts ; for , save eating and drinking , moving about among their hills and dales like cattle , thieving , and plundering on the highways, and dying , they know nought besides.

Their chief wealth consists of numerous flocks and vast number of cattle of different kinds, including numerous cows and oxen. They pass their lives under tents , and cultivate the available patches of land called kats on the banks of various streams and watercourses which run through their country , and in the defiles with which it abounds , but, of the usages of agriculture generally they are ignorant.

This great tribe is wholly independent , and they have neither tax nor tribute to pay , and own allegiance to no one. Being subdivided into a number of branches , they do not acknowledge the authority of an hereditary , or of a single chief , but have numerous headmen , who hold a little authority ; and these are chosen with the consent and accord of the branch or division to which they belong , but, when about to undertake a war-like expedition , a leader is elected , whom all implicitly obey. There is no doubt but that very much less internal disagreement exists among the Waziris than any other Afghan tribe, and the consequence is, that, being more united, they are much more powerful. It is very certain that they know their own strength, and are proud of it. Their country extends from the Daman to the territory of the Bangash Karlanri tribes, more than one hundred kuroh in length, and in breadth fifty kuroh. Karni-Gram is situated in one of their mountain dara'hs. They have iron mines about there, near Makin and Babar Ghar, and make exceedingly good knives and swords. There is no level land, so to say, in their country, which consists of some of the highest spurs, ridges, and offshoots, on either side of the eastern range of Mihtar Suliman, Koh-i-Siyah, Ghar, Kasi Ghar, Shu-al or Shu-al Ghar, as it is also called, as well as by other designations already mentioned. Wherever a small area is found capable of being cultivated it is brought under tillage, and is called by a separate name [the name of the clan or section who cultivate] . These Afghan people entertain an inveterate hatred towards people of Hindustan." 

("Notes on Afghanistan", H.G.Raverty, pp-534-535)