Even before this crossroad of the East and West became prominent in Western annals through the work of the Greek geographer and chronicler Hecataeus of Miletus writing in 500 B.C., the historian Herodotus (485 B.C-425 B.C.), and the campaigns of Alexander, a long history of civilizations unfolds amongst the ageless contours of the Frontier.
That man roamed these parts since Palaeolithic times has been confirmed by evidence scattered across the Province. In the Sanghao cave, Mardan, early Stone Age implements, flakes, core tools, blade flakes, awls, hammer tools and scrapers of various shapes with a sharpened edge for scraping materials such as hide or wood have been discovered. Similarly in Lewan, Bannu district, core tools, blade flakes, end scrapers, pebble tools, hand-axes, knife blades of hard stone give evidence of a culture that thrived between 3,500 B.C.-3,000 B.C. Remains from the later Stone Age or Neolithic period, when animals were first domesticated and agriculture introduced, have been found at Jhandi Balar in the Dera Ismail Khan district. These consist of terracotta toys, human and animal figures, painted pottery shards and beads.
Apart from the pre-historic sites, the Province was home to the developed, Harappan culture (2,700 B.C.-2,000 B.C.) which was not a natural continuum of the earlier settlements but comparable in urbanization to Mesopotamia and Egypt. Pottery decorated with fish motifs, geometric designs and horizontal bars, human figures and animal shapes have been found at Rehman Dheri, Dera Ismail Khan. These link it to the better known sites of Moenjo Daro in Sindh and Harappa in Punjab. The spread of the Indus Valley Civilization to these more northerly areas brought with it the same repertoire of subjects and symbols: female figures with elaborate headdresses, mothers holding babies (a subject that was to find its finest expression in European Renaissance painting and sculpture), snake goddesses, humped bulls, dogs, bird-toys, toy carts and bone seals engraved with animal and insect symbols. The Rehman Dheri site shows that the Indus Valley Civilization initiated a tradition of square seals that matured with its climax. One Rehman Dheri seal depicts two mountain-goats and another two scorpions and a frog. These seals point to trade connexions with Mesopotamia. Remains from the mature Harappan period discovered at Maru, Dera Ismail Khan, consist of perforated ware, bangles, jewellery, buttons, gems, cornelian beads and shell ladles.
Aryans, a semi-nomadic people of Central Asia, whose main occupation was cattle-raising, came to South Asia betweent ,800 B.C.- t ,200 B.C. and settled along the Indus. Their legends are incorporated in Mahabharata, an ancient Sanskrit epic, reflective of centuries of collective beliefs. In that sacred scripture this region and people are mentioned: Panjkora watershed appears as Gauri in the sixth book2 and the tribe of Asvaka as inhabiting the far north. The latter probably refers to the people of Swat, Kunar and Bajaur.3 The Rg Veda, another book of the Aryans, mentions the Pukhtuns as Pakhtu and Paktium because of their affiliations with Paktia, a province of Afghanistan.
Part of the Achaemenian empire founded by Cyrus the Great, this area remained a Persian dominion for over two centuries. At a date after 516 B.C., Darius Hystaspes sent Skylax, a Greek seaman, to explore the course of the Indus4. The inscriptions of Darius recorded on rocks or dressed stone list Gandhara – present Peshawar Valley – and India5 as one of the fourteen countries he ruled. In 331 B.C. this mighty empire fell to Alexander the Macedonian, who invaded the mountains and valleys of the present NWFP and fought his way to Punjab. By the spring of 327 B.C. Alexander’s armies were ready for the Indus Valley. At the Nawagai Pass, which links Afghanistan to the present Bajaur Agency, Alexander divided his army. One section marched towards Charsadda, while the other, led by him, entered this region through Swat. Here he met stiff resistance from the Kamboja clans: the Aspasios of Kunarj Alishang valleys, the Guraeans of the GuraeusjPanjkora Valley and the Assakenois of the Swat and Buner valleys. It was during this march that he received an arrow wound on his shin. He captured Ora, identified by Aurel Stein in the early twentieth century with a place now called Raja Giras Kasal, in the Swat Valley above Birkot. When the Massaga chief was killed, his aged mother, known as Cleophis in Western annals, took over the command of the army and mounted a stubborn defence. The role of Cleophis is still not researched, but it is indicative of the mettle of the women of the NWFP. Alexander left his garrisons and went to join his General and favourite Hephaestion in the Peshawar plains where he accepted the surrender of Peucelaotis, modern Charsadda. Gandhara has been identified as the Greek Paktuike6. “Darius, Herodotus, Alexander, Pompey, Horace, Trajan, would certainly have thought of India in the geographical terms of what is now… Pakistan“.
The impact of Alexander’s presence was short but pervasive. His total stay in the Frontier was less than twelve months and during all this time he faced very spirited opposition by the inhabitants. As such he was continuously engaged either in capturing fortresses or fighting his way forward.
Things fell apart on Alexander’s death. The empire fragmented. His General Seleucus took over the eastern part but the vigorous resistance of Chandra Gupta, founder of the Maurya dynasty (323-190 B.C.), stayed his attempts to expand southward. Under Asoka (264-227 B.C.), one of the great Mauryan monarchs, Buddhism flourished. Many rock edicts propagating Buddhist ideals were erected across the empire and several were installed in this region.
Around 75 A.D. the Kushan of Indo-Scythian stock established another great empire. During the intervening period dynasties of the Graeco-Bactrians, the Sakas and the Indo-Parthians, all from Central Asia, ruled Gandhara. The Graeco-Bactriankingdom of Taxila and Sakal a fell to Saka invasion which started around 97 B.C. These nomadic invaders entered a kingdom which had been absorbing Persian, Indian, as well as Hellenic influences. The Saka ruled Gandhara for about a century upto 5 A.D. The Parthians who succeeded the Sakas were also nomads and extended their authority down to the Indus. By 19 A.D. Gondophares (d.48 A.D.) was ruling over Gandhara and northern Punjab. The magnificent Parthians were celebrated in the Odes of Horace (b. 65 B.C.) as fine horsemen:
The Kushans were replaced by the Sassanians, also from Central Asia. Gandhara, the Derajaat, Sindh and large parts of Afghanistan fell to them. By 365 A.D. these provinces temporarily collapsed under the invading White Huns. The third invasion of the fifth century was so devastating that it destroyed all memory of previous reigns. By the end of the sixth century A.D. a group of tribes with Irani background
and language settled in Gandhara, ushering in the return of Persian influence.
Chinese pilgrims, Fa-Hien (399-414 A.D.) and Hiuen-Tsang (629-645 A.D.), through their historical records shed light on Gandhara and its main city of Paskapuros. Fa-Hien found five hundred monasteries devoted to the flourishing Buddhist faith. But Hiuen-Tsang visiting Peshawar and Swat in 644
A.D. found that Buddhism was suffering at the hands of Hinduism which was in the ascent. Almost a hundred years later, U-K’ong (757-764 A.D.) found only three hundred Buddhist monasteries. The last monarchs of the Kushan dynasty had submitted to relentless Hinduism which soon eliminated the quietist Buddhism from this entire area. Deserted were the enlightened centres of learning like Taxila. Gone was the glory of Gandhara.
The Persian hold was beginning to weaken because of the challenges of Generals who had begun to act like independent satraps and Persia’s military commitments in the west to meet the march of Muslims. With swift victories in the Middle East and Persian defeats in the plains of Nihawand, south of Hamadan, the Muslims established themselves in Persia. During this period and till the arrival of Muslims in the Indus area, the Hindu Shahi dynasty ruled the region.
During the last decades of the first millennium, Sabuktagin, (d.997), established at Ghazni, turned southward to Peshawar, Punjab and Upper Sindh. By the time his valiant son Mahmud (d. 1030) succeeded him, the Sultanate consisted of a sizeable area of modern Iran, Punjab and the valleys of the present North-West Frontier Province. Then for the first time in the annals appears the name “Afghan” for the people living in the hills between Ghazni and the Sulaiman Range.9 Between 999 A.D. and 1026 A.D. Mahmud undertook twelve campaigns. These met with repeated success. He defeated Raja Jaipal in the decisive battle fought near Peshawar in 1000 A.D. The next battle fought with his son Anandpal, in 1008 A.D. was the last nail in the coffin of Hindu Shahi hold.
With Mahmud Islam began to cast its pervasive, transforming light. A great flowering of Muslim culture began. A man of refined taste, many a famous scholar, Sufi and poet, including the great Persian poet, author of the epic Shahnama, Firdausi (940- 1 020), gravitated to his court and migrated to the newly conquered areas. The unifying call of Islam which negated the caste system – perpetrated and perpetuated by Hinduism – struck a chord in the heart of the populace. The Pathan began to embrace Islam en mass thus cementing military force with religious unity. This dynamic combination initiated a “tide of Pathan infiltration into every part of the Indian peninsula reached by Muslim arms.”
The enlightened Ghaznavid dynasty ruled for almost a hundred years before it was succeeded by the Ghorids. Muhammad Ghori ruled till 1206 A.D. when he was assassinated in his tent on the banks of the Indus River. Several dynasties such as the Khiljis (1290- 1321) followed. Frontier-men were attracted to their banner for suddenly the whole of South Asia lay open. In the early thirteenth century Mongols under Chengiz Khan (r. 1 196- 1227) created great turmoil. One of the armies penetrated as far south as Lahore and destroyed it in 1240 A.D. Timur (1369-1405) or Tamerlane, celebrated in a play by the English playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564- 1593), subdued Kator, now Chitral and made his “devastating inroad into the Punjab, returning via Bannu in March, 1399.”11 He pushed as far as the Ganges at Hardwar upsetting the Tughlaq dynasty which had succeeded the Khiljis in Dehli.
Other dynasties such as the Lodhis (1451-1526) and the Surs (1539-1555) also exercised periodic control.
A new era dawns with the coming of Babur (1482-1530). Babur-namah, his memoir, is an incisive record of the Frontier region. Founder of a most powerful and long-enduring empire, he was a renaissance man: a man of sword and the pen. Of keen sensibility and not without poetic and calligraphic accomplishments, he invented a new form of writing which unfortunately did not acquire popularity.
He was able to marshal the Frontier tribes for his several forays into India. The most prominent were the Yusafzais who marched in his armies. His successors too depended on Pathan prowess to expand their empire. It was not surprising that Khushhal Khan Khattak should declare:
Who owed his place to the Pathans…
I hear the story of Bahlol and Sher Shah;
That in days gone by Pathans were Kings in Hind; For six
or seven generations theirs was the Kingdom, And all the
world wondered at them!
And After him was Babur King of Delhi,
Babur’s account lists tribes spread from Swat to the Daman. Like Alexander, he endeavoured to secure a firm base for the conquest of India. As such his administrative control was flexible. Following the death of Babur, Kamran his younger son, proclaimed himself ruler of the region as far as the Indus. But conflict with his elder brother, Humayun (1508-1556), led to the weakening of the Mughal power and afforded Sher Shah Suri (d. 1545), a Pathan, the opportunity to capture the empire easily.
The few short years of Sher Shah Suri were years of far-reaching consequences. A man of vision and action, ,he bequeathed many administrative measures, which continue to this day: the land revenue system being one. He also established a sound security syst~m which ensured the safety of travellers and traders along the highways including the Grand Trunk Road. He turned the hardihood of tribes to the advantage of the State. His realization that Pathan future lay with the Indus Valley region and not with Central Asian principalities14 was to reverbate for centuries afterwards and found expression as the North-West Frontier Province within the
“Malik” called Akoray was presented to him. In return for a land grant / “jagii’ between the Attock Bridge and Nowshera, Akoray was entrusted with the responsibility to protect the road from Attock to Peshawar. This man was the ancestor of Khushhal Khan Khattak, the celebrated poet. With heavy losses, the Mughal forces reached Ali Masjid. Imperial communication on the Khyber route met repeated setbacks. Campaigns against the northern tribes were even more disastrous. In the battle at Buner 800 men lost their lives. But Akbar persisted. In 1587 another campaign was launched against Bajaur and Swat. For the next five years (1587 -1592) varying success met the imperial armies. ‘The fact is,” says Raverty, “the Mughal rulers never obtained a permanent footing in these parts, notwithstanding the slaughter of the people and the devastation of their lands.”15 Akbar was unable to subjugate the southern Pathan districts also and no Great Mughal seriously attempted to control Swat or the mountain region after his death in 1605.
The Khattaks and the Yusufzais had been at daggers drawn and the tribal feud continued for almost a century. The Yusafzais had opposed Mughal predominance but the Khattak had aligned themselves with the imperial power during Shah Jahan’s reign (1627-1658). The Emperor confirmed Khushhal Khan as chief of the tribe and guardian of the King’s Highway to Peshawar. Khushhal Khan went to the Dehli court and participated in various campaigns in Kangra, Balkh and Badakhshan where he won considerable distinction. However he fell out with the Mughal Governor of Kabul, during Aurangzeb’s reign (1658-1707), over toll collection of the Indus. He was sent to Delhi and incarcerated for two years in the Ranthambhor Fortress. Even after his release he was not permitted to return home until 1668. Tribal resistance to the Mughals persisted and the Mughal arms met disaster in 1673 in Gandab and in Khapak Pass in 1674. In 1674, the Emperor went north to personally supervise the operations. Khushhal not only refused help, despite imperial request, but galvanized active opposition which led to a successful attack on the Nowshera Fort. Subsequently Khushhal Khan transferred the chieftainship to his elder son Ashraf, and took to the freer life of a rebel, till he died in 1689.
Peshawar, under a Mughal Deputy Governor, was part of the Province of Kabul till the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. Then the centre could not hold. The imperial fabric fragmented into competing kingdoms. Nadir Shah, the Persian, seized the opportunity and invaded India with Pathan and Afghan backing in material and men. His murder in 1 747, opened the gates of gain to Ahmad Shah Abdali (1 74773). During the twenty-six years of his reign, Abdali led eight campaigns across the Indus. The Frontier, particularly Peshawar, was used mainly as a staging point for his invasions. He ravaged Punjab as far as Dehli, annexed Lahore and Multan and extended his empire to all of western Punjab and Kashmir. In 1761, he routed the large army of the Maratha confederacy at Panipat. This decisive battle paved the way for the marauding Sikh misls / “confederacies” to subject the Punjab to their fickle whims. Not until the wily Ranjit Singh conquered Lahore and styled himself Maharaja in 1799, did semblance of peace return to Punjab. But Punjab’s peace was Frontier’s strife.
The defeat of Shah Shuja in 1809 by his brother, accelerated Sikh ascendancy and whet Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s appetite for northward expansion. When the deposed Shuja sought sanctuary in Lahore he was treated cruelly, imprisoned and deprived of the legendary Koh-i Noor / “Mountain of Light” diamond by Ranjit Singh.
The defeat of Shah Shuja in 1809 by his brother, accelerated Sikh ascendancy and whet Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s appetite for northward expansion. When the deposed Shuja sought sanctuary in Lahore he was treated cruelly, imprisoned and deprived of the legendary Koh-i Noor / “Mountain of Light” diamond by Ranjit Singh
After the Battle of Nowshera in 1823, Ranjit Singh advanced on Peshawar. He killed and plundered mercilessly. The Bala Hissar palace, where fourteen years earlier Shah Shuja had received the British envoy, Mountstuart Elphinstone (1799-1859) so regally, was reduced to ruins. The sprawling royal gardens were destroyed and the extensive orchard axed. Lt. Col. Sir Alexander Burnes, who visited the city during 1836-37, remarked:
I found that the Sikhs had changed everything: many of the fine gardens round the town had been converted into cantonments; trees had been cut down; and the whole neighbourhood was one vast camp, there being between 30,000 and 40,000 men stationed on the plain.
Sikha Shahi became synonymous with mis-government and terror. Even the original mosque of Mahabat Khan erected by Aurangzeb’s Governor in about 1670, was destroyed. ‘That Peshawar contains no architectural monuments of any value is due mainly to the devastations of 1823.”17 Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, and the Derajaat came under tentative Sikh rule. Sikh armies repeatedly campaigned against the tribes matching their valour with unchecked cruelty. Ranjit Singh’s favourite General and first Sikh Governor of Peshawar, Hari Singh Nalwa – celebrated in a Punjabi ballad by Qadir Yar – passed into Pathan folklore for his barbarity and savagery. Unable to subjugate them, he unleashed a reign of terror and built the Jamrud Fort, which rises above the surrounding flat like a “battleship”, to control the mouth of the Khyber Pass.
In response to the northward push of the Sikhs, Sayyid Ahmad Shah of Bareilly launched a religio-political movement. He hoped to unite the disparate tribes under the banner of Islam. The Pathan hatred for Sikh oppression proved a catalyst. He was perceived as a divinely blessed deliverer. His spirited attacks engaged the Sikh forces under Nalwa and the Frenchman, General Allard. He even occupied Peshawar in 1830 for two months and struck a coin in his name. But soon differences between the tribes surfaced and the fragile unity Sayyid Ahmad had forged, gave way. The more organized Sikhs surprised and slew him in Balakot at the mouth of Kaghan Valley in 1831. His body is buried at Balakot while his head thrown in the river was retrieved by his followers and buried down-river at Garhi Habibullah. The heroes of the Pathan struggle against the Sikh were the Yusafzai and Khattak tribesmen. With Sayyid Ahmad’s martyrdom a movement that was to remain a landmark in local struggle against oppression suffered a set-back. His campaigns were both the acme and nadir of Pathan military acumen. While the tribes united to defeat the Sikh forces time and again, ultimately they fell victim to their own discord. Sikhs then consolidated their position in Peshawar, Bannu and the Derajaat. They made no attempt to occupy the hill territories and never entered Swat, Buner, Bajaur, the Kurram Valley or Waziristan.
During the battle at the Jamrud Fort in April 1837, Nalwa fell mortally wounded near the spot where the lslamia College and the University of Peshawar now stand.
A daring warrior Arbab Muhammad Khan dashed on horseback right up to Nalwa’s elephant and delivered the blow. Nalwa fell and Arbab was cut to pieces. The place of Nalwa’s death is still known as Burj Hari Singh / “Tower of Hari Singh”. Nalwa was succeeded by the Italian, General Avitabile as the Governor of Peshawar (18381842). Popularly referred to as “Abu Tabela”, his cruelty is still remembered: he had a habit of hanging people from the minarets of the Mahabat Khan Mosque. For his residence a fort was erected around the Hindu shrines of Gor Khatri within the city wall. It was here that many Englishmen on their way to and from Kabul, during the First Afghan War, visited him. More recently preservation and conservation efforts have been initiated to convert this large area in the centre of the congested old city into a public garden.
The death of Ranjit Singh in 1839 and the ensuing infighting between his successors set the stage for the British East India Company which had, for decades, been knocking at the doors of the Kingdom of Lahore. In 1847 after the First Sikh War,
the Sikh Durbar continued to exist but was subordinate to the British East India Company. Styled as “Company Bahadur”, it installed a Resident, who acted as the agent for control, at the titular Maharaja’s court at Lahore.
As Russia recovered from Napoleon’s disastrous invasion, her imperial attention turned to Central Asia where chieftains gradually began to come under Russian influence. It was evident from reports of early British travellers such as Captain Alexander Burnes that Russia had designs in lands beyond its traditional boundaries. The turmoil in Afghanistan, the occupation of Kabul, the restoration of Shah Shuja, the killing of two envoys Macnaghten and Burnes, the disaster of the retreat of 1841 , the murder of Shah Shuja by his subjects and the reoccupation of Kabul in 1842 by General Pollock give some idea of the struggle and strife of this period. By the proclamation of March 29, 1849, the British annexed the territories of the
|Frontier. Punjab, which had fallen to the British, was now used as a base to consolidate their position in the Frontier districts. The districts of Peshawar, Kohat and Hazara were placed under the direct control of the Board of Administration in Lahore. In 1850 they were formed into a regular division under a Commissioner. Dera Ghazi Khan and Bannu, under one Deputy Commissioner, formed part of the Layyah division till 1861 when a Deputy Commissioner was appointed in each district and both the districts were included in the Derajaat division. 19 No attempt was made to advance into the highlands or to even secure the Khyber Pass. The administered border was coterminous with the old Sikh one which divided several districts from the Kabul area. A special group, the Punjab Frontier Force was raised to meet the security requirements in those early years.|
The first thirty years of British rule were marked by campaigns against various tribes and their territories. These were the years that engendered countless heroic adventures and exploits. Such high adventures were in turn fed to the popular imagination of Victorian Britain through newspapers and weeklies. Reinforced by the popular fiction of Henty and Wren, they fired and conditioned the young minds of public-school boys and students in British educational institutions from which the British empire drew its finest administrators and soldiers keen on a life of the great outdoors and to shoulder the “White Man’s Burden” of an expanding empire.
Nicholson so struck the popular imagination that a branch of Sikhs who served with him, worshipped him as a Guru and came to be known as “Nikalsainis”. This extraordinary man died at the age of 34 when storming Dehli in the Uprising of 1857.
The commemorative obelisk erected in 1868 near the Margalla Pass celebrates his valour during the Second Sikh War, of 1848. Herbert Edwardes, Nicholson’s superior officer, had preceded him at Bannu and was Commissioner of Peshawar with Nicholson as his Deputy. Edwardes’ memoir, A Year on the Punjaub Frontier, gives insight into the early period (1847-1848) when Edwardes and others came to the North-West Frontier as assistants to Henry Lawrence, the Resident at Lahore. In sharp contrast to Sikha Shahi whose armies were sent to raise revenue through plunder and oppression, these young blades won the confidence of the Pathan tribes, raised levies from among them and secured their consent and goodwill. Edwardes was trusted by the people and was instrumental in raising an army from the Bannu region to march upon Multan during the Second Sikh War.20 Frederick Mackeson the Commissioner of Peshawar, assassinated in 1853, was the most experienced of the early British officers. He served on the Frontier during the 1839-42 period of the First Afghan War. He kept the Khyber Pass open and was popular amongst the Afridis. It was he who advised the establishment of pickets on hill-tops to provide security to moving columns of troops. This enabled General Pollock to force the Khyber Pass in 1842. The Pathans of Peshawar and the Khyber referred to him affectionately as “Kishin Kaka”. Edwardes succeeded Mackeson as the Commissioner Peshawar.
Frederick Mackeson the Commissioner of Peshawar, assassinated in 1853, was the most experienced of the early British officers. He served on the Frontier during the 1839-42 period of the First Afghan War. He kept the Khyber Pass open and was popular amongst the Afridis. It was he who advised the establishment of pickets on hill-tops to provide security to moving columns of troops. This enabled General Pollock to force the Khyber Pass in 1842. The Pathans of Peshawar and the Khyber referred to him affectionately as “Kishin Kaka”. Edwardes succeeded Mackeson as the Commissioner of Peshawar.
|The last of this quadrumvirate was James Abbot whose fame rests in the district of
Hazara. Its major town is named after him: Abbottabad. During the Second Sikh War Abbott repaired to this area and was able to hold ground till the decisive battle of Gujrat, when the Sikh army finally surrendered on March 14, 1849. His Mashwani levies at Margalla Pass contributed to the capitulation of the Sikhs. After
1849 James Abbott became Hazara’s first Deputy Commissioner and remained so for four fruitful years
Sir Colin Campbell, later Lord Clyde, who won fame as a commander in the Crimea and for the relief of Luknow during the Uprising of 1857, took over the command of the Frontier region.2t Naming of the town and district of Campbellpur, now Attock, on the border of the present Punjab and Frontier Province, after him was an acknowledgement of his eminent role. .
Following the First Sikh War (1846), on the instructions of Henry Lawrence the Resident at Lahore, Harry Lumsden raised an irregular corps called “The Guides” in Peshawar. Consisting of both horsemen and footmen it drew from trustworthy locals, mostly Yusafzais and Khattaks who acted as eyes and ears of regular troops. Their dust-coloured or khaki, loose uniform, meant for rough service became the combat dress of all the land forces of the Commonwealth.22 After a few years Guides moved to Mardan and served in various parts of South Asia to great distinction. The Guides “are of the warp and woof of the Frontier fabric.”
Harry Lumsden commanded the Guides until 1862 and was the first Assistant Commissioner of the Yusafzai country in Mardan. He left an indelible mark on the Guides and was known for his bravery and ability to get on with his tribesmen. The Guides subsequently came to be known as the Punjab Frontier Force or the Pfiffers. Their march from Mardan to Dehli during the Uprising or “Mutiny” of 1857 is celebrated in the annals of British Indian army. In 27 days, 580 miles were covered including five days campaigning on the roads at the height of the hot season. After a final thirty-mile march, the Guides entered the Dehli camp on the morning of June 9, 1857 and in half an hour they went into action remaining on the front line for the following three months until Dehli fell on September 20,24
To imperial desire and design the brotherhood of these remarkable men reshaped the Frontier. Each in his own way was a man of action cast in the heroic mould. Olaf Caroe pays them the ultimate compliment by saying that they “were more than half Pathans themselves.”IS As the British settled into the new frontier, the business of its organization was given serious attention. The Paladins in the eight years that preceded the Uprising of 1857 laid the foundation of border control. No less than seventeen campaigns were launched against the locals during this period.16 However, with the march of time different systems had to be worked out. The task was made more difficult for
three reasons. Firstly, there had never been any real control over this area. Secondly, there was no exact limit to which the new authority could run and finally the Pathans were distinct from the rest of India. The British brought different types of pressures to bear on the region. The colonial, judicial and magisterial courts, .police, lawyers, the appellate system, revenue collection and land administration etc. were all of a kind alien to the Pathan ethos. The laws implemented were also different from the traditional Pathan custom which required “satisfaction of the aggrieved rather than the punishment of the aggressor.”17
Waziristan, later divided for administrative reasons into North and South districts, posed one of the toughest challenges to the British. Neither the Mughal nor the Durranis had been able to subjugate or control Waziristan inhabited by the fierce Waziri and Mahsud tribes. All during the Raj till Pakistan’s Independence in 1947,the Mahsuds were “the most intransigent. “28 The tribe raided Tank, a British outpost. The response came in the form of military penetration of their area in 1860. The uneasy relationship began to spread in this sphere of competing influences.
The Mahsud lands were subjected to military occupation during 1919-1921 when several strategic points including Razmak were captured. The advance was fiercely opposed and it took two long months for the British to occupy the Razmak plateau. The battle at Ahnai Tangi lasted five days and the British sustained 2,000 casualties including 43 officers. Then followed the re-occupation of Wana. Following fierce battles and six full-scale expeditions, the British consolidated their foothold through roads, posts and forts. The people unwilling to accept this occupation rose again in 1930, 1933 and during 1937-1940.
After the Durand Line came into existence, a Punjab Works Department officer at Zhob in Baluchistan and five indigenous troops in the Gomal Pass were murdered. The five Mahsuds held responsible were handed over to Bruce, the Political Agent. In reaction Mulla Powinda (d.1913), a Mahsud, a leader amongst the Maliks demanded their return and that no troops be stationed at Wana. Bruce’s refusal led to the attack on Wana camp in 1894 by Jaggar of the the Mahsud and his swordsmen. Many Mahsuds lost their lives. The British followed in 1894-1895 with extensive punitive expeditions. No negotiative or administrative solution proved permanent and the shifting British position added to uncertainty. The “determined and astute” Mulla Powinda and his followers continued to challenge British hegemony in Waziristan for several long decades. He continued to exhort his tribesmen to unity and to fight for freedom, against the British on the one frontier and the Amir of Afghanistan on the other. According to Sir Evelyn Howell the Resident in Waziristan (1924-1926), he made “so large dn instalment of frontier history in effect but a series of chapters in his own biography.”
Amongst the early military operations which highlight Pathan chivalry at its best was the Ambela campaign of 1863. The Uprising .of 1857 had been prompted by the general discontent with the East India Company. Mutiny in some native units had spread and acquired the dynamic of a mass movement. The ruthlessness with which this Uprising was suppressed, prompted the freer spirits to repair to parts less accessible to British arm. Many of these early freedom fighters took refuge in the Yusufzai land and along the Mardan and Swabi border. These Mujahideen caused enough concern to the British to launch the Ambela campaign under Neville Chamberlain in autumn 1863. The tribesmen responded with zeal. Not since Emperor Akbar’s time had anyone – neither later Mughals nor Afghans nor Sikhs dared to venture into the Yusufzai valleys. The Pathans attacked daily for almost a month and “fierce desultory engagements continued for another month.”3o Their gallantry was acknowledged by their enemies, as the account in Roberts’, autobiography shows)! The British army with a well-equipped, disciplined force of 60,000 reinforced by supplies and ordnance was “pinned down on the summit of the pass and had to fight for its life. “32 Six weeks of conflict, finally resulted in the submission of the Buner tribes. The British army suffered 900 casualities. Though the Pathans suffered many more, never did the gallant spirit waver. Their high standard of courage was matched by utmost courtesy; their fight for freedom upheld the high ideals of combat devoid of cruelty and barbarism. During this campaign two English Lieutenants, George V. Fosbery and Henry W. Pitcher won Victoria Crosses for re-capturing the Craig Piquet.
The border between Afghanistan and the north-western frontier of the British South Asian empire had remained undetermined even after the Second Afghan War and the Gandamak Treaty of May, 1879. By this Treaty the Amir, Yaqoob Khan renounced his claim over the Khyber and the Mohmand Passes, the tribes along the main routes, Kurram Valley as far as the Shutargardan Pass and the districts of Pishin and Sibi in Baluchistan.33 The negotiations between Sir Mortimer Durand, a fine Persian scholar, and the Amir, Abdur Rahman in Kabul in 1893 resulted in an agreement whereby the Afghan ruler ceding Cham an and Chagai in Baluchistan and the territories of Waziri, BiIand Khel, Kurram, Afridi, Bajaur, Swat, Buner, Dir, Chilas and Chitral to the British. Thus the Durand Line – the border between Afghanistan and
modern Pakistan was finalized. This treaty prompted the British to consolidate their position in these territories. As such in 1895, the formation of Malakand Agency, or the Agency of Dir, Swat and Chitral was undertaken)4 The de jure hold had now to translate into de facto rule. To do so the British now pushed into some of the toughest terrain, into the heart of some of the greatest mountains in the world.
Between the outbreak of the Second Afghan War and the Path an uprising of 1897, sixteen expeditions were sent against the tribesmen.35 Till this time Chitral was approached through the 12,000 ft Shandoor Pass and little was known of the shorter route through Dir over the 10,000 ft Lowarai Pass. The Great Game being played by expansionist Russia in Central Asia led to the annexation of the Central Asian Khanates: of Tashkent in June 1865, Samarkand in 1868, Bokhara in 1869 and Khiva
1873. Imperialist Britain responded by first securing its hold along the borders of this strategic area. Matters came to a head when a claimant to the Chitral throne attacked Chitral in 1895 and besieged Robertson, the British Resident. Action became urgent. Chitral was attacked from two sides: the Malakand route through Dir and from Gilgit in the North. The Malakand advance was valiantly opposed by the tribesmen resulting in heavy fighting for the Pass. But the daring initiative of the Guides to climb and hold the hill-crest was decisive. This was the first time since the days of Emperor Akbar that an army from the south was able to enter the Swat Valley and advance to Chakdarra. After the initial fight at Malakand with, and submission by, Muhammad Sharif – ruler of Dir state Khyber, Kurram, North and South Waziristan.
Predictably the thrust of the British arm into the tribal valleys, the establishment of imposing military stations, Malakand, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan, the network of pickets, the movement of the troops into and through their land caused concern. This was compounded by tax on Kohat salt and the news of Turkish successes against the Greeks in Europe. The wide-spread anxiety soon ignited into the war of 1897-98 from a small incident in the Wazir village of Maizar in Upper Tochi. The Political Agent and officers leading a punitive expedition were killed or wounded in June. The news spread and Saad Ullah urged the Swatis to act in the interest of freedom. Known as Mulla Mastan, he led Malakand tribes and attacked the British garrisons on Malakand and Chakdarra passes. By August the Mohmand joined in, followed by the Afridi and Orakzai, leading to the capture of Khyber posts, attack on Sam ana forts and the Kurram. Military operations began on an unprecedented scale. Repeated campaigns were undertaken to quell the uprisings in Upper Swat, Bajaur, Buner, the Mohmand country and Tirah. The severity of Pathan resistance during these campaigns can be judged from the Victoria Crosses awarded. Four were given for the Tirah campaign alone to Privates Edward Lawson and Samuel Vickery, piper of the Gordon Highlanders, George Findlater and Lt. Henry S. Pennell. Similarly during the Malakand campaign, Lt. Edmond W. Costello was awarded a V.c. For the Mohmand Valley campaign four V.c.s were conferred: on Corporal James Smith, Lt. Thomas C. Watson, Captain Godfrey Meynell and Lt. James Colvin, who had also served in the Chitral Relief Force in 1895. The Upper Swat campaign resulted in three v.c.s being awarded: to Lt. Col. Robert B. Adam, Lt. Alexander Fincastle and Lt. Hector Maclean who was killed in action. By the spring of 1898 a semblance of peace was restored. Each theatre of war not only helped the Pathan and the British to appreciate each other better as adversaries but also passed their heroic exploits into the annals of military history and to whet the appetite of adventurous young men. The Khyber was re-taken, the Khyber Rifles re-established and the building of new roads and forts initiated.
These campaigns strengthened the impression that the North-West Frontier could not be administered effectively from Lahore. The novel configuration of five political Agencies, settled districts, tribal territory, and its peculiar affairs, the porous Durand Line, Russian expansion into Central Asia and ensuing issues of foreign policy and defence, necessitated a more concerted and focused attention. When Lord Curzon became Viceroy in 1899, the issue was addressed in right earnest. From the annexation till
1901 the region was under the control of the Punjab Government. The well-tested policy of “divide and rule” was put into operation. Punjab was truncated, as Muslim majority areas would be in 1947 by the British. Now five districts, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Hazara were separated from the Punjab to form on November 9, 1901, a separate Pathan administrative entity, the North-West Frontier Province under a Chief Commissioner. Added to the territories were the Malakand which consisted of three princely State of Dir, Swat, Chitral and the four tribal agencies: Khyber, Kurram, North and South Wazirstan. The formal inaguration of the Province took place five and half months later, on April 26, 1902. A splendid “durbar” was held by Lord Curzon in the Shahi Bagh at Peshawar. Harold Deane was the first Chief Commissioner. The NWFP was upgraded to a Governor Province in 1935.
While the creation of the new Province was engendered by various concerns, it gradually shaped Pathan identity to transcended tribal loyalties. From 1936 onwards the charismatic Faqir of Ipi (d. 1960) spearheaded a popular movement against the colonial power. Born Mirza Ali Khan, he was a Wazir from the village of Ipi in northern Waziristan. Deeply
religious and spiritual, his wisdom and counselling the common people led to his widespread popularity. Gradually the injustices of the rulers goaded him to political action. One was the incident of the Masjid Shaheed Ganj in Lahore. On July 5, 1935, the mosque was destroyed by the Sikhs. The other, in Bannu, was that of a Hindu girl who became a Muslim as Islam Bibi, but the British authorities forcibly returned her to her parents. These led to civil disobedience. The British moved troops to valleys and hills alive with the sound of agitation by the followers of the Faqir. During the operation of November 1936, an estimated 20 British officers and 1 ,800 soldiers were killed. The Faqir lost only 50 followers known as Mujahideen.36 The heavy casualties inflicted spread the Faqir’s fame far and wide in the tribal belt and across the Afghan border. The British continued in their punitive measures for the next twelve months even employing the Royal Air Force to bombard the Mujahideen strongholds. Sporadic action continued through 1937 to 1942. This fermented the popular antagonism against the British and was an important factor in the movement for freedom across the whole of the Frontier Province.
On a more organized level, two brothers acquired particular prominence in the freedom struggle. Dr. Khan Sahib and his younger brother Abdul Ghaffar Khan came from a land-owning family. Dr. Khan, had joined the Indian Medical Service and served with the Guides. His brother turned politician and became an active member of the Indian National Congress. He organized the Khudai Khidmatgars / “Servants of God” who sported red coloured garments and came to be known popularly as Surkhposhan / “Red Shirts”. This movement rose because of the lack of representative institutions under the British during the 1920s. In 1932 the Frontier was raised from a Chief-Commissionerate to Governor’s Province with political rights and institutions at par with those in other Provinces. In 1935 the Province was given limited self-government and in 1937 full self-government. The elected Provincial Government, labelled “Congress”, was headed by Dr. Khan Sahib who made an admirable Chief Minister.3? His brother continued to work amongst the villages of the Frontier representing the Indian National Congress. During the War years British authority remained firm despite the increasing influence of the Muslim League. With the end of World War II, the Freedom Movement took on a snowball dynamic. By the eve of Independence the Frontier, almost to the man, was in favour of Pakistan, as proved by the referendum in early 1947. The tribes upto the Durand Line and the Chiefs of the States of Dir, Swat, Chitral and Amb gave their allegiance in November 1947 to the new country, Pakistan.