History of Pashtun


Different hypotheses have been suggested about the origin of the Pukhtoons. Khawaja Niamatullah describes them as descendants of Jews, connecting them with the lost ten tribes of Israel. This theory of the Semitic origin of the Pukhtoons has been supported by some Pukhtoon writers, including Hafiz Rahmat Khan, Afzal Khan Khattak and Qazi Attaullah Khan. A number of orientalists like H.W. Bellew, Sir William Jones and Major Raverty have also subscribed to this view on the basis of Pukhtoon physiogonomy, and the striking resemblance of facial features between Pukhtoons and Jews. They believe that the prevalence of biblical names, certain customs and superstitions, especially smearing of the door post and walls of the house with blood of sacrificial animals, further substantiates this theory. But these presumptions do not hold good in view of the fact that resemblance in features and certain characteristics do not provide a scientific criterion for the ethnology of a race or a section of people. This can equally be said about the Kashmiris and certain other tribes who can hardly be distinguished from Pukhtoons in physique, colour and complexion. Similarly a scrutiny of the social institutions of the Arabs of the Middle Ages and present day Pukhtoons would lead one to believe that Pukhtoons are not different from them in their social organisation.
Syed Bahadur Shah Zafar Kaka Khel in his well written book “PUKHTANA” and Sir Olaf Caroe in his book “The Pathans” place little reliance on Niamatullah’s theory of the Semitic origin of the Pukhtoons and say that his account of the Pukhtoons suffers from historical inaccuracies. To disprove the assertion that the Pukhtoon tribes had embraced Islam en-bloc after the return of Qais Abdul Rashid from Medina, the accounts of Al-Beruni and Al-Utbi, the contemporary historians of Mahmud of Ghazna, establish “that four centuries later than the time of Qais the Province of Kabul had not been Islamized and this was achieved under the Ghaznavides. The Hindu Shahiya Kingdom of Jaipal extended almost to Kabul, Mahmud had to fight against infidel Afghans of the Sulaiman mountains”. Even Prithvi Raj had a cavalry of Afghans in the battle of Tarian against Mohammad Ghori. Other writers, after a careful examination of the physical anthropology of the Pukhtoons say that difference in features of the various Pukhtoons point to the fact that they must have “mingled with races who passed through their territory to conquer Hindustan”.
Khawaja Niamatullah’s theory has further been put to a serious test by prominent linguists who maintain that Pushto bears no resemblance to Hebrew or other Aramaic languages and the Pukhtoons’ language, Pashto, belongs to the family of the Eastern group of Iranian languages. Mr. Ahmad Ali Kohzad and some other Afghan historians, lending support to the Aryan origin of the Pukhtoons, say that the Pakhat of the Rig Veda are the Pukhtoons of today. It is a fact that the North West Frontier of Pakistan has, perhaps been involved with more foreign invasions in the course of history than any other country of Asia. Each horde seems to have left its mark on the Pukhtoons who absorbed the traits of invading forces, “predominantly of Turks, Iranians and Mongols”.
According to Khawaja Niamatullah the Pukhtoons embraced Islam in the first quarter of the 7th century when the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) sent his emissaries in all directions to invite the people to the fold of Islam. One such messenger is stated to have been sent to Qais Abdur Rashid, who is claimed to be the ancestor of the Pukhtoons, through Khalid bin Walid. In response to Khalid’s invitation, Qais hurried to the Holy land and as a result of the sublime teachings of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) embraced Islam in Medina. After his return to Ghore, his whole tribe followed him in the Muslim faith. But due to weak evidence, missing links and wide gaps this theory has aroused suspicion in the minds of scholars.
If the origin of a race can be determined on the basis of customs and traditions then Pukhtoon would be closer to Arabs. The study of Arabian and Pukhtoon society presents a remarkable resemblance particularly in their tribal organisation and social usages. Both possess the same virtues and characteristics. To both hospitality is one of the finest virtues, retribution a sacred duty and bravery an essential pre-requisite for an honourable life. Love of independence, courage, endurance, hospitality and revenge were the supreme virtues of pre-Islamic Arabs. These very attributes also form the basis of the Pukhtoon code of honour and anyone who repudiates them is looked down by the society. A Pukhtoon is nearer to an Arab in his tribal organisation. Like an Arab tent, every Pukhtoon’s house represents a family, an encampment of Arab tents forms a hay and a cluster of a few houses constitute a village in tribal areas. Members of one hay form a clan in Arabia and a Khel (which is an Arabic word meaning association or company) is the basis of the Pukhtoon’s tribal organisation. A number of kindred clans grouped together make a qabila in Arabia and a tribe in the Pukhtoon borderland. Even the Pashto script resembles the Arabic script in essence. The Arabs held in great esteem four moral virtues, viz Ziyafah or hospitality hamasah or fortitude, muruah or manliness and courage and ird or honour.
The Pathans are brave, courageous, hospitable and generous and these attributes are considered as pillars of the Pukhtoon code of honour or Pukhtoonwali. The Pathans like the Arabs also believe in fire and sword for all their adversaries. This was the reason that they fought tooth and nail against the non-Muslim rulers of the sub-continent whether Sikhs or Feringi as the Britishers were called.
The position of a tribal Malik who plays an important role in tribal politics is similar to that of an Arabian Sheikh. The qualifications of a tribal Malik, such as seniority in age, qualities of head and heart and character as courage, wisdom and sagacity etc. are not different from an Arab Sheikh. Like a Sheikh, a tribal Malik follows the consensus of opinion. He is required to consult the heads of the families or village council while making any decision with regard to future relations with a village or tribe. Darun Nadwa was the centre of activity of the pre-Islamic Arabs and the Pukhtoons’ Hujra is also not different from it in its functions. All matters relating to war, peace, future relations with neighbouring tribes and day to day problems used to be discussed in Darun Nadwa. Similarly, all tribal affairs connected with the tribe are discussed in the Hujra.
Hospitality is one of the sublime features of the Pukhtoons and pre-Islamic Arabs were also renowned for their hospitality and for affording asylum to strangers. They would share the last crumb of their bread with a guest and protect him from all harm so long as he was under their roof. Similarly, Pukhtoons regard hospitality as a “sacred duty and safety of the guest as inviolable”. It is a serious violation of their established norms to hurt a man who enters their village as a guest. In the pre-independence days they provided asylum to all and sundry, including the proclaimed offenders wanted by the British Government in cases of a criminal nature in the settled districts. Similarly the Arabs the right of asylum considered sacred and was rigidly respected regardless of the crime of the refugee.
The spirit of revenge of the Pukhtoons is not different from that of the Arabs. Blood according to the law of the desert called for blood and no chastisement could satisfy an Arab other than wreaking vengeance on his enemy. Similarly, the hills of the Pukhtoon highlanders vibrate with echoes of retribution till the insult is avenged. As a matter of fact, the society of both the Arabs and the Pukhtoons is inspired by a strong feeling of muruwwa, virility or a quality to defend one’s honour (ird). There are several anecdotes of revenge resulting in long blood feuds for generations. The Basus war between Banu Bakr and Banu Taghlib in Arabia lasted for about 40 years whereas tribal disputes between Gar and Samil factions of the Pukhtoons continued for decades. Pukhtoons like Arabs are conscious of their racial superiority. An Arab would boast of being a Quraish and a Pukhtoon would assert his superiority by saying, Am I not a Pukhtoon”?
The customs regarding giving protection to weaker neighbours is also common between Arabs and Pukhtoons. A weaker tribe in Arabia would seek the protection of a powerful tribe by means of Khuwah and a weaker Pukhtoon tribe would ensure its security by offering “Lokhay” to its strong neighbouring tribe. The custom of “Lokhay Warkawal” is still prevalent among Afridi and Orakzai tribes of Tirah. A similarity can also be found in their customs relating to birth, marriage and death etc. Certain superstitions are also common between the Arabs and the Pukhtoons. Both believe in all kinds of invisible beings, wear amulets as a safeguard against the evil eye and believe in sooth sayers and fortune tellers.

Struggle for Freedom
When Sindh and Multan were conquered by the Muslim army under the inspiring leadership of the young General Mohammad bin Qasim, in 711 A.D. this part of the South Asian Sub-Continent was still ruled by a Hindu Shahi dynasty. Subaktagin was the first Muslim ruler who crossed swords with Jaipal, a powerful ruler of the Hindu Shahi dynasty in 997. Later, the Muslims under the command of his illustrious son Mahmud of Ghazna invaded the sub-continent as many as seventeen times and fought fierce battles against Jaipal, his son Anandpal and other Hindu rulers and Rajas of Northern India. He was followed by Shahabud Din Mohammad Ghori, Qutb-ud-Din Aibak and other sultans and finally the great Mughals who ruled the sub-continent for centuries. Things, however, began to change after the death of Aurangzeb Alamgir, the last powerful ruler of the Mughal dynasty. The internal disputes, court intrigues and feuds of rival factions weakened the Mughal Central Government and the centrifugal tendencies of the Mughal Governors sounded the death knell of the mighty Mughal Empire.
The way was thus paved for the rise of Ranjit Singh, who eventually extended his military sway from Lahore upto the foothills of Khyber in the first quarter of the 19th century. The Sikh advance was, however, checked by the tribesmen who did not allow them to encroach upon their independence. The Pukhtoons fought several battles against them and finally measured their strength of arms with the militant Sikhs in a battle fought within the environs of Jamrud in 1837. In this pitched battle the Sikhs sustained heavy casualties. It was here that their famous General Hari Singh Nalwa, was killed.
Twelve years later the superior and disciplined forces of the British defeated the Sikhs in successive battles and annexed the whole of the territory beyond the Indus river and ruled over the North West Frontier for about a century.
The Pukhtoons resisted violently all attempts by the British to subjugate or turn them into docile and obedient members of an enslaved community. They offered stubborn resistance to the British forces and Inspite of their meager means and resources, the Pukhtoons carried on an un-ending war against them for the preservation of their liberty. The British, proud of their glory and might, sent about one hundred expeditions one after the other against the Pukhtoons to subdue them by force but they did not yield to the enemy’s military might. According to Col. H.C. Wylly 62 military expeditions were despatched against the tribesmen between 1849-1908, besides every day small skirmishes. These included the famous Ambela campaign 1863, the Black Mountain expedition 1868, the Miranzai expedition 1891, the Hassanzai expedition 1894, the Dir and Chitral expedition 1895, the Tirah campaign 1897, and the Mahsud-Waziri expeditions 1897. As a result of this aggressive policy the whole frontier, from Malakand to Waziristan, flared up in revolt against the British in 1897.
The frontier rising of 1897 engaged about 98000 trained and well equipped British Indian forces in a grim struggle. According to Col. H.D. Hutchison, the approximate strength of the Tirah expeditionary force alone was “1010 British Officers, 10,882 British troops, 491 native officers, 22,123 native troops, 197 hospital Assistants, 179 clerks, 19,558 followers, 8000 horses, 18,384 mules and ponies and 1440 hospital riding ponies”. But to these figures, he says, “must be added an enormous number of camels, carts, ponies etc working on the long line of communication with Kohat and gradually brought into use as needs increased and the roads were improved”. The British forces suffered 1150 casualties during the Tirah expedition. Similar was the fate of other expeditions as well. The operations against Mohmand in 1915-16, and Wazirs and Mahsuds between 1917-1920 and 1936 Waziri campaign also deserves special mention. In 1917 an arduous campaign was undertaken against the Mahsuds and an aeroplane was made use of for the first time in Waziristan. In 1936 the dales and mountains of Waziristan resounded with the echoes of Jehad. The main cause of the war was the marriage of Islam Bibi (a Hindu Girl of Bannu who was named Islam Bibi after conversion to Islam) with a Muslim. She was later on returned to her parents in accordance with the decision of the British law court. The Government sent over 30,000 well equipped army to curb the activities of the tribal lashkars in Waziristan but it met with no or little success. “By December 1937”, says Authur Swinson, “when the 40,000 British and Indian troops pulled back on Peshawar, the situation was no better than it had been in January, and in 1938 more fighting was to ensue.” The expenditure on the Frontier war and “the burden on the Indian tax payer was enormous and between 1924 and 1939 it totalled 11,2000,000 pounds”. But the long range heavy guns and air bombardment did not dishearten the tribesmen and they continued their intermittent struggle against an imperialist power till the dawn of Independence. “Throughout the hundred and odd years of the British rule over the North West Frontier, Waziristan was always one of the most heavily garrisoned areas anywhere in the world. Seething with political unrest and ceaseless guerilla warfare, this was the testing place – the crucible of valour and efficiency for generations of British soldiers, statesmen and civil servants”. The British invariably deputed their ablest military and civil officers to serve in these areas which had become the best training ground for the British soldiers. In fact, the British soldiers had never before experienced such tough and arduous life as on the Frontier. This is well reflected from a stanza of Mr. Kipling’s “Frontier Arithmetic”
A scrimmage in a Border Station
A center down some dark defile,
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten rupee Jezail
As the freedom movement gained momentum in the Sub-Continent, the tribesmen in general and the Pukhtoons of NWFP in particular rallied round the dynamic leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and under the green banner of the Muslim League for the establishment of an independent Muslim State. They resisted the insidious temptations of the Hindu Congress leaders. They gave vent to their feelings of indignation at the time of Pandat Jawahar Lal Nehru’s visit to Khyber, Malakand and North Waziristan Agencies in autumn of 1946. They staged violent demonstrations against the visiting Congress dignitary and the then Head of the Interim Government of India and thereby proved to him their feelings of love for a Muslim state and un-shakeable confidence in the able leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam. Their efforts and sacrifices, in common with the rest of the Mussalmans in the Sub-Continent to carve out a sovereign and independent Islamic State for themselves were ultimately crowned with success. Pakistan, their life-long dream, appeared on the map of the world and as dedicated and patriotic citizens of Pakistan, the tribesmen pledged themselves to stand by the rest of their brethren in defending its integrity and the solidarity of its people.
The Pukhtoon’s devotion to Pakistan – their homeland, was warmly appreciated by the Quaid-e-Azam, who as the first Governor General of Pakistan ordered a complete immediate withdrawal of all troops from tribal areas hitherto stationed by an alien Government. The so called ferocious warriors turned in no time into peaceful citizens as if by a magic wand, passionately interested in their own progress and the well being of Pakistan. The governance of the tribal belt is no longer a problem for Pakistan; on the contrary the government is actively associating tribesmen in the progress and prosperity of the country. It is one of the cherished goals of the Pakistan Government to work for the socio-economic uplift of the tribesmen who had been deliberately ignored by alien rulers. A number of public utility schemes aiming at socio-economic, educational and industrial uplift have already been completed while many more are being speedily implemented.
The tribal area which was at one time a scene of wild affrays is now completely peaceful. “At present”, says Ian Stephens, “the irritant of the infidel British regime having withdrawn itself, the Frontier is remarkably peaceful. During journeys, since the withdrawal, along the Pakistan side of it, in 1948, 1951 and again this year (1961), I have been amazed by the change. Within my extensive zone of travel there were no hostilities, actual or apprehended between the Frontier Corps or the Army or tribal lashkars, as in former days. Nor did I see the least sign of Pukhtoonistan activities”. A similar opinion has been expressed by Mr. H.C. Taussig in the `Eastern World’. “There is no doubt” he say “that the situation has vastly improved, at least in some areas which it was unsafe to travel by day and impossible by night, I was able to move freely without escort, at any time”.
Appreciating the pace of development in tribal areas in the wake of peaceful conditions the world famous historian, Professor Arnold J. Toynbee says “Pakistan does pursue a forward policy on the frontier and a vigorous one, but its key instruments are not weapons of war, they are dispensaries, schools, sports, and, above all, economic development. This last instrument is supremely important, because it gives the tribesmen opportunities for finding alternate means of livelihood to the raiding which has been their traditional recourse”. The improvement in communications has revolutionized the means of transportation as well. THE camels and donkeys are gradually being replaced by motorized conveyances. “In this northern world round Peshawar”, says Professor Toynbee, “times are changing. Not so long ago the traveller through the Khyber Pass had to pay tribute to the Afridis, or it would be the worse for him. Passing emperors have defied the Afridis and have lived or sometimes not lived to regret it. Today we can travel through the pass and back by the Afridi Bus Service and the tribute has turned into a fare. In old days a tribe used to measure its strength by the number of its rifles. Today it measures it by the number of its buses and lorries.

Sources of Income
The Pukhtoons are chiefly employed in agriculture but their agricultural pursuits are limited owing to the lack of culturable land. The patches of cultivable land in hilly tracts and some open valleys do not produce sufficient food-grains to meet their food requirements. In addition to tilling the available land, tribesmen tend cattle, including herds of goats and sheep, camels and cows.
If, on the one hand, the tribesmen were economically dependent on the British, on the other, all kinds of trade in tribal areas had been monopolized by Hindus and Sikhs. They had opened shops in the centrally located places and big villages and every tribesman was their customer. A large number of tribesmen would go to Bombay in search of employment while others would join the Border Military Police (later called the Frontier Constabulary) and the army. Certain sections of the tribesmen would sell firewood and timber to the people of the cities, while others took up some other petty trade. But among the tribesmen, the Adam Khel Afridis of the Kohat Pass had a flare for trade. They were traders and carriers of salt at the time of the advent of the British in the frontier. They used to carry salt from the mines of Kohat District to Swat, Bajaur and other parts of the NWFP.
They also engaged themselves in a thriving and lucrative arms trade and later started manufacturing fire-arms in their factories. Other tribesmen emulated their example and set up arms factories at Illam Gudar (Khyber Agency), Nawagai (Bajaur Agency) and Kaniguram (South Waziristan Agency). The Adam Khel Afridis of the Kohat Pass showed the most extraordinary ingenuity in devising, making and installing different kinds of indigenous machines for turning out various component parts of rifles. In the beginning of the 20th century there were about half a dozen workshops in Darra but later this industry rapidly expanded to every glen and village. They were also famous gun runners and carried on arms trade with the Persian Gulf countries. In this way they supplemented the arms pile of the tribesmen and furnished them with the latest weapons at reasonable rates. At present the Adam Khel Afridis are producing such fine specimen of revolvers, pistols and rifles with their crude implements that they can hardly be distinguished from those of European-make. It can be confidently said that nowhere in the world has a similar feat been performed by un-educated men with no training or experience of mass production methods.
The arms manufacturing industry was the main source of the Afridis’ income during the British rule. But conditions have changed considerably since the creation of Pakistan. The increased interest of the national Government in the welfare of the tribesmen and the growing communication and interaction between the tribesmen and the people of other parts of Pakistan, have revolutionized their socio-economic life. Soon after Independence the Pakistan Government launched a number of schemes of public utility in the tribal areas to ameliorate the lot of the people, provide them with amenities of life, increase employment opportunities and make them equal partners in progress and prosperity. The Government provided them with every incentive to take to respectable pursuits. As a result of this encouragement, the tribesmen took to commerce and soon commercial centres sprang up at Sakha Kot, Batkhela (Malakand Agency), Yekka Ghund (Mohmand Agency), Bara, Jamrud and Landi Kotal (Khyber Agency), Parachinar, Sadda (Kurram Agency), Miran Shah (North Waziristan Agency), Wana (South Waziristan Agency) and Darra Adam Khel (Frontier Region Kohat) where business transactions of hundreds and thousands of rupees are made every day.
While millions of rupees were being spent by the British on the highways to subjugate the tribesmen, nothing substantial was spent on the improvement of their social condition. But the Pakistan Government, fully aware of the problems of tribesmen, embarked upon a programme to combat illiteracy, want, misery and disease. The Quaid-d-Azam took a keen interest in the development of the tribal areas. Addressing a historic tribal gathering at Peshawar, the Founder of Pakistan declared “Pakistan wants to help you and make you as far as it lies in our power, self reliant and self sufficient and to help your educational, social and economic uplift and not to be left as you are, depending on annual doles”. The Government opened the doors of employment to tribesmen in all spheres of national life. Quotas were allocated for the tribal candidates in the services, and a relaxation of three years was allowed to them in the age limit prescribed for various services. The Frontier Constabulary and Frontier Corps are now almost mainly manned by tribesmen and a respectable share of employment has also been given to them in the regular Armed Forces and other services. This liberal policy has solved their economic problems to a considerable extent. Nowadays scores of tribesmen are engaged in business, trade, commerce, Government and private services and other respectable professions and are serving the country with a spirit of devotion and dedication. In short the tribesmen from Bajaur to Waziristan, with their energy and inherent spirit of enterprise, are forging ahead in every activity of life.

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