Afridi tribe

Afridi or Apridi (singular -ay), designation of a major Pashtun tribe in northwest Pakistan, with a few members in Afghanistan. The Afridi form part of the Karlanri group of tribes. Their eponymous ancestor is supposed to have been a certain Faridun, a descendant of Karlan (whence the Karlani lineage) through Mani (or Manay?) and Koday (and his second wife).

Among the Afridi six so called “Khyber clans” are generally distinguished: the Kuki Khel, Qambar Khel, Kamar Khel (or Kamra’i or Kamar Din Khl), Malek-din Khel, Sepah, and Zakka Khel (or Zaka Khel), all established in the region of the Khyber pass. In addition, there are two “assimilated” clans not recognized by the first six; the Aka Khel, settled south of the Bara river in contact with the Orakzai, and the Adam Khel, occupying a mountainous region between Peshawar and Kohat.

The Afridi first appear in history with Babur, who had decided to bring them under his control (Babur-nama, tr. A. S. Beveridge, London, 1922 [repr. 1969], p. 412). Their strategic position is extraordinary. The region of Peshawar is ringed by mountains, which are pierced by four passes. To the east a road over the plains leads via Nowshera (Naw-Sar) to the Punjab. To the north the Malakand (Malakanrh) pass gives access to Kohestan (Dir, Chitral, Gilgit, and so on, on one hand, and Swat, on the other). But the two other exits, the Khyber pass to the west, which gives access to the Kabul road, and that of Kohat to the south, which controls the road from Bannu, Waziristan, and Baluchistan, are in the hands of the Afridi. Thus they have always enjoyed the profits of brigandage or tolls levied on all those who have sought the right to pass. Their quarrels with the Mughal emperors are famous. But the punitive expeditions of Akbar, Jahangir, and Awrangzeb could not subdue them, and Ahmad Shah Durrani was able to integrate them into his army only nominally. The British occupying forces had no more success. They constantly clashed with the Afridi, who sometimes exacted a high price. In fact, the latter continually pressed their demands and in particular were able to profit from each of the Anglo-Afghan wars (1839-42, 1878-80, 1919-20) and the two world wars (1914-18, 1939-45) to affirm their independence. But their strategic position is such that the British authorities did not stint in providing subsidies. A subvention granted in exchange for their loyalty during World War I was augmented on several occasions, to the detriment of ethnic groups who received less or nothing at all. Today their territory in Pakistan still constitutes a sort of free zone famous for traffic in arms, munitions, tobacco, and other goods. This concession continues the old tradition of the mawajeb subsidy given to unpacified tribes to curb their turbulence. The role of the Afridi in the movement to further the economic, political, and cultural demands of the Pashtun continues to be dominant. [Iranica]

1-  According to the census of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the number of the whole Afridi tribe was 19,000, as follows : The Malikdin Khel, with offshoots, located in the Maidan of Tirah, 3,000 ; the Kabaz Khel, located in the same place, about the same number ; the Kuki Khel of Rajgal and part of the Khyber Pass, about the same ; the Zakka Khel, of the Maidan of Tirah, also about 3,000 ; the Aka Khel of Waran, the Sipah of Bara, and the Kamri, scattered among the mountains, altogether 3,000 ; the Adam Khel of the pass north of Kohat, and also north and south of the mountains that on the east, form the Khattak boundary, 4,000.  “Afghanistan and its inhabitants”, p-202

Qambar Khel

The Qambar Khels, along with the Malikdin Khels, descended from Mir Ahmad, grandson of Oala Khan. They are settled in the Maidan of Tirah, the Bara, and the Khajuri valleys. They hold two tracts in Tirah, separated from each other by the Malikdin Khels who occupy the central portion of Maidan. Their one division holds the Kao glen , in the western side of Maidan while the other occupies the Shalobar valley, in the north-eastern side of Maidan. The clan also possess one village in the Upper Bara valley, named, Ganamgarai. Its inhabitants, the Wattar Khels, though originally Shinwaris, are now included amongst the Kambar Khels. In winters they would move down in the Khajuri valley, near Chura and in the Kohat district near Kohat town. In the recent past they have expanded towards the Kurram valley side. Their share of the Khyber pass extends from Sultan Tara to Ali Masjid. They are divided into thirty nine smaller sections, however, those residing in Shalobar valley are called the Shalobar Qambar Khels while those in Kao as the Kao Qambar Khels [Reference: “History of the Pathans, Vol.IV”, Haroon Rashid]

Aka Khel

The Aka Khels are descendants of Aka , son of Farid/Usman. At a very early period , they got detached from the main tribe and established themselves in the hills south-west of Peshawar, near Akhor. They do not belong to the Khyberi group of Afridis, nor technically to the Kohat Pass Afridis, yet, they control the exit to the Kohat Pass from the north and north-west. They are divided into six sections, namely, the Basi Khel, Sher Khel, Sanzi Khel, Sultan Khel, Madda Khel and Miri Khel. The Aka Khel hold three principal settlements, that is, in the Waran, Bara and west of the Aimal Chabutra or Spin Thana (Fort Mackeson) including Mattani. [Haroon Rashid, “History of Pathans, Vol-IV, p-239]


An Afridi, 1827-1843. By Imam Bakhsh Lahori, Illustrations des Mémoires du général Claude-Auguste Court, Lahore.


‘Tooro Baz’ a Kukie Khel Afridi. From “Men of different Afghan tribes: portraits by our special artist”, The Illustrated London News, April 19, 1879.



Pashtun tribesmen firing from behind rocks, 1880. Watercolour by an anonymous artist.



A group of local tribesmen, Khyber Pass, 1900 (c). Source



” The council of war – meeting of Afreedis in the Khyber Pass “. From “Harper’s Weekly” , New York, November 16, 1878.




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