Babur’s relations with Pashtun tribes

Illustration from late 16th century manuscript (1590-1593) of Baburnama depicting foray to Kohat

Babur came into contact with Afghans in the year 1505 A.D when he established himself as the ruler of Kabul. The population of Kabul consisted of many Afghan and non-Afghan tribes. The Afghan tribes did not acknowledge any superior authority and owe allegiance to it. In the beginning Babur resorted to harsh measures against Afghans but soon he realized the inadvisability of such a policy. He adopted a more diplomatic policy of conciliation and repression. In return for the maintenance of peace and tranquility, he was willing to befriend them on equal terms. Employment in the army was opened to them, matrimonial alliance was established and local independence was sanctioned. However, if the hand of friendship was rejected, the severest of measures were taken against them. In response to this policy, a number of Afghan chiefs surrendered to him. Qara Bilut Afghan surrendered in 1506 A.D (The Bilut Afghans are a branch of the Lodi tribe). Shadi Khan, a Kiwi chief, and a Gagiani chief joined the Mughals. In 1519, the Dilazak chiefs, under Malik Musa and Malik Bu Khan, who had submitted to him, were rewarded for the services rendered by them to Babur. Maruf, a Dilazak chief was befriended and used against the Yousafzais in 1519 A.D. Babur took advantage of the of discord between Dilazaks and Yousafzais. He was able to win the allegiance of some of the Yousafzais. Malik Shah Mansoor along with six or seven other chiefs offered submissions to him. All such chiefs were honoured with robes of honour and were granted other rewards.

In order to strengthen his ties with the Afghan chiefs, Babur decided to enter into matrimonial alliance with them. In 1519 A.D, Bibi Mubarika, the daughter of Malik Shah Mansur, was betrothed to him. He mentions in his memoirs that he gave an important position to her in the harem. A large number of Afghans were taken into imperial service. It is related that Bibi Mubarika’s brother Mir Jamal accompanied him, on his Indian expedition and obtained high honours under him, under his son Humayun and his grandson Akbar.

During his inroads into the rebellious regions of Afghanistan, Babur enrolled a large number of Afghans in his army. Large number of Dilazaks and Yousafzais were part of his army. Very often Babur sought their advice on the feasibility of his campaigns. He consulted a Dilazak headman while planning an expedition against the Yousafzais. Diplomatic work was also assigned to trusted Dilazak Afghans in order to obtain the submission of the Afghan chief of Bajaur fort. In September 1519 A.D, he accepted the suggestion of Dilazak chiefs Bu Khan and Musa Khan, as against that of his own nobles , in planning an expedition.

The next 5 years of Babur life were full of hectic military activities , of continuous struggle , and of conflict with recalcitrant , rebellious and incorrigible tribes. During this period he made inroads into the Afghan region. He reduced the tribes into submission temporarily and obtained tributes from them. But in all these military adventures, his success was never complete. Though he pursued the policy of coercion and conciliation, he did not enjoy rich dividends.

Reference: Afghan nobility and the Mughals by Rita Joshi

Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur

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