History of the Kakar tribe of Pashtuns

(Excerpt from “Afghanistan and its inhabitants”, pages-148 to 151, English translation of Hayat-i-Afghani by Muhammad Hayat Khan, published in 1860)

The  Kakar tribe, strictly so called , consisting of twenty main divisions and innumerable sub-divisions , and numbering probably 5 lakhs in all (though the number has been computed at 9, 12 , and even 18 lakhs), derives its descent from Kakar, the eldest of the four sons of Dane son of Ghorghasht, and holds possessions of a spacious tract, some 100 miles square, bounded on north , first by the southern limit of Ghilzai , and further towards the west by Arghasan, and also by that part of Toba in the possession of Achakzai Durrani , and on the west and south by Balochistan, a part of the Spin Tarin country , and a ridge of the Suleiman mountains. This tract is wildly irregular and mostly broken up into mountains and ridges, in the midst of which a very high mountain running north and south forms a central ridge or backbone, and divides Kakaristan into eastern and western. In western Kakaristan , the more important districts are Saiyuna Dagh, Tora-Margha, Narin, Bar-shor, Togai, Hanna, Gosa, Sahara, Kota, and Toda. Of these, some two or three call for a word or two of description. Saiyuna Dagh is a bleak and desolate plateau, of which some small party only has been brought under cultivation, it being for most part only fit for grazing purposes. Bar-shor is one of series of valleys running westward into the plain. This valley begins at the spring of Lohra , and, having Toba as its northern and a wild mountain as its southern walls, follows the course of the stream as far as Pashin. Its upper portion is narrow and cumbered with jungle, but its fertile and well-cultivated lower part yields almost all the products of Khurasan. Geographically this valley would be considered a part of Pashin from which it is not separated by nay natural boundary, but it is held by the Targhari and Santiya clans of the Kakar.  The valley of Hanna, starting from near the summit of Chhapar (where a rugged mountain-path leads over into the valley of Zhawarra) debouches into Shal. The district of Shal (Quetta) was, by Ahmad Shah Abdali, made over to Nasir Khan, ruler of Balochistan, in return for military service rendered, but though still nominally included in Balochistan, it is occupied by a Kakar clan that is perfectly independent and recognizes no superior authority. Kanchughai and Bori are also important parts of the Kakar possessions. The first-named is a valley of some 30 miles length, lying on the western side of the mountain of the Kand, narrow in its upper part, but widening towards its mouth where it receives another name. This fertile valley presents a charming aspect in spring, when, with the neighbouring hills, it is covered with grass and flowers. There are a few hamlets, altogether some 40 or 50 houses, about which there is a good cultivation, but in general it is used as grazing-ground for sheep. All the occupants of this valley are of the Santiya clan, whose Khan lives in Urgas. Bori is a spacious, fertile and populous plain, said to be as extensive as that of Peshawar. A considerable stream flows south-west through the plain, and irrigation is also obtained from several mountain-torrents and subterranean water channels (Karez). Its rich productiveness is such that most of the fruits of Europe (with the remarkable exception of peach) grow freely. In one part the Arabikhel (Kakar) are found, but the greater part of the plain is occupied by twelve septs of the Sanjar (Kakar) clan, each of which has several villages under their respective mushar-i-deh (village headman). All are engaged in agriculture, and in winter live in regularly constructed houses in the villages, while in summer they live in slightly constructed dwellings (called by them kodal) at a short distance from the villages.

Among a tribe so numerous, so widely spread, and lacking any common head, customs and habits necessarily very much. Those that live in Bor-shor, resemble in habits their neighbours the Tarins, while those living in the western parts are more like Achakzai in Durrani. Their food, varying with the productions of the different parts in which they live, is most commonly barley and wheat, and, in irrigated lands, rice; mutton is also freely eaten in winter, and dried curds (kurats) are highly esteemed. Their dress usually consists of a coarse kind of woolen felt which they make by working up the wool of the white sheep with water and soap. Their principal garment made from this material is the kusai or kusi, a kind of shirt, or rather a long and wide cloak-like wrapper which also, on occasion, answers the purpose of a coverlet. Ahmad Shah Abdali when hunting in Toba, is said to have spoken admiringly of the useful properties of this garment which he called “rahut-posha” (dress of comfort). A Pashto proverb, referring to the great numbers of the Kakars and the fact of their wearing woollen says: “if the Kakars were to wear cotton its price would rise to a Rupee a yard; if Hindus were to eat corn there would be none to be had at any price”, (in allusion to the Hindus largely of vegetables). However, cotton is becoming more worn now. The western Kakar have to some extent adopted the dress of the Saharai Durrani, and the Kakar of Bori wear a shirt of cotton, and have instead of the cap, a cotton scarf (lungi) bound about the head, while some also have a scarf about the waist. Most of the dwellers on the east side follow the Boriwals in dress, but those living in central parts are very primitive, wearing loose pyjamas of wool a little below the knees, and being in summer, usually naked above the waist, while in winter they wear a coat of sheepskin (postin) or felt. Others, having the coat or kusi long, dispense altogether with the pyjamas. These central Kakar are almost all shepherds, and though ignorant and rude, (some of them in winter live in holes dug in the earth after the manner of the Khaibari) are a peaceable and inoffensive folk. The tilling of the soil and tending of soil and tending of cattle engage almost equally the attention of tribe. Their mountain slopes may be seen dotted with the kezhdi or black tents of the shepherds, usually encamped in groups of four or five, but when it becomes necessary to seek pasturage in the land of some neighboring clan, congregated together in numbers of from 40 to 100 tents. On east side the livestock is chiefly limited to sheep, goats and cattle, but on the west side herds of camels are common. Very few of the Kakar are found engaged in trade or at work at any handicraft, more because they are unwilling to move out of their accustomed groove, than because they regard such occupations as degrading. Their wool mostly finds its way to Kandahar, but little of it coming direct eastward, and they also bring down quantities assafaetida from the mountains of Herat.

Internal dissensions are, on the whole, rare amongst them, though partisan spirit runs high. Quarrels are usually adjusted by the maliks and council; but this is not so much the case in the east, where the Arabikhel settle their frequent differences by the arbitrament of the sword. Moreover, there is, between the Utman Khel and Dumar clans, a long-standing feud ever ready to burst out fresh. Of all their external foes the Baloch is the much ancient and hated. Though for a long time past they had no hostile collision of any importance, they are divided by the remembrance of mutual injuries, and are ever on the lookout against each other. About 100 years since a famous engagement took place in which Tamas Khan (Santiya Kakar) led his clan to signal victory. The occasion happened; thus, Nasir Khan, a Wali of Baluchistan, angered by the raid of a Kakar, marched into Shal at the head of 6,000 men with intent to crush his troublesome neighbors. A force like this was not rashly withstood, and the Kakar clan (the Santiya) retreated in a body to Dozakh or Dozhak , a stony tableland lying west of Zori valley high up among impassable mountains, and the only access to which is a steep pass. The Baloch, finding no means of approach from Shal, came from the side of the Hanna valley, and after climbing a high hill, reached the mouth of a narrow precipitous defile from whose summit they could easily pour down upon the entrapped Kakar. The wary Santiya leader Tamas Khan allowed the enemy to reach the last steep, and as they were struggling up this, already within sight of success, suddenly burst upon them with impetuous onslaught, drove them down headlong and destroyed them almost to a man. Since then, the Baloch have shown disposition to keep aloof from the Kakar. Another enemy with whom the Kakar have had in time past sundry hostile passages, is the Tarin clan. In the time of Ahmad Shah Abdali, internal dissensions had so torn the Santiya clan that their chief the Khan of Urgas , unable to marshal them so as to show a firm front to the enemy, was impotent to restrain the ravages of the Tarin, who harried Kanchughai at their will. When Ahmad Shah Abdali was once hunting in Toba, the afflicted Khan, having put fire upon his head, threw himself in the king’s way as a suppliant. The King, after hearing his story, gave orders that a detachment of the royal troops should be sent to chastise Tarins, and also issued his commands to the Santiya clan, enjoining entire obedience to their Khan. So effectual were these measures, that from that time the clan has been united and the Tarin have become powerless for harm. With no other of the surrounding tribes is there any deep-seated ill-will, but the occasional raids of the cattle-lifting Waziri give rise to skirmishes more or less serious. For instance, last year a band of some 300 Waziri, horse and foot, entering Zhob to drive away the flocks of the Kakar, was repulsed with such vigour as to be driven off with the less of 18 men and much prestige.

The Kakar are genial, joyous people, fond of amusement and easily amused. It is their custom in summer, to sit outside the village, the women being a little apart from men, and pass an hour or two in playing and singing their simple national airs. Another and more grotesque amusement said to have been introduced by the followers of Pir Tarik (Pir Roshan/ Bayazid Ansari) and known amongst the Tarin under the name of Tisri, is called by the Kakar “loba”, a word that properly means any game or sport. This game, played in the summer evenings, consisted in the young men and women collecting outside the village and crying out ” The Pir is not dead but alive” (Pir mar na dai , zhwandai dai) accompanying the cry with a drunken pantomime of staggering to and fro , and the like ribald buffoonaries. This is said to have been the occasion of much impropriety between the sexes and has now almost fallen into desuetude. In religion the Kakar are Sunni Musalmans , but they do not burthens themselves with too nice an observance of the injunctions of their faith of which indeed their knowledge is of the vaguest; few indeed, having the faintest tincture of literary acquirement. Except the old men few attend prayers, and (which by no means follows) they have not the least tendency to fanaticism. Their mullas they regard with a degree of reverence proportioned to the crassness of their own ignorance, and every strolling impostor and vagabond charm-writer is to the simple Kakar a holy and learned man. Among the Kakar of west , robbery, theft, and high-handed violence are rare; and though this can be scarcely be said those of in the east , while those in the south at Kotah and thereabouts , show their Afghan blood by infesting the Bolan pass and attacking the caravans that pass through it may fairly said of the men of this tribe , as compared with most Afghans , that they are peaceably-disposed , industrious and hard-working. In truthfulness too, they contrast favorably with many tribes of higher pretensions. They are considered to be wanting in hospitality, but an esteemed guest never fails of suitable entertainment. Lastly, their courage is quite beyond impeachment, and they are skillful in the handling of the matchlocks. Of any kind of armed organization, however, they have scarcely the most rudimentary notion, and probably not more than one in every four will be provided with a matchlock. All have swords, but in their own country there is commonly felt to be no need to carry these or any other weapon. 

Kakar tribe
A Kakar Pashtun in his winter costume, 1861. From “The people of India” by Watson and Kaye. Caption: “This picturesque figure represents a member of the Kakur tribe or clan of Afghans, who in Sind are considered the most aristocratic of their people. Some of them are settled in Sind, and one of them, Ata Mahomed Khan, an enterprising merchant, is established at Shikarpoor, and is well known to the British residents there. The person represented is in full Afghan winter costume, and wears a posteen, or cloth cloak, lined with sheeps wool, forming a most comfortable wrapper.”
History of the Kakar tribe
A Kakar Pashtun, 1840 (c). Painting by James Atkinson.
Kakar Attan
Kakar Attan, 1951
History of zhob
Kakar boy, Zhob, 1951

1 thought on “History of the Kakar tribe of Pashtuns”

  1. sir i need information of issakhail if any plz share
    how many tribes comes in khilji
    if any one plzzzz from audience


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