Mullah Powindah

Sketch of Mullah Powindah.


Mullah Powindah’s real name was Mohiuddin and he belonged to the Shabi Khel section of the Mahsuds. He was a disciple Maulana Hamzullah Khan. He played an important role in the tribal area against the British. He was a contemporary of Haji Sahib of Turangzai who had resisted the British in Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber ; while Mullah Powindah fought bravely against the British in Kurram , and the North and South Waziristan agencies.

During 1886-87, an incident occurred in Bannu jail in which two associated of Mullah Powindah were involved. On learning about it, he went to Idak, a place in Lower Dawar, and stayed with an influential Malik named Nazarband. Later he became popular as Badshah-i-Taliban. There he met Muallh Gulabdin, the well-known religious scholar. Since the death of Mullah Gulabdin, Muallah Powindah came into prominence in the area. At the beginning of 1894, Mullah Powindah sought permission from the D.C Bannu to be allowed to pass through the British territory to visit the Mullah of Manki. He was permitted. On his return, 1894, he alongwith other tribesmen attacked the Wana camp and caused extensive damage. The British launched an expedition against him and his supporters and they compelled Mullah Powindah to leave the area.

In February 1900, a meeting took place between the Political Officer, Mr.Watson and the Mullah Powindah and the British government recognized him as the chief of tribes, but Mullah Powindah did not accept any allowances. He presented some grievances of the Mahsuds and of his own section, the Shabi Khel in particular. Mullah Powindah kept crossing over into Afghanistan and obtaining funds from Afghan rulers. Eventually British managed to contain his activities by cultivating his rivals among his own Mahsuds, and also the other local tribes. He himself was given an allowance of Rs.100 per month. On sanctioning the allowance, Lord Curzon, the viceroy, commented on the pecuniary sanction, “……… with considerable hesitation, since it is a first-class scoundrel that we are taking under our wings”. By 1905, the secret allowance was withdrawn as the Mullah Powindah continued with his anti-British activities.

Mullah Powindah put a stubborn resistance to the British encroachments in Waziristan and continued to lead the armed opposition to the British (Frontie and Overseas Expeditions from India, 1908, II, pp-416-437). This great freedom fighter died in 1913, a year before the outbreak of First World War.

Evelyn Howell in his monograph on the Mahsuds, “Mizh”, pays grudging tribute to the archenemy:

“…he cannot be denied some tribute of admiration as a determined and astute  though not altogether single-minded patriot and champion of his tribe’s independence. All officers who ever actually met him will agree that his forceful character, striking appearance and persuasive eloquence made a deep impression on those with whom he came into personal contact. A man who without any inherited advantages and without education, could make so large an instalment of frontier history in effect…”(p-60)

Excerpt from “Some Major Pakhtoon Tribes Along The PakAfghan Border” (Islamabad: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, 2000), by Syed.Iftikhar Hussain,  pp.150-151


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