When Orakzais defeated the Mughal army in Tirah (The battle of Sampagha pass, 1619 AD)

In the latter part of sixteenth century, Bayazid Ansari alias Pir-i-Roshan made Tirah his stronghold. The Roshniyas lived among the Orakzai, partly with the Ismailzai and Lashkarzai and partly in the Mastura valley with the Daulatzai. Orakzais fought on the side of Jalala (son of Pir Roshan) against the Mughals. Jalala was succeeded by his nephew and son-in-law, Ihdad. He further consolidated his position amongst the tribes of Tirah particularly amongst the Orakzai. By then Emperor Akbar had been succeeded by Emperor Jahangir. The latter sent Mahabat Khan (the Subedar of Kabul) to Tirah in 1618 A.D to crush the tribal support to Ihdad in Tirah. Mahabat Khan connived with the Bangash Khans of Hangu against the Orakzai chief, Asghar Daulatzai. The Banagsh ‘Khan’ invited some of the Orakzai notables, including Malik Asghar and his sons, the zealous followers of Ihdad, under the pretext of awarding them ‘khilats’. All of them (about 300), except Malik Asghar and his cousin Tor, were massacred. When the neighboring tribes questioned the conduct of the involved Bangash ‘Khans’, they pleaded that by doing so they wanted to break the strength of Ihadad who made Tirah his stronghold and brought misery to the area. After this act of treachery by the Bangashes of Hangu, Malik Asghar gave up the chieftainship of the Orakzai tribe to his cousin, Malik Tor of Abdul Aziz Khel clan. Realizing this massacre as a preamble for the main invasion by the Mughals, the Daulatzai under Malik Tor and other Roshnais under Ihadad, occupied the crest of the pass.

As expected by Malik Tor, Ghairat Khan, the Mughal commander, along with twenty-two other Mughal leaders, led a large force via Kohat against the Orakzai. They took up position in the vicinity of the Ismailzai clan at the foot of the Loe Sang-Pajzah Ghashaey or Great Sang-Pajzah pass. Ghairat Khan was a hot-headed and self-opinionated person. He did not accept his deputy, Jalal Khan’s prudent advice and attacked the Orakzai forthwith. Accompanied by the some of the Syeds of barha, he climbed the hill to attack the “sangar” held by the Daulatzai clan. On reaching the crest of the pass, the Pashtuns of Tirah, collecting from different recesses of the hills and kotals, completely surrounded the attacking force. In this melee, the Orakzai hamstrung the horse of Ghairat Khan and got him dismounted. Ghairat Khan was confronted by Panju, a Firoz Khel Orakzai, who grappled him and both fell, rolling over the other. Panju cried out to his clansmen, “Strike ! Kill me along with him, only do not let him escape!”  And they did so; both Ghairat Khan and Panju were killed, locked firmly in each other’s embrace. This killing of Ghairat Khan brought about the defeat the defeat of the Mughals. Jalal Khan Gakhar, Masud, son of Ahmad Baig Khan, Bejzan, son of Nad Ali, the Maidani and other imperial chiefs, fearing for their lives and unable to stand their ground, fled helter-skelter. The Orakzai, crowing different parts of the Kotal above, pelted them with stones and arrows, surrounded and slew the imperial troops in great numbers. Among the slain were Jalal Khan and Masud. The Orakzai captured about 5,000 horses, which reflects the extent of the disaster that the Mughals suffered.

Mahabat Khan, hearing of this disaster, dispatched a fresh force to the aid of the remnants of the defeated troops and further strengthened the Mughal posts in the area. Khushal Khan says, “The Mughals could affect nothing, and Mahabat was recalled “.


Tirah, 1898



Books consulted   

1- “Notes on Afghanistan and Balochistan” by H.G.Raverty
2-  “History of the Pathans”, Vol-4, by Haroon Rashid
3-  “Tuzk-i-Jehangiri “
4-  Imperial Gazetteer2 of India, Volume 23


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