Pashtun–Mughal War (1672–1677)

In 1672 some soldiers of Hussain Beg Khan, the Mughal faujdar of Kunar, insulted a Parachi women affiliated to Safi tribe, which infuriated the Safi tribe who killed the culprit Mughal soldiers. Hussain Beg Khan retaliated by attacking and plundering the Safi territory. This incident led to a great Pashtun revolt against Mughals.

Mughal force disaster in Khyber, 1672

Aimal Khan, leading the lashkar of Afridis, Shinwaris and Mohmands,  closed the Khyber Pass in the spring of 1672. Muhammad Amin Khan, the haughty Mughal governor of Kabul, who had been passing the winter at Peshawar, moved to Kabul for the summer months, disregarding his officer’s advice. He had with him all his family and camp followers, which slowed down the rest of his army, and doomed them to an ambush in the narrow gorge at Ali Masjid.

In the battle that followed the Afghans rained down arrows, bullets, and stones from the hilltops on the Mughals. The army broke into a confused mass into which the triumphant enemy charged. Muhammad Amin Khan and his officers escaped with their lives to Peshawar, but forty thousand men fell under the enemy’s sword in the field, and above two crores of rupees in cash and kind were looted by the enemy. They captured 20,000 men and women and sent them to Central Asia for sale. Amin Khan’s own family, including his wife, were among the prisoners but he secured their release by paying a huge ransom.

Aimal Khan declares himself a King

Encouraged by the great victory at Khyber Pass, Aimal Khan Afridi declared himself a king, assumed the title of Aimal Shah, and struck coins in his own name. He summoned all the Pashtun tribes to join the national uprising against the Mughals.

General Afghan rising

News of this great victory, and of the immense riches gained by Aimal, spread like wildfire among the Afghans. Many of them came over to his army; other tribes raised the banner of revolt against the Mughals. The recently suppressed Yusufzai’s recovered their lands from Mughal occupation.

Battle of Nowshera

The Khattak tribe, located in the southern portions of Peshwar, rose under their chieftain Khushal Khan, who had recently served in the Mughal campaign against his hereditary enemies the Yusufzais. Khushal joined up with Aimal Khan and Darya Khan Afridi and inspired the Afghans with his poetry and by his victories over the isolated Mughal posts. He led a joint tribal lashkar consisting of eight thousands men to attack the Mughal fort in Nowshera. Pir Paie was burnt to ashes and later on the fort at Nowshera was ransacked. Imperial forces suffered heavy losses in men and material.

Doaba campaign

After the victory at Nowshera, the Pashtun lashkar defeated the Mughal commander Mir Hussain at Doaba near Charsadda.

Mahabat Khan, the new governor, was nearly seventy and incapable of much exertion. He remained inactive at Peshawar and was only persuaded to make move towards Kabul by repeated orders from the emperor. Aurangzeb was displeased with Mahabat Khan and sent Shujaat Khan to deal with Afghan tribes.

Defeat of Mughal army at Karapa

Shujaat Khan, who had recently made the name for himself by quelling Satnami rising, was sent by Aurangzeb to quell the Afghan resistance. Shujaat Khan came to Peshawar in February 1674 A.D to restore the imperial prestige, and after a short stay at Peshawar, moved to Gandab valley. He found the Karrapa pass blocked by Afghans led by Aimal Khan. The Afghans attacked the imperial army with swords and stones alike, Shujaat Khan was killed while fighting against the Afghans.Thousands of Mughals soldiers were killed in this affair.

Aurangzeb takes command

The Karrapa disaster convinced Aurangzeb that a supreme effort must be made to restore imperial prestige. He himself went to Hasan Abdal and stayed there for year and half directing the operations. The emperor took with him all the veterans who had service in afghan country in the previous reigns. Aghar khan, who had distinguished himself in the by fighting afghans on previous occasions, being recalled from Deccan to accompany him. Force and diplomacy, both were tried, and the emperor was able to, to restore peace in the neighborhood of Peshawar. Many clans were won over by lucre and posts in the Mughal service.

Agha Khan, a Turki general, was directed to escort Prince Akbar and to keep open the Khyber Pass. At Gandamak he engaged in action with Afghans, who were thirty or forty thousand strong. After both the sides had suffered heavy losses, the Afghans gave way. Aghar Khan himself received fatal injuries but survived.

Aghar Khan next occupied Nangarhar and opened the Jagdalak pass, expelling the Ghilzais from it.

In 1675 A.D, the Afghans inflicted a crushing defeat on Fidai Khan at Jagdalak on his way to Peshawar. His fate would have been sealed if Aghar Khan had not rescued him by a prompt action from Gandamak.

Mughal devastation at Khapush

In June 1675 A.D, the Mughal army received another blow in the battle of Khapush. Mukarram Khan while operating near Khapush in the Bajaur country was lured into an ambush and repulsed with heavy losses by Pashtun lashkar led by Aimal Khan and Darya Khan. Mughal commander Shamsher Khan got killed in this battle while the seriously wounded Mukarram Khan was able to reach the Mughal base in Bajaur.

At the end of August there were two local reverses; the thanadar of Jagdalik was slain and that of Barangab and Surkhab was driven out of his post with severe loss of men. But all the Mughal positions in Afghanistan were strengthened, and by December 1675, the situation has sufficiently improved to enable the emperor to leave the Punjab for Delhi.

Khushal Khan invades Kohat and gets defeated 

At the time of Aurangzeb’s leaving for Lahore, a fierce fight took place between Khushal Khan Khattak and Sher Muhamamd Bangash, a pro-Mughal chief, at Gumbat near Kohat. Sher Muhammad Bangash defeated Khushal Khan, Khushal Khan and his son Abdul Qadir were seriously wounded.

Next year Aurangzeb sent Prince Mu’azzam against the Afghans. With the Prince were associated Amir Khan and other distinguished generals.

Amir Khan quells the revolt

Amir Khan successfully coped with the Afghans and his services were recognized by the bestowal of the governorship of Kabul on him. He governed Afghanistan with considerable tact and ability. He granted large subsidies to the border tribes and won them over to his side by lucrative concessions. quells the revolt. Under his astute management, they ceased to trouble the imperial government and spent their energies in internecine quarrels. Once he broke up a confederacy under Aimal Khan by secretly instigating that chieftain’s followers to ask him to divide the conquered territory among them.When Aimal declined on the ground of the insufficiency of the land, the disappointed hill- men began to return home. And when at last he did make a division, his other followers left him because of his having shown greater favour to his own clansmen.

The emperor triumphed in Afghanistan by following the policy of paying subsidies and setting clan against clan. Amir Khan’s diplomacy broke up the confederacy under Aimal, and when that able leader dies the Afridis made terms with the empire. The Khyber was kept open. But Khush-hal Khan Khattak continued the war single-handed for many years afterwards, till his own son betrayed him to the enemy. The fallen chieftain solaced his exile and captivity by composing stinging verses against Aurangzeb.

Impact of Afghan war on Mughal empire

The war had cost much to the empire. Apart from the financial loss, the political loss was grievous. It made the employments of afghans in the ensuing Rajput war impossible. Though the afghans were just class of soldiers who could have won the victory for imperialists in the rugged and barren country. It relived pressure on Shivaji by draining the Deccan of the best of Mughal troops for elsewhere. The Maratha chief fully exploited the diversion to consolidate himself and sweep through Golkanda, Karnatak and Bijapur during the fifteen months following December 1676. Thus, frontier trouble adversely reacted upon the stability of empire.


1-Studies in Mughal History – Ashvini Agrawal
2- Mughal Empire in India: A Systematic Study Including Source Material – S.R. Sharma –
3-Mughal Rule in India – Stephen Meredyth Edwardes –
4-The Mughal Empire from Babar to Aurangzeb – Sm Jaffar –
5- History of Aurangzib – Jadunath Sarkar


Aurangzeb Alamgir


Khushal Khan Khattak



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