Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and Pashtuns

Emperor Jahangir died in 1627 A.D and the same year prince Khurram became the emperor of Hindustan with the title of Shah Jahan. Soon after his becoming emperor, Shah Jahan received the news of Abdul Qadir’s revolt in Khyber and Tirah hills and of the humiliating defeat Muzaffar Khan, the ruler of Kabul at the hands of Roshniyyas.

Shah Jahan and the frontier tribes

During the early years of Shah Jahan, the Pashtuns of frontier regions, gave a very tough time to him. He had to face an open revolt from the Afridis as well as Mohmand and Bangash tribes of the frontier region. soon after Jehangir’s death, the Afghans of Peshawar valley under the spiritual guidance of Bibi Alia and Abdul Qadir, had utterly routed the Mughal armies [1], as the former had declared Jihad against the Mughal invaders.

On frontier side , Shah Jahan was confronted with very difficult situation, the whole Afghan tribes were ready to offer him the toughest resistance to Mughal authorities. Although the eastern part of Hindustan , except for a few revolts, recognized the Mughal authorities. In Peshawar valley except within the four walls of Peshawar city , the Mughal rule was non-existent. Although Bayazid creed was religious, it soon converted into a political movement. Anti-Mughal feelings ran high and in return , the Mughals called them heretic and their killings a pious act. [2]

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan

Lashkar Khan, Subedar of Kabul , had informed the King about Roshnai’s activities in detail and Emperor Shah Jahan had issued instructions to eliminate this sect once and for all [3]. After the death of Jehangir, the Mughal army was going to Kabul against the hill tribes under Muzaffar Khan , when once again the Afridi tribesmen besieged the Mughal armies.[4]. The Mughal army had to suffer heavy losses in men and material. This time the attack was led by Bibi Alia and her son Abdul Qadir. [5]. In panic Muzaffar Khan fled and even his wives fell into Abdul Qadir’s hands. Later on, one of his wives was recovered with the efforts of Said Khan , ruler of Kohat. [6]

The humiliating defeat of the Royal army at the hands of Afghan tribes had caused damage to the Mughal’s prestige. That was the time when Shah Jahan was enforcing his authority in the rest of India. But here in North West, tribes of this area were posing direct threat to his authority. Shah Jahan was perturbed over the defeat of Mughal army in the Khyber , when all of a sudden news reached the court of tribals attacking Peshawar

Frontier Tribes attack on Peshawar

Muzaffar Khan’s ignominious defeat at the hands of tribes, created a stir among different tribes. All Afghan tribes stood for the cause of Bibi Alia and Abdul Qadir. On June 12, 1630 A.D, in a great assembly of tribes comprising Afridis, Orakzais, Bangash, Turis and Mohmands, was held at Alam Godar near Peshawar [7]. It was unanimously decided to invest the city of Peshawar and eliminate the Mughal authority. Abdul Qadir’s right hand in investment of Peshawar was Kamal-ud-din, son of Sher Khan Afghan, ruler of Peshawer during reign of Jahangir[ 8}. The city of Peshawer was besieged by the Afghans. The Mughal chiefs took refuge in the four walls of Bala Hisar and thus saved their lives with great difficulties. According to Amal-al-Salih, the Afghan rebellion against Mughals was inspired by Khan Jahan Lodi, the ruler of Deccan. [9]

But luck favored the Mughals and there was disruption among the Tribal chiefs , Said Khan, deputy governor of Kohat, was instructed to quell the rebellion. Said Khan was assissted by Lala Khan Kakar, prominent noble of Shah Jahan, who reached the scene abruptly. [10] . On the other side , seeing disunity and disruption among the ranks of Lashkar, Abdul Qadir retired to Tirah hills along with some loyal followers.[11]

Intriguing diplomacy and sudden attack of Said Khan, the disrupted Afghan lashkar had to suffer great losses this time. Said Khan was not only a brave general but also a diplomat of high caliber. Many Afghans of Yousafzai and Gigyani tribes were either killed or arrested. Some how Mughal authority was restored again in and around Peshawer. Shah Jahan was so pleased with Said Khan that he raised his mansab to 4000 Sawar and appointed him Governor of Peshawer. [12]

Surrender and end of Roshnai movement
Said Khan was man of tricks and abilities. Shah Jahan was also keen to establish friendly relations with rebellious Afghans of Frontier region and he wanted a lasting solution to the trouble. In the meantime Said Khan by use of carrot and stick policy induced Bibi Alia and Abdul Qadir to lay arms before the Mughals for honorable living and monetary considerations. On the interference of Said Khan, Emperor Shah Jahan granted Abdul Qadir a Mansab of 1000/6000 and a reward of Rs.10,000/- upon his submission in 1633 A.D {13].Abdul Qadir soon died a natural death while his mother Bibi Alia and other relatives and followers, were well treated by Shah Jahan in the court and sent to Rashid Khan Ansari , who was posted at Deccan. [14]

Thus Mughals were free of their old enemies for ever  due to Said Khan’s efforts and diplomacy. With the disappearance of Bibi Alia and Abdul Qadir from scene , the movement died a natural death. The movement a political force subsided in frontier though as religious sect it lingered longer. Two rocks at Indus river near Attock fort still bear the names of Aliliyia and Kamaliya, which perpetuate the memories of these troubled times.

Shah Jahan Central Asia and Qandahar expedition 

Tribes of Peshawer played a role in executing the Mughal plans for the conquest of Kandahar and Central Asian Khanates i.e Balkh and Badakhshan . Many Afghan nobles were closely associated with imperial army in these campaigns. A host of Afghan Umaras like Bahadur Khan Ruhilla, Nazr Bahadur Kheshgi, Hayat Tarin (son of Ali Khan Tarin), Neknam Khan (uncle of Bahadur Khan), Jamal Khan Nuhani, and others played a prominent role in the Balkh campaign. Shah Jahan entire attention was to North-West Frontier of his empire after establishing firm control over his government. He was placed in difficult situation, when Nazar Muhammad , ruler of Badakhshan attacked Kabul and surrounding areas.

Central Asian Campaigns

Nazar Muhammad,  the ruler of Turan, taking advantage of initial instability of Shah Jahan’s reign , attacked Kabul in 1627 A.D [15]. With the aid of prominent Afghan chiefs, the invader’s bid to capture Kabul was foiled. Being brave fighters, Afghans along with the Rajputs , were associated with the vanguard of Imperial army under the supreme command of Prince Murad Shah during 1645-47 A.D [16]. Prince Murad Bakhsh came to Peshawar in 1646 A.D, acting upon King’s instructions and took along with him the Lashkar of Afghans comprising Ghoria Khel ,  Afridis, Mohmands, Orakzais and Bangash tribes. [17]. Prominent Afghan Mansabdars  leading the imperial army were Ali Mardan Khan , Bahadur Khan Daudzai and Asalat Khan. [18]

Prince Murad was directed by the Emperor to divide the Mughal army into two parts. One army was to lead through Peshawar and the other through Bangash country and both should join in Kabul. [19]

A Mughal miniature from the Padshahnama depicting the surrender of the Safavid Persian garrison of Kandahar in 1638 to the Mughal army of Shah Jahan commanded by Kilij Khan

 Shah Jahan’s visit to Peshawar 

Shah Jahan wanted personally to supervise these campaigns and intended to visit Kabul. On his way to Kabul he crossed the river Indus near Attock and landed at Peshawar fort, built by Ali Mardan Khan, ruler of Peshawar. [20]. The Emperor also paid a visit to Zafar Khan garden , in the vicinity of Peshawar and stayed there for some days. [21]. He also visited the Bazar and buildings of Peshawar. Next the Emperor reached Kabul and gave useful instruction to Mughal commanders. Ali Mardan Khan also accompanied Shah Jahan to Kabul.

Defeat of Nazar Muhammad

In the Central Asian campaign , the Mughal army defeated Nazar Muhammad and he fled from Balkh [22]. Nazar Muhammad , along with 10,000 men wanted to give tough battle to the Mughals , but Asalat Khan and Bahadur Khan Daudzai, Afghan sardars, frustrated his designs. [23].

Nazar Muhammad ultimately fled to Iran, along with a few followers. In the meantime Prince Murad became eager to return to India. Balkh expedition was entrusted to prince Aurangzeb at King’s directive.

Kandahar expedition

During Kandahar expedition, the Afghans also played a major role and fought side by side with other Mughal armies. The fall of Kandahar to Persia was one of the most important events of Shah Jehan’s era. In 1649 AD, the fort of Kandahar was invaded by the Shah of Persia [24] by means of tricks and diplomacy. For Shah Jahan it was challenging task, because Mughal authority was seriously endangered by the acts of Persians. Shah Jahan at once reacted. Prince Aurangzeb arrived in Peshawar in 1649 A.D from Multan and went to Kabul where he stayed for fifteen days on his way to Kandahar.

That year Aurangzeb and his army failed to take Kandahar. Aurangzeb was reappointed to lead an expedition to Kandahar to recover it from Persians in 1652 A.D [25]. Again the emperor came to Kabul to get first hand information about the expedition.[26] . But the second attempt to recover Kandahar also didnt succeed. The third and final expedition was sent under the command of prince Dara Shikoh in 1653 AD. [27]. Dara was by no means superior to Alamgir in abilities and guts. This expedition , contrary to expectations, failed to achieve results.

Yusafzai-Khattak conflict during Shah Jahan’s reign

During Shah Jahan’s times, the vale of Peshawar came to witness the inter-tribal war of Yusafzai and Khattak tribes. When Khattaks were made to supervise the King’s highway, the Yusafzais, the archenemies of Mughals, turned their guns towards Khattaks, who played a pro-Mughal role in the region. When Akbar was coming to Kabul, he built the Attock fort and one Malik Akor, chief of Khattaks was given the duty of guarding the high-road from Attock to Peshawar in return for collecting the revenue of land between Khairabad and Nowshera. [28]. He was given the right of collecting ferry dues at Attock. In due course of time Malik Akor became the richest and leading man of his tribe. He also built a Serai on the main road, which was called after his name, Akora Serai. [29]. Malik Akor remained the guardian of high road for 41 years, and was finally killed at Pir Sabak , between Nowshera and Attock by Balak clan of Khattaks. Hewas succeeded by his son Yahya Khan, during whose period bitterness broke out between Yousafzais and Khattaks.[30]

The cause of enmity between two tribes was that , the Khattak had uprooted Yousafzais from the village Misri Kot , opposite Akora Sarai  [31]. , to establish their supremacy in the region. Secondly Yousafzais had never shown a re-conciliatory policy towards Mughals. After Yayha Khan’s death, his son Shahbaz Khan succeeded to lordship of the Khattak tribe. Shahbaz Khan was notorious for cruelty and oppression and in due course of time had killed many Yousafzais, his arch-enemies.

At the same time Yousafzis were gathering under the leadership of Malik Bahaku Yusafzai. In one of the encounters , Shahbaz Khan was killed by Yousafzais in 1640 A.D and he was succeeded by his son Khushal Khan Khattak. [32]. Khushal Khan Khattak was appointed to a dignified position by a firman of Shah Jahan which also required the new chieftain to join the Royal army in Ajmir, with a large Khattak contingent. [33]. Khushal Khan rendered meritorious service in reducing the famous fort of Taragarah and in return received a Jagir and had to maintain a force of 500 cavalry and 1000 infantry for the Emperor’s services. [34]. Khattak contingent had also fought with Royal armies in Balkh and Badakhshan campaigns and Khushal Khan Khattak himself took part in these wars. [35]

During his service Khushal Khan Khattak took part in many expeditions against Yousafzais and played pro-Mughal role. The enmity between Khattaks and Yousafzais was further intensified when Emperor conferred certain Yousafzai villages to Khushal Khan during his visit to Kabul in 1649 A.D [36]. On the other hand Malik Bahaku, the Yusafzai chief, also wished to try his luck at the Mughal court. He therefore appeared at Shah Jahan’s court at Delhi for nominal submission. Bahaku was successful in gaining the support of Dara Shikoh , the eldest son of Shah Jahan and on the interference of Dara Shikoh, Bahaku was pardoned and his territories were restored to him. [37]. Thus Mughal-Yusafzai’s strained relations turned into normal for the first time. Yousafzai’s chief was also awarded and honored in the Royal court. Thus strained relations were eased out [38].

Khushal khan Khattak

Khushal Khan, seeing his fortunes dividing, in face of Yousafzai’s ascendancy, tried his level best to regain the Royal support, but to no avail, Dara stood in favour of Bahaku. The hatred grew stronger in his heart against Yusafzais and also against Mughal. During war of succession among the sons of Shah Jahan, Yousafzais backed the cause of Dara Shikoh to the throne of India, while Khushal Khan Khattak supported Aurangzeb Alamgir’s cause to Kingship. As Aurangzeb became successful, Dara turned a fugitive , this raised the position of Khushal Khan Khattak.

On the advice of Dara Shikoh, Yousfazai Lashkar had seized the boats at Indus near Attock and as duty bound waited for reception of Dara, to give him shelter. Feroz Khan, Khushal Khan’s uncle, attacked Yousafzais in which in which Bahaku was injured and his brother Saida Khan killed. [39]

Khattak-Yousafzai rivalry and muscle-showing continued during the war of succession between the sons of Shah Jahan. When Aurangzeb became successful in defeating his brothers, Yousafzais were anticipating humiliation and destruction at the hands of Mughal-Khattak forces. In due course of time, Aurangzeb confirmed chieftainship to Khushal Khan and Mughal-Khattak swords were eliminating Yousafzais simultaneously. [40]. But the Royal favour , bestowed on Khushal Khan proved short-lived. In 1664 A.D Mughal governor Amir khan , got Khushal Khan arrested in Peshawar and sent him to Aurangzeb in chains.[41]


1.- Kamboh, Amal-i-Salih, op.cit pp.270-71
2-  Ibid ,p.334
3- Ibid, pp-335-36
4- Ibid, p.271
5- Sabir, Muhammad Shafi, story of Khyber , Peshawar, p.63
6-  Ibid, p.63
7- Kamboh, Amal-i-Salih, op.cit p.238
8- Ibid, pp.348-49
9- Ibid, p.347
10- Ibid p.340
11-  Careo Olaf, the pathans, p.229
12- Kamboh, Amal-i-Salih, op.cit p.350
13- Lahori, Abdul Qadir, Badshah nama, Vol.I, p.309
14- Khan, Assir-ul-umarah, op.cit, p.26
15- Kamboh, Amal-i-Salih, op.cit pp.387-88
16- Kamil.,  Khushal Khan, op.cit , p.50
17- Kamboh, Amal-i-Salih, op.cit pp.389-90
18- Ibid. p.391
19- Ibid, p.391
20- Ibid, p.395
21- Ibid, p.395
22- Ibid, p.410
23- Lahori, Abdul Qadir, Badshah nama, Vol.I, p.549
24- Kamboh, Amal-i-Salih, op.cit p.352
25- Ibid, p.596
26- Ibid, p.594
27- Ibid, p.610
28- Preistley, Afghanistan and its inhabitants , p.221
29- Das, Gopal, Tarikh-i-Peshawar, p.387
30- Kamil. Khushal Khan, op.cit, p.28
31- Ibid , p.22
32- Ibid, p.32
33- Preistalay, Afghanistan and its inhabitants, op.cit p.211
34. Ibid p.211
35- Kamil. Khushal Khan, op.cit p.48
36- Ibid, p.63
37- Ibid, p. 62
38- Yusfi, Allah Bakhsh, Yusufzai Afghan, p.382
39- Ibid, p.387
40- Ibid. p.387
41- Ibid-85

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