History of the Turi tribe of Kurram

The Turi tribe, hold the tract known as Kurram on both sides of the stream of that name, lying north of Khost and south of Koh-i-Sufaid. There is some doubt as to the lineage and race of this tribe and the Jaji .

1–   The Turis themselves have two stories as to their origin, one of which is that they were formerly settled in Persia, but, troubles breaking out, Toghani Turk, the common ancestor of the Turis and Jajis, fled eastward and eventually settled at Nilab ; while the other story states that they came originally from Samarkand to Nilab. Both of these stories, though differing as to the original habitat of the tribe, are agreed that the tribe claims descent from a Turk, named Toghani. The “Badshah-nama” refers to different tribes which joined in the attack on Peshawar and calls the Afghan tribes as ‘Ulus’ but the Jajis and Turis are mentioned as ‘Imak’. Both are Turkish words, but while ‘Ulus’ has been commonly used for the Afghan tribes, ‘Imak’ is never used except for the tribes of Turk descent.  The distinction points to their Turkish extraction.

2- At one occasion Khushal Khan Khattak in his diary (Biaz) mentions the Turis as well the Jajis as the Karlanris. Based on this statement, some of the elders of the Turi and Jaji clans have traced their descent to Khughianaey, son of Kodaey, son of Karan. Hayat Khan Kathar gives weigh-age to Khushal Khan Khattak’s Biaz and includes them in the Khugiani tribe. He remarks, “Both in language and character, they are not be distinguished from Afghan, and indeed possess the Afghan haughtiness and martial spirit in an unusually high degree.” [2].Turi is earliest mention of a Pashtun tribal name. In Tarikh-i-nama-i-Herat (written in 1318 AD) “Ahmad Turi” (احمد توری) is mentioned as one of the leading Afghan chieftains of 13th century Afghanistan (1255 AD events). They are styled as “Maluk-i-Azam” (ملوک عظام) i.e Chief Maliks of Afghanistan. [“Tarikh-nama-i-Herat” of Saif bin Muhammad bin Yaqub Harvi, Urdu translation by Prof.Sultan Altaf Ali, p-196]

3- Some give out that Turi and Jaji were two brothers of the Mond stock of the Awan race, settled on the eastern bank of the Indus. For some reason they left their kinsmen and moved to the west bank of the Indus. In the summer they used to migrate to Kurram valley and in winter return to the plains in the Nilab area on the eastern bank of the Indus. Gradually they made inroads in the Kurram valley and later settled down permanently, displacing some of the smaller Bangash clans. Their progeny prospered and ousted the original inhabitants of the area in the Kurram and occupied their lands. Their descendants are known as the Turis and Jajis respectively. The Awans of the Jhelum District, who claim descent from one Qutab Shah, a former ruler of Herat, state that the Jajis and Turis are also descended from him but by a Turki wife. [“Hstory of the Pathans”, By Haroon Rashid, Vol-4, p-500″]

Whatever may be the origin of the tribe, there is little doubt that, at some period or other, they were settled at Nilab, but probably only as nomads, migrating annually from thence to the Kurram valley. During one of their annual migrations, a quarrel broke out between the tribe and the Bangash owners of Kurram. At this time: the Jajis and Turis were united, and the first assault made on the Bangash took place in Hariab valley, which the Jajis seized. From Hariab the tribe descended into the Kurram valley, the Jajis taking Jaji Maidan and the Turis the main Kurram valley below Karlachi. The first place taken by the Turis was Burkhi, then Paiwar , after which Shalozan was besieged, but the Bangash, who withstood all attacks, compromised and became Turi hamsayas. Thus, by degrees, the Turis made themselves masters of the whole valley. The Emperor Babar, writing so far back as 1506 A.D., mentions the Buri (undoubtedly a misprint for Turi) inhabitants of the valley. [7]

Turis and Jajis are mentioned by Abu Fazal in “Akbar-nama”, that their tribal chiefs, along with chiefs of Khalil, Mohmand, Gagyani, Sherzad, Khizr-Khel, Abdur-Rehmani and others of Ghurghust and Ghoria Khel septs,  represented to Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1586 AD who was staying at Attock, to complain about Yoasufzais. [3]

There are five principal clans of the Turi;

1- Hamza Khel

2- Mastu Khel

3- Dapparzai

4- Alizai

5- Ghundi Khel

Kurram which is wholly irrigated by the stream of the same name that flows through it, was formerly in the occupation of Bangash, from whom the Turi took it by force. Many Bangash are still found living in subjection to the Turi in Kurram, and the Buwalimin of lower Kurram are considered a branch of Bangash.

Contrary to the Khyber tribes, the tribes inhabiting the Kurram had traditionally paid revenues to the Saddozai rulers. Already during his first reign, Amir Dost Muhammad Khan Barakzai, began to raise demands for revenue in Kurram and adjacent regions. Kurram was known for its comparative fertility. Apart from wheat, the valley produced high quality rice exported to Bannu and Kabul. The Turis were overwhelmingly Shias. This led to the rise of four dominant families of Sayyids, to one of which each Turi was linked as a disciple. Otherwise, there was no entrenched leadership. The typical Turi was described as an absolute democrat. The historical sources mentions a few prominent families without furnishing great detail on their political activities. In the 1850s, Malik Zarif of Paiwar was an important ally of Sardar Muhammad Azam Khan. The Malik of Shalozan was linked to the court by a marriage alliance with Amir Dost Muhammad Khan. [4]

Throughout the reign of Dost Muhammad Khan, reports of rebellions in Kurram reached the capital of Kabul. In great part this resistance can be seen as reaction to the revenue collecting ‘raids’ conducted by the Afghan governor at irregular intervals. In 1851, for example, the Turis took possession of the fort at the Paiwar pass for three months. Their rebellion only came to an end when Amir Dost Muhammad Khan dispatched Sardar Muhammad Azam Khan with a strong force to the region. Three years later, 8,000 Turis blockaded the same pass. During the ensuing military confrontation at the Paiwar pass, the Turis suffered a decisive defeat. In March 1856, The Turis were assisted by son of Sardar Muhammad Azam Khan against the insurrections by the neighboring Khostwals and Darwesh Khel wazirs. In April 1857, Ghulam Muhammad Khan reported that an insurrection of the nearby Jajis had been ” suppressed amicably” by the Turi maliks. A year later Sardar Muhammad Azam Khan was assisted by Malik Zarif of  Paiwar against the rebellious population of Baliyamin in adjacent Miranzai. [5]

During Amir Sher Ali’s reign, Kurram was governed by Amir’s half brother Wali Muhammad Khan, whose mother was a Turi, from 1869 on. In 1876, Wali Muhammad Khan was dismissed from the governorship of Kurram, due to complaints of the maliks of Kurram.

The Kabul government from Kurram was ejected by the British in 1879 during the second Anglo-Afghan War. The Turis welcomed the British and gave them full support. A year or two later British forces were withdrawn from the valley .The British Government, however, announced to the Amir, that Kurram would be regarded as a British protectorate. The valley was re-occupied by the British the valley  in 1892. A strong force of Militia, in which the Turis form the principal element, was raised in 1893. It had throughout been staunch and reliable to British with credit in  1897 , it stood firm in 1919 during the Third Anglo-Afghan War when most of the other irregular corps, the Khyber Rifles, and North and South Wazirstan Militias, mutinied or deserted. [6]


Painting of a Turi Pashtun in early 19th century made by Imam Bakhsh Lahori
A Turi, 1827-1843. By Imam Bakhsh Lahori, Illustrations des Mémoires du général Claude-Auguste Court, Lahore.

Turi Pashtuns of Kurram in 1910
Turi tribesmen of the Kurram valley, 1910


Scene of Kurram valley in 1919
Shepherds in the Kurrum Valley, 1919
Painting of a Turi tribesman
Ghulam Khan, a Subadar of the Kurram Militia, 1908 (c). Watercolour by Major Alfred Crowdy Lovett. Source
Attan by Turi Pashtuns of Kurram
War dance of the Turis, Kurram valley, March 7, 1903. From “The Graphic”. “They [Turis] have a peculiar war dance, which is executed at any great gathering of the tribe. The ground is cleared, and musicians come on the scene, with drums and shricking pipes, to entice the young bloods to take part in the performance. Once started, the dance provides strenuous exertion for those engaged.”


Jirga of Turi Pashtuns in Parachinar Kurram
A jirga under the shadow of a large tree, at Parachinar (Kurram district), 1929. . Source
Turi Pashtuns of Kurram
The Malik of Aravali shows off his six shooter next to a Wapiti aircraft, Kurram district, 1929. Source


19th century photo of Turi Pashtun tribesmen of Kurram valley
“Turi nobles and holy men”, Kurram, 1895 (c). Photo by Frederick Saint John Gore.

Notes and References:

2- Muhammad Hayat Khan, “Afghanistan and its inhabitants”, p-227

3- Raverty, “Notes on Afghanistan”, p-44

4- “Christine Noelle, “State and Tribe in Nineteenth-Century Afghanistan”, p-174

5- Ibid, p-175

6- “Sir William Barton, “India’s North-West frontier” p-52

7-” Frontier and Overseas expeditions from India, Vol-2, p-305




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