A 19th century note on the Wazir tribe of Waziristan

By H.G.Raverty (1895)


The Waziri Afghans, Pushtanah, or Patans, belong to one of the four great divisions of the Afghan nation, the Karlarni.

Aor-Mar, fifth son of Sharaf-ud-Din, otherwise Sharkabun, son of Sarahbarn, son of Kais i-Abd-ur-Rashid, the Patan, the progenitor of the Afghan race, had a son named Umar Din, corrupted into Amar, who had two sons, Zakariya (Zacharias), and Abd-ullah. When the family was moving from its summer to its winter quarters, these two, roaming about one morning in search of game, came upon a spot where some other Afghan families had been recently encamped. There Zakariya found a male baby — and Abd-ullah picked up a shallow iron kettle which Afghans call karaey. Zakariya was the father of many sons, while Abd-ullah, who was very poor, had none — the more a man’s sons in those days, the greater his strength — and he besought his brother to let him have the boy, whom he would adopt as his own son, and in exchange would give him the karaey. This was done, and in accordance with the circumstances under which the boy was found, he was named Kar-larnaey

Another version is, that the boy belonged to one of the Sarahbarn families, which, whilst moving from summer to winter quarters, expected a night attack from some enemy, and suddenly decamped leaving the child behind in the hurry and confusion of the march.
When Karlarnaey grew up, his foster father, Abd-ullah, the Aor-Mar, gave him a daughter to wife, by whom he had two sons, Kodaey and Kakaey.

The former became the father of seven sons, three by one wife: 1. Utman; 2. Dilazak or Dilahzak; 3. Wuruk or Uruk; and four by a second wife: 4. Manaey; 5. Lukman, nicknamed Khatak; 6. Khogaey; and 7. Mangalaey. Two sons of a daughter of Kodaey, named Honaey and Wardag, whose father was a Sayyid, that is, descended from ‘Ali,  the son-in-law of the Arabian prophet, several of whose persecuted descendants took shelter with the Afghans — then a mere collection of families, descended from Kais-i-‘Abd-ur-Rasid, ruled by their own elders — were adopted by their mother’s father. All these were the progenitors of as many tribes, thus, Utman of the Utmanzi; Dilazak of the Dilazaks; Wuruk or Uruk of the Wurukzi or Urukzi; Manaey, through his son Farid or Afrid, of the Afridi; Lukman, alias Khatak, of the Khatak tribe; Khogaey of the Khogaey; and the sub-tribes of Jzadrarn, Mughbal, and Bahadurzi, from Mangalaey. Wardag and Honaey, the daughter’s sons, adopted by their grandfather, Karlanaey, were the progenitors of the Honi and Wardag tribes.

Kakaey, second son of Karlanaey, had two sons, 1. Suliman, and 2. Shitak. From Shitak sprung the sub-tribes known from dwelling in the Bannu territory, as Bannutsi. Suliman, son of Kakaey, had three sons: 1. Wazir; 2. Ba’i ; 3. Malik Mir. The descendants of Wazir are the Waziri; those of Ba’i, the Ba’izi; and those of Malik Mir the Malik-Miri or Miranzi. Malik Mir had a daughter named Kaghaz, but some called her Kakha’h or Kagha’h; and as her husband was of inferior rank to herself, a domestic of the family probably, her descendants, according to the invariable custom of the Pushtanah or Afghan people, were named after the mother, and not after the father, hence they are called Kaghazi or Kaghzi, or Kakhzi, or Kaghazi after her. The MalikMiri or Miranzi, and Kaghazi, inhabit Lower Bangash, of which Kohat is the chief place, and Darsamand of Miranzi.

I have thought it necessary to name all the Karlarni tribes and sub-tribes here, because ” blood ” is said to be “thicker than water,” and may possibly prove to be so in the present instance with these Afghan people, who are known to history as the “Akwam (plural of Kaum tribe) of Bangas’h.”



Wazir, the progenitor of the tribe, had two sons, Khizr or Khizraey, and Lalaey. The descendants of the latter son did not become so numerous as those of the former, and contain but two divisions, each of which consists of three clans or subdivisions. A feud having arisen between them and the descendants of Khizr, about a century ago, they separated from them, and subsequently took up their abode with their Karlarni kinsmen, the Khogiani, and along with them they still continue to dwell; but, in case their other kinsmen were engaged in a life and death struggle for independence, such as the present one is likely to be, they would, very probably, aid them. They are located around Gandamak — the place where the last sad scene of massacre was enacted in the disastrous retreat from Kabul in 1842 — on the northern slopes of Spin Ghar, or the Safed Koh range, and are said to number 5,000 families.

Khizr had three sons, 1. Musa, who was known as the Darwesh or Devotee ; 2.Mahmud; and 3.Mubarak. Musa had two sons : 1.Ahmad, and 2.Utman, who had three sons: 1.Mahmud, 2.Ibrahim, and 3.Walaey, who were the progenitors of the Mahmudzi, Ibrahimzi and Wali Khel. These again are subdivided into many branches. Ahmad, the eldest son of Musa, the Darwesh, is the progenitor of the Ahmadzi branch, which is, in consequence, accounted among them as the head or senior branch of the tribe. It contains two divisions, which are again subdivided into a number of clans or smaller sections. These descendants of Musa, the Darwesh, whom they all venerate as a saint, and whose tomb is at Nekzi, a village on the Tonchi river which flows through the dara’h or valley of Dawar, are known under the general designation of Darwesh Khel.

Mas’ud, son of Mahmud, son of Khizr, son of Wazir, had two sons, ‘Ali, and Bahlul, whose descendants form the Alizi and Bahlulzi divisions. These again are subdivided into a great number of clans; and the whole of Mas’ud’s descendants, who are very numerous, are known as the Mas’ud Waziris — not “Mahsud”: there is no such name among them — and may now almost be accounted a separate tribe.

Mubarak, the other son of Wazir, remaining to be noticed, had a son named Gurbuz, whose descendants, now numbering only about 1,500 families, have separated entirely from the rest of the Waziri tribe, and dwell in the elevated tract between the Shamal and Tonchi rivers, on the south-east boundary of the Khost district, about eight miles south of Segi, and east of Dawar, and immediately east of the Mughal M’la defile, on the road from Segi to Bannu, but adjoining the tract held by the Darwesh Khel branch. There the Gurbuz cultivate the available lands, for which, in former times, they paid a small sum annually to the Durrani government.

The following tree will show the descent of the main branches of the Waziri Afghans here mentioned:



The Darwesh Khel dwell together, and the Mas’uds live separate from them, but, in some places their territories adjoin, or lie contiguous to each other. The former dwell chiefly in the northern and western parts of their country, and are nearest to Kohat and Bannu in British territory, on one side, and to Khost, Dawar, and the dara’h or valley of the Shaey or Right-hand Gumul (river) on the other. The Mas’uds dwell in the southern and eastern parts, and are near Bannu, Tak, and the dara’h or valley of the Gumul river, but they nowhere actually touch our border. Thus the Utmanzi branch of the Darwesh Khel is located farthest northeast, the Gurbuz farthest north-west, the Ahmadzi in the extreme southwestern, and the Mas’uds in the south-eastern part of their possessions. Some few clans or sections of the Darwesh Khel became British subjects after the annexation of the Panjab territories in 1849, and took to agricultural pursuits: and others might in time, have followed their example, but for the present attempt to crush their independence in ” true Circassian style.” Those who became subject to our rule, or apparently so — for they could retire into their hills and fastnesses when they chose —  were responsible for the passes leading in and out of the tracts respectively occupied by them, and in advance of which, eastwards, in British territory, most of the lands they cultivated lay. Some of the Darwesh Khel, however, such as the Kabil Khel — not “Kabal” Khel — one of the four divisions of the Wali Khel, which is one of the three subdivisions of the Utmanzi, descended from Utman, son of Musa, the Darwesh, and the Mas’ud division of the Waziris, had been, until within the last fifteen or twenty years, a perpetual source of trouble since the annexation of the Panjab territories. Such disturbances however take place on all borders, and ever will; and what have often been called Waziri “outrages,” have merely been reprisals for outrages on them on the part of portions of tribes under our rule, only, ordinary Britishers will not see this.

The Waziris dwell in an extensive tract of very mountainous country —  about one hundred and twenty miles in length from north to south, and about eighty in breadth in its widest part — some of the strongest and most difficult in the Afghanistan, and, with few exceptions, as ilats or nomads. Their chief wealth consists of numerous flocks, and a vast number of cattle of different kinds. They pass their lives under their black tents chiefly, made from the hair of their goats, called Kijzda’i in Pushto, and cultivate the available patches of land known as Kats (not ” Kach” as we find in maps and official reports), lying along the banks of the various streams and watercourses which run through their country, and in the defiles with which it abounds. Of agriculture they are generally ignorant.

They carry on a little trade with our frontier districts, and bring down the surplus produce of their hills, and take back fabrics for making clothes, salt, and a few other necessaries, but the tribe is quite able to support itself on the produce of the country it inhabits. There is no level ground in it, so to say, the country consisting of some of the highest spurs, ridges, and offshoots, on either side of the great eastern range of Mihtar Suliman, Koh-i-Siyah, Ghar, or Shu-al, or Shu-al Ghar, as it is called hereabouts. Wherever a small area is found capable of being cultivated it is brought under tillage, and is called by a separate name, generally the name of the clan or division who cultivate it.

They have iron mines in their country, near Makin and Babar Ghar, which have been worked for ages. The name of Aor-Mar is connected with this fact, but the particulars need not be related here; and they make exceedingly good swords and knives. They entertain an inveterate hatred towards the people of Hindustan.

This great tribe, hitherto, has been wholly independent, and has had neither tax nor tribute to pay, with the single exception of the Gurbuz, and has rendered allegiance to no one. Being divided into a number of branches, moreover, they do not” acknowledge the authority of an hereditary, or of any single chief — which renders them less formidable than they otherwise might be — but have numerous head-men, who hold a little authority, and these are chosen with the consent of the division to which they belong; but when about to undertake a warlike expedition, a leader is elected, whom all implicitly obey. They are “Home Rulers” to the back bone, and consequently are entitled to the sympathy of the party now in power. Much less internal disagreement exists among the Waziris than among the generality of Afghan tribes (or Home Rulers generally), and the consequence is, that, being more united, they are much more powerful. It is very certain that they know their own strength, and are proud of it.

They held a much greater extent of territory at the time of the annexation of the Panjab territories than they had done during the previous fifty or sixty years. They had then gained a footing in Bannu itself; and the Ahmadzis held lands in Bannu long before the Sikhs appropriated it, and used to pitch their black blanket tents therein in winter. Their country now extends from around Tal (not “Thai” nor “Thull,” as in the maps) on the river of Kurma’h (vul. “Kurram “), in the Kohat district, and also in the thal, the arid, uncultivated tract of Bannu, known by that Hindi word, signifying dry, hard ground, and in which the Marwat Afghans dwell, the chief place of which is Laka’i. (There is a vast difference between the meaning of Pushto tal, and Hindi thal, for at Tal there is no want of water.) There is a tradition that this arid tract was once the bed of a vast lake.The Gambilah river flows through the middle of it.

The southern boundary of the Waziri country extends to the Gumul river, just before it enters the plain of the Dera’h-jat. Thus the country of the Waziris throughout its whole extent, consists of the main and subordinate parallel ranges, on the east and on the west, of the great eastern chain of Mihtar Suliman or Koh-i-Siyah, which is called, or rather is locally known as Shu-al, and Shu-al Ghar, and its spurs and cross ridges. These subordinate parallel ranges are much loftier on the eastern side of the main range than on the western, the country on that side being much more elevated. The south-eastern portion of this territory of the Waziris is that part of the great main eastern range of Mihtar Suliman, which, north of the Gumul, becomes somewhat disturbed, and bulges out considerably, so to say, to the westward, and meets other cross ranges from the north-west, and through its whole extent it is flanked on the east by the Koh-i-Surh, Sor Ghar, or Rata Roh. The Waziri country, east of Warnah and (vul. “Wano”) west of Tak, extends southwards to the banks of the Gumul river, but between the eastern boundary of the Waziris and Tak, a strip of hill country extends, part of the Koh-i-Surkh, Sor Ghar, or Rata Roh, about forty-five miles in length, and about eleven broad in its broadest part. It runs a little west of south to the Gumul, and in our maps is called the “Bhuttunnee Range,” and “Bittunee Hills,” because it is inhabited by part of the Afghan tribe of Baitni, and is properly known as the Baitni Hills. This tribe is very ancient, but insignificant in point of numbers, and used in former times, when I was on that frontier, to be styled the “jackals of the Waziris.” On the north-west of the Waziri country, the main range here throws off smaller parallel ridges, or waves, as they may be termed, which slope downwards towards the dara’h or valley of the Tonchl river, which separates the Mas’ud Waziri country from Warnah, the country of the Dotarni Lodis; and on the west, one of these parallel ranges, which is somewhat more elevated than the others on that side — for I am only attempting to describe the main features of the Waziri country  — bounds the Dara’h of Warnah on the west, and separates it from the dara’h or valley through which the S’haey or Right-hand Gumul flows from north to south. Between these subordinate ranges on either side of the main range are still smaller dara’hs formed by cross ranges, such as those of Shaka’i, Dab, Hinda’i, Shpeshta’h (which signifies a “wedge ” in Pushto), Badr, Sharanah, Kushto, etc., and some tracts of table land of no great extent, such as Sham and Razmak, Sherah-Tala’h, and others; and in these the Waziri tribe cultivate such land as is fit for tillage.

Some of the mountain tracts in the possession of this tribe are well wooded, and contain forests of pine of two or three descriptions, some of which is imported into the Dera’h-jat, as well as other forest trees, and some of lesser growth.

On the west the Waziri country touches that of the Suliman Khel and Kharoti Ghalzis; and there was a chance that, some day, they might come into contact with the first-named most numerous and most powerful of the Ghalzi Afghans, alone supposed to number over 100,000 families. It was on their account that the Waziris, powerful as they were, hesitated from extending farther westwards than Margha’h, in the upper part of the Tonchi Dara’h, into Farmul. Whether, in the present state of affairs, the Waziris may enter into closer relations with the Ghalzis, for mutual defence, remains to be seen.

Margha’h is rather less than nine miles from Kharoti, a place belonging to, and called after that tolerably powerful branch of the Ghalzi tribe, numbering about 5,000 families, and ten miles and a half from Urghun, in the district of Farmul. The direction from Urghun of these two places is about south-east inclining east, on the route from Ghaznih to the Bazar of Ahmad Khan, a mile and half from Bannu, and, in former times, its chief place. Margha’h lies on the north bank of the Tonchi river ; and about twenty-four miles farther eastwards is Malakh where the Dawar territory commences, inhabited by other Karlarni tribes. Three miles and a half north-eastwards of Malah is the Kalaey (village) of Ahmad Khan on the north bank of the Tonchi, and rather less than a mile east of that is Piran Shah, the name given to two or three villages of Pir-Zadahs, some descendants of Musa, the Darwesh, the progenitor of the Darwesh Khel division of the Waziris, and whom they venerated as their Spiritual Guide. These are on the south bank of the Tonchi, and one of them is named Khu’izi (Khubzi ?) and another Nekzi, and the tomb of the Pir is situated south of the last named place.

The northern boundary of the Waziri country is irregular. On one side the Waziris touch their kinsmen, the Jzadrarn branch of the Mangali Karlarnis, and, farther eastwards again, they are separated from Khost by the range of mountains dividing it from the dara’h of the Tonchi, and, still farther east lies Dawar before referred to. All their neighbours in that direction, it will be observed, are Karlarnis like themselves, without exception; indeed, all the Karlarnis adjoin each other. There are about 20,000 families in Dawar alone.

It must be remembered that the Waziris being pastoral and nomadic, and only visiting some places in the winter season, have few or no villages, but live scattered about, a few families together, and mostly in kijzdais or black tents made of the hair of their goats, and in mat or grass huts; but, in some places, among the Mas’ud Waziris chiefly, they have dwellings partly hollowed out of the steep hill-sides, which are roofed over, and some have two or three roofs or storeys, and this, imperfectly understood, has led some persons away with the idea that they live in caves!  Makin is their principal village, or rather, a cluster of small villages in the dara’h or valley of that name. This is their principal village or town, and the only one it maybe said; for Karni Gram (the “Kanigoram” “Kanigaram” etc., of the maps and of “Gazetteers”) although in one of the darah’s or valleys within their territory, and where they hold their jirga’hs, or tribal assemblies, it is, or was, a town belonging to the Aor-Mar tribe of Afghans, the descendants of that same Aor-Mar, one of whose sons, ‘Abd-ullah, adopted Karlanaey, from whom the Waziris are descended, as before recorded. It lies about ten miles S.S.W. of Makin, and about forty-three N.W. of Tak. The Aor-Mars are an ancient tribe of the Afghans, and once possessed the whole of the country round about, but were, in course of time, ousted from all else besides their Kani Gram, or “Stone Town,” as the words signify, by their Karlarni kinsmen, the Waziris. Two or three successive seasons of scarcity in recent years have led the few remaining Aor-Mars for the most part to abandon Karm Gram, and to take up their abode among the Wardags, with whom also they are by blood connected, as previously shown. The Wardags dwell in the dara’h or valley of S’hniz, situated between Kabul and Ghaznih. They inhabited the south-west corner of the toman or district of Bangash in Akbar Badshah’s reign, near the tract still held by their Jzadrarn kinsmen. The Wardags were then strong, and were assessed as liable to furnish 500 cavalry and 5,500 infantry for militia purposes. S’hniz was then held by Mughal people, the remainder of those mings, or hazarahs, or military colonies, which the Mughal rulers used to locate on their frontier districts, and the remainders of which mings still continue to dwell farther west.

The Dara’h of Warnah, which is of considerable elevation, slopes downwards towards the Dara’h of the Gumul river, and adjoins the southwest corner of the Waziri territory. It lies north of the Sherani Afghan territory. It was from the Gumul side of Warnah that the “delimitation process” was commenced upon the country of the Dotarni Lodi tribe, and it was on the Spin, in its southern part, that some of the Waziris, and others probably, indulged in what is dear to all Asians — a night attack upon their enemies — the delimitation force of 2,500 men of all arms — a force as numerous as General Sir C. J. Napier, C.c.b., had for the conquest of Sind — on the night, or early morning, of November 3d last. There was, however, another little army of the same strength not far off to support the first one if necessary.

Warnah is about thirty miles long from north to south, and about from ten to fourteen miles in breadth. A stream, known as the Spin, a feeder of the Gumul, runs through it from north towards the south, and unites with the main stream near Kot-ka’i, one of the halting places of the powandah caravans on the Ghwayi Lari route to Ghaznih.

This small tract of territory belongs to the Dotarnis, who are descended from the Mati branch of the Afghans, from an adopted son of Ibrahim — son of Shaikh Bait, or Baitnaey, the progenitor of the Baitni tribe — surnamed Lo-e-daey, from constant use abbreviated into Lodaey. It was the Lodi tribe which gave the only Patan Sultans to Hindustan, who were six in number. The great powandah or nomad merchant tribe, the Nuharni, now chiefly known as Luharni (vul. “Lohani” and “Lohanee,” etc.), the Niazis, Siarnis, and other Lodis dwelling around, therefore, are kinsmen of the Dotarnis. The latter are, for the most part, powandahs also, and deal in some of the richest and most expensive fabrics carried by those nomadic merchants, who, with two or three exceptions, are only portions of Afghan tribes, who follow mercantile pursuits. The Dotarni tribe is very small, not more than about two hundred families in all, but they hold their own, or did up to this period of time, in Warnah tenaciously.

The land therein is good, particularly that lying nearest the trie or stream, which can be irrigated therefrom, and which constitutes about a fourth of what is capable of cultivation. This tract is very sultry in summer, and from the tortures of a vast number of mosquitos but little rest is obtainable in any part of it.

The Dotarnis dwell in the central part of the dara’h, and there they have a walled village, formerly of some strength for those parts, which is sometimes called the kala’ or fort of Warnah, but, of course, it was nor a fort in a military point of view. About a third of this little tribe cultivate the lands around it, and the rest follow mercantile pursuits, as before mentioned, and only return at certain times of the year.

The other parts of the Warna’h Dara’h, north and east, are held by the Ahmadzi branch of the Darwesh Khel Waziris; and the Zali Khel clan or section of that branch, which are generally the assailants of powandah caravans, always dwell therein. It is probable that it was with these that the delimitation forces came in contact. The other Waziris only resort to Warna’h in the summer season with their flocks and cattle, as do likewise a few of the Daulat Khel powandahs, who being Nuharnis, are Lodis like the Dotarnis; and some of the Suliman Khel Ghalzi tribe also come into Warna’h. The annexation force may come into contact with them likewise, and possibly have an early morning visit from them.

Although so powerful, the Waziris have not dispossessed the Dotarnis, whom they appear to hold in considerable respect. Perhaps they have other good reasons for leaving them unmolested.

The Dotarnis made some considerable figure in India during the time of the Patan or Afghan rulers; and numbers of them are to be found there. At the beginning of this century many were to be found in the Dakhan, and southern India, in the Balari (vul. “Bellary “), Karappah (vul. “Cuddapah “), and adjoining districts of the Madras Presidency, as well as Baitnis, Dilazaks, Sheranis, Parnis, and other Afghan tribes, and there their descendants still continue to dwell.

The Jani Khel branch of the Wali Khel Utmanzi Waziris, who cultivate lands around the fortified post of that name, between the Khaserah and Kahuian passes, and near which some 6,000 Waziris are reported to be assembled, have, or had, nominees in our frontier militia, as well as other Waziris. The Jani Khel, and Malik Shahi-i Wali Khel, Utmanzi cultivate lands within the British border, while others only cross the border in the cold season. Such as do are responsible, along with the Jani Khel, for the Khaserah, Khasorah, Kushto or Shukto (vul. “Shakhdoo “) and Kahuian Passes, leading into Bannu. Some of them cultivate lands in front of the Passes 1n question, and the Wuruki or Wurki branch of the Jani Khel occupy the Khaserah Pass. If all the Waziris are not determined to fight for the general welfare of the tribe, they will not sacrifice these lands, but if they have made up their minds to fight, they will. Some restlessness exists among them as it is.

As we had entered into such a good understanding with the present Afghan government, we should have allowed time to soften down the asperities that have existed between us and the Patan or Afghan tribes, who, from the time of the first Afghan war, and since the annexation of the Panjab territories, and especially from our acts of late years in the search of a ” scientific frontier,” have all entertained the suspicion, and with good reason, as it has turned out, of our foregone intention of seizing their country, and interfering with their independence, notwithstanding all the statements to the contrary made in Parliament and at Banquets. If left alone, these independent border tribes, would, by degrees, have become obedient to their natural head — and would have been an invaluable source of strength to him — the ruler of the Afghan state, of which we pretend we are so very anxious to preserve the integrity, while at the very same time we are doing our utmost to disintegrate it! Or, the tribes might have become obedient to our rule, although there was the probability of their preferring, as is but natural, a Muhammadan government and ruler of the same blood and religion as themselves.

The Waziri tribe has always been tenacious and jealous of its independence as far as we are concerned, observing, doubtless, our neverceasing encroachments upon the possessions of others from the very first. How many expeditions have had to be undertaken against the Kabil Khel and Mas’ud Waziris alone, and at what cost of men and money! Yet we cry out against the Russians doing the same thing on the other side of the Afghan state, though we humbly submit to it. The treatment of the Sheranis, inoffensive cultivators, alluded to in my former paper, and the intention to annex the country, and destroy the independence, of the Waziris and the Dotarnis by main force, is just what the Russians did at Marw, and at Panj Dih and Badghais. The Waziris cannot solicit them to send a “Boundary Commission” to meet the ” Delimitation Commission”; so I suppose the Russians will help themselves to another slice of Afghan territory on the other side.

What is called the “forward policy,” whether as regards the Afghan state, or Baluchistan, or in Dardistan, and parts around, has been to crush the small independent states between ourselves and a big neighbour, and thus break down the barrier that nature and history had created for the defence and preservation of India proper, whilst the authors of it at home are knocking their own country into “Parish ” atoms.

The Waziris have been quieter for some years past than ever they were before since 1849; but, now that they have been roused, and another assemblage of the tribe is said to be posted on the Bannu side of their country, and “daring” to threaten it, we shall see how strong a force will be required at that point. Besides this, there are many more Waziris, and many more points that they can threaten. What will all this cost India in its present impoverished state? But what matter? Must not enterprising young ” Politicals,” and other officers be rewarded with C.S.I., and other decorations?

Now as to “the frontier tribes” who make such “admirable soldiers,” who “in many cases have shown a devoted attachment to the British officers with whom they have been associated.” A recent telegram (Nov. 20, 1894), runs as follows :—


“Fighting On The Afghan Frontier.”

“It is reported from Bombay on excellent authority that there is strong ground for the belief that the Waziris’ recent attack upon the British force at Wano, on the Afghan frontier, was led by deserters from the 20th Punjaub Infantry, and that an ex-havildar was actually engaged in the assault. A number of rifles and horses looted during the attack have been traced to men who had previously deserted from the Indian Army.”

There are a number of men of this tribe in the Indian army, and I fear we shall hear of many more desertions; but what else could we expect? Ever since the rebellion in the N.W. Provinces, called the Mutiny, whereby a civilian party government in England, dependent on every election wind, succeeded at last in getting the sole control of the finances of India, which it had so long coveted with greedy eyes, and over the territories and troops of the East India Company, the constant endeavour has been to tear down, tinker, and spoil everything built up by that Company, and to make the native troops as inefficient as possible, by taking away from them what they most required—their own European officers-—who knew their men, and whom their men knew, and turn the whole into ” Irregulars,” at the advice of some inexperienced official, who had “Irregulars ” on the brain. They have succeeded but too well; and they have at last, after working for thirty-six years, attained the acme of their desires, in just now putting the finishing touch to the breaking up of the armies of the three Presidencies.

Latterly it has been the fashion to enlist foreign mercenaries — we English have always been fond of such from the time of sending legions of Hessians to America to fight our battles — the plea being the difficulty of obtaining recruits. I know the time when for every one required, five or six suitable Indian recruits could at once have been got, but under the new order of things, and the never ceasing vexatious innovations, all this has been destroyed, and good natives will not enlist. The resource, therefore, is to enlist foreign mercenaries from among the Afghans—” the frontier tribes,” and other alien races, who, in an emergency, a case of reverse, or for any grievance real or imaginary, can, at any time, be ” over the border and awa’,” taking their arms with them. During the very last Afghan war, some of these foreign mercenaries did so. Who are likely to be faithful to us, such men, or our own subjects, whose fathers, grandfathers, and greatgrandfathers have served in our ranks, and whose families and homes are in our midst? Some will say, “that all this failed in the Mutiny.” This was not the case; some of the Native troops were spoiled by bad management, and the forcing upon the East India Company, too often, of old, worn-out, and sometimes nearly blind generals, and by undermining the authority of commanding officers of Regiments.

Rome was lost through the enlistment of, and dependence on, barbarian mercenaries, and the setting aside of the native people, who thereby lost their fighting qualities. Let not India be lost from the same causes.

English people are fond of enlarging upon their patriotism and love of freedom, and they suppose seemingly, that they alone possess these feelings but I think that, if they try to crush the freedom of these 500,000 Afghans, they will find them endowed with the very virtues that we claim as our monopoly, but then they are neither Bulgarians nor Armenians.

Unceasing lamentations are made on the killing of a couple of coal strikers, who excite thousands like themselves to destruction of life and property; Commissions of Inquiry sit thereon, and a great stir is made, but in case a few thousand Waziris should be killed by us, that is merely done to show our love for them, and that we have “not the slightest intention of interfering with the independence of these tribes,” “not to attempt any territorial aggression,” “nor attempt an extension of the frontier of India further than it is at present” (Sir John Gorst, Under Secretary of State for India, House of Commons, August, 1891).



” Waziris coming in for the winter near Bannu”, 1897. Antique Print .

From Hayat-i-Afghani (composed in 1867) ;


“A very important and characteristic phase of Waziri life is the annual march to and from the plains. Most of the clans of Utmanzai and Ahmadzai have the plains in April or May for the cooler latitudes of the Koh-i-Sulieman , of Shawal, Wana, Birmal etc, and at the beginning of the cold weather , that is in October or November , again descend to the foot of the mountains. Most of the clans that frequent the Bannu district have land both above and below. The toil of these annual migrations are far greater than can readily be imagined, and a very heavy share of the common burden falls upon the women. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman bearing on her back a skin (mashak) of water, and on her head her infant, while she also carries on her shoulder a javelin or short wooden spear. Thus burdened , she will contrive to drive before her a flock of sheep, and ever and anon give breast to her crying child. The men, laden with their arms, and also carrying bags filled with flour for the journey’s food, drive the flocks and herds. A Wazir lad of five or six years of age, barefooted on strong ground, bareheaded under a firm sun , may be seen in charge of a herd of camels, and if in his headlong rushes after the unruly beasts , a thorn runs into his foot , without a moment hesitation or cry of pain , he drags it out , and re-commences his toilsome efforts” [ Henry Priestly’s translation]



View from Piaza Raghza towards Pre Ghal (South Waziristan), 1919. Photo by R.B.Holmes


The mountain has often incorrectly been called Pir Gul or Pir Ghal. The correct name is Pre-Ghal. The Mahsuds say this name has nothing to do with the word “Ghal” , meaning in Pashto a thief. Pre-Ghal is a term denoting a very holy man , and they say that the tomb on the summit of the Pre-Ghal is that of a saintly Faqir who in very ancient times led a hermit’s life in the forests of the mountains. The shrine of Pre-Ghal is enclosed by rough wall of stones with the usual tall poles surmounted by little white flags ; attached to the shrine is a small square building for the shelter of the pilgrims. There is no custodian of the shrine, which is chiefly frequented by sinless men and barren women , as prayers offered there are said to be efficacious for the production of the offspring , especially male offspring. ( “Pre-Ghal in Waziristan”, by W. R. Hay, The Geographical Journal, Oct.1928)


Jirga between Mahsud tribesmen and British, Kanigurm, circa 1919. Photograph by R.B.Holmes




The Rising of the Waziris on the North-West Frontier, an Outpost at Dawn. Illustration for The Graphic, 8 December 1894







 Malik Ensal, a Waziri, 1868. From Watson and Kaye collection.



Mas’ud tribesmen, 1868. From Watson and Kaye collection.



A group of Mas’ud tribesmen, Kaniguram, 1919. Photo by R.B.Holmes



Jirga between Mahsud tribesmen and British, Kanigurm, circa 1919. Photograph by R.B.Holmes



Tribesmen leaving a jirga at Kaniguram, Waziristan, c.1921. Photograph by R.B.Holmes



Exit of the Shahur Tangi, South Waziristan, 1919. Photo by R.B.Holmes




Darwesh Khel Waziris. From “Across the Border, or Pathan and Biloch, by Edward Emmerson Oliver, 1890”.




A Wazir tribesman , c.1827-1843. By Imam Baksh Lahori.




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