Waziristan: Through the Annals of History
Islam was reached here in the middle half of the first century. The inscription (Kuthba) in Arabic and Sanskrit language of 100 A.H was found in a piquet of a house in village darpakhel. Its Arabic script was in Kufi language which is still present in Lahore museum. Its translation was done by Prof. M. Shafi of Oriental College Lahore.
In the valley of North Waziristan, Sheratalla, there was a military camp of the brother of Hazrat Majasha Abdullah bin Mashoud,.that has been found in a place Karishandi which was his capital. In the valley of Boya (upper Dawar), on the north east side of the Hospital, on the top of the hills, there are the memorials of that era of infidels (Kafirs) against whom the Muslims mujahideens along with the chieftains of martyres, Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain had fought battles. Salateen.- Al- Boya (The rulers of Boya) who were called as Delmi, springed from this valley and had captured Baghdad.
Sulaiman Barmaki had ruled Razmak in 154 A .D, whose son was captured by Abasids and was carried to Baghdad where he was killed. Yahya Barmaki had traced to him.
Two other inscriptions were found in North Waziristan Agency and are at present placed in Peshawar museum. The inscriptions are bilingual, one is in Arabic and Sanskrit scripts dated 234A.H (857 AD), recording the construction of tank, the other is in Arabic and Bactarian scripts dated 635, Becterian are i.e. (565A.D).
The second inscription is the Arabic-Bactrine has not so far been properly edited. From the translation of the Arabic text of the first inscription, it may be safely concluded that the tochi area of Waziristan was under the overall control of an Arab officer, Hayy bin Amar. His ordering such a humanitarian work as the construction of tank for Waziristan was so firmly established that it must have had its beginning at least 200 years earlier, when Al Muhallah led his armies into Bannu and Lahore (Near Hund).
The Coming out of Sanskrit and Arabic inscriptions in the tochi valley in 243 A.D, long before the era of Mohmud of Ghazni, shows that the Muslims were prevailed over the whole of this area. Besides Arabic, the Sanskrit advocates that before Islam, it was a language of the people of this area and all of them were of Hindu religion and up till 243 A.D, a large number of people were non Muslims and Sanskrit was the most influential language of the area.
Prince Bahadur Shah (Son of Aurangzeb) on his conquest of Bannu made Syed Hassan as the governor of Dawar tribe in 1696 and imposed upon the tribes an annual tribute of Rs. 12,000. For some time the new governor continued his governorship, but with difficulties. When the Mughal Administration fell into disorder, the Dawars shook off the imperial yoke.
Prince Bahadur Shah made Isalat Khan the governor of Bannu. When the prince went away from Bannu, the Bannuchis, Dawars and Marwats revolted against Isalat Khan and he was besieged in the fort along with his soldiers. Isalat Khan fought for some days but finally he was subjugated and sent away to Mianwali with escort. The news of defeat reached to Bahadur Shah at Jalal Abad in 1699. The prince sent message to Isalat Khan to wait for his help at Dara Tangey (Mainwali).
Bahadur Shah sent a royal decree to Mir Ibrahim and Hazir Khan, Fauijdar of Bangash tribe, to help Isalat Khan. When they reached to Boland Khel (Thal), a message came from Syed Hassan (Governor of Dawar tribe) that he was also besieged and that they should come with great care. The Kurram route was blocked by Kabul Khel Wazirs from Boland Khel to the shrine of Khwaja Abdullah Baba. The army was dispersed and could not reach Bannu. The news reached Bahadur Shah at Kabul and he ordered the army commanders to do according to the best of their abilities in suppressing the revolt and that he would supply the commodities.
Next year, Bahadur Shah went to Kohat from Peshawar and passed the summer season at Zeran (Koh-e-Sufed). There he made a plan to attack Bannu and to construct a road from Zeran to Gandamak.
These objectives were not achieved by Bahadur Shah. He sent an army from Boland Khel to Bannu to crush the revolt. They were on their way to Bannu when Kabul Khel Wazirs attacked them and the army was routed. The commander of the army called the Wazir Maliks for reconciliation. The outcome was not good and all the Maliks were put to sword. It made the Wazirs very ferious and in reaction they attacked the army at Boland Khel and crushed it bitterly. The royal commander ran away to Dara Samand (Hangu). When Bahadur Shah was informed about the incident, he pulled out the army to Kabul.
In the autumn of 1701-02, Prince Bahadur Shah set out on the Khost route for Dawars and after entering it, found the route blocked by the Wazirs, Dawars, and other Pushtoons. He could not get on, but it was an effective arrangement of Mohammad Nasir Khan (Army Commander) that Bahadur Shah succeeded in reaching Bannu with his forces. Subsequently, after having passed the winter in Bannu, the Prince set out for Kabul. On reaching the Hassan Tangi, all the Pushtoon tribes of that area, the Wazirs, Dawars and Khostwal came out and occupied the pass to block his way. He sent troops in advance who attacked them but the Pukstoon tribes repulsed them with considerable losses and there was much fear lest the whole force would be destroyed. The Prince was obliged to treat the Pustoons well and after giving much gold to them, they left the passage clear. But he reached Kabul and lost all equipments.
Olaf Careao tells us in his book ‘The Pathan’ that both Mughuls and Durranis committed forces to dominate them but no empire of which we have any record had ever succeeded in subjugating the tribes of Waziristan.
On the emergence of Ahmad Shah Abdali as a sovereign, General Sardar Khan (the army commander of Ahmad Shah Abdali) came to Bannu from Afghanistan via Tochi. Eventually this area fell nominally under Durrani rule, but it remained virtually independent till 1893, when under a treaty with the Amir of Afghanistan, they became the subjects of the British.
Nadir Shah subdued the tribes so much, that it continued to pay Rs. 12000 revenue annually to the Kabul authorities up to the time of Zaman Shah (Durrani). No Kabul official was, indeed, appointed there but after every year or two an officer of the King used to come with detachment of troops and on the pretext of levying the revenue of Rs. 12,000, took whatever he could lay hands upon. This claim of tribute was remitted by Shah Zaman on the insistence of a holy Sayed to whose descendants the grateful Dawar now annually make a present of some portion of their produce, and from that time they have been exempted from all tribute.
Ahmad Shah Abdali himself visited Bannu twice, once in 1749 and then in 1753. Ahmad Shah Abdali turned out to be a man of good fortune. The people remember him with lovely names. He is also called “Abdali Baba”.
In 1760 Ahmad Shah Baba conducted the census of wazirs, Mahsuds, Dawars and Bhittanis. According to that census the number of Wazirs was 60000, Dawars, Bhittanis 12000 each and Mahsud 18000.
Timur Shah Durrani came down en-route from Bannu to Delhi turning on to punish some tribes in Tochi who had looted a convoy.
Ahmad Shah Baba died in1773 and the Sikhs once again started their expeditions. For the first time they entered into Bannu in 1819 under the command of Mahraja Ranjeet Singh. They maintained their hold till 1846. During this period the Wazir fought side by side along the Bannuchis, Marwats and Isa Khels against the Sikhs.
In 1842, Isa Khels Niazi Pathans rose against the Sikhs and attacked the police station. The Sikhs attacked Isa Khels under the command of Sardar Saucheet Singh. After severe fighting, Nawab of Mankerey named Ahmad Khan along with his friends took refuge in Waziristan.
In 1843, Ghazi Dalasa Khan, rose against the Sikhs and started attacks on them. He also sought help from the people of Waziristan, when Dalasa Khan became weak against Karak Singh and Sardar Fateh. The Sikhs became angry and decided to attack Waziristan, especially Haider Khel, Mullagan and Ipi villages. They sent army under the command of Dewan Tara Chand but on the way they were attacked and thus the Sikhs fled to Bannu after considerable losses.
The Dawars continued their attacks on Sikhs cantonments, camps and convoys under the leadership of Ghazi Dalasa Khan. In 1844, a big army of Sikhs under the command of Ram Singh marched towards Tochi. When the army reached village Tapi, Dawars attacked them. The Sikhs were defeated and the tribes got a huge booty. After this defeat the Sikhs not only withdrew their forces from Tochi, but soon after some years left Bannu.
After the downfall of Mughals and Durrani empires, the Sikhs, who followed them, could extend their sway only up to Tank in the Derajat. Their short rule was confined to sporadic forays on the western fringes of Derajat, and as for as they dared, they went Waziristan. They were barely able to extract some tribute from the clans on the fringes.
In 1846, the Sikhs signed an agreement with the British in Lahore. Under this agreement the British officers, General Cortland and Maj. Edward were appointed in the Sikh administration of Bannu by the British.
When Maj. Edward strengthened his position in Bannu, then he stretches his hands to Tochi valley. For the collection of information from Dawar territory, he kept the Sikhs and Hindu monks as spies. In 1847, Maj. Edward had collected all information about their villages, ammunition, Maliks, and their population as well.
For the British Government, Waziristan was a “running sore” since their annexation of the Punjab in 1849. From the very beginning the policy of the Indian Government was of non-interference with the tribes. The Government of India had an understanding with the Amir of Kabul that the “various Wazir and Mahsud tribes should look to Simla [winter capital of India] and not to Kabul [capital of Afghanistan] for their political guidance.”
British Operations in Waziristan
Because of their superior firepower and later on the air power, “the British penetrated their every valley many times and established roads and forts in all directions; but none of these disarmed the inhabitants, or administered the country, or succeeded in imposing taxation.” In 1860, the Mahsud country was first penetrated by a British military column in retaliation for their attack on Tank by a 3000 strong lashkar. Again, in 1894/95, the British penetrated their country in retaliation of night attack by 2000 Mahsuds on the Wana camp.
By 1899, these militia forces were 3000 men strong and “officered by British military officers, equipped and maintained after a regular military pattern.” In addition the “Frontier Constabulary was raised with a strength of 2000 local men but officered by British Police officers. These forces were supported by regular armed forces stationed at Bannu and D.I.Khan.
During the 20th century the tribal resentment against the British occupation resulted in recurrent uprisings: e.g., Wazirs in 1919; Mahsuds in 1925; Wazirs, Mohmands and Afridis in 1930-31; Mohmands in 1933 and Tori Khels (Wazir) in 1936-37. The British also responded with several operations in Waziristan of which two are of great significance, one during 1919-20 immediately after the First World War and second during 1936-37 shortly before the Second World War.
Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919) and British Operations in Waziristan (1919-20).
Lord Curzon, Governor-General of India (1899-1905) could not succeed in pacifying the tribes and continued to face difficulties in the tribal areas. The British were relieved of the fear of advance of Russia towards India when the ‘Great-Game’ ended by the signing of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 recognizing Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf as part of British sphere of influence.
The First World War (1914-18) finally altered the situation. The British were obliged to maintain military pickets and posts at important points, the regular troops were given the duties of militia for policing the tribal areas. At the same time attempts were made to open up the tribal area by building roads and opening schools. There was, therefore, restlessness in the tribes.
In April 1919, Amir Amanullah, the ruler of Afghanistan, under the pressure of anti-British sentiments of his own people decided to fight a war with the British but the use of “aeroplanes, wireless and high explosives” enabled the British Indian Army to defeat the Afghan army and a peace treaty was concluded. During the war the British forces had occupied the tribal country, which continued till the British left in 1947, but Wazir-Mahsud insurgency persisted between the two World Wars.
In 1919, on the outbreak of Third Anglo-Afghan War, the British officers withdrew from Wana and other posts. The local elements deserted and turned against the British officers. “Following the virtual collapse of these forces, Wazir and Mahsud raiding parties went so far to invade the border districts of Derajat and Zhob, and even penetrated in the Punjab.” This led to a full-fledged military campaign resulting in a military occupation in a great part of Waziristan. In August 1920, the Viceroy of India stated:
As the result of hard fighting we have occupied a central and dominating position in Waziristan [hardly substantiated by subsequent events] … For many years … we followed the policy of non-interference with its inhabitants. … We hoped that if we left them alone, they would leave us alone. This hope, has, I regret to say, proved fallacious, and the time has now come when we can no longer shut our eyes to the fact. We have had a campaign, more or less important, against Waziristan on an average every four years. Since 1852 we have had seventeen of these military operations, and since 1911 we have had four, including that just concluded.
The war of 1919-20 in Waziristan was different from nineteeth century operations. It was a twentieth century warfare in which latest weapons of the Great War (1914-18) such as mountain howitzers and aeroplanes were used. It will be interesting to read the comments of the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army in his official dispatch of 1 August 1920 referring to the operations as
…of unparalleled hard fighting and severity. The enemy fought with a determination and courage which has rarely, if ever, been met with by our troops in similar operations. The character of the terrain, combined with trying and arduous climatic conditions, alone presented difficulties before which the most hardened troops might well have hesitated.
Thereafter the British faced constant trouble with the tribes such as in 1930, 1933 and again from 1937 to 1940. The tribes would not spare the Government of Afghanistan either. In 1933, during the reign of Nadir Shah, the King of Afghanistan, a strong lashkar of both Wazir and Mahsud tribes crossed the Durand Line and invaded Matun in Khost province of Afghanistan. The British Government of India had taken air action against them to break up the lashkar.
British Policy Options and Modified Forward Policy.
After the operation of 1919-20, the British Government considered following policy options:
- Withdrawal of troops from areas west of River Indus and peaceful penetration by giving responsibility to the tribes for maintenance of law and order.
- The ‘close border’ policy that would content itself with the establishment of a strong military and police cordon, following the junction of the foothills and of the plain.
- The “forward” policy that advocates a sufficiently firm occupation of the mountainous country as far west as the Durand Line, with a view to securing thereby the tranquility of the lowlands of the Indus Valley.
- Finally, complete occupation of the territory “was formally accepted by the Government of India as a part of a fixed policy declared in September 1922.”
Modified Forward Policy
The policy adopted by the Government after 1919-20 Waziristan campaign was called “Modified Forward Policy.” It required to build roads, maintain about 4600 khassadars and 5000 troops at Wana and Razmak. The khassadars were mainly local tribesmen. They were required to perform watch and ward duties.
They patrolled and picketed roads, furnished escorts and intercepted raiders. They fed, clothed, housed and armed themselves on a monthly Government salary, which in 1922 amounted to between Rs. 20 and 30. As Denys Bray, the Secretary to the Foreign Department, maintained, this was ‘a forward policy in a very real sense of the word’.
British Operations (1936-37)
Again, during 1936-37, there was intense uprising and fighting in the Waziristan belt. The disturbances began with the conviction of a Muslim by the court for kidnapping a Hindu girl. The Faqir of Ipi (a place in the Tochi valley) of Tori Khel tribe, which was one of the sections of Utmanzai Wazirs of North Waziristan, led the revolt. He alleged that the girl was converted to Islam “accusing the government of interference with religion”. Both the Wazirs and Mahsuds supported his cause. The tribes raided British administered areas about 29 times, in which 31 persons were kidnapped.
According to official figures approximately 32,000 regular troops and 5000 irregulars (Tochi and South Waziristan Scouts) took part in the battle. The estimated number of casualties amongst tribes cannot be ascertained. The Indian air action against villages could and did destroy the houses of the affected tribes as a “penalty for specific outrages”. The number of casualties sustained by British Indian army during six months was officially given as 163 killed and 440 wounded.
All British efforts to apply the Sandeman system in Waziristan failed
To pacify Wazirs and Mahsuds, money was being freely doled out either as “tribal allowances” or military pay or wages for the work done for construction of roads etc. or for goods sold and services rendered to the regular troops. “Still the wild population remained untamed” but the intensity of raids by Wazirs and Mahsuds was reduced from four hundred to two hundred per year. The intensity of raids can be visualized by tribal raids across the Waziristan border in only two adjacent districts, i.e. Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan. The records in the India Office Library and Records are silent after 1942, perhaps due to heavy involvement of the British in the war up to 1945 and thereafter in transfer of power in the subcontinent.
It would be no exaggeration to say that the revolts in Waziristan between the World Wars, and their suppression were the most important military events to take place within the Indian Empire between the First War of Independence  and World War II [1939-45].” Lastly, the rising of Faqir of Ipi was the last major revolt in the region before British left in 1947. In short, the British attempt to pacify Waziristan resulted in…several major incursions into tribal territory during the hundred years of British presence in north-west India. On each occasion the tribes and the mountains won a strategic victory, despite local tactical reverses, and the bulk of the Indian Army’s troops were forced to withdraw back on the plains of the Indus Valley. Periodically, the British forgot that you can annex land but not people.