History of North-West Frontier Province

History of North-West Frontier Province

The North-West Frontier Province is a province of Pakistan. It lies in a region where the Indian Subcontinent meets Central Asia and Afghanistan. [ [http://nwfp.gov.pk/AIS-page.php?DistId=1&DeptId=1&LanId=1&pageName=NWFP-History History of NWPF] ]

Ancient history

The key to the history of the North-West Frontier Province lies in the recognition of the fact that the valley of Peshawar was always more closely connected politically with Eastern Iran (the ancient Ariana and modern Afghanistan) than with India, though in pre-Islamic times its population was mainly Indian by race. Early history finds the Iranians dominating the whole Indus valley. At some date later than 516 BC Darius Hystaspes sent Scylax, a Greek seaman of Karyanda, to explore the course of the river, and subsequently subdued the races dwelling west of the Indus and north of Kabul. [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_154.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 148.] ]

Gandhara, the modern District of Peshawar, was incorporated in a Persian satrapy; and the Assakenoi, with the tribes farther north on the Indus, formed a special satrapy, that of the Indians. Both satrapies sent troops for Xerxes' invasion of Greece. In the spring of 327 BC Alexander the Great crossed the Indian Caucasus (Hindu Kush) and advanced to Nicaea, where he was joined by Omphis, king of Taxila, and other chiefs. Thence lie dispatched part of his force through the valley of the Kabul river, while he himself advanced into Bajaur and Swat with his light troops.

Craterus was ordered to fortify and repeople Arigaion, probably in Bajaur, which its inhabitants had burnt and deserted. Having defeated the Aspasians, from whom he took 40,000 prisoners and 230,000 oxen, Alexander crossed the Gouraios (Panjkora) and entered the territory of the Assakenoi and laid siege to Massaga, which he took by storm. Ora and Bazira (possibly Bazar) soon fell. The people of Bazira fled to the rock Aornos, but Alexander made Embolima (possibly Amb) his basis, and thence attacked the rock, which was captured after a desperate resistance. Meanwhile, Peukelaotis (in Hashtnagar, 17 miles north-west of Peshawar) had submitted, and Nicanor, a Macedonian, was appointedsatrap of the country west of the Indus. [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_155.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 149.] ]

Alexander then crossed that river at Ohind or, according to some writers, lower down near Attock. Nicanor was succeeded as satrap by Philippus, who was, however, assassinated by his Greek mercenaries soon after Alexander left India, and Eudamos and Taxiles were then entrusted with the country west of the Indus. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C. Porus obtained possession of the Lower Indus valley, but was treacherously murdered by Eudamos in 317. Eudamos then left India; and with his departure the Macedonian power collapsed, and Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, made himself master of the province. His grandson Asoka made Buddhism the dominant religion in Gandhara and in Pakhli, the modern Hazara, as the rock-inscriptions at Shahbazgarhi and Mansehra show.

After Asoka's death the Mauryan empire fell to pieces, just as in the west the Seleucid power was waning. The Greek princes of Bactria seized the opportunity for declaring their independence, and Demetrius conquered part of Northern India (c. 190 B. c.). His absence led to a revolt by Eucratides, who seized on Bactria proper and finally defeated Demetrius in his eastern possessions. Eucratides was, however, murdered (c. 156 B.C.), and the country became subject to a number of petty rulers, of whom little is known but the names laboriously gathered from their coins. The Bactrian dynasty was attacked from the west by the Parthians and from the north (about139 B.c.) by the Sakas, a Central Asian tribe. Local Greek rulers still exercised a feeble and precarious power along the borderland, but the last vestige of Greek dominion was extinguished by the Yueh-chi.

This race of nomads had driven the Sakas before them from the highlands of Central Asia, and were themselves forced southwards by the Hiung-nu. One section, known as the Kushan, took the lead, and its chief Kadphises I seized vast territories extending south to the Kabul valley. His son Kadphises II conquered North-Western India, which he governed through his generals. His immediate successorswere the kings Kanishka, Huvishka, and Vasushka or Vasudeva, of whom the first reigned over a territory which extended as far east as Benares and as far south as Malwa, comprising also Bactria and the Kabul valley. [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_156.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 150.] ]

Their dates are still a matter of dispute, but it is beyond question that they reigned early in the Christian era. To this period may be ascribed the fine statues and bas-reliefs found in Gandhara (Peshawar) and Udyana (Buner). Under Huvishka's successor, Vasushka, the dominions of the Kushankings shrank to the Indus valley and the modern Afghanistan; and their dynasty was supplanted by Ki-to-lo, the chief of a Yueh-chi tribe which had remained in Bactria, but was forced to move to the south of the Hindu Kush by the invasion of the Yuan Yuan. The subjects of Ki-to-lo's successors who ruled in the valley of Peshawar are known to the Chinese annalists as the Little Yueh-chi. Their rule, however, did not endure, for they were subdued by the Ephthalites (Ye-ta-i-li-to or Ye-tha), who established a vast empire from Chinese Turkistan toPersia, including the Kabul valley. Known to the Byzantines as the White Huns, they waged war against the Sassanid dynasty of Persia.

Modern history

Under Toramana and Mihirakula they held Northern India, ruling at Sagala, which may be Sialkot in the Punjab. Mihirakula penetrated far into India, but about 528 was defeated by a confederacy of Indian princes under Yasodharman, and was driven back to the Punjab and Indus valley. There were two distinct streams of Muslim invasion towards India. The earlier had resulted in the conquest of Khorasan ; but, though Kabul had been assailed as early as 655 and made tributary in 683, it regained its independence before 700, and the stream of invasion was deflected towards Multan and Sindh. Ghazni was only taken in 870; and in 902 we find the Kashmir forces deposing the rebellious ruler of Udabhandapura (Ohind) and giving his kingdom toToramana, son of Lalliya, with the title of Komaluka-the Kamalu of Muslim historians.

In 974 Pirin, the slave-governor of Ghazni, repulsed a force sent from India to seize that stronghold ;and in 977 Sabuktagin, his successor, became virtually independent and founded the dynasty of the Ghaznivids. In 986 he raided the Indian frontier, and in 988 defeated Jaipal with his allies at Laghman, and soon after possessed himself of the country up to the Indus, placing a governor of his own at Peshawar. Mahmud, Sabuktagin's son, having secured the throne of Ghazni, again defeated Jaipal in his first raid into India (1001), and in a second expedition defeated Anandpal (1006), both near Peshawar. He also (1024 and 1025) raided the Afghans, a name that now appears for the first time as that of a people living in the hills between Ghazni and the Sulaiman range. The present territories of the North-West Frontier Province, excluding Hazara, thus formed part of the Ghaznivid empire.

In 1179 Muhammad of Ghor took Peshawar, capturing Lahore from Khusru Malik two years later. After Muhammad was assassinated (1206), his able general, Taj-ud-din Yalduz, established himself at Ghazni, the Kurram valley being his real stronghold, until he was driven into Hindustan by the Khwarizmis (1215). The latter were in turn overwhelmed by the Mongols in 1221, when Jalal-ud-din Khwarizmi, defeated on the Indus by Chingiz Khan, retreated into the Sind- Sagar Doab, leaving Peshawar and other provinces to be ravaged by the Mongols. Yet in 1224 we find Jalal-ud-din able to appoint Saif-ud-din Hasan, the Karlugh, in charge of Ghazni. To this territory Saif-ud-din added Karman (Kurram) and Banian (Bannu), and eventually became independent (1236). [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_157.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 151.] ]

In the same year Altamsh set out on an expedition against Banian, but was compelled by illness to return to Delhi. After his death Saif-ud-din attacked Multan, only to be repulsed by the feudatory of Uch, and three years later (1239) the Mongols drove him out of Ghazni and Kurram, but he still held Banian. In his third attempt to take Multan, he was, however, killed (1249), whereupon his son Nasir-ud-din Muhammad became a feudatory of the Mongols, retaining Banian. Eleven years later (r26o) we find him endeavouring to effect an alliance between his daughter and a son of Ghiyas-ud-din Balban, and to reconcile the Mongol sovereign with the court of Delhi. By this time the Karlughs had established themselves in the hills.

In 1398 Timur set out from Samarkand to invade India. After subduing Kator, now Chitral, he made his devastating inroad into the Punjab, returning via Bannu in March, 1399. His expedition established a Mongol overlordship in the province, and he is saidto have confirmed his Karlugh regent in the possession of Hazara. The descendants of Timur held the province as a dependency of Kandahar, and Shaikh Ali Beg, governor of Kabul under Shah Rukh, made his power felt even in the Punjab. But with the decay of the Timurid dynasty their hold on the province relaxed.

Meanwhile the Afghans were rising to power. Implacably hostile to the Mongols, they now appear as a political factor. At the close of the fourteenth century they were firmly established in their present seats south of Kohat, and in 1451 Bahlol Lodi's accession to the throne of Delhi gave them a dominant position in Northern India. Somewhat later Babar's uncle, Mirza Ulugh Beg of Kabul, expelled the Khashi (Khakhai) Afghans from his kingdom, and compelled them to move eastwards into Peshawar, Swat, and Bajaur. After Babar had seized Kabul he made his first raid into India in 1505, marching down the Khyber, through Kohat, Bannu, Isa Khel, and the Derajat, returning by the Sakhi Sarwar pass. About 1518 he invaded Bajaur and Swat, but was recalled by an attack on Badakhshan.

Mughal era

In 1519 Babar's aid was invoked by the Gigianis against the Umr Khel Dilazaks (both Afghan tribes), and his victory at Panipat in 1526 gave him control of the province. On his death in 1530 Mirza Kamran became a feudatory of Kabul. By his aid the Ghwaria Khel Afghans overthrew the Dilazaks who were loyal to Humayun, and thus obtained control over Peshawar; but about 1550 Khan Kaju, at the head of a great confederation of Khashi Afghan tribes, defeated the Ghwaria Khel at Shaikh Tapur. Humayun, however, had now overthrown Kamran, and in 1552 he entered Peshawar, which he garrisoned strongly, so that Khan Kaju laid siege to it in vain. Nevertheless the Mughal hold on these territories was weak and often precarious. [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_158.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 152.] ]

On Humayun's death in 1556 Kabul became the apanage of Mirza Muhammad Hakim, Akbar's brother; and in 1564 he was driven back on Peshawar by the ruler of Badakhshan, and had to be reinstated by imperial troops. Driven out of Kabul again two years later, he showed his ingratitude by invading the Punjab; but eventually Akbar forgave him, visited Kabul, and restored his authority. When Mirza Hakim died (1585), Akbar's Rajput general, Kunwar Man Singh, occupied Peshawar and Kabul, where the imperial rule was re-established, Man Singh becoming governor of the province of Kabul. In 1586, however, the Mohmands and others revolted under Jalala, the Roshania heretic, and invested Peshawar.

Man Singh, turning to attack them, found the Khyber closed and was repulsed, but subsequently joined Akbar's forces. Meanwhile, the Yusufzai and Mandaur Afghans had also fallen under the spell of the Roshania heresy; and about 1587 Zain Khan, Kokaltash, was dispatched into Swat and Bajaur to suppress them. The expedition resulted in the disastrous defeat of the Mughals, Birbal, Akbar's favourite, being killed. In 1592 the Afghans invested Peshawar, but Zain Khan relieved the fortress, and in 1593 overran Tirah, Swat, and Bajaur. The Roshanias, however, were still far from subdued. Tirah was their great stronghold, and about 1620 a large Mughal force met with a severe defeat in attempting to enter that country by the Sampagha pass.

Six years later Ihdad, the Roshania leader, was killed ; but Jahangir's death in 1627 was the signal for a general Afghan revolt, and the Roshanias laid siege to Peshawar in 1630, but distrusting their Afghan allies retreated to Tirah. Mughal authority was thus restored, and Tirah was invaded and pacified by the imperial troops in an arduous campaign. Shah Jahan, however, attempted to govern the Afghans despotically and caused great discontent. Nevertheless Raja Jagat Singh held Kohat and Kurram, and thus kept open the communications with Kabul. In 1660 Tirah had to be pacified again; and in 1667 the Yusufzai and Mandaur Afghans were strong enough to cross the Indus, and were only defeated near Attock.

In 1672 Muhammad Amin Khan, Subahdar of Kabul, attempted to force the Khyber, and lost his whole army, 40,000 men, with baggage and materiel. Other disasters followed. At Gandab in 1673 the Afridis defeated a second Mughal army, and in 1674 they defeated a third force at Khapash and drove it into Bajaur. These reverses brought Aurangzeb in person to Hasan Abdal, whence he dispatched a force to Kohat, while a second army forced the Khyber. [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_159.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 153.] ]

Aurangzeb appears to have adopted a conciliatory policy towards the Afghans, some of whom now received fiefs from the emperor. This policy and their internal dissensions kept the country in a state of anarchy, but prevented any concerted Afghan rising against the Mughals. Nevertheless the Afghans overran the Pakhli district of Hazara early in the eighteenth century and the Mughal power rapidly declined, until in 1738 Nadir Shah defeated Nazir Shah, the Mughal governor of Kabul, but allowed him as feudatory to retain that province, which included Peshawar and Ghazni.

Of Nadir Shah's successors, Ahmad Shah Durrani indeed established something more nearly approachinga settled government in the Peshawar valley than had been known for years, but with the advent of Timur Shah anarchy returned once more. On the death of Timur Shah his throne was contested with varying fortunes by his sons, whose dissensions gave ample opportunity to the local chieftains throughout the province of establishing complete independence. Peshawar ultimately fell to the Barakzai family; Dera Ismail Khan to the Sadozais.

ikh era

The Sikh invasions began in 1818, and from that date to the annexation by the British the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh were steadily making themselves masters of the country. In 1818 Dera Ismail Khan surrendered to a Sikh army, and five years later the Sikhsharried the Marwat plain of Bannu. In 1836 all authority was taken from the Nawabs of Dera Ismail Khan and a Sikh Kardar appointed in their place. But it was not till after the first Sikh War that the fort of Bannu was built and the Bannuchis brought under the direct control of the Lahore Darbar by Herbert Edwardes.

In 1834, two years after the great Sikh victory over the Afghans at Naushahra, the famous general Hari Singh took possession of Peshawar fort, and at the same time Kohat and Teri were temporarily occupied by Sikh garrisons. These, however, were speedily withdrawn; and the death of Hari Singh in battle with the Afghans near Jamrud in 1837 brought home to Ranjit Singh, now nearing the close of his career, the difficulty of administering his frontier acquisitions. On his death the Sikh policy was changed. Turbulent and exposed tracts, like Hashtnagar and Miranzai, were made over in jagir to the local chieftains, who enjoyed an almost complete independence, and a vigorous administration was attempted only in the more easily controlled areas. Of the Sikh governors, the best remembered is General Avitabile, who wasin charge of Peshawar District from 1838 to 1842.

British era

Following the treaties of Lahore and [Treaty of Amritsar|Amritsar] - the British annexed the frontier territory after the proclamation of 29 March 1849. For a short time the Districts of Peshawar, Kohat, and Hazara were under the direct control of the Board of Administration at Lahore, but about 1850 they were formed into a regular Division under a Commissioner. Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu, under one Deputy-Commissioner, formed part of the Leiah Division till 1861, when two Deputy-Commissioners were appointed and both Districts were included in the Derajat Division, an arrangement which was maintained until the formation of the North-West Frontier Province. [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_160.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 154.] ]

The internal administration differed in no way from the rest of the Punjab. But to maintain the peace of the border a special force-the Punjab Frontier Force-was raised under the direct orders of the Board. It consisted at first of 5 regiments of cavalry, the corps of Guides, 5 regiments of infantry, 3 light field batteries, 2 garrison batteries, 2 companies of sappers and miners, and the Sind camel corps. Various changes were made in the composition of the force, which at length, in 1886, was removed from the control of the Punjab Government and amalgamated with the regular army.

The attitude of the people during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 is the highest tribute that can be paid to the success of the internal administration. In the history of the frontier the interest of that period of stress centred at Peshawar. The Hindustani regiments at Dera Ismail Khan and Kohat were disarmed without difficulty, and troops and levies were hurried away to strengthen the garrison of Peshawar or join the British forces cis-Indus. The situation in Peshawar was very different. The District contained a large Hindustani force, which proved mutinous tothe core. It was thought possible that the Amir of Kabul might pour an army through the Khyber.

For one reason or another almost every powerful tribe beyond the border was under a blockade. When the news of the outbreak reached Peshawar, a council of war was at once held and measures adopted to meet the situation. The same night the Guides started on their memorable march to Delhi. On May 21 the 55th Native Infantry rose at Mardan. The majority made good their escape across the Indus, only to perish after fearful privations at the hands of the hill-men of the Hazara border. On May 22, warnedby this example, the authorities of Peshawar disarmed the 24th; 27th, and 51st Native Infantry, with the result that Pathans not only of Peshawar, but also from across the border, came flocking in to join the newly raised levies. The next few months were not without incident, though the crisis was past. When the Mutiny was finally suppressed, it was clear that the frontier Districts had proved to theBritish Government a source of strength rather than of danger.


The province was created during the colonial rule of the British empire and was a province of British India. As a province of British India it had an area of 38,665 square miles, of which only 13,193 was under direct control of the British, the remainder occupied by the tribes under the political control of the Agent to the Governor-General. [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_144.gifNorth-West Frontier Province] ]

It was bounded by the Hindu Kush to the north by Baluchistan and Dera Ghazi Khan District to the south, to the east by the princely state of Kashmir and Punjab; to the west by Afghanistan.

The tract between the Indus and the hills comprises four minor natural divisions, each of which formed a separate District. The most northern is the Peshawar valley, a lacustrine basin encircled by hills. To the south of Peshawar lies Kohat, a rugged table-land broken by low ranges of hills and separated from Peshawar by the Jowaki range. South of Kohat again is Bannu, in the broadbasin of the Kurram river and completely surrounded by low ranges. The District of Dera Ismail Khan (later Dera Ismail Khan Division) stretched south of Bannu, a vast expanse of barren plain enclosed between the Sulaiman range on the west and the Indus on the east, and tapering to a blunt point at its southern extremity. [ [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_145.gifNorth-West Frontier Province - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 139.] ]

In the north the vast territories between the Hindu Kush and the border of Peshawar District formed the Political Agency of Dir, Swat, and Chitral. In the south-west the Wazir hills were divided into two Political Agencies: Northern Waziristan, with its head-quarters in the Tochi valley; and Southern Waziristan, with its head-quarters at Wana. In the latter Agency the Wazir hills merge into the Sulaiman range, the highest point of which is the far-famed Takht-i-Sulaiman in the -lower Shirani country, a political dependency of Dera Ismail Khan District. The precipitous Takht presents the grandest scenery on the frontier, and formed an impassable barrier between the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan. [ [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V19_145.gifImperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 140-141] ]


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