Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

The Balkan Wars and British India: A Case Study of Nwfp (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)*

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

The Balkan Wars and British India: A Case Study of Nwfp (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)*

Article excerpt

The British occupied the north western part of India now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly N.W.F.P.) of Pakistan in 1849. The Pakhtüns resisted the British Imperial power with an armed struggle particularly in the tribal areas. The beginning of twentieth century also witnessed a political struggle to safeguard their interests largely in alliance with their Muslim brethren down the country (Cis river Indus territories). Both the armed and political struggles had internal and external dynamics. One of the external factors inspiring the Pakhtüns and other Muslim groups of India was the Western aggression against Ottoman Turkey whose Sul(än was also regarded as Caliph (Khalîfah). This Western threat to the Ottoman Khiläfat remained the main external factor for the mobilization of the people in the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K.P.) as reported by the British administrators in this province.** The manner in which the wars in the Balkans (1912-1913) affected the struggle of the people in the erstwhile NWFP and how the people backed the Turks is the focus of this paper. It will also be helpful in understanding the historical background to the contemporary religious and political unrest in the Pakhtün region for extra territorial sympathies of the people with Muslims elsewhere in the world.

The academic and political interest in the Pakhtün region and people has significantly increased particularly in the wake of US and NATO war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al-Qaidah. The Taliban are predominantly Pakhtün and the war front is adjacent to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The region is socially, economically, educationally and politically affected by this conflict more than any other region since the 9/11 incident.

Importance of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa goes back in history to the time when it hosted or provided a route to nearly all the invaders of India from the North-West. Moreover, the region remains a hub and a thoroughfare for important religions such as Buddhism and Islam. History of the Muslim rule in India is also incomplete without a substantial reference to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In the 18th century the British colonial rule gained a foothold in south India and then extended to the north of India in the 19th century. However, the British faced unprecedented resistance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa throughout the expansionist phase of their empire after 1849. The British not only modified their Forward Policy but also started making special arrangements to deal with the Pakhtüns. This included separating the region from the Punjab and making it into a new province called North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) in 1901, dividing the province into independent tribal areas, Frontier Regions and Settled Districts, each with their distinct administrative structure. This arrangement still remains intact and has been adopted by the government of Pakistan with minor changes (see Fig. 1 for a political map of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA).

Other than legal structures, the British introduced certain iron-fisted rules and regulations known as the Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR) to curb the freedom struggle in the region and to keep the tribes under control. The province remained long as a chief commissioner province and was not given the status of a full province till 1932, as enjoyed by other parts of British India. The only excuse put forward for this discriminatory treatment was the geo-strategic imperatives i.e. the proximity of the region and Afghanistan to the Tsarist Russia and later the Socialist Russia who constantly posted a threat to the British Imperial rule in India. It made Afghanistan as a theatre of the notorious 'Big Game' which in a way continued even after 1947 eventually leading to Russian occupation and jihäd in Afghanistan in the present times. Every kind of political contact by the people with the outer world was strongly curtailed by the British Indian administration.

The most important factor which promptly stirred feelings of the people and transformed them into political struggle in the settled districts on one hand and flared up the already continued armed struggle in the independent tribal territories on the other hand, was the Turkish affairs, be it the Tripoli War in 1911, Balkan Wars in 1912-1913, World War I or the subsequent Khiläfat issue. …

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