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

The Colonial Expeditions in the Pukhtun Land: An Appraisal of the Jowaki Expeditions of 1877-78

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

The Colonial Expeditions in the Pukhtun Land: An Appraisal of the Jowaki Expeditions of 1877-78

Article excerpt

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The Indian North-West Frontier has been at the heart of global interest with bewildering uniformity. In around 1500 BCE, a section of the Aryans crossed it, followed by Alexander the Great, twelve hundred years later, and then a chain of invaders including the Bactrian Greeks, Scythians, Kushans, Huns, Persians, Tartars, Mongols, Turks, Afghans and Mughuls crossed this Frontier. This Frontier not only played its due role in the defence of India but also played its role in aggrandizing the boundaries of Indian empire in different times.1

The British, though not entered India through this route, knew very well the importance of this Frontier. And for this reason, during the nineteenth century, they had apprehensions about the penetration of France and Russia into Indian sub-continent. The French threat no more remained after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, but the expansion of Czarist Russia into Central Asia escalated the strategical importance of Afghanistan and its borderlands and thus for the protection of the Indian colony the British involvement in the Indian North-West Frontier commenced.2 "In the post-Napoleonic era", the British diplomacy "was to obtain peace and security in Europe, to protect and safeguard its possessions overseas, and to reinforce freedom of commerce everywhere."3

Keeping in view the above objectives, the British annexed Punjab in 1849. After annexing Punjab, they regarded the Frontier as a gateway for foreign invaders and the first urgency of the Imperial policymakers was how to keep this entrance closed for those who might have an eye on the Jewel in the Crown, which was India.4 To guard India (Indian North-West Frontier), the British formed a "Three-Fold Frontier": the first one was the outer edge of directly administered territory of British India, the second was indirectly administered territory, i.e. tribal areas, and the third was the outer edge of the area of influence which was demarcated by a linear boundary.5 In order to keep the tribesmen under their influence, both in case of war and serving their commercial interests, the British devised the policy of levying fines and putting blockades as well as sending expeditions against them (in case the first two measures failed).

The conflict between the British and the Pukhtuns started, in 1847, before the annexation of the Punjab, but with the annexation they came into direct contact with the Pukhtuns and since then they continuously sent expeditions and punitive expeditions against different Pukhtun tribes. These expeditions were made at different times and were more frequent in the areas of some interests to them. Along with the other systems introduced in the North-West Frontier region, the British also introduced a byzantine system of village border defence under which they very easily exploited the situation for their own ends, though often the conflict was started due to intra-village disputes. Usually, at the start of the conflict they put the concerned tribe under severe blockade, and when such a tribe attacked the village under their protection, they used to launch a punitive expedition in the name of the safety of their borders.

Being an imperial power, the British made no concessions in taking of and dealing with those areas and passes which served their military and economic interests, and Kohāt pass was one of such important passes. The strategically important Kohāt district was 30 miles from Peshawar, 31 miles from Khushalgarh railway terminus, 63 miles from Tal, where the road to Kabul by Piwar Kotal crossed the Kurram, and 83 miles from Bannu, a border district with Afghanistan.6 As Kohāt was linked with Kurram and Bannu, so it held prime status for the defence of India. From commercial point of view, trade, especially in salt, for Ningrahar (Afghanistan) and the areas north of Kabul continued through the Kohāt pass.7 To control the pass, the British came into an agreement with the tribes concerned, but when they felt the need of more direct control they combed for excuse and took measures to compel the natives to enter into new terms. …

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