PERSONAL BIO AND INTRODUCTION, WITH HISTORICAL CONTEXT…
By Arif Hasan Akhundzada
I am aged 54, unmarried — and devote my time to studying (among a great many things) — history, philosophy, ethnology and geopolitics. I have no employment such as yet, and depend upon the income of my inherited lands…however, a great many of my lands have been illegally captured and misappropriated by my relatives and other enemies, and this has caused me quite a lot of difficulties.
My major activity has been to research and look into the true history of Eastern Iran / Khorasan, which is at best neglected and misrepresented. The modern nation states of Afghanistan and major parts of Pakistan fall within this domain.
The use of modern and scientific methods in this regard is almost nil….Pashtuns will still tell people very seriously that their forefather was Hazrat Sulaiman (AS) and that Pashto is the language of Jinns. Such statements are not acceptable at decent academic forums.
I am the descendant of medieval Tajik sultans who belonged to the Shalmani-Sawadi (Swati) community of Dehqans — who were the local administrative class of the Gandhara area from the time when it was a Satrapy of the Persian Empires before Islam from 550 BC to 651 AD. Dehqans were the landowning and aristocratic class of ancient Persia. They are thought to have originated in the Sawad region of ancient Mesopotamia / Assyria, which was located between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris — and have come to their present locations via Sistan (now called Greater Kandahar). The Swati ruling families spoke the Gabri or Zoroastrian dialect of Dari now spoken in Kerman, Iran. The rest of their people were called Shalmanis, and they spoke many languages such as Laghmani, Dehqani and modern Dari. Due to this reason, and the fact that Swatis converted to Islam later on, they were called “Gabri” which meant being Zoroastrian, a name which they still use to denote their main tribal section. The two other tribal divisions of Swatis are called Mitravi and Mumiali. “Mitravi” denotes followers of the rival Iranian deity Mithra. Thus the Shalmani-Swati community comprised a confederation of several ancient Dehqan communities and tribeswho were ruled over by Swati princes.
In 1190 AD two Muslim Swati brothers, the princes Bahram Gabri and Pakhal Gabri became vassals of the Ghori Sultans and under their tutelage jointly established the subordinate Kingdom of Swat-Gabr which extended from the Kabul-Parwan area at one end to River Jhelum of Kashmir at the eastern end. This kingdom was a “dyarchy” ruled by the two brothers. Sultan Bahram had his capital in Papin, Ningarhar — while Sultan Pakhal’s capital was in Manglaur, Swat.
In 1339 a Swati Dehqan named Shah Mir later on established the first Muslim Sultanate of Kashmir, where his dynasty patronised the famous Persian saint Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani in conveying the Islamic religion and Persian culture to the soil of Kashmir. Papin broke away and fell under Timurid rule, while the original Swat-Gabr Kingdom had by that time diminished in territory to between the Sulaiman Mountains and River Indus. It was renamed “Pakhli Sarkar” because it comprised of the portion formerly ruled by Sultan Pakhal and became a province of Kashmir in the decade of the 1350s, but continued to be ruled locally by the original Swati-Gabri royal clan of Shalmani Dehqans.
In about 1480 AD a displacement of the Afghan “Sarabani” tribes by the Timurid rulers from the Kandahar region began when Ulugh Beg II massacred the elders of the main Sarabani tribe called Yusufzai. The refugees from this tribe fled to Pakhli Sarkar where they lived for 30 to 40 years doing odd jobs. Then in 1519 AD the Yusufzai youth staged a peasant uprising against the Swati Tajik rulers, who by then had become complacent and easy going. The Yusufzai Afghans had the connivance of the Timurid prince Zahiruddin Babur, who invaded Pakhli Sarkar and helped them topple the last Swati king, Sultan Owais. The ex-sultan fled north towards Badakhshan, while the majority of the Swati clans were driven across the Indus into Punjabi Kohistan, now known as Hazara. The Swatis who fled there still maintain their original name, but are unsure of their ethnic Tajik identity, preferring to call themselves Afghan because they lost their original language and now speak Pashto and a dialect of Punjabi called Hindko. Those Swatis who remained behind not only lost their Persian dialects but also their Swati name and Tajik identity. They were absorbed into the Afghan tribes, and they are genetically distinct.
For a good century or two after this disaster that befell my people many Swatis continued to conduct small individual raids back over the Indus into Pashtun territories in an attempt to restore to themselves at least small portions of their stolen patrimony. One such raid was by a very capable Swati warlord named Haji Qasim Shalmani, and took place in the aftermath of Nader Shah Afshar’s invasion of India in about 1750 AD. He invaded the Shabqadar-Doaba area in the north of Peshawar Valley, which is a very famous and ancient fertile area formerly used for growing rice located between the Kabul and Swat Rivers. He succeeded in killing Aimal Khan Gigyani — the Afghan chieftain of this area, and seizing from him thousands of acres of land.
Haji Qasim Shalmani was a leading revolutionary and reformist intellectual and activist of his times. He had spent several years in Arabia, where he became an associate of the legendary Arab reformer Abdul Wahab. When he returned home, he became an ally of the Persian Emperor Nader Shah Afshar and later on of the young Durrani king, Ahmad Shah Abdali. One of the officials of Nader and Ahmad Shah was Zainuddin Khan Mohmand, the Nawab of Lalpura (now a district or “uluswali” in Ningarhar Province of Afghanistan). Zainuddin Khan was then the Governor of Sirhind, now in Indian Punjab. He was also one of my ancestors, being the father-in-law of my paternal ancestor Mir Kamil Shah. My ancestor was from a family of Swati nobles which had shifted to Delhi just after the fall of Swat Kingdom to Yousafzais. They had gone there with the last Delhi Sultan, Sher Shah Suri — and spent 200 years before they again returned to Khorasan. Mir Kamil Shah had also spent many years at Data Darbar in Lahore, as a disciple of the famous saint. Mir Kamil belonged to the Papinkhel section of the Jahangiri clan of Gabri-Swatis — named after the village Papin which is now located in Deh Bala uluswali of Ningarhar Province Afghanistan in the lap of the Spin Ghar (Sufed Koh) Mountains. Papin was where Sultan Bahram had his capital.
Haji Qasim requested Zainuddin Khan for help in securing the captured lands formally. Zainuddin Khan then ordered him to appoint his son-in-law Mir Kamil as “mansabdar” of the captured lands in Shabqadar. Therefore with the approval of the newly established Durrani regime, Haji Qasim handed his booty over to my ancestor Mir Kamil Shah Jahangiri, who was also a Swati like him. The alias of Kamil Shah was “Akhund Zafar Baba” because he was also a spiritual figure, like many in his time. Since that time my family has lived and owned vast tracts of land in the District Mohmand and Shabqadar areas, and the local Afghan tribes were forced to make peace with us and accept our presence there.
My aim and that of my associates is to restore the local relevance of the Persian language of our forefathers — as well as our true and original Tajik identity, even though we are facing tremendous opposition in this regard. I myself as yet speak only Pashto. It is a well-known fact that Gandhara was once a premier civilisation of the ancient world, being a centre of the Greco-Bactrian Buddhist civilisation. Nowadays it is a dark jungle and a lawless wilderness. The area has further suffered after it become the staging ground for unscrupulous geopolitical machinations of the modern powers — most particularly of the Anglo-Americans and their local hirelings who made full use of the Afghan’s treacherous and criminal character for over 200 years.
My activities in the present time centre on the compilation and propagation of the lost history of my people — so as to restore awareness to them regarding their true identity which has been stolen from them by disreputable and malicious people. I am also working to create an awareness of the large historical context of Iranshahr of which this whole region is part — a concept which has been totally suppressed and neglected over here.