MODERN TURKIC IMMIGRANTS IN PESHAWAR AND THE FRONTIER
There were innumerable Turkic immigrants to Peshawar in the centuries of Muslim rule, but below I detail a few of the more recent famous ones.
ABDUR RAHMAN “PISHORI”
President R.T Erdogan of Turkey, on a recent visit here — mentioned the name of a personality from Peshawar, who is practically unknown to Pakistanis.
This person lived in the early part of the last century. Not only is he unknown, but fewer will know the fact that Abdur Rahman himself belonged to a rich Kazakh Turk trader family, which first emigrated to Kashmir, then to Peshawar in 1853. If you look at the faces of those from this family, they have a distinct Mongolic character. I had two brothers from this family as my class-fellows at Peshawar Model School in 1979. They still spoke Turki at home, among themselves, but outwardly they used Pishori Hindko.
Abdur Rahman’s father’s name was Haji Ghulam Samdani, and he was a brother of Yahya Jan and Mohammad Younas. Yahya Jan was the son in law of the Pashtun political icon Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan or “Bacha Khan”. He was the father of Salim Jan, a banker who about a decade ago joined Imran Khan’s PTI. Mohammad Younas moved to India, stayed there after the partition and became a member of the Indian Foreign Service, serving as ambassador of India to Turkey, Iraq, and Indonesia. This family uses the surname of “Jan” and also called itself Qureshi at one time.
In the spirit of his ethnic Pan-Turkism, Abdur Rahman “Pishori” left for Turkey as part of the Khilafat Movement….but quickly switched sides when Ataturk was winning. He was mistaken by a republican assassin for the famous Ottoman official Rauf Bey and killed in 1923. He is buried in Turkey as a hero.
THE QIZILBASH OF KUCHA RISALDAR AND NAZIR GARHI
The Qizilbash were a Turkmen tribe from Azerbaijan which practises the Shia faith. The name is Turkish for “red hats” — alluding to the tall red hats the men wore by custom. They were the followers of the Safavid Sheikhs who seized the kingship of Iran in 1502. The Qizilbash then served as their trusted servants — making up the palace guard and as palace attendants and staff. When Nader Shah Afshar displaced his Safavid masters in 1736, the Qizilbash transferred their loyalty to him. When upon Nader Shah’s assasination in 1747 by his Qajar rivals, his trusted Afghan lieutenant Ahmad Khan Abdali declared himself as the “Durrani” Shah of Khorasan (later called “Afghanistan”) — a section of the Qizilbash attached themselves to his court and continued to serve the kings of Afghanistan. In 1865 they became caught up in the factional disputes and power struggles of the royal household. So the king, Amir Sher Ali Khan exiled a certain clan from among them, and they arrived in Peshawar — where the British settled some in Risaldar Kucha (street) of Peshawar City. The rest were granted a rural estate in Nazir Garhi, a village in the vicinity of my hometown Shabqadar — where they have intermarried with the surrounding influential families, but have still retained their unique Persianate Shia identity.
General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, a military President of Pakistan who attained infamy for his part in the 1971 war — was from the Kucha Risaldar section of this family, and was their most prominent member.
SHAHZADA BUKHARA — ABBOTTABAD
In Pakistan, official historiography is non-existent and such knowledge is left to amateurish gossip and conversation — which turn it into a joke. The individual called “Shahzada Bukhara”, who lived in Abbottabad in Pakistan in the last quarter of the 19th Century — is thought by most to be the last Amir of Bukhara (Aalim Khan) or his (supposed) son, who fled the Bolshevik Revolution.
After probing the matter, it turned out that this person was a certain Abdul Malik Tura, the crown prince and uncle of Aalim Khan — who had fallen out with his father, the Amir Muzzaffar Khan in 1866 after the Russians conquered Bukhara, and the Amir submitted. Mirza Abdul Malik Tura first requested help from Amir Yaqub Ali Khan of Afghanistan, but was turned down. He then fled to Kashghar, but soon decided to move to Kabul where he was accommodated by the Afghan Amir and given an allowance. Dissatisfied, Prince Abdul Malik Tura decided to move to India in 1872 and seek help from the British. This he did, and remained in Peshawar for a time with his family. He continued to receive money from the Afghan King too. But the heat and dust of Peshawar were too much for him to bear, and he was moved to the alpine resort of Abbottabad in Hazara District, where he built a magnificent Turco-Iranian style house. He also built the “Shahzada Masjid” (mosque) and a “madrassah” of the same name. Sadly and strangely, however not unexpectedly — his date of his death is not mentioned in sources. I will have to visit his grave in person to see if it is recorded on the headstone.
Mirza Abdul Malik Tura Manghit was survived by only one son, Shahzada Sikandar Khan. Apparently he left no male heirs. A Baloch Sardar, Dur Muhammad Leghari, who was married to Sikandar’s sister — purchased the Shahzada Bukhara House and it is in his family that it remains.
THE KHAN OF KOKAND (QOQAN KHANLIGI)
Kokand has an important part in Tajik history. It was known in old times as Khavakand. The Khanate of Kokand originally began with a portion of the historic Tajik Ferghana Valley from where Babur came. Originally part of the Bukhara Emirate, it was established as a separate Khanate in 1709 by Sharukh, a descendant of the Chingisid Mongol Shaibani Khan. He soon took over the whole of Ferghana, including Tashkent and the Tajik city of Khojand. Kokand frequently paid tribute to Imperial China for protection. Its third Khan was Madali (Mohammad Ali) Khan, who acceded in 1822 and under him the Khanate reached its maximum extent to include wide areas of present Tajikistan, Pamirs, Kashghar and south Kazakhstan. In 1842 Madali Khan was killed by the Emir of Bukhara. His grand nephew Khudayar Khan who followed him three years later, was the second most influential ruler of Kokand. He ruled with several interruptions from 1845 to 1875. Tsarist Russia which had begun its advance on Turkestan in the mid-1860s, soon succeeded in conquering the important cities of the Khanate by 1867 and killed a usurper Khan, Alimqul who was a Kipchak nomad and army commander. The Russians restored Khudayar Khan as their puppet. The last years of his reign were marked by misrule and lavish tendencies. There was a public uprising against the Khan in 1875, and Khudayar fled to Orenburg in Russia where he lived the rest of his life in exile. Next year, the Tsar abolished the Khanate and annexed it to the Ferghana Oblast of the Russian Empire.
It is worth mentioning here, that just before the Russians conquered Kokand, a man by the name of Yaqub Beg was the governor of Tashkent. There was an uprising by Chinese Hui Muslims in Kashghar, and the Khan Alimqul sent Yaqub there to lead them in an effort to establish a separate “East Turkestan”. When soon Alimqul was killed fighting against the Russian conquerors in 1865, many soldiers from Kokand fled east to Kashghar where they joined Yaqub Beg. He managed to take the Tarim Basin area and ruled it for twelve years, before the Chinese authorities recaptured it in 1877. Some sources say that Yaqub Beg was a commander of Uzbek origin. Others say he was a Tajik. But like Amir Habibullah Kalkani 65 years later, he managed to achieve fame and power.
The last Khan of Kokand was Nasruddin Khan, the son of Khudayar Khan. Succeeding his father in 1875, he was against the Russians, and ruled for less than a year before his Khanate was abolished by them. Nasruddin then fled, taking a route to the south through the Pamir mountains and arrived with some soldiers, possessions and three of his wives in Peshawar, which was then in British India. The British settled him on an estate in Mir Tayyab Garhi, a small suburban village near Pajaggi, northwest of urban Peshawar — which is accessible off the main Charsadda Road, via the Khazana Sugar Mills Road. After his death, his body was buried in the Durrani Cemetery in Wazirbagh of Peshawar City. He had six sons who lived in Mian Tayyab Garhi. The brothers included Shahzada Abdul Rahim Beg Khan, Mahmud Beg Khan, Abdullah Beg Khan, Azeem Beg Khan, Ahmad Beg Khan and Husain Beg Khan. All of them had numerous children, and their descendants still live in Mir Tayyab Garhi village.
In my childhood days, I recall that the name of Kokand still featured in the culture and conversation of the Peshawar area — especially applying to a variety of goat brought from there (“Qoqanay Chelay”). Moreover, the Central Asian pronunciation of the name “Mohammad Ali” as “Madali” is a characteristic that is also found in the rural peasant culture of the Peshawar countryside. There is a peasant in our village who tilled my father’s land by the name of Madali.
RASHID NAZ — ACTOR
Rashid Naz (born 1948) is a famous veteran Pakistani actor of Pashto, Hindko and Urdu-Hindi films and plays. His grandfather had emigrated to Peshawar from Bukhara after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
THE FAMILY OF KHAN ABDUL GHAFFAR KHAN
Perhaps the most surprising addition to this list would be, of all people — the Ghaffar Khan/ Wali Khan Dynasty — considered to be the bedrock of modern “Pashtun nationalism” and political identity. While discreet gossip in the local elite circuit regularly brands them as being “Uzbek”, Arshad Khan’s is the first reliable literary reference in this regard which I have thus far come across. Arshad is a member from the prominent “Khan” family of Prang in Charsadda — and is himself a nationalist activist of long standing and repute in the region. He mentions his queries from Abdul Ghani Khan — the prominent Pashto mystic, literary and artistic giant who was Abdul Wali Khan’s elder brother — on Pp. 20–23 of his Pashto autobiography “Mazaluna aw Tindakuna” (Travails and Hard Knocks).
As reported by Arshad Khan, Ghani Khan’s answers are somewhat typical of the vague and crude fumbling which an illiterate Pathan peasant would proffer in reply to such a question, not a “literatus” of his supposed calibre. Cutting a rambling and clumsy story short, Ghani is quotes as having said that his literate and polished Persian speaking ancestors migrated from somewhere in “Samarkand-Bukhara” [sic] in Turkestan some “2–300” years back, to the Muhammadzai-Durrani Court of Kabul following a religious controversy between mullahs that they wanted to avoid for some reason. [The first inaccuaracy here is that the Durranis came to power 270 years ago; and their Barakzai — not Muhammadzai — section seized Kabul only in 1826]. In Kabul, the family is said to have settled and taken up service with the king. He said that during Sikh rule (1818–1849) the Afghans agreed to accede Kashmir to the Sikhs in return for the Peshawar Valley area. But this sounds like illiterate balderdash because the Sikhs had actually earlier wrested Kashmir from the Saddozai predecessors of the Muhammadzais by force, and there exists no historic record of any such treaty or negotiations concerning Kashmir and Peshawar Valley! Continuing, Ghani Khan says that the “King of Kabul” (whom he does not mention by name — and who at that time was Amir Dost Muhammad Khan) sent his great-great grandfather (no name mentioned) to Peshawar to negotiate with the Sikhs and at the same time to “establish the framework for a local Pashtun bureaucracy to govern Peshawar Valley” once the Sikhs returned it. He said that when his ancestor arrived in the Peshawar area to investigate and contact its Khans, he “was told that the Sikhs had been defeated and replaced by the British” — and that he should “avoid meeting them, as they would chuck him into jail”. This is abject nonsense. Amir Dost Muhammad’s envoys to the Sikhs and British were well known high ranking officials — and the Afghan King was not some dopey peasant who was unaware that the Sikhs had gone and had been replaced by the British! Infact Amir Dost Muhammad Khan had attempted a sneak armed incursion into Peshawar City upon its desertion by the Sikh army in 1849, but was driven back half way down the Khyber Pass by a British detachment that had rushed to meet him from Lahore. That was all he ever did regarding Peshawar, and it is a well-known fact.
So top continue with Ghani Khan’s moronic tale: “My ancestor went around the whole of the Charsadda-Mardan area, noting the names of the elders, and finally came to Hashtnagar, where he became friends with a senior elder from the Muhammadzai tribe’s Khwajukhel clan (again no name or dates are mentioned). It is also strange that the rulers of Kabul were unaware of the who elders of the Pashtun aristocracy of Peshawar Valley were, and had to send an old moron to find them out! When the supposed emissary suggested going to the British with his proposal, his old Muhammadzai host advised against it, saying they would imprison him. Anyway Ghani’s ancestor insisted on visiting the British in Peshawar — and they duly dumped him in jail after he met them. And that was where he died shortly thereafter. But before all that had happened, he had also somehow brought his whole family along with him (now why would a visiting government emissary do that?) — and the Khwajukhel clan offered to settle these among themselves. He says thereafter “we too became called Khwajukhel Muhammadzais”. So it seems that this supposed royal envoy had other intentions regarding Hashtnagar…. Arshad Khan further quotes Ghani Khan as saying that “we never married Khwajukhel women because of their dark complexion — but they took wives from our family”. With that quote, it is end of story!
It is far more probable that the Ghaffar Khan family was a clan of Central Asian, Paracha or even Kochi nomadic traders who arrived with their camels in Charsadda sometime in the 1850s and in typical fashion became friendly with the local Muhammadzais — who accepted and integrated them into their community. This is how most Pashtun tribal cases formed over history. The air of idiotic nonsense too surrounding this case is typical of such stories.