THE GENETICS AND HISTORY OF THE PAPINIS / PAPIN KHEL SWATIS

Earlier this year, on 2 and 5 January, I had published news about the genetic patrilineal match between me and Mr. Sharafat Miakhil of Ningarhar Province, Afghanistan.

Mr. Miakhil is descended from one of the four major Papini patriarchs, Mian (or Mia) Burhan (aka Mia Baba). His family had previously moved out of Papin into the adjacent district of Khogyani where it now resides.

The Papin Khel Mians or Akhundzadas are a Swati tribal category — with a wide presence all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan, and in the adjoining Ningarhar and Kunar Provinces of Afghanistan. They trace their descent from the medieval Tajik ruler of Gandhara, Sultan Bahram Swati (also called Shah Bahram Baba by the Papinis). In the original Swati Tajik dyarchy, Sultan Bahram’s capital was at Papin, while his brother Sultan Pakhal ruled in Swat.

It should be noted, that although most Papinis acknowledge that they are descendants of Sultan Bahram Swati, they ascribe a Hashemite Arab pedigree to themselves. Though contradictory this is rather typical of this society and its traditions. But genetics has belied such claims, such as the tests done by myself and Sharafat Miakhil. It must also be noted that although the Papini ascription of descent from Sultan Bahram is also customarily typical in this society — evidence seems to suggest that instead of descent from one man, the Papinis comprise four major clans each with a separate paternal lineage, and were actually a Swati confederacy. Its patriarchs include Syed Mahmud Wali, Mian Burhan, Mullah Sanjar, etc. The chief family is regarded as descended from the first named and it lives in Maraiz in the vicinity of Papin. Others have shifted to the nearby Hissarak. Their reason for describing Bahram as their common ancestor seems to be customary and symbolic, being made out of reverence and to demonstrate solidarity rather than acknowledging to actual descent. One or more of these clans may actually be descended from Bahram. Further genetic investigations will shed more light on the matter.

Below are some materials which have been provided to me by representatives of the Papinis / Papin Khel Swatis of Swat in Pakistan. This material consists of “shajarrahs” (genealogical tables / trees) as well as various commentaries on the history and origins of this community. Whereas the shajarrahs are generally accurate, some of them subscribe to the “Arab” origin view and affix the title “Syed” to Papinis — which they are not.

The documents — 26 in number — as provided to me are detailed below, with overviews furnished by the informant:

1. One set of 3 pages on yellowed parchment, with writing in black ink in Persian. They are from a history written in poetic form, by a Papini elder from Hissarak village in Ningarhar, Afghanistan. Nothing further has been said as to the name of the author, or when he lived.

2. A set of extracts from the famous book “Tazkiratul Abrar Wal Ashrar” by Akhund Darweza in 1612. They give a detailed and reliable account of the genealogies of the Papini Mians and Akhundzadas in Persian. [Pp. 105–9, 110–15, 117–19, 120–23]. Comprises 18 pages in all.

3. A third set of 3 papers belong to a Papini chief from Swat, Abdul Hamid of Nijigram. Referring to Akhund Darweza (Source №2 above), he terms that rendition of the genealogy as correct. However he makes his own error, by adding that the tree of his Tajik forebears is linked to that of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi and that they were cousins. (During Ghaznavi’s time the Swatis were said to be the Sultans of Balkh). The document is of recent origin.

4. 2 Pages from an Afghani publication called “Kabul”, dated to 1936 — wherein it is written that that the grandmother of Mian Yar Muhammad Papini of Swat was from the “Syed” family of Hissarak across the border in Afghanistan. My informant elaborates that Yar Muhammad was the brother of his grandfather, Akhund Muhammad Sharif. They were the sons of Malik Darya Khan Papini, whose mother Barya Bibi was in fact from Hissarak.

(By courtesy of Hussain Shah Papini)

The first picture below is a screenshot documenting my genetic match with Sharafat Miakhil. My ID is YF06956 and Sharafat’s is YF75013.

Scholar, Historian, Ethnologist, Philosopher, Activist.