THE TOMB OF NAWAB RASHID KHAN BAJAURI (TAJIK) — THE FIRST MUGHAL GOVERNOR OF PESHAWAR

Situated in the Murshidabad locality on Kohat Road — just outside the Ram Das Gate of Peshawar City this is the mausoleum of Nawab Rashid Khan Bajauri. He was the son of Hatim Khan alias Sakhi Arab Khan, a Bajauri Dehqan who was the last governor of Khaar City in Bajaur when it was a province of the Gibar State of Pakhli Sarkar (Kingdom of Swat). Rashid was a boy, when Babur the Mughal brought him in chains to Peshawar, as a hostage — after his conquest of Bajaur in 1519. Babur soon became impressed with the abilities of this youth, and appointed him as his first Mughal Governor (Soobahdar) of the newly created Mughal Kabul-Peshawar Soobah (Province).

Since then, the clan descended from Rashid Khan has lived in the Mohallah Bajauri Khurd and Mohallah Bajauri Kalan localities inside Peshawar City’s Sarki Gate.

Rashid Khan was not a Pashtun in any sense, but belonged to a Shalmani/Swati Dehqan (Tajik) background. These people usually describe themselves as being “Arabs” (i.e Assyrians) and descendants of Sikandar Zulqarnain (Cyrus the Great). The shrine of his father Sakhi Arab Khan in Khaar City of Bajaur is still a prominent holy spot.

There are some Pashtuns of the Kakezai tribe of Bajaur resident in Peshawar City. Pathans from Bajaur rarely refer to themselves as Bajauri, unless it is a poet’s “takhallus” (nom de plume). The surname Bajauri (“Bajori”) is in fact the name of a prominent Tajik Swati clan of the Mitravi section. The name of Bajaur itself is believed to have been taken from this clan, as the ancient Buddhist name of that area was different. It is also very interesting to note, that the Tajik Swatis (Gibaris) of Bajaur refer to themselves as “Arabs” who are descended from King “Sikandar Zulqarnain”. This fact is apparent in the case of Rashid Khan, and has been investigated and probably points to the ancient Assyrian antecedents of the Shalmanis, and some kind of association with Cyrus the Great. The same can perhaps be said of the Afghan “Arabs” who reside in adjacent Ningarhar Province of Afghanistan. There is other evidence to support this view, and further genetic investigations will have the final say in this regard.

The grave of Nawab Rashid Khan Bajauri is a “double” tomb as can be seen — because his lady wife is buried beside him. The mausoleum’s finish is shoddy and is of low quality and is in poor shape, but that is more or less typical of how such things are in the local cultural setting as a whole. The structure over the tomb is evidently an erection from later Mughal times. The graveyard around it is for the exclusive use of the clan of his descendants — who still bury their dead here.

Unlike most people here, the descendants of Nawab Rashid Khan Bajauri seem to know their family history rather well — as is evident from this recent plaque mounted on his grave by one of his descendants. Such dedication to recording family history is a typical Swati characteristic. The plaque quotes from an entry in the famous record “Tareekh-e-Peshawar” by Munshi Gopal Das, published by the British Government of India in 1875. Although the narration is not of the desired quality, the plaque is still better than nothing, in providing useful facts — and the thought of placing it also reveals conscientiousness on part of the descendants.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the entire tendency in this regard. Rashid Khan is hardly well known, and most of those publications and writers who do mention him — casually try to pass him off and categorise Rashid Khan as a Tarklani Pashtun, as is the general trend with all historiography about this region, in this day and age.

Real students of history know that Babur was the only Mughal monarch ever who had anything to do with Bajaur. No succeeding Mughal ever had concerns there — nor did they trouble themselves by sending troops there for any reason. Bajaur was an out of the way remote wilderness. Its conquest from the Tajiks in 1519 was the Timurids’ first point of entry into India. At the time that Babur conquered Bajaur, there were no Pashtuns there at all — save for a handful of Dilazaks. The Afghan traditions themselves state that the hordes of Tarklanis and other Sarabanis who now occupy and claim Bajaur as their own, arrived in times far afterwards. Others, such as the Utmankhels who now figure prominently in Bajaur society — are thought of by many as being “Pashtunised” Tajiks who collaborated with the Mughals and incoming Afghan swarms. The laughable — rather pitiable — aspect of all this is, that those who think Rashid Khan was a Tarklani Pashtun reflect the general ignorance and boorishness of this society, where history is at best a coarsely treated and low grade matter.

The mausoleum of Nawab Rashid Khan Bajauri.
A close up of the building’s outer detail.
The double grave inside.
Details provided by the plaque mounted as the headstone.
Looking sideways across the grave.