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Khyber, 1908

(Khaibar). — Historic pass leading from Peshawar District in the North-West Frontier Province into Afghanistan, the centre of the pass lying in 34 degree 6' N. and 71 degree 5' E. The name is also applied to the range of hills through which the pass runs. The Khyber moun- tains form, indeed, the last spurs of the Safed Koh, as that mighty range sinks down into the valley of the Kabul river. The elevation of the connecting ridge is 3,400 feet, but it rises to 6,800 feet in the Tartara peak. On either side of it are the sources of two small streams, one flowing north-west to the Kabul river, the other south-south-east towards Jamrud. The beds of these streams form the Khyber defile.

The Khyber Pass is the great northern route from Afghanistan into India, while the Kurram and Gomal Passes form intermediate com- munications, and the Bolan Pass is the great southern passage. The pass begins near Jamrud, io| miles west of Peshawar, and twists through the hills for about 33 miles in a north-westerly direction till it debouches at Dakka. The most important points en route are All Masjid, a village and fort ioi miles from Jamrud; Landi Kotal, the summit of the pass, 10 miles farther; and Tor Kham, at which point the pass enters Afghan territory, about 6 miles beyond Landi Kotal. The plains of Peshawar District stretch from the eastern mouth of the pass, and those of Jalalabad from the western. Outside the eastern gate is the remarkable collection of caves at Kadam, and beyond its western limits are many interesting remains of Buddhism and of ancient civilization. The pass lies along the bed of a torrent, chiefly through slate rocks, and is subject to sudden floods, especially in July, August, December, and January. The gradient is generally easy, except at Landi Khana, and the road is in good condition.

The elevation, in feet, at various points of the pass is : Jamrud, 1,670; All Masjid, 2,433; Landi Kotal, 3,373; Landi Khana, 2,488; Dakka, 1,404. The ascent over the Landi Khana pass is narrow, rugged, steep, and generally the most difficult part of the road. Guns could not be drawn here except by men, and then only after the improvement of the road ; the descent is a well-made road, and not so difficult. Just beyond All Masjid the road passes over a stretch of uneven and slippery rock, which is extremely difficult for laden animals. The Khyber can be turned by the Mullagori road, which enters the hills about 9 miles north of Jamrud, and either joins the Khyber road or keeps to the north of the range and emerges at Dakka. The Khyber has always been one of the gateways into India. Alex- ander of Macedon probably sent a division under Hephaistion and Perdiccas through the Khyber, while he himself followed the northern bank of the Kabul river, and thence crossed the Kunar valley into Bajaur and Swat. Mahmud of Ghazni only once used the Khyber route, when he marched to encounter Jaipal in the Peshawar valley. The Mughal emperors Babar and Humayun each traversed it more than once. Nadir Shah, advancing by it to attack Nasir Khan, Subah- dar of Kabul under the Mughal government, was opposed by the Pathans ; but he led his cavalry through Bazar, took Nasir Khan completely by surprise, and overthrew him near Jamrud. Ahmad Shah Durrani and his grandson Shah Zaman, in their invasions of the Punjab, also followed the Khyber route on several occasions. The Mughal emperors attached great importance to the control of the Khyber, but were singularly unsuccessful in their attempts to keep the route open. Then, as now, it was held by the Afrldi Pathans, a race implacably hostile to the Mughals.

Jalalabad, first fortified by Humayun in 1552, was further strength- ened by his son Jalal-ud-din Akbar, after whom it was named ; and the latter emperor so improved the road that wheeled carriages could traverse it with ease. But even in his reign the Khyber was infested by the Roshania sectaries, who wielded great influence over the Afghan tribes ; and the Rajput general Man Singh had to force the pass in 1586, when Akbar desired to secure possession of Kabul on the death of his brother Mirza Muhammad Hakim. In 1672, under Aurangzeb, the tribes waylaid the Subahddr of Kabul, Muhammad Amln Khan, in the pass, and annihilated his army of 40,000 men, capturing all his treasure, elephants, women, and children.

The first British advance into the Khyber was in 1839, when Captain Wade was deputed to conduct Shahzada Tlmur to Kabul via Peshawar, while his father Shah Shuja was escorted thither by the army of the Indus via the Bolan Pass and Kandahar. During the first Afghan War the Khyber was the scene of many skirmishes with the Afridis and of some disasters to our troops. Captain Wade, with from 10,000 to 11,000 of all arms, including the Sikh contingent, moved from Jamrud on July 22, 1839, to Gagri ; here he halted a day and entrenched his position ; on July 24 he again marched to Lala China ; on the 25th he moved to the attack of All Masjid, sending a column of 600 men and 2 guns, under Lieutenant Mackeson, to the right, and 1 1 companies of infantry, one 6-pounder gun, and one howitzer to the left, while below a column was placed to watch the mouth of Shadi Bagadi gorge. Both columns drove the enemy before them, the right meeting with some opposition, and the left getting into a position to shell the fort. On the 26th all the enemy's outposts were driven in, and on the 27th they evacuati d the fort. The enemy had 509 jazailchis, or musket-men, and were supported by several hundred Afridis. The British loss was 22 killed and 15S wounded. After this there was no further opposition.

A strong post was left in All Masjid and a detachment near Lala China to maintain communication with Peshawar, and a post of irregulars under Lieutenant Mackeson was placed near Dakka. The post near Lala China was attacked during the operations. It was garrisoned by Yusufzai auxiliaries, whose numbers had been thinned and the survivors worn down by continued sickness, when the Afridis, estimated at 6,000 strong, attacked their breastwork. They were long kept at bay, but the marauders were animated by the lust of plunder, and persevered in their attacks. They were aware that the devoted garrison had recently received their arrears of pay, and that a sum of Rs. 12,000 was buried on the spot. Finally, they carried the weak fieldwork, and put to the sword 400 of its defenders. They did not keep possession of it, but, after repeating their vain attempts on Ah Masjid and the posts in the valley, retired to their mountains.

When Jalalabad was blockaded, it was proposed to send a force through the Khyber to its relief, and as a preliminary measure Lieu- tenant-Colonel Moseley was detached to occupy All Masjid with two regiments of native infantry. He marched on the night of January 15, 1842, and reached the place with little opposition the next morning. Through some mismanagement, however, only a portion of the pro- visions requisite for the two regiments accompanied them. It became necessary, therefore, to forward the residue without delay ; and Briga- dier Wilde advanced from Jamrud with the remaining two regiments (the 60th and 30th Native Infantry) and 4 Sikh guns. But the appear- ance of Colonel Moseley's detachment had alarmed the Afridis, who now rose and, closing the pass, prepared to resist Brigadier Wilde's entrance. The brigadier nevertheless pushed onwards on January 19, and encountered the enemy at the mouth of the pass ; but, owing to the uselessness of the Sikh guns and the inadequacy of his force with so powerful a body of the enemy advantageously placed in his front, his attempt to reach All Masjid totally failed. The situation of Lieutenant-Colonel Moseley, shut up in All Masjid, with scarcely any provisions, now became desperate ; but he was successful in forcing his way back to Jamrud.

The next occasion on which the Khyber was used as a great military road was when General Pollock advanced on April 6, 1842. On his return to India the British army marched through the Khyber in three divisions. The first, under General Pollock, passed through with no loss. The second, under General M'Caskill, was not equally fortunate. One brigade being overtaken by night left two mountain-train guns with the rear-guard, which was suddenly attacked, and the guns were taken, but recovered next day. The rear-guard of General Nott's force was also attacked on November 5 and 6 between Landi Khana and Lalabagh, and again on leaving All Masjid.

It was at All Masjid in 1878 that Sir Neville Chamberlain's friendly mission to the Amir Sher All Khan was stopped and repelled with threats. An ultimatum was therefore handed to the Amir's general, Faiz Muhammad, in All Masjid; and the day specified having passed without the return of an answer, Afghanistan was invaded by three British columns, one of which started from Jamrud at the mouth of the Khyber.

On the second day of the campaign the fortress of All Masjid was brilliantly captured by the British troops under General Browne. The successful passage of the Khyber, and the unopposed occupation, first of Dakka at the western mouth of the pass, and then of Jalalabad in the plains beyond, immediately followed. The treaty which closed the war in May, 1879, left the Khyber tribes for the future under British control. From that date the history of the Khyber Pass is bound up with that of the Khyber Political Agency, which includes Mullagori country north of the Khyber, Tlrah of the Afridis, and the country on both sides of the Khyber Pass. None of it is administered, but the pass is kept open and is picketed twice a week for the passage of caravans.

The Khyber Political Agency is bounded on the north by the Kabul river and the Safed Koh ; on the east by Peshawar District ; on the south by the Aka Khel and Orakzai countries ; and on the west by the Chamkanni and Masuzai countries, and the Safed Koh. The Khyber Pass between Jamrud and Landi Kotal originally belonged to the Shin- waris, Zakka Khel, Kuki Khel, and the Orakzai only. At the time of the extension of Sikh rule to Jamrud the Orakzai were ousted by the Afridis, and the only trace of their presence is a ruined village near Jam. The Sikh rule never extended beyond Jamrud. When Captain Mackeson was negotiating with the Afridis in 1840, the Malikdln Khel Maliks of Chora forced their way between the Zakka Khel and Kuki Khel, and established a small village at Katta Kushta near All Masjid. The Sipah Kambar Khei and Kamrai Khel also, seeing the advantages of a footing in the Khyber, stepped in, and were admitted to a share in the Khyber allowance.

After the Sikh War the Afridis took service in large numbers in the Indian army, and when the Mutiny of 1857 broke out they did exceed- ingly well. From 1857 to 1878 the Afridis were subsidized by the Afghan government, who kept a garrison of Afghan troops at All Masjid. The Afridis were, however, never on good terms with the Afghans. They very often visited the British officers of Peshawar District ; but relations with them were maintained through the KhallL and Mohmand Arbabs of Peshawar District, who were generally of an intriguing disposition, and very seldom did any real service. Their main object was to keep those tribes in a state of unrest, and thus enhance their own importance. A year or two before the second Afghan War Amir Sher All summoned the jirgas of all the Afrldis and Shinwaris, and distributed about 5,000 rifles among them. When war broke out, and All Masjid was attacked and turned, the Afghans and Afrldis fled in great disorder, and the Afghans were robbed of their clothes and rifles by the Afridis in the Khyber and in Bazar. The Afrldis, and especially the Bazar Zakka Khel, subsequently harassed the passage of the British troops through the Khyber, and a force was sent against them in December, 1878.

By the Gandamak Treaty of 1879 between the British and Amir Yakub Khan, it was agreed that the British Government should retain the control of the Khyber Pass ; and, in pursuance of this agreement, allowances were fixed for the Afrldis, aggregating Rs. 87,540 per annum. The management of the pass was entrusted to the tribesmen themselves through their maliks, who executed a formal agreement by which they undertook to guard it with their tribesmen. Some local levies called jazailchis (which afterwards became the Khyber Rifles \ numbering about 400 men, were also raised for escorting caravans through the Khyber. These were eventually increased to 600 strong.

In 1897 disturbances broke out all along the frontier. The Afrldis remained quiet for some time, but in August they attacked the Khyber posts and sacked the fortified sarai at Landi Kotal. They met with opposition from the Khyber Rifles, but the garrison could not hold out owing to want of water. To punish the Afrldis for this violation of their engagements, a force was sent into Tlrah under Sir W. Lockhart, and a fine of Rs. 50,000 and 800 breech-loading rifles was recovered from them by April, 1898. In October of the same year a fresh settle- ment was made with the Afrldis, by which they undertook to have no intercourse with any power except the British, and to raise no objection to the construction of railways or roads through the Khyber. On these conditions the allowances were restored, with a small increase of Rs. 250 for the Kambar Khel. The Khyber Rifles were augmented to two battalions of 600 each, 50 of the total being mounted, and were placed under British officers.

The chief subdivisions of the Afrldi tribe are as follows : —


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Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

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