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Achakzai (Pashto: اڅکزی), pronounced a.t͡sak.zai in Pashto, is a Pashtun tribe basically that resides on both sides of current Pak-Afghan border. The tribe has two main sub-castes first Gujanzai and second Badinzai and there many several sub castes and each caste has its own elder, Khan or Malak.
A powerful section of the Zirak Durranis. They are an offshoot of the Barakzais, from whom they were separated by Ahmad Shah, to reduce the formidable numbers of the latter. Their territory comprises the western half of Toba, almost the whole of the Khwaja Amran range, with territory in the Kadanai plain and adjacent desert. North west wards they extend into the Me1 valley and Takhta Pul, and in scattered portions as far beyond Kandahar as Khakrez. To the south they march with the Barechis, going as far down the Lora defiles as Sili Kach, and on the other side of the range to the Khurma hills. In the Kadanai plain they occupy the Kunchai and Baldak districts, as well as the whole skirt of the range up to the Narin hills beyond Margha Chaman. They are also found in the Farah and Herat provinces.
There are solitary families in Jammu and Kashmir and other regions of South Asia who claim an Achakzai descent. In habits the Achakzais are a rude,nomadic, and predatory race, such as were all the Durranis before the time of Ahmad Shah, and they have as yet made but little advance towards civilisation.Elphinstone, who is still an authority on the Pashtuns, wrote the following account of the Achakzais in 1814, which, though not strictly correct, gives agood idea of the estimation in which they are held by their own countrymen:
The Achakzais differ so much from the other Duranis that I have reserved them for a separate description. They are by no means a numerous tribe, most accounts fixing their numbers at 5,000 families. In my opinion they do not exceed 3,000. They are all herdsmen, or shepherds; though they cultivate a little land, it is not on it they depend for subsistence. Their flocks are kept in therange of the Khwaja Amran, and the high country of Toba, and their herds of camels in the sandy track northeast of Shorawak. They have also many horses, so that you scarcely ever meet an Achakzai on foot."
Their Sardar has more power than most of the Durani chiefs, but even that power, with his utmost exertions, is not sufficient to check the predatory spirit of his tribe. No travellers can enter their country without being plundered, and they often make night excursions to steal. Skill in theft and boldness in robbery are great qualities among them; a great deal of the conversation of the young men turns on exploits of this kind which they have performed or projected. Their robberies, however, are never aggravated by murder." (In this respect it is believed the Achakzais have changed for the better, as it is now reported that the predatory spirit of the tribe has been checked to a considerable extent both in British and Afghan territory.)
Their dress is that of the pastoral Duranis, but in winter they make their shirts and caps of felt, and wear trousers of cotton cloth. They wear their clothes unchanged for months, their beards unclipped, and the hair long and shaggy. They eat mutton and goats' flesh, but their principal food is grain and pistachio.
They are not hospitable; they have no mosques, and seldom pray or trouble themselves about religion. The few mullas they have say their prayers at home.
The Duranis are generally hostile towards them, because an Achakzai named Bar Khurdar Khan killed twelve Duranis in the reign of Ahmad Shah. They are said to make excellent soldiers. The talents, fidelity, and courage of a former Sardar Gulistan Khan Achakzai (Arzbaigi), were long the support of Shah Shuja's cause, in defence of which he lost his life and his justice and modernization are still gratefully remembered by the inhabitants of Peshawar and Kabul, who were at different times under his Government.
With regard to their religious feelings, it should be remembered that it is precisely among such wild tribes as the Achakzais that the fire off anaticism when once lighted burns most fiercely. To such man a religious waris an easy, and possibly profitable, way of squaring their accounts with paradise which they are conscious of having illdeserved. Almost all the Achakzais live in tents, and prefer pastoral life to the constant toil of agricultural existence. The wealth of the Achakzais is in their flocks of sheep and goats with which they wander over the bare hills and barer plains of this region.
Nevertheless, each section has its own distinct grazing grounds, to which customs or the jealousy of their neighbours pretty strictly confine them. In summer, that is from May till August, a large portion of the tribe may be found on Toba, where the climate is not only cool, and pleasant, but the grazing excellent. Some few, unencumbered by their flocks and families, go earlier and return later, to sow and reap the corn lands, which appear to produce enough for the sustainance of the tribe throughout the year. In general they hold very much aloof from their neighbours of other tribes, by whom they are not a little feared. Their courage is, no doubt, equal to that of any other Pashtun clan, and it was well displayed in Brigadier-General England's unfortunate engagement near Haikalzai in 1842. In the autumn of 1880, when the British troops were besieged in Kandahar by Sardar Muhammad Ayub Khan, the Achakzais, excepting only the Achakzais under Paradin Khan, were all more or less openly hostile. They even ventured to seize the Kojak, and for a few days Chaman was completely isolated.
They were soon driven out of the pass, the crest of which was then strongly held by British troops. For several weeks, however, skirmishes were of frequent occurrence and the Achakzais continually fired by night on the picquets, and by day on parties and convoys passing along the road. It was also understood that they were prepared to swoop down on Pishin, as soon as General Phayre's division had marched for Kandahar. The defeat of Ayub Khan, however, on September 1, 1880, showed them that the British power had only suffered a temporary eclipse, and the Achakzais dispersed. In physique the Achakzais are a fine race of the usual Pashtun type, and they appev to possess a fair share of activity and endurance, as well as of bravery. From their extreme ignorance, however, and the rudeness of the lifet hey lead, their intellect is very poorly developed, so much so, that it is extremely difficult to obtain from them answers to questions on subjects on which they must be well informed, such as their own tribal divisions, the natural features of their country, etc. Our knowledge of the tribe, therefore, remains still imperfect, particularly with regard to that portion which lives beyond the Kadanai plain.
The Achakzais are divided, like all Pashtun tribes, into numerous sections and subsections, each under its own maliks and leaders. Nearly every section has on its hands one or two feuds with other sections, and so fiercely do the dissensions rage, that it is not uncommon for a section to give up certain grazing grounds, or perhaps quit the country altogether, in order to obtain the peace denied to it by its own neighbors and kinsmen. It follows from this that the tribe as a whole is very much disunited, and that even the fierce excitement of a jihad, or the hope of plundering a British camp, would not suffice to unite even a half of the whole fighting strength of the tribe.
Achak Khan was a grandson of Barak Khan, the progenitor of the Barakzais. He had, it appears, two sons, Gujan and Badin, and the tribe has thus two well-defined divisions composed of their descendants, and called respectively Gujanzais and Badinzais. Each of these divisions has numerous sub-divisions or sections. There are also some sections descended from brothers or near relations of Achak Khan, but now incorporated with the tribe and generally accounted Achakzais. Gujan is said to have had five sons, viz.: Ahmad, Sawal, Nasrat, Mali, and Usman. Asha was the wife of Sawal, and the Ashazais are said to have been named after Asha instead of after Sawal on account of Asha's superior intelligence. This account does not quite agree with MacMahon's genealogical table given in Appendix A. Nasrat being there shown asa grandson of Achak Khan. According to the same table Nasrat had eight sons: Ado, Ali, Matak, Arzu or Hardo, Ahmad Khan. Saleh, Musa, and Kat or Kutu. Most of these gave their respective names to a section and there are other sections. mostly small and insignificant, who are either offshoots of the others, or are of collateral descent.
The Badinzais, according to MacMahon, have the following sections:
The subjoined table compiled by the Political Agent, Quetta, 1895, will give a clearer idea of the organization of the tribe:
Major Clifford estimated the Gujanzais at 4,995 families, and the Badinzais at 2,050 families, while the 1884 edition further states that "taken in fighting men, the whole strength of the Gujanzais appears to be some what less than 1,000 and that of the Badinzais not far short of 500." The tribe, however, is not only disunited, but very widely scattered: about one-fourth of it is more or less directly connected with Pishin. The Achakzais are poorly armed; it is doubtful whether there are more than 4,000 match locks in the tribe. In a memorandum on the Achakzai clan, written in the spring of 1879 by Major St. John, Political Officer at Kandahar, he says: "As usual in Afghanistan, the Achakzais have no recognised chief among themselves; but it appears to have been usual for the last two or three generations at least, to appoint one of a particular family heads of the Ahmadzai or Hamidzai section, to supervise the tribe on the part of the Government, and probably to be responsible that their notoriously predatory propensities where kept within moderate bounds." Fateh Khan, the representative of the elder branch, is universally acknowledged in Kandahar to be without comparison the principal man of the tribe. He was for five years Revenue Commissioner of the province with the title of Halum. He is now in confinement at Kabul (6 April 1879), and was not released with the other political prisoners for fear of his taking an active part in our (British) favour at Kandahar. Of the junior branch there appear to be three principal sub divisions, descended from three of the numerous sons of Shadi Khan Arzbegi, a nobleman of high rank at the old Durani court. About 60 years since a quarrel took place between the eldest and the youngest of these three, in which Yar Muhammad Khan Achakzai son of Shadi Khan Achakzai and his sons lost his life at the hands of Abdulla Khan Achakzai, his younger brother. (It wouldappear from the genealogical table given in Appendix A that Abdulla Khan Achakzai was the elder brother of Yar Muhammad Khan.) Haji Sar Buland Khan, his son, and Saleh Muhammad Khan, his other brother (nephew?), were in Kandahar in 1839, and espoused the cause of the restored Sadozai dynasty, of which Shadi Khan Achakzai (Arzbaigi) had been the faithful servant, and were true to the British to the end of the war.
Fateh Muhammad Khan has shown me the sanad granted to his father by General Nott and Sir Henry Rawlinson, bearing their official signatures, appointing him chief of the Achakzais from Pishin to Kandahar, at a salary of Rs. 2,000 a month, with 300 sowars. Both he and Haji Sar Buland Khan Achakzai were wounded fighting on the English side. Abdulla Khan Achakzai, murderer of Haji Sar Buland Khan's father and builder of the fort in Pishin which bears his name took the Barakzai side and was one of the most vehement opponents of the British at Kabul. He was killed with two of his sons at the battle of 23 November 1841, while commanding the Afghan cavalry, and Sir John Kaye states that there was a whisper he was shot by one of his own men, i. e., that his head was of sufficient importance to make it worth a price. After the return of Dost Muhammad Khan to power in Afghanistan, Abdullah Khan Achakzai son of Shadi Khan Arzbaigi sons reaped the reward of their father's services in being held chiefs of the Achakzais to the exclusion of their cousins, who had been on the opposite side. Fateh Khan, however, the representative of the elder branch came at last into temporary favor, and was made Hakim of Kandahar (as before stated)."
The sons of Abdulla Khan, mentioned above, were Muhammad Aslam. Muhammad Akram, Ghulam Rasul and Fakir Muhammad. The first named two quarelled violently over the chiefship and after Muhammad Akram was murdered the quarrel was continued between Muhammad Aslam and Fakir Muhammad. Muhammad Aslam, however, seems to have been officially considered chief of the Achakzais for some years previous to the British occupation of 1878. Haji Sar Buland Khan Achakzai and Fateh Muhammad Khan Achakzai, son of Saleh Muhammad Khan Achakzai, meanwhile resided at Kandahar, where they had small salaries and allowances to keep up a certain number of sowars. In pursuance of our general policy of maintaining as far as might be consistent with justice and the preservation of order, the existing state of affairs in such portions of Afghanistan as came under our rule, Muhammad Aslam Khan was recognised as head of the Achakzais by the local British authorities. He himself, however, was unwilling to accept any responsibility on account of the tribe, alleging, what was no doubt the fact, that he had no influence over them. It was then arranged that one of his sons should be working chief, and all the sections more particularly connected with Pishin were brought to acquiesce in the arrangement.
On the other hand, Haji Sar Buland Khan and Fateh Muhammad Khan were undoubtedly popular among the Achakzais, and possessed of a certain amount of power. "Testimony being unanimous in Kandahar as to the impossibility of coming to any satisfactory arrangement with the Achakzais on this side of the Kojak without Haji Sar Buland Khan Achakzai," the Kandahar authorities decided that the latter should be considered chief of the Achakzais beyond Pishin. Haji SarBuland Khan Achakzai, however, "did not care for service himself, but preferred the renewal of the old (British) sanad in Fateh Muhammad Khan's favour. To this effect Fateh Muhammad Khan was appointed chief of the Achakzais on the Kandahar side of Chaman, and placed in charge of the road with pay at the rate of R 300 a month and allowance for 30 sowars."
As, however, a great number of Achakzais (and of the most important clans) oscillate between Toba and the Khwaja Amran in summer, and the Kadanai plain in winter, it is obvious that by this arrangement different chiefs were made responsible for the same people at different times of the year. Fateh Muhammad Khan died of cholera at Abdur Rahman Khan in July or August 1879, shortly after the above arrangements had been made
Haji SarBuland Khan's son, Ghulam Jan, was then appointed to the nominal command of the levies, the real responsibility lying with Haji Sar Buland himself. It was found that Muhammad Aslam and his son were quite unable to manage the Achakzais, and after the troublous summer of 1880, Abdul Hamid Khan, son of Amir Buland Khan Achakzai and nephew of Haji Sar Buland Khan Achakzai son of Yar Muhammad Khan Achakzai (Gulistan Khan Achakzai ), was installed chief of the tribe, and took up his residence at Gulistan Karez, a part of which and of Inayatullah Karez belongs to the family. This arrangement was undoubtedly more satisfactory to the Achakzais, than the previous one, and would no doubt have worked well; but on the abandonment of Kandahar in 1881, Haji Sar Buland Khan Achakzai and his family were too deeply committed to British interests to remain in the city. They there for eremoved to Pishin, and Haji Sar Buland Khan Achakzai assumed the chiefship. Fateh Khan, the representative of the elder branch, took service with Amir Abdur Rahman Khan Achakzai, and Taj Muhammad Khan Achakzai, son of Aslam Khan Khan, did the same. The former took a prominent part in the events of September and October 1881, when Muhammad Ayub Khan was defeated by Abdur Rahman khan under the walls of old Kandahar. On the other hand, Sultan Khan Achakzai a brother of Fateh Khan Achakzai sons of Inayat ullah Khan Achakzai, and the surviving sons of Saleh Muhammad, Shams-ud-din and Jalaluddin, were partizans of Ayub and were with him at Herat. It is now necessary to add a few words concerning the Abdulla Khan Kala family.
Fakir Muhammad died in 1878, but his quarrel with Muhammad Aslam was continued by the sons of both. The latter had four sons, Taj Muhammad (lst), Nazar Muhammad, Sher Ahmad, and Amir Jan. Nazar Muhammad is dead, and the remaining three now live at Kala Abdulla. Fakir Muhammad also left four sons, Taj Muhammad (2nd), Sayyid Muhammad, Dost Muhammad and Pir Muhammad. The first named is dead, the second lives at Kandahar and the remaining two are employed in the Body Guard cavalry at Kabul; Ghulam Rasul and his two sons are dead. The only man of influence among the Achakzais not yet fully noticed is Saleh Muhammad Khan Achakzai, a grandson of the Arzbegi. He had no lands on the Pishin side, but was appointed head of the Achakzais after the imprisonment of Fateh Khan.
Before he could leave Kandahar for Pishin the war broke out and he fled with Mir Afzal to Farah. From thence he went to Herat, and finally returned to Kabul, where he died of cholera in the summer of 1879. He left a son, or grandson, named Wali Muhammad Khan, who resides at Kandahar. There are many other descendants of the Arzbegi about Kandahar, but they are all among the Northern Achakzais in Tirin, Dahla,etc. Of the Achakzais found in the Herat province there are, according to information supplied to Maitland in 1884, more than 1,100 families in the Sabzawar district alone, and also a considerable number go from Zamindawar and Kandahar to graze their flocks in the richly-grassed country north of Obeh.
As regards the Farah province, Sahib dad Khan, who travelled through Zamindawar and Girishk in 1888, says the population of the Zamindawar districtis almost entirely Alizai, but that Barakzais and Achakzais predominate in the Girishk district. Not with standing this latter statement, his report gives but 200 families of Achakzais in Girishk, as against a total population of about 4,500 families. It may be stated, however, that there are about 9,000 families of Alizais in Zarnindawar, and about 700 in Naozad, but how many of these are Alizai Achakzais and how many belong to the so-called Panjpai branch of theDuranis, there is nothing to show. Achakzai are also found in other parts of the Farah province. Lieutenant Benn mentions Ghulam Haidar Khan Achakzai Son of Usman Khan Achakzai as "chief of the Achakzais" Then Khan Sahib Lal Muhammad Khan Achakzai son of Umer Khan Achakzai Nephew of Ghulam haider Khan achakzai as Chief of the Achakzais in 1895.
This tribe is mainly divided into two sub-tribes: