The Tanoli/Tanokhel(Hindko/Urdu: تنولی; Pashto: تنولي) is a Pashtun Tribe of Ghilzai Super Tribe of Batani confideration mostly inhabiting the Tanawal valley of the North-West Frontier of present day Pakistan; named after the Tanoli tribe when took over the valley from Turks in the 14th century. One of the oldest and the most authentic books on Afghans(Pashtuns), Mekhzen-e-Afghani of Neamat Ullah written during the period 1609-1611 asserts that: Ghilzai, son of Mato, was blessed with three sons: Ibrahim(Lodhi), Toor(Toran) and Poor(Buran). Ibrahim had two sons; Haijub and Sahbak. Tano was one of the Thirteen sons of Haijub. Though, today the Tanawal area is part of the Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, in the past the larger portion of it comprised the two semi-independent native states or principalities of Amb and Phulra, ruled over by Tanoli chiefs of the same family, c 1840s to 1972. Prior to that, the area or 'Ilaqa' of Tanawal had remained an independent territory for long, from the 14th century to the 19th. Across the Durand line, there are also Tanolis living in Ghazni and Paktia provinces of Afghanistan. The Tanoli, allied with other Pashtuns of the region, participated in the frontier wars c. 1840s against the British. In Charles Allen's analysis of these wars, the Tanolis were described as "extremely hostile,brave and hardy, and accounted for the best swordsmen in Hazara".
In Pakistan Tanoli tribe mostly inhabit the districts of Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Tor Ghar, Swabi and Buner(Tanolo Dheray) of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. A branch of the Tanoli tribe also resides in Kashmir, mainly in Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. Some Tanolis are working and settled as far away as Karachi, Lahore and other parts of Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the Tanoli primarily live in the provinces of Ghazni and Paktia, in particular in Gardez. Sometimes, Tanoli Tribe is intermingled with Tanai Tribe of Afghanistan,who are instead descendants of a slave of Kajin; the youngest son of Batani.
The Tanolis originally lived in Dara Tanal, in the Ghazni region of present day Afghanistan. In the year 971 AD the Tanolis joined the army of the Ghaznavid Emperor Sabuktigin and traveled with them to Hindustan. After the conquests, the Tanolis settled in Swat and Buner previously known as Mahaban Area, formed their own state with principal seat at chamla and appointed Anwar Khan Tanoli son of Behram Khan as their first Amir. Tanolis ruled Swat and Buner till 1232 A.D. But, later they came into conflict with the other fellow Pashtun tribes who had newly migrated eastward into the region, most notably the Yusufzai. The Tanolis fought three battles, defeated Utmanzai and Ummarzai tribes in first two battles, but in the third battle the Tanolis were defeated under their leader Ameer Khan Tanoli at Topi. When the Tanolis were defeated, they migrated further eastwards and crossed the Indus River, and succeeded to defeat the Turks settled on the eastern bank of the Indus River, capturing the territory and naming it after their tribe. In 1752, the Tanolis allied with the Afghan Emperor Ahmad Shah Abdali and took part in military conquests, including the Battle of Panipat in 1761, under their chief Zabardast Khan Tanoli who was given the title of "Suba Khan" by Ahmad Shah Baba for his bravery.
In the 18th and early 19th century, two of the main Tanoli clans, the Hindwal and the Pallal, fell into a feud and had a bitter struggle between them. The Hindwal clan gradually began to gain ascendancy under the commanad of their chief, Amir Gul Muhammad Khan. Amir Gul Muhammad Khan was blessed with three sons: Haibat Khan,Mast Khan and Behram Khan. After the death of Gul Muhammad Khan in 1772, the eldest son Haibat Khan (grandfather of Amir Painda Khan: well known in the history of Tanolis) was declared to be the chief of Tanoli Hindwal Tribe in Upper Tanawal. Whereas, Khan Mast Khan was assigned six villages: Malor Bandi, Ariala, Charkot, Chorakot, Galikot and Nawan Shera (sera) of Khun area which were not primarily part of inherited property of his father Gul Muhammad Khan and belonged to the family of Rehmat Khan Hindwal Tanoli, who was the grandfather of Mast Khan's wife. This irrational distribution of the inherited property, despite acceptance of his Khangi (chieftainship) by the family of Rehmat Khan Hindwal Tanoli, compelled Khan Mast Khan to leave the area of Tanawal in 1776 along with the youngest brother Behram Khan and other four thousand companions and settle in Pakhli Mansehra, establishing his Khanate (Mast Khani) comprising Gandhian (village), Pano Dehri, Lung, Hamsherian, Gea Mera and some parts of laborkot with headquarter at Gandhian. Later on, Amir Painda Khan of the Hindwal clan successfully united all Tanolis into one entity, which eventually became the princely state of Amb. Amir Painda Khan overtook the valley of Agror in 1834 with the staunch support of Khan Mast Khan (Hindwal-Romal). The Swatis appealed to Sardar Hari Singh, who was unable to help them, but in 1841 Hari Singh's successor restored Agror to Atta Muhammad, a descendant of Sad-ud-din. In 1828, Amir Painda Khan gave the territory of Phulra as an independent Khanate to his brother Maddad Khan. This was later recognised by the British as a self-governing princely state. The Amb State lasted until 1969, with its primary capital at Darband, and summer capital at Shergarh.
Amb and the adjacent areas have a significant history attributed to the invasion of the region by Alaxender the Great. The following excerpts taken from 'Memoranda on the India Estates' suggest that:
“Amb and surrounding areas have a long history which can be traced to the time of the invasion of the region by Alexander the Great. Arrian, Alexander’s historian, did not indicate the exact location of Embolina, but since it is known that Aoronos was on the right bank of the River Indus, the town chosen to serve as Alexander’s base of supplies may with good reason be also looked for there. The mention in Ptolemy’s Geography of Embolina as a town of Indo-Scythia situated on the Indus supports this theory"
. The Memoranda continues:
“In 1854 General James Abbott, the British frontier officer from whom Abbottabad, administrative centre of Hazara, takes its name, discussed the location of Aornos on the Mahaban range south of Buner. He proposed, as M. Court, one of Ranjit Singh’s French generals had done before him in 1839, to recognize Embolina in the village of Amb situated on the right bank of the Indus. This is the place from which the Nawabs of Amb took their title"
The construction of the Tarbela Dam reservoir in the early 1970s submerged Darband, a capital of the former state of Amb, underwater.
There is almost a consensus among the Tanolis that they are Bani-Israil. Bernhard Dorn in his translation of "Maghzan-e-Afgani" of Niamat Ullah mentions at page 49 about Tano as descendant of Mato (daughter of Batani). Ghilzai, son of Bibi Mato, was blessed with three sons: Ibrahim, Toor and Poor. Ibrahim had two sons; Haijub and Sahbak. Haijub was blessed with thirteen sons; Tanoli (Tanokhel), Sulaimankhel, Ali Khel, Omerkhel, Karikhel, Hameerkhel, Varaki, Chani, Donver and Paroki. As such, the Tanoli (Tanokhel) belongs to the Batani tribal confederation of Pakhtuns. Despite acknowledging the Bani-Israil descent of Tanolis, some non-Tanoli writers portray Tanolis as Mughal Barlas of Turkic origin (Turko-Mongols) just like other Tribes of Ghilzai confideration, which is in negation of the genealogical trees possessed by the Tanolis. The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia (1841) was the first to create this confusion about the descent of Tanolis merely to employ their evil design of 'Divide and Rule':
"There is one chief who, though not a Eusofzye, yet from his position in the midst of, and intimate connection with, the Eusofzyes, and his singular history and character, must not be omitted in a description of the Eusofzye country. Painda Khan, of Tanawul, is a Mogul of the Birlas tribe, the same from which the Ameer Timoor(Timurid dynasty) was descended. All record of the first settlement in Tanawul of his family is lost, and it has long ago broken off all connections with other branches of the Birlas, which are still to be found in Turkestan."
The Tanoli were counted among the martial races, an ideology based on the assumption that certain ethnic groups are inherently more militarily inclined than others. It was a term originally used by the British, who observed that the Scottish Highlanders were more fierce in battle than others in Britain, and extended this concept to India. They have many Pashtun customs and take much pride in their dress, language and appearance.
The Tanolis support themselves almost exclusively by agriculture, and their principal food is unleavened bread with buttermilk and butter; but fowls, eggs, fish, and game are also articles of diet.
Of those who live in the hills, many are as fair as Dutch, with eyes of light hazel or greyish blue, and frequently brown hair and reddish beards. Those who live on the low-lying lands near the Indus are darker. All are stout and active men, and have the reputation of being good soldiers.
They are hardy and simple in their habits, generally free from the vices of thieving and debauchery; but credulous, obstinate, and unforgiving.
Amir Painda Khan,a renowned Tanoli Chief, who is famed for his rebellion against Maharaja Ranjit Singh's governors of Hazara united the Tanolis under his authority. Painda Khan "played a considerable part in the history of his time and vigorously opposed the Sikhs.". From about 1813, Amir Painda Khan spent a lifelong rebellion against the Sikhs. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Sikh Governor of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to Hazara, took the initiative during his governorship of setting up forts at strategic locations to keep Painda Khan in check. George Scott in his book "Afghan and Pathan: A Sketch" mentions about Painda Khan's struggle against Sikhs in the following words:
"Painda Khan, the 'Silent Chief' held sway and spent most of his days making unexpected attacks on Sikh's outposts and detachments. When intending to start on a raid he gave one order: 'Saddle my charger'. It was a signal for his horsemen to don their armour and mount, and to follow their leader as he drove his horse into the river and swam him across, the rest following".
Painda Khan's rebellion against the Sikh empire cost him a major portion of his fiefdom, leaving only the tract around Amb,. This increased his resistance against the Sikh government. Eventually, General Dhaurikal Singh, commanding officer of the Sikh troops in Hazara unable to subdue Painda Khan, hatched a conspiracy and had Painda Khan poisoned to death in September 1844. Painda Khan is still revered in Hazara today for his role as a freedom fighter. Major J. Abbott commented that 'During the first period of Painda Khan's career, he was far too vigorous and powerful to be molested by any neighbouring tribe, and when he began to fail before the armies and purse of the Sikh Government, he was interested in keeping upon the best terms with his northern neighbours of the Black Mountains and to whom he allowed the privilege of pasture in the small Tupa of Turrowra.' He is further described by him as, 'a Chief renowned on the Border, a wild and energetic man who was never subjugated by the Sikhs.'
Amir Jehandad Khan son of Amir Painda Khan also fought hard against the Sikhs. It was said, "Of all the tribal chiefs of Hazara, the most powerful [was] said to be Jehandad Khan of the Tanoli Tribe."
When Sikh power was on the decline in 1845 Jehandad Khan blockaded the garrisons of no less than 22 Sikh posts in Upper Tanawal; and when they surrendered at discretion, he spared their lives, as the servants of a fallen Empire. "The act, however, stood him afterwards in good stead; for, when Hazara was assigned to Maharaja Golab Singh, that politic ruler rewarded Jehandad Khan's humanity with the jagir of Koolge and Badnuck in Lower Tannowul."
The British Empire's first contact with the Tanolis was an unpleasant one, as in 1852, Jehandad Khan was summoned by the President of the Board of Administration in relation to a murder enquiry of two British officers supposedly in his lands but he managed to show his innocence and consolidate his position with the British administration.
The British Government since then considered Upper Tanawal as a chiefship held under the British Government, but in which, as a rule, they did not possess internal jurisdiction. The Chief managed his own people in his own way without regard to British laws, rules or system. This tenure resembled that on which the Chiefs of Patiala, Jhind, Nabha, Kapurthala and others held their lands.
The Tanolis also allied with Ahmad Shah Abdali in The Third Battle of Panipat which took place on January 14, 1761, at Panipat (Haryana State, India), where they defeated the 250,000-strong army of Marathas with an army of only 60,000 soldiers, from allied tribes. The Tanoli Chief Sardar Zabardast Khan was given the title of Suba Khan by Abdali for his bravery in the historical battle.
Nawab Muhammad Farid Khan sent an army of 1500 Amb State soldiers under the leadership of Subedar Major Shah Zaman Khan to take part in the Kashmir Liberation Movement from 1947 to 1948 (Kashmir Conflict). The Amb State force carried its own artillery to the battle. They fought bravely alongside other frontier tribesmen and came under fire by the Indian air force just three kilometers from Baramulla sector. Around 200 Amb State soldiers lost their lives in the battle.
In most of the Hazara region, the principal language adopted by the Tanolis is Hindko although a significant number retained Pashto as their mother tongue especially in Pashto speaking regions. Those living in Afghanistan, of course, speak Pashto just as other Pashtuns do. Tanolis living in other parts of Pakistan have adopted Urdu as an additional language due to its status as the national language as is the case with all other native ethnicities of Pakistan.
H.A Rose in his book 'Glossary of The Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province'(1919) mentions at page-231 about the Tanolis' Marriage Customs as Pathan observances in the following words:
" Among the Tanaulis a near relation of the boy, such as his father, uncle, brother or maternal uncle, with some other persons,goes to the girl's house to arrange the betrothal. If her parents agree to it, the head of the jirga is given sharbat first and his companions after him. The nikah ceremony called Ijab-kabul is also performed. The nai and dam are each paid one rupee. Sometimes the jirga takes one or two suits of clothes for the girl with them, but sometimes the clothes are sent after the betrothal. For fixing the day of the marriage, the boy's father, uncle or other relation goes to the house of the girl's parents. If they demand anything for the wedding expenses such as rice,wheat, ghi, gur,mehndi,etc.,these are paid before the day for it is fixed. The day for the wedding is usually Thursday or Friday. The marriage party is fed by the girl's parents, but often at the expense of the bridegroom's parents, but sometimes the former feed them at their own expense. Neondra is also levied by the girl's parents from those invited by them to the wedding similarly when the boy's parents feed the men invited by them, they also levy neundra. The amount however is not fixed. The nikkah is performed in the girl's house. At the time of the nikkah the money demanded by the girl's father is put into a 'Thal' but the jirga usually reduces its amount. Resistance is very rarely offered to the marriage party. The girl's parents give clothes to the bridegroom's relations. The dower given to the bride by her parents is shown to the people. Part of it is sent with her when she is taken away and part is given her when she returns to her parent's house. The mullah who performs the nikah is given one rupee."
|Tenure||Rulers of Amb (Tanawal)|
|unknown date - 1772||(Amir) Gul Muhammad Khan(Father of Haibat Khan,Mast Khan and Behram Khan)|
|1772 - 1803||(Amir) Haibat Khan|
|1803 - 1805||(Amir) Hashim Ali Khan (son of the above and brother of the following)|
|1805 - 1809||(Amir) Nawab Khan|
|1809–1844||(Amir) Painda Khan|
|1844–1868||(Nawab) Jahandad Khan|
|1868–1907||(Nawab) Muhammad Akram Khan|
|1907 - 26 February 1936||(Nawab) Khanizaman Khan|
|26 February 1936 - 1971||(Nawab) Muhammad Farid Khan|
|1971–1972||(Nawab) Muhammad Saeed Khan|
|1972/73||(Nawabzada) Salahuddin Saeed Khan|
The Hindwal and Pallal are the major divisions of the tribe. The further sub–divisions of the tribe are: