In 1863 took place the Ambela campaign. Repeated robberies in British territory had led to a blockade on the Yusufzai border, and blockade in turn had caused the denunciation of the infidel and the proclamation of jihad in all the high places between Swat and the Hazara border. Swat itself was at this time controlled by the famous Akhund, who had had experience of the strength of the Government, and whose inclinations were consequently for peace, especially as a religious rivalry prevailed between him and the head of the fanatical colony. Even in Swat, however, intense excitement was rife. The object of the expedition was to root out the colony of Hindustani fanatics which since 1858 had been located in the Barandu valley, and was recognized as a permanent source of danger and disturbance. The troops gained the crest of the Ambela pass leading to the Chamla valley, and thence advanced to Malka, when they encountered unexpected opposition from the Bunerwals whose country lies immediately north of Chamla. The Akhund was no longer able to stem the tide, and joined the enemy’s camp, followed by standards from all the tribes of Swat, Dir, Bajaur, and by contingents from the Utman Khel and the Mohmands as well as by some British subjects. For more than a month the British force, though raised by successive additions to a strength of more than 9,000 men, could not do more than hold its ground.
But with the passage of time the coalition of the enemy began to fall asunder, and on the repulse with heavy slaughter of the last of a long series of attacks the object of the expedition was achieved. The Bunerwals agreed to destroy Malka and drive out the fanatics, and exclude them from their country for ever. From 1863 to 1893 the fanatics wandered to and fro in the Chagarzai, Hasanzai, and Madda Khel (Yusufzai) country; and since 1893 they have lived mainly in the Amazai territory in Buner, but they have lost most of their political importance. Other operations in this period do not require detailed mention; but the Black Mountain expedition of 1868, in which the British force numbered nearly 15,000 men (including the reserve), was noteworthy, more perhaps from the audacious provocation given, the strength of the force used, and the difficulty of the country traversed, than from the stubbornness of the enemy or the permanence of the results secured.
The news spread rapidly and everywhere formed the text of fanatical harangues by Mullas, and in particular by a Bunerwal of Upper Swat named Sad-ullah, whose eccentricities had earned him the name of the Mulla Mastan (mad). On July 26, followed only by a few boys, one of whom he proclaimed king of Delhi, he started from Landakai, a village about 6 miles above Chakdarra on the south bank of the Swat river. The tribesmen flocked after him, and by evening, with ever-increasing numbers, the gathering approached the Malakand. A sudden attack was made on the Malakand and Chakdarra simultaneously. The numbers, which at first had barely reached 1,000 men, were rapidly swollen to 12,000 at the Malakand and 8,000 at Chakdarra. Heavy fighting continued at both places, until the Malakand was relieved on August 1st and Chakdarra on the 2nd. The assailants then drew off with a loss of not less than 3,000 men, while the British losses had amounted to 33 killed and 188 wounded. On the relief of Chakdarra the gathering quickly dispersed, and the task of punishment and prevention of further combination was taken in hand at once… In Swat a quicker settlement was made. Before the end of the year Upper Swat, Bajaur, Chamla, and the Utman Khel country had been penetrated by British troops, and the fines imposed had been realized. In January, 1898, an expedition was sent through Buner, fines were realized from the Khudu Khel and Gaduns of the Yusufzai border, and the Mulla Mastan was expelled by political pressure from Dir and Swat. The Malakand Field Force consisted of three brigades with the usual complement of divisional troops, in all 10,000 men.
References: Imperial Gazetteer of India, Provincial Series, North West Frontier Province, Superintendent of Government Printing Press, Calcutta, 1908, Pages 20-24.
TO BE CONTINUED…