Swat History


The great fertile valley of Swat, now occupied by Pathan clans from the point where the great glacier-fed river breaks through the alpine gorges of Torwal, can rarely have been long free from internecine feuds since the time, about the fifteenth century, when its present masters conquered it from the original inhabitants of Dard stock. But early in the last century a great Muhammadan saint, the famous Akhund of Swat, arose in the land. The spiritual authority exercised by him, until he passed away at a great age, was strong enough to moderate the usual fighting between the rival clans and to unite them whenever aggression threatened, whether from those ruling the plains of Peshawar or from the chiefs who for the time being were masters of the adjacent territories to the east or west. But since the great Akhund’s death in the seventies, aggravated dissension between the several tribal sections of Upper Swat had steadily weakened whatever authority was exercised by the Mianguls, the descendants of the saint, and the inheritors, as guardians of his tomb, of a kind of spiritual supremacy.

The opportunity offered by this internal division was seized by neighboring hill chiefs to gain control over the rich lands of Swat. The ambitious ruler of Dir, who held the valleys between Swat and Chitral, was gradually overrunning the fertile tracts on the right bank of the river. The Nawab of Amb and Darband, independent chief on the right bank of the Indus, was invading Buner and threatening to absorb the main valley of Swat from the south-east.

By a lucky chance my visit to Darband on the previously mentioned tour of 1921 had allowed me to become acquainted with the Nawab’s son-in-law ‘Abdul Jabbar Khan, the descendant of a once influential family driven out of Swat, just as he was setting out to lead the van of the inroad into Buner. A previous attempt of this adventurous young man to establish himself as the Nawab’s cat’s-paw in the uppermost tract of Swat had, indeed, ended in failure. But it had made him acquainted with that  mountain spur higher up on the right bank of the Indus in which I was interested, and the information he was thus able to give me proved useful enough in the end.

Source of Information (Reference):

Sir Aurel Stein, On Alexander Track To Indus, Macmillan And Co., Limited, St. Martin’s Street, London, 1929, Pages 3-4.

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