Editor ChoiceSwat History

Sayyid Abdul Jabbar Shah and British Government

Reading history gives one a sense that how a wide variety of human characters thought at a particular time and how they reacted to certain situations that confronted them. The actual thrill lies in digging up ancient artifacts and uncovering secrets lost to time.

With the passage of time, one can observe the increasing interests of people towards their history. In this regard, Swat is not an exception. In fact it can be argued that there is more interest here when compared to the other areas in the province. The readers enjoy reading about their past and also appreciate the efforts of writers and researchers.

The history of Swat is full of gripping events. It is a good omen that new avenues of research are being explored. Personalities, places, events and eras of history of Swat are selected by students for research in higher studies and universities also assist them in exploring these areas.

History is incomplete without personalities and it revolves around them. Some names are very prominent while reading about the past of Swat. One such name is Sayyid Abdul Jabbar Shah of Sithana. He remained ruler of Swat from April 1915 to September 1917. However, the effectiveness of his rule and his influence in Swat is debatable and various interpretations are being made from time to time. The fact that he was not from the soil of Swat and that his ruling era spanned over mere two and half year, has resulted in obscuring his career and subsequent life to some extent. His life, contributions, shortcomings and related issues hasn’t been fully explored. There is a lot of interest in the readers to know about him. Very little material is available concerning his arrival in Swat, ruling era, religious beliefs and his subsequent departure from here. His subsequent career in Amb and Hyderabad (Deccan) also needs a thorough academic work.

I previously wrote an article about him in Urdu that was published in Daily Azadi on 28th of May 2019 (the article is available on www.lafzuna.com and www.swatencyclopedia.com). The present article is also intended to provide some more details about Sayyid Abdul Jabbar Shah.

The most accurate views are those that one writes about himself and carries more weightage when compared with opinions and interpretations of others. Keeping this point in view, in this article, excerpts are taken from a detailed letter that was written by Sayyid Abdul Jabbar Shah (in English) to the then Chief Commissioner, N.W.F.P (Now Khyber Pakhunkhwa) on 2nd October 1914. This letter was written at a time when he hadn’t assumed the rulership of Swat. It is pertinent to mention that North West Frontier Province remained a Chief Commissioner Province till 1931 and Chief Commissioner was administrative head of the province. All the important decisions pertaining to the province including the princely states were made by him after the approval of Government of India. It is clarified that in this article only those parts of the detailed letter are produced in which he explains his life story and also his relationship with the British Government and officials. This detailed letter is available on Provincial Archives, Peshawar and can be easily accessed, if needed. He wrote to the Chief Commissioner:

“I most humbly and respectfully beg to state that in an interview which you kindly granted me at Nathia Gali on the 25th June (1914) last, I brought to your notice all the circumstances relating to my family claims (in Swat). My grandfather Sayed Akbar Shah of Sathana was the ruler of Hazara before the advent of British rule and of Sawath (now spelled as Swat) afterwards. After his death in 1857, my family had the misfortune to assume a hostile attitude towards the British Government and to cost its lot with the Mujahidin and as a consequence lost its hold on Sawath afterwards. My father prince Sayid Mahmud Shah took up the service of the British Government as a Resaldar with a hundred Sawara in 1858. Thus our rights in Sathana were maintained and through your kindness I was permitted to build Sathana (again)… Before taking any step however, I made personal enquiries into the matter (to proceed to Swat as its ruler after he was approached by a Jirga from Swat) and was fully satisfied that the tribes were earnestly desirous of having a head and that the country stood in need of a ruler and afterwards brought all the facts to your notice, for not only did the Nawab Sahib of Amb gave me advice not to take any step until the British Government was fully appraised of all the circumstances, but personally too, I was averse to not in a way which might be against the wishes of the Government. Having informed you of all the circumstances, I was assured by you that the Government had no objection to any such action on my part by which I might seek to claim my family rights over the Sawath territory and that did not interfere in the internal affairs of Yaghistan (Swat and adjoining areas were known as Yashistan then), but that all that the Government desired was that the road through the Sawath Territory (referring to road from Chakdarra to Chitral) should be safe and that no such disturbance might be created in the frontier which might be a source of trouble to the Government. You also remarked if my assumption of the rule of Sawath was likely to mend the internal affairs of the Sawathis, if would be a service to the British Government. You also kindly intimated to me that I should keep aloof from the entanglements of Sawath and Bajour for Mian Gul Jan, brother of the Nawab of Dir had been killed in Bajour on the 12th June. With reference to all these kind suggestions I had assured you that unless I was fully convinced of the sincerity and submission of the Sawathis, I would not take the last step in the matter and that in case I did it I shall be fully responsible for the safety of the road… The 8th of September 1914 was the date fixed for my entry into Sawath with the Buner Forces, the people of Sawath and Bajour undertaking to fulfill their part of the agreement at the same time. I had labored day and night for the achievement of this object for over two months, I had to spend a large sum of money in getting together an army, I had fully apprised the British Government of all the circumstances and was absolutely sure that no obstacle from that quarter would bind my advance; I had full confidence that the British Government would deal with me as with a loyal supporter of its interests, for loyalty to British interests was uppermost in my mind, and lastly I had no knowledge of the developments of the war in Europe. But after everything had been done and every necessary steps had been taken and I was within the sight of the goal, and only three days before my proposed entry into Sawath, I received intimation from Major Bruce, Assistant Commissioner of Mardan through Khwaja Muhammad Khan, A.D.C to General Willcocks that I should see him immediately. In an interview which I had with Major Bruce on the 6th September, he warned me of the treacherous dealings of the people of Sawath and of the cleverness of some native officials and told me that the Sawathis wanted to bring disaster upon my head to gain their own object… I was told not to attempt an entry into Sawath with the Buneer forces in these days of the European War. I showed him the correspondence that had already passed between me and the people of Sawath, Dir and Bajour and submitted that I was ready to sacrifice my own interests for the sake of the those of the British Government, but that this sacrifice was more than could be expected from any other loyal ruler under the protection of the British Government… I also submitted that I was unable to see what compensation I would get for this heavy sacrifice but Major Bruce told me that he would represent the matter personally to you at Nathia Gali though he could not promise anything definite. Thus in compliance with the wishes of the British Government I have foregone my valuable interests. The Political Agent of Malakand whom Major Bruce told me to see, warned me further that if I did not give up the idea of my entry into Sawath Territory as a ruler the Government would help the Nawab of Dir and thus I was compelled to sacrifice everything. I went back to Buneer and Malka and informed the members of my family and the people that it was not proper for us to make any move in the matter in opposition to the wishes of the British Government, and have now come back to my home at Sathana. I now lay all the matters before you for your kind consideration. I humbly submit that the truth of the facts stated above may be ascertained by an enquiry…all this I have done after I had fully apprised the Government of all the facts, then I would submit that no other proof is needed of my loyally meeting the wishes of the British Government and of my making a sacrifice in compliance of those wishes of which very rare instances will be found here. Matters would likely change after the termination of the European War and I cannot entertain the version of so many fortuitous circumstances again happening together…Practically I have given up the rulership of a large state the acquisition of which again seems almost an impossible task without actual support from the British Government on in compliance to the wishes of the benign Government. I therefore beg to submit that besides the words spoken by Major Bruce and the Political Agent of Malakand I have got nothing to show the heavy sacrifice of my interests that I have made neither I have  any knowledge as to how far the British Government appreciate this valuable sacrifice and what liberal compensation would be awarded for it and whether such compensation would be granted to me immediately in the form of a pension or Jagir, or after the termination of the war in the form of helping me to obtain the rulership of Sawath Territory. I beg to assure you that interests of the British Government are foremost in my mind and hence I have not hesitated in the least to forsake such valuable interest of my own in compliance with the wishes of the British authority because I have full confidence in the justice of the British Government and am sure that it would give full weight to this heavy sacrifice as readily made in awarding due compensation. I beg to remain, Sir, Your most obedient servant, Sayyed Abdul Jabbar Shah, Prince of Sathana, c/o Thana, Torbela, District Hazara, Dated: 2/10/1914.”

A copy of this detailed letter was also forwarded to Sayyid Abdul Jabbar Shah to the Viceroy of India for information as well. This letter is very revealing in nature and provides basic details about him. It shows that he had developed good relations with the British officials and was fully aware that Britishers were the de facto rulers of India. It was not possible for him to proceed to Swat from Amb with his forces to Swat, without the approval of the British. He was experienced, skillful and wasn’t swept by emotions. He adopted the course of action keeping in view the overall situation of the area and abandoned his plan to proceed to Swat. The ensuing interesting events and his entry into Swat as its ruler will be discussed in future.

The writer is founding Chief Editor of www.swatencyclopedia.com. He hails from Saidu Sharif, Swat. He is M.phil Scholar and his research field is Swat State. He regularly writes on Swat State and its various aspects.
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The writer is founding Chief Editor of www.swatencyclopedia.com. He hails from Saidu Sharif, Swat. He is M.phil Scholar and his research field is Swat State. He regularly writes on Swat State and its various aspects.
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