KPK History / Pakistan

Ambela Campaign (Buner), 1863, Part 1

In 1857, when all our resources were required to quell internal tumult, the Hindustani fanatics (In 1825 a religious adventurer from Bareilly made his appearance on the Yusafzai frontier with about forty Hindustani followers, and gave out that he was a man of superior sanctity, and had a divine command to wage a war of extermination, with the aid of all true believers, against the infidel. After studying Arabic at Delhi, he proceeded to Mecca by way of Calcutta, and during this journey his doctrines had obtained so great an ascendancy over the minds of the Mahomedans of Bengal that they have ever since supplied the colony which Syad Ahmad Shah founded in Yusafzai with money and recruits. The Syad was eventually slain fighting against the Sikhs, but his followers established themselves at Sitana, and in the neighborhood of that place they continue to flourish, notwithstanding that we have destroyed their settlements more than once during the last forty years.) took the opportunity to stir up disturbances all along the Yusafzai frontier of the Peshawar district, and, aided by the rebel sepoys who had fled to them for protection, they made raids upon our border, and committed all kinds of atrocities. We were obliged, therefore, to send an expedition against them in 1858, which resulted in their being driven from their stronghold, Sitana, and in the neighboring tribes being bound down to prevent their re-occupying that place. Three years later the fanatics returned to their former haunts and built up a new settlement at Malka; the old troubles recommenced, and for two years they had been allowed to go on raiding, murdering, and attacking our outposts with impunity. It was, therefore, quite time that measures should be taken to effectually rid the frontier of these disturbers of the peace, provided such measures could have been decided upon early enough in the year to ensure success.

The Punjab Government advocated the despatch of a very strong force. Accordingly, two columns were employed, the base of one being in the Peshawar valley, and that of the other in Hazara. The Peshawar column was to move by the Umheyla Pass, the Buner frontier, and the Chamla valley, thus operating on the enemy’s line of retreat. This route would not have been chosen, had not Chamberlain been assured by the civil authorities that no hostility need be feared from the Bunerwals, even if their country had to be entered, as they had given no trouble for fifteen years, and their spiritual head, the Akhund of Swat,(The Akhund of Swat was a man of seventy years of age at the time of the Umbeyla expedition; he had led a holy life, and had gained such an influence over the minds of Mahomedans in general, that they believed he was supplied by supernatural means with the needs of life, and that every morning, on rising from his prayers, a sum of money sufficient for the day’s expenditure was found under his praying carpet.) had no sympathy with the fanatics. It was not, therefore, considered necessary to warn the Buner people of our approach until preparations were completed ; indeed, it was thought unadvisable to do so, as it was important to keep the proposed line of advance secret. The strength of the force was 6,000 men, with 19 guns, but to make up these numbers the stations in Upper India had to be considerably weakened, and there was no reserve nearer than Lahore.

The Peshawar column (The Peshawar column consisted of half of 19th Company Royal Artillery, No. 3 Punjab Light Field Battery, the Peshawar and Hazara Mountain Batteries, the 71st and 101st Foot, the Guides, one troop 11th Bengal Lancers, one company Bengal Yappers and Miners, 14th Sikhs, 20th Punjab Infantry, 32nd Pioneers, 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th Punjab Infantry, and 6th Gurkhas. The Hazara column consisted of a wing of the 51st Foot, 300 Native Cavalry, a regiment of Native Infantry and eight guns, holding Darband, Torbela, and Topi on the Indus.) being all ready for a start, a Proclamation was forwarded to the Buner and other neighboring tribes, informing them of the object of the expedition, and stating that there was no intention of interfering with them or their possessions.

Source of Information/Reference:

Fredrick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, Forty One Years In India: From Subalturn to Commander-In-Chief, Volume II, London, Richard Bentley and Sons, 1897, 1- 4.

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