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Kasur and the Afghans

Imperial gazetteers claim that Kasur was settled by Afghans either during Babar’s occupation of India (1526) or Akbar’s reign (1556-1605). These are largely unsupported claims, but the earlier dates are more plausible (i.e. during Babar’s invasion), since Afghans were already a significant presence even in pre-Mughal/Sultanate India. Further, it seems that by the time that Akbar became emperor, Afghan settlements in Kasur were already established. In particular, the region was associated with the Afghan Khweshgi dynasty, who maintained alternately tense and cordial relations with Mughal rulers. During the reign of Shah Jahan, for instance, Nazar Muhammad Khweshgi is mentioned in Farid Bhakkari’s Zakhirat al-Khawanin (compiled 1649-1650) as being a Khwesghi of Kasur. Later on, other in the Khweshgi family, such as Husain Ali, also rose to prominence, playing an important role in the politics of early eighteenth-century Punjab. 

The most extensive work on this subject has been carried out by Professor Muhammad Shafi, published as an article entitled “An Afghan Colony at Qasur” in the journal Islamic Culture (1929 edition). The following information is drawn from Professor M. Shafi’s work, as it is based on a number of verifiable references:

Shafi cites the Akhbar al-Awliya, written by ‘Ubaid Ullah known as Abdullah Khweshgi of Kasur, who wrote this taẕkira of Afghan saints in the 1660s. This work claims that at the time of Babar’s invasion of India, the Khwesghi clans and others in the Arghasan valley (also known as Yakka Tut in the Akhbar al-Awliya) were undergoing internal conflicts. Their aid was enlisted by Babar in his invasion of India, and afterwards, they settled in the Kasur region. The Akhbar al-Awliya states that in return for their aid, Babar granted them ¼ of the revenues of Delhi, but this was discontinued under Akbar. The farman signed by Babar no longer exists, but the author of Akhbar al-Awliya states that it existed when he was writing his work, and that the farman had even been presented to Shah Jahan (presumably as evidence of their earlier privileges, and to petition the emperor to resume these privileges). The Akhbar al-Awliya is the oldest source that deals directly with this topic, but it should be noted that it was written already about 140 years after the Battle of Panipat (1526) and, furthermore, was produced by a member of the Khweshgi lineage (some historians find this to be a reason for the text’s reliability, while others suggest that this makes it biased; Shafi is of the former opinion).

In the early decades of Mughal rule, Khwesghi Afghans may have enlisted in military campaigns from time to time, they were primarily horse dealers, moving between Punjab, Agra, Gujarat and the Deccan in India, and Iraq and Khurasan. It was under Jahangir that the Khwesghi Afghans began to play a more prominent role in Mughal politics and to serve as officials.

Kasur before the Afghan/Khweshgi settlement

In any case, we know that before the settlement of the Khweshgi Afghans at Kasur, the town already had a considerable Rajput presence, and references to Chohans and, later on, Jats, also occur. Amir Khusrau (1253-1325 AD) refers to Kasur in his Qiran al-Sa’adain, but it is unclear as to the extent of its significance at this point, since it is only mentioned in passing.

 Another source, Abu’l Fazal’s Akbarama, states that Sheikh Salim Chishti traced his ancestry to Shaikh Farid al-Din Shakar-Ganj (1179-1265/6), who in turn hailed from Kabul; Qazi Shoaib, an ancestor of Shaikh Farid, had settled at Kasur in the time of Chingis Khan (1206 –1227), indicating that Kasur was one of the qasba towns established by Muslims displaced by Chingis Khan’s invasions.

Note: All dates are according to the Gregorian (AD) calendar. 


The Text by DR.Zahra Ameer Shah