It is during Taimoor Shah’s period that Khajjaks gained a popular saying in the local populace that ‘though the Kakars may conquer in the hills, the Khajjak lord it in the plains’ .
The Khajjaks, were initially located at Mekhtar; which is nowadays in the possession of Kakars. In the latter half of 17th century Kakars defeated them in a feud, which resulted into their migration to Sibi. Sibi was then ruled by Junaid Khan, son of Baru Khan, the Progenitor of Baruzai. According to Abdul Aziz Luni, author of “Afghans of the frontier passes”, the Khajjaks recovered a herd of Camels from the Baloch raiders that belonged to Junaid Khan . The latter, in recognition of their services gave them the land and water. Captain N.Hart writes that Khajjaks were granted one cubit’s breadth of water of Nari river for irrigation. When Khajjaks increased in numbers and power, they obtained increase in share of water from Nawab Mirza Khan, son of Junaid Khan Barozai.
Sardar Panju Khan Khajjak
Tomb of Panju Khan Hamimzai, Khajjak chief (Sibi district , Baluchistan). He was a contemporary of Timur Shah Durrani.
“Three Khajjak headmen of the time- Sardar Panju Khan Hamimzai, Jangi Khan Doulatzai, Itabar Khan Umarzai – are mentioned in a royal Afghan farman which is dated 1179 A H /1782 A.D. In this farman each of them has been granted one Pao of water along with the proportionate agricultural lands in Siwi area in addition to their ancestral share in the common tribal property. Sardar Panju Khan was son of Qaim Khan son of Nihal Khan son of Azmat Khan son of Mir Khan son of Hamim Khan son of Khajak.” [“Afghans of the Frontier Passes”, A. Aziz Luni , Volume 2, p-200]
“In Sibi tehsil (now a district), the Pathans have adapted themselves to local conditions and have forgotten even their language and they mostly speak Sindhi. Only Khajjaks living in the village of the same name speak Pushto and Sindhi both” [Population Census of Pakistan, 1961]….. “The Khajaks of Sibi speak Pashto which has a mixture of Sindi words and the Panri Afghans speak Sindi in their homes” [Baluchistan District Gazetteer Series: Sibi, 1907 – Page 49].
“The Khajaks were originally located in Mekhtar, which is now held by the Hamzazai Kakars. Expelled thence, they settled in the Siwi district, where they were assigned land and water by their kinsmen. Afterwards, however, they picked a quarrel with the Barozais and other Panis, in the course of which they got the upper hand. In consequence they considered themselves without rivals in those parts, and hence their proverb: “Although the Kakars may coquette in the hill tracts, the Khajaks lord it in the plains.” [Census of India, 1901, Parts 1-2, p-93]
History of Khajjak Tribes of Sibi District
It is during Taimoor Shah’s period that Khajjaks gained a popular saying in the local populace that ‘though the Kakars may conquer in the hills, the Khajjak lord it in the plains’ . They started harassing their own Afghan kinsmen. The Marghzanis were their first victims. The Barozai rulers antagonized them by frequent complaints to the Afghan Kings of Afghanistan. But Khajjaks succeeded in in establishing direct relationship with the Afghan King and got political recognition as well as grant of land and water in Khajjak’s revenue circle. The in-fight helped the Balochs to encroach upon Panni lands and later drove them out of some of the important tracts. Khajjaks never defended other Panni clans from the raids and forays of their Baloch neighbours. The Pannis, harassed by Balochs, migrated to village Kurak and the Khajjaks occupied the lands thus vacated. Subsequently, they started harrying the Baruzai. They helped the Marris in double squeeze of the Panni clans in Sibi tract. The elders of the area refer to this period of Sibi as ‘Highhandedness of Marris and Khajjaks’
Mc Gregor writes, “Though agriculture is their chief employment and though they are peacefully inclined they are said to have a high character for bravery.” . The power of Khajjaks was crushed by the British army in March 1841 so that they left the plains of Sibi and Sangan defenseless against the Marri inroads. In 1872, the Khajjaks openly refused to accept the writ of Amir Sher Ali Khan of Afghanistan who didnt give them any protection against the Marris and stopped the payment of revenues to Amir. The Amir sent a force that too the chief of Khajjaks along with his son, as a hostage to Kandahar for payment of revenue due from Khajjaks.
Anglo-Khajjak battle 1841
In 1839, Misri Khan Barozai, the head of the Panni tribe, tendered his services to Shah Shuja and was taken into British service with a number of his followers, who were styled incorrectly the ” Baloch Levy.” In March 1841, Mr. Ross Bell, the Political Agent in Upper Sind, deputed one of his assistants with a detachment of troops, under the command of Colonel Wilson of the Bombay Cavalry, to collect the arrears of revenue due from the Khajjaks of Sibi on behalf of Shah Shuja.
The detachment was accompanied by Misri Khan, and on the Khajjaks refusing to comply with the demands, attacked the town, but were repulsed with heavy loss, losing fifty- three men killed and wounded and four officers including Colonel Wilson. Reinforcements from Bhag were sent up under General Brooks, but before they could arrive the Khajjaks abandoned their town,the defenses of which were then demolished. The power of the Khajjaks was thus weakened, and shortly afterwards the Marris acquired a footing in the Sibi District. They dispossessed the Pannis of Badra and Quat-Mandai and over-ran Sangan.
Anglo Khajjak Battle 19 Feb 1841
The troops sent consist of the 3rd cavalry, Leslie’s horse artillery, some of Skinner’s and of Curtis’s irregular horse and a wing of the 20th N.I, these were afterwards joined by 200 of the 2ndGrenadiers with Lieutenants Hogg, Falconer and Morrison. The whole was commanded by Colonel Wilson of the Cavalry. The distance they had to march from quarters was about 40 miles: a detachment worse suited for the attack of a fortified town, could not be imagined; especially when the General had every variety of troops in such abundance at command. So late as the 17thafter the troops were on their way certain of the Khajjak chiefs had an interview with Mr. Rose Bell: some misunderstanding appears to have arisen: Mr. Bell stated that he was left under the impression that the chiefs wished to evade payment altogether, though admitting it was due and some of the natives on whom he so often so unworthily relied, assured him that the Khajjaks were arming and preparing for resistance. The groundlessness of this last became obvious when our troops arrived near the Khajjak Fort and the populace appeared never to dream of hostilities. Lieutenant Brown A.P.A, was sent to join the force in consequence of Lieutenant Col. Wilson reporting that the people were hostile and that our camel-men had been detained in the town. Which he deemed it imperative to make known. He proceeds to say “but little forage had been promised and the people who went for it were treated with ill-concealed ill-will. I am positively informed that an attack on our camp will be made should a favorable opportunity of doing so occur. I respectfully solicit the Major-General granting further and more explicit instructions.” It was at this time that the Assistant Political Agent was ordered to proceed to Col. Wilson’s camp in case of difficulty, that the commanding officer might be fully aware how matters were to be managed. On the day of the fight, 20th February, a deputation of the chief men had an interview with Lieutenant Brown: they declared their readiness to pay the sum required but requested twelve hours to make the collection. This was refused and they were informed that unless within two hours they should produce 2200 pounds their town would be attacked by the troops. The attempt was made the collection was commenced on the instant; and rupees, gold and silver ornaments were gathered in the utmost haste in amount equal to our demands. A Moonshee with some attendants who had been sent to the town when the two hour’s leave which had been given were expired, met the chiefs bearing the treasure to our camp. Before they arrived there, however, they observed the guns getting into position and the troops being drawn out in order of battle. Supposing some trick or delusion to be intended, that we meant both to take the money and attack the town besides, they retired within the walls and charged the Moonshee with endeavoring to practice a fraud upon them. The fight immediately began. The Fort which contained about 4000 people. It was situated in a level plain, which afforded no cover for ordnance and surrounded with a ditch and mud wall, varying from 12 to 20 feet in height, with four open gateways respectively of 9, 10, 12 and 20 feet in width. The detach surround the fortress at 12 feet distance from the wall was 25 feet broad and 4 feet deep; it was encircled on three sides by marshes and water-courses. About two 0’clock p.m. the guns opened with round-shot and spherical case at the distance of two hundred yards; after a fire of nearly half and hour’s duration, they were removed to within one hundred yards of the mud wall. The defenses were so thick and numerous that even at this distance our shot scarcely told upon the town. The enemy had kept up a brisk and galling fire upon us from the moment our artillery was in position. Colonel Wilson was wounded through the thigh; the femoral bone being badly splinted by one of the first shots. The command in consequence devolved on major Rollings of the 2nd Grenadiers. The storming party consisting of two companies of the regiment just named, supporting by the left wing of the 20th N.I, proceeded to a place where the men were able easily to cross, the ditch having been left unfinished and advanced by the pathway 12 feet wide, which intervened betwixt the edge of this and the base of the wall. Captain Walter with a troop of the 3rdcavalry proceeded round to the other side of the tow to cut off the enemy’s retreat. The rest of the troops remained to support Captain Leslie with his guns and act circumstances might require. The enemy were six to eight hundred (600 to 800) strong just within the gate: there being about twelve hundred (1200) fighting men in the town altogether: the guns which otherwise kept the gate clear, required to suspend their fire as the storming party advanced. So soon as the head of the column got near the gate, the enemy rushed out and cut down the leading men, who were unfortunately very indifferently supported as no effort on the part of the officers could induce the Grenadiers to move forward. Lieut. Falconer was killed and Lieut. Shaw sub-assistant commissary general who volunteered his services on the occasion severely wounded in leading the assailants on. On seeing the check of the storming party, the intrepid Lieut. Creed H.A., requested permission to take some dismounted artillerymen to head the column and endeavor to recover the fortunes of the day. This gallant band of about 20 horse artillerymen at once advanced and endeavored to force their way into the town. Lieut. Creed and some few got within the gateway.: but here the heroic officer and five of his men were immediately cut down, and the remainder most of whom were severely wounded, driven back by force of numbers were compelled to retire being unsupported.The enemy began to flag and had the attack been persisted in the Fort must have fallen. Evening was now rapidly advancing: it was obviously in vain to maintain the struggle so our troops retired to a distance of 1000 yards and proceeded to encamp for the night with view of next morning renewing operations.
The causalities in this unfortunate affair amounted to 15 killed and 25 wounded: Lieuts. Falconer and Creed were amongst the former, Colonel Wilson and Lieut. Shaw amongst the latter. Colonel Wilson died in a few days afterwards from the effect of his wound. The enemy’s loss is said to about 60 killed.
A report was spread that Khajjaks intended to attack us at night, so that the troops slept under arms. The rumor proved groundless about 11 O’ clock p.m. a banyan arrived in camp from the fort, intimating that the chiefs had left, the whole of the occupants of the town save the aged and bedridden made their escape to the hills, so that when morning dawned it was tenantless. Khajjak was taken possession of and all them moveable’s contained in it declared prize property. This amounted to about 2000 pound in value: this as will by and bye be seen, had afterwards to be restored by order of government.
The tidings of this mishap reached General Brooks at Mengal ka Shaher (Bhag) about noon on the 21st and he immediately ordered out a detachment to join Captain Rollings with the utmost expedition. This consisted of the head-quarters of the 4th troop horse brigade H.M.’s 40th and 21st N.I with the sappers and mines: they marched about 5 P.M. the same afternoon. These were to proceed by forced marches without a moment’s delay as the extent of the mischance was believed to be much more serious than it turned out, but on the march the Major-General receiving authentic intelligence that the Khajjaks had evacuated their Fort, directed the infantry to remain that night at Mithree and proceeded only with the head-quarters and 4th troop Horse Artillery to Khajjak. The infantry recommended their march the following afternoon. Before they had proceeded far rain began to fall in torrents and from the night being pitchy dark, the troops remained for some time in a perfect slough of mud were detained before Khajjak till the middle the camels of the force.
After the town had fallen into our hands but before it was destroyed some of the people who were starving on the hills, returned with a view of recovering their lost properly: they were driven back some perishing in the ditch and orders were given to fire on any one who should approach the town. Foiled in avenging our mischances on the Khajjak warriors, Mr. Bell resolved that the property of the inhabitants should suffer. An order was fulminated directing the place to be destroyed and the country desolated. On the 6th March accordingly, the aged, sick and bedridden having been carried beyond the walls, the clothes on them being the only property they were allowed to retain, the Fort was set fire to and laid in ruins. The houses that could not easily be pulled down were mined and blown up. The timbers that could not be otherwise destroyed were burnt. The devastation was complete the fire raged for several days and the property accumulated and buildings erected through the space of seven generations during which the place had flourished in the hands of the Khajjaks was appropriated or destroyed by us. The crops were eaten up or trampled underfoot by the horses the camels and the baggage cattle of the army, the desire appearing to be to do as much want on mischief as possible. An edict was issued when the work of ravage had been completed that no part of the town should be rebuilt.
Killed 1 Lieut. Colonel, 2 Lieutenants and 12 men.
Wounded 2 Lieuts and 45 men.
The names of the Khajjak Cheifs, the descendants of the sons of Khajjak are:
Head Chief:Ismail Khan Khajjak , other Chiefs: Essa khan , Syed Khan, Karim Khan, Hussain khan, Meeran Khan, Door Khan , Kamal Khan.
The tribe is said to have numbered from seven hundred to one thousand fighting men this year.
We have heard General Brooks declare that he never in the course of 40 years’ service, experienced anything so intensely mortifying as the failure in Khajjak (Seebee). He sent out a light detachment on the assurance of Mr. Bell that by no possibility could there be fighting, that a mere demonstration was all that was desired. The neighborhood of Khajjak had been recommended as a station for part of the mounted force and the cavalry and horse artillery were ordered there in the first instance without any idea of warfare but simply for the benefit of forage which was hardly procurable at Bhag.
Pen-and-ink drawing of Sibi at the end of the Bolan Pass by George Boyd (1800-1850) dated between 1821 and 1844
Notes and References
A.Aziz Luni, “Afghans of the frontier passes”, Vol-I, p-108
There is also a saying, “Balochan-i-Marri bar koh minazand, wa mardumi Khajjak dar maidani goi shujaat mi rubayand” Translated from Persian in English language the- proverb will read as follows – “Marri Baloch are proud of their mountains whereas Khajjaks are proud of their bravery in the plain area.
Haroon Rashid, “History of the Pathans”, Vol-III, p-99
Mc Gregor, “North-West Frontier Province”, Vol-II, p-940
Baluchistan District Gazetteer Series: Sibi district, compiled by Major.A. McConaghey, p-26