Khan Umara Khan "The Afghan Napoleon".

Khan Umara Khan "The Afghan Napoleon".

Khan Umara Khan "The Afghan Napoleon".


In the last two centuries, there were numerous Pashtun uprisings in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa "NWFP" and Fata " Tribal Agencies" against Sikhs and the British. Except for Syed Ahmad Barelvi’s movement, led by non-Pashtuns, most movements were localised jihads with the sole objective of evicting foreign forces from a particular area. However, there was one Pashtun hero, Umra Khan, the people of Dir proudly narrate his life story and exploits, glorifying his personality through folk songs and poetry. Many British writers, including Winston Churchill, have written about Umra Khan but HC Thomson’s book, The Chitral Campaign gives the most detailed and objective account of his life.


Khan was born in about 1860, in a place called Barwa (renamed as Samar Bagh in the 1980s) in Jandul, Lower Dir. At that time, different areas in Bajaur and Dir were ruled by Khans. His father, Aman Khan, ruled the valley of Jandul. On his death, in 1879, Umra Khan’s elder brother succeeded him. Fearing for his life, Umra Khan fled Jandul, and performed Hajj. Umra Khan obtained rifles, raised an army and a horse cavalry and embarked on a series of conquests. He captured Dir and expelled Sharif Khan, the then ruler. He then attacked and captured Asmar (in Afghanistan). By 1892, he was in control of all of Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, some portions of Swat, and his influence extended up to Buner.


Chitral, at that time, was ruled by Mehtar Aman ul Mulk. To guard against any aggression by the Afghan amir, he had placed Chitral under the nominal suzerainty of his neighboring ruler, the Maharaja of Kashmir and also developed good relations with the British. In February 1895, Umra Khan entered Chitral, despite heavy snow and severe weather, and captured the Drosh Fort.


The British political agent at Chitral asked Umra Khan to leave but he disregarded this warning. He instead wrote back to the British agent asking him to leave Chitral. Umra Khan’s forces laid siege to the Chitral fort and a number of attacks were launched in which both sides suffered casualties. Two British officers were captured and brought to Drosh.


In March 1895, the British mobilised a division size force at Nowshera. Once Umra Khan received this news, he retreated to Jandul, taking the two captured officers with him At Chikdara despite of a big difference between the two forces Mohammad Shah Khan stop the British at least for five hours but he could not continue his resistance furthers more and he retreated from the field. The British army ruined that historical fort of Ramora and started moving towards Timergara via Talash. Through out the way to Timergara the Mujahidin continued sudden attacks on the British army and kept them in a persistent fear and trouble.


On April 11, 1895 the British army reached to Saido and stayed there to prepare for crossing 

river Panjkora. The engineering core developed a bridge on the river and when about half of  the army were crossed the river, the bridge was washed out by the flooded waves and at the same time the Mujahidin attacked from Kamrani top. It was not too far that the half of British army will be destroyed by Mujahidin but once again from the opposite bank of the river they used their artillery but still the British army lost colonel Kalbot, captain Filebz, colonel Betaye along with 23 soldiers. On April 17, 1895 the British army once again faced Mujahidin at Gosam, it is the mid way to Munda which was the strong fort of Umra Khan.


Once again the British army use artillery and about 300 Mujahidin were martyred while 3 British soldiers were killed. Till that time the cousin and army commander of Umra Khan Abdul Majeed Khan was in Chitral with 4000 soldiers and with most of the weapons. Now Umra Khan was struggling together different tribes and to have a final fight with the British but when he asked Abdul Majeed to immediately move to Jandol, He used Delay tactics and did not come as he was sold himself for a few rupees and the greed of the rule of Jandol. In Munda Umra Khan was accompanied by 1000 of soldiers. When the British army reached to Munda, Sir Robert Law sent a letter to Umra Khan for negotiations but in fact he was in the struggle to arrest Umra Khan as per Delhi orders.


In response Umra Khan replied ," I am surrounded by thousands of Mujahidin they will not let me negotiate therefore you send your army back and I will send mine then we will have a meeting in the field but Sir Robertson refused this proposal as he was actually not interested in Negotiations. Umra Kan was very dishearten by the role of some mullahs and his cousin who betrayed him in a critical situation and now with only 1000 soldiers he very rightly decided to leave Jandol.


At that evening Umra Khan was in Munda fort with the elders of different parts of the area and held a meeting with them. After offering the evening prayer he came out and addressed his soldiers. ," He said, if I had 1600 brave soldiers in Malakand the British will never cross Malakand. He further told that I am not defeated by the enemy rather I am defeated by my relatives and friends. By this defeat I have lost my state but many have lost their faith. He showed the pamphlet of Mukrani Mullah in which he stopped people from jihad and then he said that I will come back with army from Afghanistan and will fight with enemies till the last breath. He told the people to loot the fort and then he left Jandol with forty soldiers.


Umra Khan was warmly welcomed in Afghanistan and he was given proper 

protocol and facilities but what for Umra Khan went to Afghanistan that is to establish an army, The Afghan government did not allow him to involved in such activitis. He devoted him self for social works and established a Madrassa. He was died at Charda Afghanistan at the age of 44. His burial ceremony was attended by Amir Abdurrahman Khan and other officials of the government. The Afghan government announced two day leave in the grief of Umra Khan's death and He was given the title of Sardar Bahadar.


The writer of the book Gumnam Reyasat wrote in his book,' our new generation is perhaps do not know about Umra Khan while many British writers wrote about him. He further writes that the Umra Khan war against British was the second major event against the British after the war of Independence 1857, and it is a 

bright chapter of the Pakistan and especially Dir history.

Ahmed Ali Mughal

61 Articles posts