Foreign Invaders Through Afghanistan
05 August 2013
Related: Five Days in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa
posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,
- At August 5, 2013 at 12:27 AM, Usman said...
Brilliant sir. Amazing lessons of history coupled at the end with heavy dose of reality and not mythology. Bravo.
- At August 5, 2013 at 3:40 AM, Faisal said...
Boss why do I get this feeling that you speak the same language as that of Geo,funded by TATA.Who funds you?
- At August 5, 2013 at 9:43 AM, said...
Salman sb. brilliant article indeed. And congratulations, finally trolls have found your blog. Only a sign of good readership.
- At August 5, 2013 at 10:29 AM, Faraz said...
What else do we know about the Scythians, Parthians and the Kushans? Who were these people? Why did they left their homeland of the Central Asian steppes and came down into the plains of Indus? Which tribes\ethnicities in present day Pakistan claim descent from these people, or as is the norm in our land, have they forgotten their origins and like to believe that they are descendants of Arabs?
- At August 5, 2013 at 10:58 AM, said...
This article is bullshit and Pakistani propaganda at its finest.
- At August 5, 2013 at 11:26 AM, said...
What a bigoted article, you ignore what most serious historians say about Afghanistan. You're view is in the minority.
- At August 5, 2013 at 4:46 PM, said...
Ok this is the truth. But are you pro Afghans, pro Pakhtoons or pro Pakistan? Why bring this 'truth' up when another set of invaders (call them Russian followed by Americans or simple Taliban) is coming down from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
BTW, why do each Afghan carry a gun if they are not up to fighting for their own land.
- At August 6, 2013 at 12:54 AM, said...
A writer should never outstretch his rule.
- At August 6, 2013 at 5:35 AM, Nayyar Julian said...
Are the Taliban coming from Afghanistan sort of history repeating itself in any way. I wish not.
- At August 6, 2013 at 5:36 AM, Mohammed Hassanali said...
I am dumb struck. Need some research of my own before even have the right to comment here. May be in a few days
- At August 6, 2013 at 9:52 AM, said...
Most invaders came through Afghanistan because this was the only land route to the riches of Subcontinent.
- At August 6, 2013 at 11:28 AM, said...
Brilliant research, I always enjoy your myth breaking articles, keep writing and many thanks. Let truth be told even if it is bothering for many.
- At August 6, 2013 at 2:25 PM, Sajini Chandrasekera said...
wowwww, I learnt so much reading this. Thanks for sharing.
- At August 6, 2013 at 4:11 PM, said...
You say it as it is, without mincing words. Thanks from across the border.
- At August 6, 2013 at 5:04 PM, mansoor azam said...
lovely n lucid. great orchestration of words to bring out a simple fact. i am perfectly in line with this false concept of Afghan invincibility .. nothing could be far from the truth
- At August 6, 2013 at 8:40 PM, said...
Great article. However, I think Pashtun/Pathan are mixture of some of those people mentioned--especially Turks/Huns, other central Asian, and Iranian type people like Scythians. Pashto being an Iranian language and Khan being a common Turkish/Mongol surname.
- At August 6, 2013 at 10:35 PM, Umair Gulzar said...
Interesting! Something new to me but the question is where are your references. How you can you prove that what you are saying is actually what happened.
- At August 7, 2013 at 7:30 AM, said...
References should be provided
- At August 7, 2013 at 12:01 PM, Salman Rashid said...
Faraz, We are all, you, I and everyone else, the descendants of those various tribal groups that came down to the subcontinent through history.
- At August 7, 2013 at 12:03 PM, Salman Rashid said...
To the Anonymouses: Strangely, yesterday at the Peshawar Museum a brief history of the area caught my attention. It is official and is pasted in the porch on the right side. It is exactly what I wrote. I wonder why you have never wondered what the invincible Pakhtuns were doing when all these foreigners were ruling over you. Go read it and then expand your knowledge with great wisdom from books. Give up the internet; return to books and real knowledge.
- At August 7, 2013 at 12:11 PM, Salman Rashid said...
Faisal, I never, never, ever watch TV so I don't know Geo. But I did not know that Tata funded the truth. News to me, mate. Don't turn blue in the face, read history. it is a great liberator.
- At August 7, 2013 at 2:38 PM, Salman Rashid said...
If this had supported the mythical Afghan invincibility, no one would have wanted references. How subjectivity alters our perspective!
- At August 7, 2013 at 6:47 PM, said...
References are needed regardless of the fact whether a writing supports the Afghan invincibility or not. Like you've mentioned this Abdul Qasim Farishta (BTW I never heard about him) writing his own lies without proof. Likewise one may simply disregard your writing if there are no references or proofs.
- At August 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM, Kausar Bilal said...
Great record of the history of the region. So, there is no surprise we have such rich regional cuture due to our ancestors.
Maqdoor ho to khak sey puchoon keh tu ney
Wo ganjha e giran maya kia kiey?
- At August 8, 2013 at 5:07 AM, Salman Rashid said...
Anonymous, Farishta's history is not half bad. Only he foolishly called all Turkish invaders of Afghanistan and India by the name of Afghan.
- At August 8, 2013 at 5:09 AM, Salman Rashid said...
Thank you, Kausar. You observe so correctly re the richness of our culture.
- At August 9, 2013 at 5:45 PM, said...
Salman, why are you anti every thing?
- At August 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM, Salman Rashid said...
Be kind, Anonymous. I cannot possibly be against EVERYTHING. The good Kamil Khan Mumtaz once called me the Iconoclast.
- At August 18, 2013 at 9:05 PM, Shabir Azar Ali on FB said...
Don't understand why people are fussing over this article. A little libidinal stroking never hurt anyone.
Anyways Afghans in general and Pakhtuns specifically are not a homogenous group. Within the latter group are those who share DNA haplo types with Khazars from Central Asia, in some instances Greeks, Turks and Indians.
Some one commented about relationship with Ranjit Singh and his tribe and yes fiction apart Sikhs pretty much cluster with similar haplogroups found amongst Pakhtuns.
Why argue about historical detail often falsified when your own blood line( saliva in this case) is testimony to who relates to who.
- At August 19, 2013 at 1:53 PM, Salman Rashid said...
Shabir Azar Ali, thank you very much for bringing sense to this madness and flying spit.
- At November 1, 2013 at 2:55 AM, said...
I agree that "Afghanistan proper" (eastern and southern Afghanistan, and western Pakistan, "Land of Afghans/Pashtuns") has been invaded countless times. The area has always been of strategic importance, linking greater Iran with greater India, and acting as a passage way to Central Asia. I believe this is reflected in the culture and genetics of the Pashtun people. Pashtuns are a part of West, Central, and South Asian culture, simultaneously. Nevertheless, I think your repeated references to Pashtuns are misguided. If someone were to read this, they would assume that Pashtun identity is exceedingly ancient and deep rooted. I mean, you can't seriously believe that Pashtuns existed during the time of Alexander the Great! This is just being historically inaccurate. Besides, there is no doubt that Pashtuns in isolated eyries have always been free of foreign rule. This has little to do with "Pashtun Invincibility", but is attributable to the fact that these areas are very inaccessible, and offer little to boast about for any would-be conqueror. Most Pashtun tribes can genuinely claim to be untouched by taxation and centralized authority.
Also, I find the references to blue-eyed, auburn-haired Aryans rather humorous. The notion of the fair-skinned Aryan annihilating the inferior, weak, dark-skinned aboriginal Indian, is absolute nonsense. You need to read recent scholarship on the Indus Valley civilization. There is no evidence of violence or invasion. The region declined due to natural-climatic issues, population growth, and a general shift of socio-political gravity to the Gangetic plain. If there was a movement of Vedic peoples into South Asia, it was probably by relatively peaceful migration. As regards to their physical appearance, nothing even faintly suggests that they were fair-skinned in a European sense. They probably resembled the people who still inhabit the western fringe of Pakistan today. This is supported by genetics, since no European genetic input is found in contemporary Pakistani populations, including the Kalash and Pashtuns. Genetic studies demonstrate that the Kalasha are genetically identical with Pashtuns, and Pashtuns show no evidence of European admixture. Based on genetic analyses, Pashtuns are a three-way mixture between a northwest South Asian populations like Punjabis, a West Asian population similar to ethnic groups like Georgians and Armenians, and a Central Asian population similar to Tajiks. This is what one would expect based on location.
I love your style of writing. Your an exceedingly intelligent and articulate observer, and I love your descriptive powers. Nevertheless, I have to say, you have quite a few issues with Pashtun people. Everything you write about them is tinged with barely concealed contempt. Why? As a Pashtun individual, I find this disturbing. You reserve your rationality for everyone but us.
- At November 1, 2013 at 8:59 AM, Salman Rashid said...
Dear Anonymous of the lengthy thesis. Please go to 'About' at the top of this page and send me your phone number at the email address given thereat. We can talk. As for my anti-Pakhtun prejudice, you are being unjust.
- At November 1, 2013 at 5:09 PM, said...
Your inter linking makes it so much easy to read more. Thanks for sharing the real history.
- At November 1, 2013 at 5:42 PM, said...
I always enjoy your articles and wish you would write much more and I would think a 100 times before challenging you on any point of fact, (and I do not subscribe to any "nationalist" fantasy about Aryan origins) but I do think the Aryan invasion reference may need revision. The pre-history of North India (or South India for that matter) is still a work in progress and it may be best to leave it even more vague than the way it is written above.... I know that your knowledge greatly exceeds that of most who will jump at that statement, but just a thought...
- At November 2, 2013 at 9:08 AM, Salman Rashid said...
The Aryans came about 1800 BCE. Point. That is fact. The Aryans massacred the aboriginal peoples. That is fiction. In 30 years of writing I have kept to this thesis in view of what history/archaeology show us.
- At December 19, 2013 at 11:40 AM, said...
Please get it published in the tribune paper (tribune.com.pk) . Please, I beg you. You're great for exposing these lies. Thanks
- At January 20, 2014 at 9:44 PM, said...
I agree completely that they came around that time and that the wholesale massacres notion is likely fiction. I meant that the word "invasion" may raise images that are incorrect. The Aryan migration into India may be more accurate? just a thought.
- At February 8, 2014 at 3:42 PM, Salman Rashid said...
Very apt. The word to actually be used is migration in place of invasion.
- At March 11, 2014 at 8:31 AM, Ali said...
Nice summary of the region's history. The notion of Afghanistan as the "graveyard of empires" is greatly exaggerated and, as you say, mainly a British propaganda ploy after their defeat. It is also true that the British came to romanticize Afghans in a certain way, seeing in them some of the attributes that they ascribed to themselves -- you know, honor, chivalry, courage, etc. :-).
One point I would add is that at least one of the ancient empires you mentioned had major difficulties with Afghanistan. Even though the Sassanians defeated the Kushans and installed their Kushanshahs, the Hephthalites soon came to dominate Afghanistan and gave the Sassanians a very difficult time for 150 years. One Sassanian King (Kavad I) did ally with them to gain his throne, but even he had to eventually fight them. Even after the Hephthalites were defeated by Anushirvan, they remained a menace.
Though the Hephthalites are called "white huns", it is doubtful that they were actually Huns. Most likely, they were the ancestors of modern Pashtuns and are identified by some some scholars with the Abdali (Durrani) clan. They spoke an Iranian, not Turkic, language, though in Central Asia that doesn't mean very much.
Again, thanks for the very nice article. I enjoy reading your posts.
- At October 15, 2014 at 11:19 PM, said...
For the first time , I read a research article with out even single reference written subjectively. I is a fact that nobody on earth is invincible but it has to be admitted that pashtuns have survived through ages without submitting to anyone and the recent impartial history has lot of mention of the fact,
- At October 16, 2014 at 9:37 AM, Shankara said...
1. Aryan invasion theory is flawed on many counts, out of India theory notwithstanding. Read up latest DNA studies among other facts that clearly blow the Aryan Invasion theory out of the water. You need to update yourself on latest scientific findings. Aryan invasion theory was not founded on any scientific evidence but merely on conjecture.
2. Current population of Afghans is relatively new. Mostly Turkic stock from neighbouring central Asia and ME who migrated into fertile valleys especially under pressure from Huns and later Mongols. We cannot overrule the fact that Kushans, Scythians, Parthians and hundreds of other tribes may have started settling in Afghanistan from ancient times. Early native Afghanistan known as Gandhara (Kandahar) in ancient times were Indic origin may be similar to the population of Harrapa and Mohenjodaro and may have been small in number.
3. Successive Islamic invasion completed the erasure of these Indic people who either were massacred or just migrated eastwards. Lets not forget Persians and other ME people also might have also mingled over time in Afghanistan.
4. As per natural science findings, current desolate and desert landscape was not how Afghanistan was some 2000 to 3000 years back. It was a sub tropical region mostly with abundant forest and green cover. So was the case with Punjab which was swampy and densely forested. It was the Mughals and mostly the British who destroyed the forests in Punjab for agriculture.
5. I agree with you that the invincible Afghan is a myth perpetrated by the British. No regular army can win guerrilla warfare as Shivaji Maharaj showed to the Mughals.
- At December 20, 2015 at 1:08 PM, said...
After very long time I found this good and informative article by Mr Rashid.. I agree Afghanistan was invaded by all the powers since it was the gateway to India till 1100 CE and by this time Afghanistan / Gandhara regions had been converted to Islam and Hindu Shahis were driven into India..Afghanistan and Pakistan society is the result of these last 1200 CE invaders..
- At July 18, 2016 at 5:09 PM, said...
I would like to repeat Faraz's question.I would like to know the origin of different tribes specially in Punjab ie jat, gujer,rajpoot awan etc etc. can you please recommend some authentic book for that.
- At July 18, 2016 at 5:27 PM, Salman Rashid said...
Saadat sahib, research can never be done from one authentic book. You have to scour and scour and scour dozens of books. Begin with journals of the Royal Asiatic Society.
- At July 19, 2016 at 2:46 PM, said...
and my question remains unanswered about origin of castes ie jat,gujer..........
- At July 19, 2016 at 6:40 PM, Salman Rashid said...
The Jats and Gujjars are of Scythian origin. They entered the subcontinent in the 1st century BCE.
- At July 20, 2016 at 1:39 PM, said...
Thanks Salman sb.
- At July 21, 2016 at 8:21 PM, Sishan said...
A good summary of history that has created the current mix of peoples inhabiting northern India and Pakistan. However I think another group of people who invaded these lands has not found a mention, i.e. the Huns. They too invaded these lands at one time and made it their home. Some say the Jatts/Jaats are their descendants (?).
Another fact claimed by the Bhattis/Bhaatis which may be of relevance is that one of their ancestors, by the name Raja Gaj, a Hindu king who ruled Punjab, had invaded Afghanistan and made it a part of his kingdom. He founded the city called Gazni. His successor princes captured Sind/parts of Rajasthan and one of them called Rao Jaisal founded the city of Jaisalmer. His successors eventually came back northwards to Punjab and founded many principalities of Patiala, Nabha, Jind & Sangrur, Sirsa/Fatehabd, Faridkot etc. Successors of Raja Gaj are found in all religions today known as Bhattis, Bhatis, Sidhus and Brars. I mention this because Raja Gaj too had defeated the Afghans to establish his kingdom.
Another fact that shatters the myth of invincibility of Afghans is that Hari Singh Nalwa, a general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh too had overcome their resistance and taken the frontiers of Sikh empire beyond Khyber.
Once again many thanks for putting the history of the region of greater Punjab in a capsule form.
- At August 1, 2016 at 3:13 PM, Salman Rashid said...
Raja Gaj escapes my notice. But thank you, sir. I now have something significant and substantial to read.
- At January 1, 2017 at 10:18 AM, said...
It is generally believed that white huns were called the "white" huns due to their skin colour. However this is apparently not the case, as the various Hunnic tribes had long ago divided themselves into four groups along the cardinal points, each with a specific colour. The Northern Huns hence became the "Black" Huns, the "White" Huns were the western tribes, the "Green" or "Blue" were the southern and the "Red" Huns occupied the Eastern territories. So despite being identified as fair skinned, the name itself has less to do with physical appearance and more to do with their self-devised methods of tribal affiliation.
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