SIKHS AND AFGHANS, THE, by Munshī Shahāmat 'Alī, the Journal of an expedition to Kābul through the Punjab and the Khaibar Pass in 1838-39 kept by the author, who accompanied Colonel Wade and Shāhzādā Taimūr, Shāh Shujā's eldest son, with an auxiliary force under a treaty made in 1838 between three parties---the British, Afghāns and the Sikhs. The main object of this force of 4,000 levies raised by British money was to gain adherents to the Shāh's cause among the Khaibarīs and frontier tribes, and then, if possible, force its way through the Khaibar towards Kābul. Several British officials including Lieutenant J.D. Cunningham, the future historian of the Sikhs, and Lieutenant William Barr who wrote a similar journal (Journal of a March from Delhi to Peshawar and thence to Kabul... London, 1844) and others accompanied the expedition.

        Shahāmat 'Alī was the product of the Delhi English College, set up by Lord Amherst's government to train Persian knowing scholars in English language for diplomatic work. In 1838 he was deputed to join Captain Wade and the auxiliary force on its way to Kābul through the Punjab. His work, first published in London in 1847 (The Sikhs and Afghāns in connexion with India and Persia immediately before and after the death of Ranjeet Singh : from the Journal of an Expedition to Kabul) is a first hand account of the Punjab under Raṇjīt Siṅgh at the zenith of his power. It gives a short description of his system of administration, his army, and the notable men at his court. He describes the government of Lahore as "a pure despotism," guided by the Mahārājā's vigorous mind and keen judgement. The civil and military government, he observes, was carried on by means of 12 daftars or departments. The provincial government was entrusted to nāzims or governors and kārdārs or district officers. He estimates the revenues of the State in 1838 to be 3,00,27,762 rupees. The army of the Mahārājā consisted of 31 regiments of infantry, 9 of cavalry, 11,800 irregular horse, and 288 pieces of artillery, with a total annual expenditure of 1,27,96,482 rupees. Among the principal ministers and officers of the government mentioned are the Jammū brothers, Jamādar Khushāl Siṅgh, the Bhāī 's, Faqīr 'Azīz ud-Dīn, Misr Belī Rām, Dīwān Dīnā Nāth and others (p. 26 ff).

        The journal also gives a bird's eye-view of the northern Punjab under Sikh rule. It supplies information about the towns en route to Peshāwar-Gujrāṅwālā, Wazīrābād, Gujrāt, Jehlum, Attock, Rohtās, and Peshāwar, as also about the revenue, population and the people inhabiting these places. The relations of the Khaṭaks, the Yūsufzaīs and the Khaibarīs with the Sikh government are briefly described. Avitabile, the author observes, had established a good system of police and revenue at Wazīrābād which had a population of 40,000, the main occupation of the people being manufacture of coarse cloth and small tents (p. 57). Gujrāt was an old town of 8,000 houses mostly inhabited by Khatrīs and Gujjars and was known for the manufacture of swords, matchlocks and daggers (p.62). Jehlum had a population of 3,000 ; the transit duties across the river fetched the Sikh government 10,000 rupees and the revenue about 20,000 rupees. Timber brought down by various streams into the River Jehlum was collected by government officials and 25 % duty was charged (p. 110). Rāwalpiṇḍī, a town surrounded by a mud wall about one mile in circumference, had a population of about 4,000, with a revenue amounting to 1,50,000 rupees. It was known for its manufacture of ornamented shoes (p. 149). Hasan Abdāl, a small town overlooked by the hills, had a temple called Pañja Sāhib built by Harī Siṅgh Nalvā. The fortress of Attock stood on the spur of a hill (p. 173). Akoṛā, the scene of the battle between the Wahābī fanatic Sayyid Ahmad and the Sikhs, was the country of the khaṭaks, long time enemies of the Sikhs. The town had a few Hindu shopkeepers as well (p. 187 ff). Naushahrā, situated on the left bank of the River Kābul, where the Sikhs and Afghāns had fought a fierce battle in 1823, had a small fort opposite the town. Situated on the highway to Kābul, Peshāwar was a busy centre of trade. Shawl-merchants from Kashmīr coming into India passed through this town (p. 281). Agricultural products of the valley were wheat, barley, Indian corn, rice, sugarcane, cotton, sesame seed and saṇ or flax. Figs, oranges and plums were the major fruits. The revenue of Peshāwar under Sikhs rose to 18,00,000 rupees (p.278). General Avitabile, the governor, had by his strict rule established firm Sikh authority over the province. "He has been exceedingly severe in exercising his authority by hanging many Afghāns for small crimes. A thief can hardly ever escape with life..." (p. 279).


  1. Fauja Singh, ed., Historians and Historiography of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1978
  2. Khurana, Giāneshwar, British Historiography on the Sikh Power in Punjab. Delhi, 1985

B. J. Hasrat