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  Ahmad Shah Baba

Ahmad Shah BabaReign of Ahmad Shah (1747-1772)

In 1747 Ahmad Shah and his Abdali horsemen joined the chiefs of the Abdali tribes and clans near Kandahar to choose a leader. Despite being younger than other claimants, Ahmad had several overriding factors in his favor. He was a direct descendant of Sado, eponym of the Sadozai; he was unquestionably a charismatic leader and seasoned warrior who had at his disposal a trained, mobile force of several thousand cavalrymen; and he possessed part of Nadir Shah's treasury.

One of Ahmad Shah's first acts as chief was to adopt the title "Durr-i-Durrani" ("pearl of pearls" or "pearl of the age"), which may have come from a dream or from the pearl earrings worn by the royal guard of Nadir Shah. The Abdali Pashtuns were known thereafter as the Durrani.

Ahmad Shah began by capturing Ghazni from the Ghilzai Pashtuns, and then wresting Kabul from the local ruler. In 1749 the Mughal ruler ceded sovereignty over Sindh Province and the areas of northern India west of the Indus River to Ahmad Shah in order to save his capital from Afghan attack. Ahmad Shah then set out westward to take possession of Herat, which was ruled by Nadir Shah's grandson, Shah Rukh. Herat fell to Ahmad after almost a year of siege and bloody conflict, as did Mashhad (in present-day Iran). Ahmad next sent an army to subdue the areas north of the Hindu Kush. In short order, the powerful army brought under its control the Turkmen, Uzbek, Tajik, and Hazara tribes of northern Afghanistan. Ahmad invaded India a third, then a fourth, time, taking control of the Punjab, Kashmir, and the city of Lahore. Early in 1757, he sacked Delhi, but permitted the Mughal Dynasty to remain in nominal control as long as the ruler acknowledged Ahmad's suzerainty over the Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir. Leaving his second son Timur Shah in charge, Ahmad left India to return to Afghanistan.

Coranation of Ahmad Shah Baba The collapse of Mughal control in India, however, also facilitated the rise of rulers other than Ahmad Shah. In the Punjab, the Sikhs were becoming a potent force. From their capital at Pune, the Marathas, Hindus who controlled much of western and central India, were beginning to look northward to the decaying Mughal empire, which Ahmad Shah now claimed by conquest. Upon his return to Kandahar in 1757, Ahmad faced Maratha attacks which succeeded in ousting Timur and his court in India.

Ahmad Shah declared an Islamic holy war against the Marathas, and warriors from various Pashtun tribes, as well as other tribes such as the Baloch, answered his call. Early skirmishes ended in victory for the Afghans, and by 1759 Ahmad and his army had reached Lahore. By 1760 the Maratha groups had coalesced into a great army. Once again Panipat was the scene of a confrontation between two warring contenders for control of northern India. The Battle of Panipat in 1761 between Muslim and Hindu armies who numbered as many as 100,000 troops each was fought along a twelve-kilometer front. Despite decisively defeating the Marathas, what might have been Ahmad Shah's peaceful control of his domains was disrupted by other challenges.

The victory at Panipat was the high point of Ahmad Shah's--and Afghan--power. His Durrani Empire was one of the largest Islamic empires in the world at that time, perhaps second after the Ottoman Empire. Afterward, even prior to his death, the empire began to unravel. By the end of 1761, the Sikhs had gained power and taken control of much of the Punjab. In 1762 Ahmad Shah crossed the passes from Afghanistan for the sixth time to subdue the Sikhs. He assaulted Lahore and, after taking their holy city of Amritsar, Tomb of Ahmad Shah Baba in Kandaharmassacred thousands of Sikh inhabitants, destroying their temples and desecrating their holy places with cow's blood. Within two years the Sikhs rebelled again. Ahmad Shah tried several more times to subjugate the Sikhs permanently, but failed. By the time of his death, he had lost all but nominal control of the Punjab to the Sikhs, who remained in charge of the area until defeated by the British in the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1846.

Ahmad Shah also faced other rebellions in the north, and eventually he and the amir of Bukhara agreed that the Amu Darya would mark the division of their lands. In 1772 Ahmad Shah retired to his home in the mountains east of Kandahar, where he died. Ahmad Shah had succeeded to a remarkable degree in balancing tribal alliances and hostilities and in directing tribal energies away from rebellion. He earned recognition as Ahmad Shah Baba, or "Father" of Afghanistan.


By the time of Ahmad Shah's ascendancy, the Pashtuns included many groups whose origins were obscure; most were believed to have descended from ancient Aryan tribes, but some, such as the Ghilzai, may have once been Turks. They had in common, however, their Pashtu language. To the east, the Waziris and their close relatives, the Mahsuds, had lived in the hills of the central Suleiman Range since the fourteenth century. By the end of the sixteenth century and the final Turkish-Mongol invasions, tribes such as the Shinwaris, Yusufzais, and Momands had moved from the upper Kabul River valley into the valleys and plains west, north, and northeast of Peshawar. The Afridis had long been established in the hills and mountain ranges south of the Khyber Pass. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Durranis had blanketed the area west and north of Kandahar.

Afghanistan Empire of 1772



Abdali Durrani is the First King of Afghanistan and founder of the Sadozay dynasty of the Abdali tribe. In October 1747 elected King (Shah) of Afghanistan by an assembly of Pashtun chiefs the new leader of the Afghans changed his title from khan (chief) to shah (king in Persian) and assumed the name Durrani (Pearl of Pearls). Immediately he began to consolidate and enlarge his kingdom. He seized Kabul. He wrested from the Moghuls their territories west of the Indus. The Pashtun tribesmen rallied to his banner, and Ahmad Shah Baba  Baba led them  on nine campaigns into India in search of booty and territorial conquest. He added Kashmir, Sind, and the Western Punjab to his domains and founded an empire, which extended from eastern Persia to northern India and from the Amu Darya to the Indian Ocean. In 1756 he occupied Delhi and carried off as much wealth as possible, thereby enriching his treasury. By 1761, his kingdom was larger than present Afghanistan.

He led a contingent of his tribesmen in the service of Nadir Shah, king of Persia, who won control of most of Afghanistan and part of India. When Nadir died, Ahmad founded an independent Afghan kingdom. He invaded the Indian Punjab six times between 1748 and 1752, and he seized and sacked Delhi. In 1761 he defeated an Indian army at Panipat, India. Although he was a powerful military leader, Ahmad never intended in permanently ruling India; he subsequently withdrew into Afghanistan.

Ahmad Shah Baba was an outstanding general and a just ruler. He governed with the help of a council of chiefs, each responsible for his own people. Thus all matters of national issues were centralized, but each chief ruled his own tribe. This kind of arrangement won the support of the people, and was prevailing political pattern in Afghanistan until the monarchy ended in 1973. Ahmad Shah Baba Baba's vast realm soon broke apart. Afghans were better fighters than administrators.

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