Somebody asked the question of whether it would be possible to restore Chitral as an independent kingdom or as a princely state with some degree of autonomy.
I once openly advocated this. However, when the War in Afghanistan broke out full blast and thousands of refuges came streaming across the border, even I realized that this was a foolish idea and that Chitral must remain an integral part of Pakistan.
History books report that Aman-ul-Mulk always had a falcon sitting on his arm. What is that sitting on his left shoulder?
However, there is a scenario under which Chitral could become independent. This would require first the breakup of India. As long as India remains a nuclear threat, Pakistan must remain strong and united against a possible Indian invasion. India often flexes its muscles towards Pakistan and every time India does this, the Pakistanis become more united. Even I receive letters from India on my web site which contain threats against Pakistan.
Were it not for this, Pakistan might have broken apart long ago. The Sindhis and the Punjabis obviously do not get along well. The Baluchis are out of the picture completely and the Pathans have always consisted of independent tribes. There is only thing which unites them: Fear of India. Were it not for that, they would not be together.
In order for Chitral to regain its independence, Pakistan must break up, but that cannot happen unless India breaks up first.
However, a breakup of India is something which nobody, absolutely nobody, wants. Even people who hate India to the bottom of their hearts do not want India to break up. They know that if India breaks up, there will be terrible wars, incredible violence and millions of people will be killed. These wars will not be confined to India. They will certainly spill into Bangladesh and Pakistan and will reach everywhere that Indians can be found, including the Fiji Islands and New York City.
In addition, do not forget: India has the Atomic Bomb!
Unlike Pakistan, which is relatively peaceful, India through its history had always been on the verge of breaking up. Indira Gandhi was killed in retaliation for her efforts to quell a separatist movement. There are groups all over India trying to establish their own independence. It is almost a miracle that India is still together.
What I see as more of a possibility is that China will break up. This might lead to an Indian breakup which in turn will make possible a break up of Pakistan.
This is very likely. When Deng Xiao Peng was alive, think tank experts predicted that when Deng died, China would break up. They were wrong, as this has not happened. However, that is because the same ruling group is still in power. The Chinese are relatively non-violent. They prefer to make babies, not war. This alone is one reason why a lot of Chinese will welcome the breakup of China. If China breaks up, they will finally, at long, long last get a chance to cohabit. A wild orgy will take place in China.
Back to Chitral, I have a special reason for interest in this subject because the mother of my daughter is a member of the Royal Family of Chitral. If Chitral regains its independence, then the King of Chitral will be restored to power. He is not very old. He was born in 1950. He was deposed when Pakistan abolished the State of Chitral on January 1, 1971, when he was still 20 years old. His name is Saif-ul-Mulk Nasir. He was given a job in the foreign service of Pakistan to compensate him for the loss of his kingdom. He was assigned to be the Consul General of Pakistan to Hong Kong. This was a good deal for a young man, as he was at the time.
He lives in Islamabad now, not in Chitral.
If the Kingdom of Chitral is ever restored again, he will be the king again.
This is turn creates a theoretical possibility that my daughter could some day in the far distant future be a ruler of Chitral. Admittedly, this is an extremely remote possibility. There are more than one hundred princes alone in Chitral. My daughter would be way behind them and far at the end of the line, but she would be in the line nevertheless.
The three major strikes against her are that it was her mother's mother's mother who was a member of the Royal Family of Chitral. The female line is generally ignored when calculating the royal family. Nevertheless, every Chitrali knows that my daughter is a blood relative of their Royal Family.
I often wonder whether the Jerry Falwell Group in Lynchburg, Virginia appreciate the possible significance of the fact that when they kidnapped my daughter, as they did in 1990, they kidnapped a child who is a member of a royal family in Pakistan.
The Royal Family of Chitral is huge. One reason for this is that the rulers of Chitral traditionally had the right to the enjoyment of every beautiful girl in their kingdom. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica states that "Chitrali women are known for their beauty". The Kings of Chitral took full advantage of this, especially Aman-ul-Mulk who, it is said, had 72 children.
However, other rulers of Chitral, including one who was reputed to be gay and had no children, did not take advantage of this.
When a woman in Chitral was married to her husband, she was considered to be married for life. If she did not like the beast, if she ran away from him and went back to her parents, her parents would take her right back to her husband and tell him to do with her as he wishes.
Because of this, girls, who were often very young when they were married, if they wanted to leave their husband, had no place to run except to the Royal Palace in Chitral, the Noghor. Their enraged husbands could not enter there and there they could find safety and protection. People who remember those times have told me that the Chitral Noghor was always filled with girls escaping from their husbands. This gave the Ruler of Chitral additional opportunities to upgrade the gene pool.
The "Great Mehtar" of Chitral was Aman-ul-Mulk, who ruled from 1857 to his death in 1892. The famous British officer and adventurer Col. Algernon Durand, whose brother Mortimer drew the famous "Durand Line" which now separates Pakistan from Afghanistan, went to Chitral in 1890 and met Aman-ul-Mulk. Durand wrote in his book, The Making of a Frontier, page 77 (London 1899), "Any one more thoroughly competent to conduct affairs I never met."
Durand took a picture of Aman-ul-Mulk and some of his 72 children, which has been published in several books including Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1820-1895 by John Keay.
My daughter, Shamema, is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Aman-ul-Mulk. Robert Murphy, the United States Counsel General in Abu Dhabi, wrote a letter to the United States State Department which said, "Shamema is the brightest child that I have ever seen." One wonders if he knew that almost the same words had been used to describe her great-great-great-great grandfather, King Aman-ul-Mulk.
The reason Aman-ul-Mulk invited Durand to come to Chitral was that Aman-ul-Mulk wanted to sign up and join the British Empire. In his life, Aman-ul-Mulk never left Chitral, so he could not have appreciated the power and magnificence of the British Empire, but he knew that he had King Abdul Rehman of Afghanistan, who had recently been reinstated in power with the help of the Russians, breathing down his neck. He feared that Abdul Rehman was thinking of invading Chitral and indeed Abdul Rehman later on did invade neighboring Nuristan. Therefore, Aman-ul-Mulk decided that this was a really good time to join the British Empire. He had tried to do the same thing two decades earlier, but the British adventurer, George Hayward, had been killed in route in 1870. Aman-ul-Mulk was falsely blamed for this, even though Hayward never quite reached Chitral. One modern historian blames the killing on the Maharaja of Kashmir, who would not have wanted the British to make a separate deal with Aman-ul-Mulk.
Aman-ul-Mulk has been described by every historian who has written about him as an intelligent and capable man. He is described as "a cunning genius" in Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1820-1895, page 334, and as "far and away the most able of the chiefs" in The Gilgit Game, page 100.
The British considered Chitral to be of extreme geographic importance, because Chitral contains the watershed of the Hindu Kush. The British feared that the Russians might try to enter India, but almost the only way to pass from Russia to India would be to cross Chitral. Chitral controls the high mountain passes which any invader would need to cross to reach India, especially the Boroghol Pass which connects Chitral with the Wakhan Corridor and the Durah Pass which connects Chitral with Badakhshan. The British "forward policy" was to head off the Russians at the passes and thereby to stop them from reaching India.
History has proven the decision by Aman-ul-Mulk to join the British Empire to be brilliant, because previously Chitral was thought of as part of Afghanistan. During the recent War in Afghanistan, thousands of people fought and died, while Chitral only a few miles away was virtually unscathed by the war.
However, after Aman-ul-Mulk died on August 30, 1892, his sons started killing each other to gain the power. In this, they followed the example of their father, who had killed two of his brothers to gain and keep power. Aman-ul-Mulk left 16 sons who were considered to be possible rulers of Chitral. The first three to die were Prince Bahram-ul-Mulk, who was the great-great-great grandfather of my daughter, Shamema, plus two of his brothers, Shah Mulk and Wazir-ul-Mulk. In 1892, these three brothers were summoned to the Chitral Noghor for a meeting with the ruler, Afzal-ul-Mulk. After the meeting was over and as they were walking down an open-air corridor leading out of the palace, they were jumped from the walls above. It was an ambush, set up by Afzal-ul-Mulk, and they were killed instantly.
Because of this act of treachery, Afzal-ul-Mulk himself was killed less than one year later by Sher Afzal, a brother of Aman-ul-Mulk who had been a refugee for years in Afghanistan after losing a power struggle with Aman-ul-Mulk. Sher Afzal came to Chitral, had Afzal-ul-Mulk killed and proclaimed himself Mehtar.
Why would all these people kill each other just to gain power in a remote mountain outpost like Chitral? I do not know, but I am sure that all those beautiful young girls who were sitting in the Royal Palace as refugees from their enraged husbands and who were available to whatever man happened to be the King of Chitral, was a factor.
Sher Afzal did not last long because another son of Aman-ul-Mulk, Nizam-ul-Mulk, entered Chitral from Gilgit. Sher Afzal was defeated and fled back to Afghanistan.
The next ruler was Amir-ul-Mulk, who killed Nizam-ul-Mulk. The two brothers went on a hunting expedition together. When Nizam-ul-Mulk was looking the other way, Amir-ul-Mulk gave the signal for his assistant to kill his brother.
Everybody agrees that Amir-ul-Mulk was not a competent or a capable man. They say that he was not mentally retarded, but was not very bright either. However, the people of the time said, "We thought that Amir-ul-Mulk was stupid, but, as we can now see, he was smart enough to kill his brother."
Amir-ul-Mulk was not smart enough, however, to realize that taking a group of British Army Officers hostage was not a good idea. Surgeon Major George Robertson, who later was knighted and became a member of the British Parliament, and Col. Townshend, who later became a commander in World War I, led a British group which included several Gurkhas into Chitral. They came across the Shandur Top from Gilgit, which was already under British rule, and came down through Mastuj to Chitral. Amir-ul-Mulk demanded to be recognized as the Ruler of Chitral by the British and to be paid the annual fee which the British had paid to Aman-ul-Mulk. Robertson was slow in agreeing to these demands, because he was under orders from his superiors not to recognize anybody without consulting them first. The British soon found themselves under siege. The British with their Gurkhas arrested Amir-ul-Mulk and took over the Chitral Fort, which enraged the local populace because only the ruler is supposed to live there. The Nawab of Dir, Umra Khan, who had come over by invitation from Amir-ul-Mulk, promptly took effective rule of Chitral. He was joined by Sher Afzal, who chose this moment to return from Afghanistan. The Chitralis tried to get inside and even tried to dig a tunnel under the fort. The British found out about the tunnel. Their Gurkhas came out of the fort and charged the tunnel. They blew up the tunnel, killing 35 of the Chitralis inside.
When the British down in India found out that six of their offices and 400 of their troops were under siege, they organized two military forces, including a regiment of Gurkhas, to break the siege. This was a pincer attack, coming from two directions. One came from Gilgit up to 12,000 foot high Shandur Top. They brought two cannons with them, with great difficulty. This was the first time cannons had ever been brought into Chitral. This frightened the Chitralis, who had never seen cannons before and overestimated their power. The Chitralis mustered their forces at Nisa Gol, a huge trench 300 feet deep below Mastuj which cuts right across the Chitral Valley and is almost impossible to cross. The Chitrali force of 1500 men fought under Fateh Ali Shah, a famous horseman. (Chitralis are famous as polo players.) However, the Chitralis did not put up a good fight. After a few rounds of cannon were fired at them, many Chitralis took heel and ran. When the smoke cleared, the British under Col. James Kelly built a makeshift path across Nisa Gol, and that ended the Chitrali resistance on that side. Only 60 Chitralis and 6 British soldiers were killed in the battle.
The other British Expedition came up from Nowshera, which is near Peshawar. It consisted of a full division of 14,000 men. They came through an area which was not under British rule and which few if any British had ever even seen. The British under Major General Sir R. C. Low asked the Pathans for free passage through their territory, saying that they were only going to Chitral and wanted nothing from the Pathans, but the Pathans refused to agree to this. This led to the Battle of Malakand Pass. The Pathans amassed at the top of the pass, looking down at the British. However, the British had horses, which the Pathans had not seen before. The British found "an old Buddhist Road" whatever that means and got to the top of the pass in about three hours. The death toll was much higher there than in the Battle of Nisa Gol. Sir Winston Churchill wrote his first book about this, which was entitled "The Road to Malakand". This made Churchill famous, although he did not arrive in Malakand Pass until one year after the battle. The British established a permanent garrison at Malakand Pass and the territory they conquered became part of the British Empire.
The two British forces, coming from opposite directions, arrived in Chitral. The group from Gilgit under Col. Kelly arrived first, on April 20, 1895. Amir-ul-Mulk and Sher Afzal were both taken prisoner and sent to Madras, India where they lived out their lives. Amir-ul-Mulk, who was still a young man, lived to a ripe old age in Madras and one of his sons recently came to Chitral and was immediately given an important position because of his royal ancestry.
The British had established a new ruler in Chitral. During the siege, George Robertson had appointed Shuja-ul-Mulk, who was a bright boy only 12 years old and the youngest surviving son of Aman-ul-Mulk, as the ruler of Chitral. Shuja-ul-Mulk ruled until 1936 and had four wives and four concubines, all of whom produced children. It is said that Shuja-ul-Mulk named the sons of his wives "Mulk" and named the sons of his concubines "Din", but there were exceptions to this. The most famous of the Dins was Birhan-ud-Din, who became Commander of the Indian National Army.
What happened to the daughters of Aman-ul-Mulk and Shuja-ul-Mulk, who were obviously in great numbers? I do not know, as women tend to drop out of the history of Chitral. Perhaps nobody knows. However, Aman-ul-Mulk and other rulers in the region plus the royal families of Europe had a custom: They would trade daughters. For example, Queen Victoria of England gave all of her daughters to the sons of various kings of Europe. This is how it happened that the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria was Anastasia, the Grand Duchess of Russia. Similarly, Aman-ul-Mulk would give one of his daughters to the King of Badakhshan in exchange for one of the daughters of that king. Badakhshan is a Turkic speaking area. Badakhshan was later overrun several different times, most recently by the Russians. The Royal Family of Badakhshan had to flee and many of them went to Istanbul. It is believed that a large number of descendants of Mehtar Aman-ul-Mulk are now living in Turkey.
Another result of this practice of exchanging daughters was that almost every member of the Chitral Royal Family had a mother who was from some other kingdom. Many of their mothers are the daughters of kings of places which are now in Afghanistan, such as Nuristan, as well as of Zebak in Badakhshan.
Because of this, my own daughter, Shamema, may be more of a member of the Royal Family of Chitral than most others. Her mother, Honzagool, is a member of the Royal Family of Chitral on both sides: her mother and her father. Honzagool's mother is a member of the Katura Family, the ruling family of Chitral. Honzagool's father was a member of the Sangin Ali Family, which are cousins of the Katura Family. I do not know of any other case in which a person has Chitrali royal blood on both sides of her family, although undoubtedly there are many others.
Mehtar Shuja-ul-Mulk had 16 sons. Two of them became rulers. One of his other sons became Commander in Chief of the Indian National Army and fought for the Japanese and against the British in World War II. He is still a revered and respected man in Japan where I saw him again in 1984. His name was Birhan-ud-Din and he was the most famous, although perhaps not the best, son of Shuja-ul-Mulk. He died in July, 1995.
After Shuja-ul-Mulk died in 1936, his son Nasir-ul-Mulk became the ruler until 1946. He had no children. Next came Muzafar-ul-Mulk, who ruled until his death in 1949.
After his death, the ruler was Saif-ur-Rehman. However, a scandal erupted. I am sure that this is a disputed issue and probably half of it is not true, but the story goes like this: One of the daughters of Mehtar Nasir-ul-Mulk had been promised as a wife to the son of the Nawab of Dir. After some time, the Nawab of Dir organized an expedition to Chitral to complete the marriage ceremony and to bring the bride back to Dir. A trip from Dir to Chitral requires a perilous journey across the 10,200 foot high Lowari Pass. When the marriage party arrived from Dir, they were informed that the girl in question had been married to Mitar Saif-ur-Rehman of Chitral. More than that, she was already with child.
This enraged the ruler of Dir, so he declared war on Chitral and prepared a military expedition to Chitral. The invading army was just about to enter Chitral when Saif-ur-Rehman decided that this was a really good time to leave Chitral by air with his new wife and go to Peshawar, leaving his brother, Asad-ur-Rehman, in charge.
The war was called off. The baby was born in 1950. That baby is now the King of Chitral.
In 1954, a decision was made to restore Mehtar Saif-ur-Rehman to power in Chitral. A Pakistan Air Force airplane was arraigned to fly him back to Chitral. Unfortunately, the plane crashed into Lowari Top and Saif-ur-Rehman was killed.
Many people believed and still believe to this day that it was not an accident and that a bomb was placed or something else was done to make the plane crash. However, the flight across Lowari Top and down the narrow valley to Chitral surrounded by 17,000 foot high mountain peaks is a perilous journey with unpredictable wind currents. Many PIA pilots today are afraid to make the journey and often commercial pilots turn back mid-flight without reaching Chitral.
The death of Saif-ur-Rehman in 1954 left a situation where the King of Chitral was only four years old. As a result, the effective ruler became Prince Asad-ur-Rehman, an inactive man who sat and still sits most of the time in the Royal Palace in Chitral or in the Chitral House in Peshawar. He rarely goes out to meet his people. When a man dies leaving a wife, it is customary for his brother to marry the widow. For that reason, Asad-ur-Rehman married the widow of Saif-ur-Rehman, who was the mother of the infant Mehtar.
In 1970, Prime Minister Bhutto came to Chitral to see Prince Asad-ur-Rehman and make a deal where Pakistan would peacefully take over rule of Chitral. The people were happy because the royal family in general and Asad-ur-Rehman in particular were not popular.
Pakistan took over the rule of Chitral on January 1, 1971.
Will Chitral ever regain self-rule? I have only met one Chitrali who favors this. His name is Fateh Ali Shah and he is the great grandson of the famous Fateh Ali Shah who fought against the British in the Battle of Nisa Gol in 1895.
Chitralis relate that in 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson decided to set up Chitral as an independent state, a sort of Switzerland of the Hindu Kush. The plan was that Chitral would be independent, but the USA would be allowed to set up a military base there. From the top of the 25,230 foot high Tirich Mir Mountain it was possible to see right into the Soviet Union. A popular movie entitled "Spies Like Us" starring Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd is based on this theme. Chitral would be an ideal location for a CIA listening post. Johnson decided that in exchange for this, he would make all kinds of concessions to Pakistan.
President Johnson planned a trip to Pakistan to negotiate this deal with the military government which ruled Pakistan at that time. However, prior to his departure, the Government of Pakistan conveyed the message that Chitral was an integral part of Pakistan and under no circumstances would Pakistan negotiate a deal involving the independence of Chitral. The planned trip by President Johnson was called off in April, 1965.
However, geographical considerations still make this idea possible. Chitral is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the world. Most of the passes out of Chitral are 14,000 feet high. The Chitral River goes down a narrow neck of a valley into Afghanistan. No invading army has ever tried to enter Chitral in this way. Alexander the Great came up the Kunar River to within 30 miles of Chitral, but did not enter Chitral. When Genghis Khan was sweeping across Central Asia just north of Chitral, refugees fled into Chitral because Genghis Khan could not enter there. The armies of Timurlane tried to conquer neighboring Nuristan without success. During the recent war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Army tried but was unable to block the passes into Chitral because they were too high.
So, at some time in the future, perhaps the very distant future, independence for Chitral might be considered.
Of course, I have an important reason for wanting this, because if Chitral were independent, I would get my wife, Honzagool, back. The Chitralis did not take my wife away from me. They would give her back to me, if it was up to them. The political people in Islamabad and Rawalpindi took her away from me.