His Various Schemes

by Surgeon Major George Robertson

The Mehtar, having exhausted all his arguments against my leaving Chitral, made a final stipulation that his son Ghulam Dastgir, with a strong following, should accompany me over the pass and into Pittigul Valley. His selection of this particular son indicated that he still hoped that something might yet be arranged to prevent my remaining in Kafirstan, but as it was impolitic to begin wearying discussions all over again, I contented myself with warmly thanking him for his anxiety on my behalf. We parted from one another most amicably.
Aman-ul-Mulk, Mehtar of Chitral, with some of his many children, in 1890
History books report that Aman-ul-Mulk always had a falcon sitting on his arm. What is that sitting on his left shoulder?

The old Mehtar, Aman-ul-Mulk, was torn by conflicting counsels. He disliked my journey and thoroughly distrusted its objects. He always, to the end of his days, regarded the Government of India with grave suspicion, and sincerely believed that its real desire was to extend its sovereignty over Chitral, over Kafirstan, and over all the neighboring districts south of the Hindu Kush. His great fear of the power of the Amir of Kabul originally impelled him to seek an alliance with Kashmir, his dread of the Afghans being even greater than his suspicion of the English, and their feudatory the Maharaja of Kashmir. The Mehtar's overtures had resulted, after a time, in his receiving a yearly subsidy of money and other presents, first from the Kashmir Durbar, and subsequently from the Government of India as well. Avarice rarely diminishes with age, and the British-Kashmir subsidy had gradually become such an important item in the Chitral state revenue, that if anything had occurred to stop or jeopardize it, the Mehtar would have been heart-broken.

His final resolve was sufficiently astute for an old man. He decided first of all to try everything in his power to prevent me from going to Kafirstan at all, but failing in that attempt, he still trusted in his ability to induce the Kafirs to rob, ill-use, and cast me naked out of their country, and in that way afford him an opportunity of playing a characteristic maneuver. He would receive me with indignation and compassion, while at the same time he would make an urgent application to the Government of India for more rifles and further subsidies, with which he hoped, while nominally avenging my wrongs, to conquer for himself the whole of Bashgal Valley, and thus effectually prevent the Kafirs from coquetting ever again with British officers. But age had unsteadied his firm will, and there is more than a suspicion that on several occasions his impatience to carry out the alternative part of his scheme led him to disregard my personal safety altogether, and made him merely desirous of finding a pretext for sending an armed force, paid and equipped by the Government of India, into Kafirstan, to avenge my actual death, which was to be brought about by means of intrigues from Chitral. He kept shifting and resorting his cards, which his trembling hands could not prevent even the simplest and most unobservant from seeing.

In our personal intercourse, I believe that the Mehtar always had kindly feelings towards me, but that, of course, would not prevent him for a moment from sacrificing me, if he thought it the best policy for Chitral. He is dead now, but he will always remain in my memory as the wreck of a truly remarkable man.

The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush (Oxford in Asia Historical Reprints) by Sir George Robertson, pp.46-47

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