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The Ghilji (Pashto: غلجي), also known as Khilji (Pashto: خلجي), Ghilzai (Pashto: غلزی), and Gharzai (Pashto: غرزی, ghar literally means "mountain" and zai "born of"), are the largest Pashtun tribal confederacy. The Ghilji at various times became rulers of Persia, India and Afghanistan and were the most dominant Pashtun confederacy from 1000 A.D. until 1747 A.D., when power shifted to the Durranis. The Ghilji tribes are today scattered all over Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan, but they are most concentrated in the region from Zabul to Kabul province, with Ghazni and Paktika provinces in the center of their region. The Ghilji tribes are also settled in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan. Many of the migrating Kochi people of Afghanistan belong to the Ghilji confederacy.
From the 13th century, various Khilji dynasties and ruling entities took control in the Bengal and Delhi Sultanates of the Indian subcontinent, and between 1709 and 1738, the Ghilji ruled the Hotak Empire based first in Kandahar, Afghanistan and later in Isfahan, Persia. The Ghilji are related to the Lodi, another Bettani tribal confederacy. Among the major Ghilji tribes are Sulaimankhel, Kharoti, Andar, Tanoli, Tokhi, and Hotak, but there are also numerous other smaller clans.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Descent, origin, and history
- 3 Ghilji dynasties, ruling entities, and personalities
- 4 Ghilji location and economy
- 5 Ghilji religion and customs
- 6 Ghilji tribes
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Etymologically the word Ghilji is derived from ghar-zai (غرزی), meaning "son of mountain", perhaps through the Turkic Wanderwort kir ("mountain, hill") and Turkic soy ("ancestry, descent, kin, tribe, progeny").
Descent, origin, and history
The most plausible theory suggests that the Ghilji descended from the Khalaj people, probably of Turkish origin, who early settled in the Siah-band range of the Ghor mountains, and first rose into the notice in the time of Mahmud of Ghazni, whom they accompanied in his invasions of India.
The Ghilji may have also descended at least in part from the Ghurids:
"Ghalzaī tribal genealogies in general trace their early descent from the union of either Shah Ḥosayn, a Ghurid (q.v.) prince and, Bībī Mātō, a granddaughter of Qays ʿAbd al-Rašīd, the putative ancestor of all Pashtuns, or Mokarram Shah, a Pashtun prince from Ḡūr, and the daughter of a Persian notable..."
The German orientalist Bernard Dorn, in volume 2 of his book "The History of Afghans" which is mainly based on Tārīkh-e Khān Jahānī wa Makhzan-e Afghānī (تاریخ خان جهانی ومخزن افغانی) of Nimat Allah al-Harawi, supports the Ghilji descent from Bibi Mato, daughter of Shaykh Beṭ Nīkə (the folkloric leader or ancestor of all Bettani), in the following words:
"To Ghilzye, who belongs to the Matis, God Almighty granted three sons, Ibrahim, Toor and Poor. Ibrahim had two sons Haijub and Shabak. Haijub had thirteen sons, Sulemankhail, Alikhail, Omerkhail, Karikhail, Hameerkhail, Paroki, Varaki, Chani, Donyar, Tanokhail, and Niazikhail. Sahbak had two sons, Bujikhail and Ismailkhail. Toor, Ghilzye's son, had three sons, Taraki, Bakhtu, and Andar."
Ghilji dynasties, ruling entities, and personalities
According to Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani, a 13th-century historian, "there were over 15 great Khalji personalities who ruled from 1203 A.D. onwards over India and were spreading Khorasanian and Islamic culture all over northern India and the highlands of North Bengal.".
In the beginning of the 18th century, the Ghilji revolted against their Persian rulers,established themselves under Mir Wais as independent rulers at Kandahar and overrun Persia. When the Hotak tribe, under the leadership of Mirwais Hotak and Nasher Khan of the Ghaznavid revolted against the Safavids in 1709, the Ghilji came into conflicts with their western neighbors. Mir Wais, an influential Afghan tribal leader and founder of the Hotak dynasty, had visited the Persian court and studied their military weaknesses. The Afghan tribes rankled under the ruling Shia Safavids because of their continued attempts to convert the Pashtuns from Sunni to Shiaism Spawning Afghan nationalism, Mir Wais succeeded in expelling the Safavids from Kandahar. His eldest son, Mahmud, effected a successful invasion of Persia (now Iran) which culminated in the conquest of Isfahan and the deposition of the Safavid Shah Sultan Husayn. Mahmud was then crowned Shah and ruled for a brief period before being deposed by his own clansmen. His cousin and successor (Ashraf Hotak) reigned for nearly five years before being killed by Baloch tribes while fleeing towards Kandahar. Their rule ended after the Siege of Kandahar in 1738.
The Azad dynasty was founded by Azad Shah Afghan, a contemporary of Ahmad Shah Durrani. Azad Shah Afghan rose to power between 1752 and 1757, and controlled part of the Azerbaijan region up to Urmia, northwestern and northern Persia, and parts of southwestern Turkmenistan and eastern Kurdistan.
Amb Princely State
- Amb (1772–1972), Amb was a princely state of the former British Indian Empire ruled by the Pashtun Tanoli tribe of Ghilji confederation. In 1947 by the Indian Independence Act 1947, the British abandoned their supremacy, and following the Partition of India Amb's Tanoli Nawab decided to give up his state's independence by acceding to the new country of Pakistan. However, Amb continued as a distinct state within Pakistan until 1969, when it was incorporated into the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa). In 1972, the royal status of the Nawab was abolished by the Government of Pakistan.
Modern-era Ghilji personalities
In more recent times, three of the pro-communist presidents were Ghilji, Nur Muhammad Taraki (of the Taraki tribe), Hafizullah Amin (of the Kharoti tribe), and Mohammed Najibullah (of the Ahmadzai sub tribe of suleimankhail). Although the Khalq was dominated mostly by Ghilji, many of the mujahideen were also Ghilji during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, including warlords Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. The Taliban leadership, such as the spiritual leader Mullah Omar and most of the Taliban functionaries have been likewise of the Ghilji tribal confederacy.
Ghilji location and economy
Ghilji in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan the Ghilji are scattered all over the country but mainly settled around the regions between Zabul and Kabul provinces.The Afghan province of Paktika is considered to be a heartland of the Ghilji tribe. Ghilji sub-tribes in Paktika include the Kharoti, especially in the Sar Hawza and Urgon districts, the Andar and the largest single Ghilji sub-tribe, the Suleimankhel, who are the majority in northern and western areas of Paktika such as; Katawaz.
After the great Ghilji rebellion in 1885-1886, led by Alam Khan Nasher, many members of the Ghilji tribe, such as; the Kharoti sub-tribe and particularly the Nasher clan were exiled from Loya Paktia (Paktia, Paktika and Khost) to Kunduz in the north by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan due to political reasons. They are predominantly a nomadic group unlike the Durranis who are usually found in permanent settlements.The Ghilji mostly work as herdsmen as well as construction workers and in other jobs that allow them to travel. Often possessing great mechanical aptitude, the Ghilji nonetheless have an extremely low literacy rate hovering below 10% in Afghanistan. The Ghilji regularly cross over between Afghanistan and Pakistan often being exempted from customs due to the acceptance of their nomadic traditions by officials from both countries. Population estimates vary, but they are most likely around 20% to 25% of the population of Afghanistan and probably number over 9 million in Afghanistan alone with 4 million or more found in neighboring Pakistan mostly in Quetta.
Ghilji in Pakistan
The Ghilji super-tribe in Pakistan is usually recognized by its tribes and sub-tribes located in various parts of the country.In Quetta many members of Ghilji tribe such as Kharoti, Suleimankhel, Andar are mainly concentrated in Northern and City Central Areas. Whereas in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Ghilji Sub-tribes like Niazi and Tanoli dwell both in plain and hilly areas. The Niazi are mostly settled in Bannu District Of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Mianwali district of The Punjab and Tanoli in the remote hilly areas of Hazara Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, mainly in the Tanawal Region which was previously an independent Tanoli princely state of Amb .
Ghilji religion and customs
The tribesmen own several, tightly bound carpet and fabric businesses in the Middle East and Pakistan, especially in the major city of Karachi. The Ghilji remain a somewhat divided family, with the Kharoti and the Suleimankhel being traditional rivals.
- Ibrahimzai (Boran)
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