Chitral (princely state)
|State of Chitral|
Princely state of the British Raj
Princely state of Pakistan 1947–1969
|Political structure||Independent Monarchy
Princely state of the British Raj
Princely state of Pakistan 1947–1969
|-||Disestablished||2nd July 1969|
|Warning: Value not specified for "continent"|
|Subdivision of Pakistan|
|-||Disestablished||28 July 1969|
|Area||14,850 km2 (5,734 sq mi)|
|Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa|
|This article is part of the series|
|Former administrative units of Pakistan|
Chitral (or Chitrāl) (Urdu:چترال) was a former princely state of Pakistan and British India until 1969. The ruler or Mehtar of Chitral was given the title of His Highness by the British and enjoyed a hereditary salute of 11 guns. The area of the state now forms the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
- 1 Location and Demographics
- 2 History
- 3 Administration
- 4 Scions of the Royal Family of Chitral
- 5 List of Rulers
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Location and Demographics
The former princely capital, Chitral Town, is situated on the west bank of the Chitral (or Kunar River) at the foot of Tirich Mir which at 7,708 m (25,289 ft) is the highest peak of the Hindu Kush. The borders of the state were seldom stable, and fluctuated with the fortunes of Chitral’s rulers, the Mehtars. The official language of the state was Persian but the general population was mainly of the Khow tribe, who spoke the Khowar language (or Chitrali), which is also spoken in parts of Yasin, Gilgit and Swat. The Khowar language belongs to the Proto Indo-European group of languages.
The entire region that now forms the Chitral District was an independent monarchical state until 1895, when the British negotiated a treaty with its hereditary ruler, the Mehtar, under which Chitral became a semi autonomous state within the Indian Empire. Chitral retained this status even after its accession to Pakistan in 1947, only being made an administrative district of Pakistan in 1969.
The Royal Family of Chitral
The ruling family of Chitral was the Katur dynasty, founded by Shah Katur (1585–1630), which governed Chitral until 1969 when the government of Pakistan took over. During the reign of Mehtar Aman-ul-Mulk, known as Lot (Great) Mehtar, the dynasty's sway extended from Asmar in the Kunar Valley of Afghanistan to Punial in the Gilgit Valley. Tribes in Upper Swat, Dir Kohistan and Kafiristan (present day Nuristan,paid tribute to the Mehtar of Chitral.
The ruler's title, Mehtar, is unique; his male descendants were styled Mehtarjao, equally rare, until the higher (Persian) royal style Shahzada, originally reserved for the Crown Prince (Tsik mehtar, again unique, as Heir Persumptive, becoming Wali-Akht Sahib when heir Apparent), was extended to all princes of the Mehtar's blood since the rulers at that point. The word Khonza (meaning princess in the Khowar language) was reserved for female members of the Mehtars family.
The ruling family of Chitral traces its descent from the son of a Khorasan prince, Baba Ayub Mirza who was also a disciple of the saint Kamal Shah Shams ud-din Tabrizi. Ayub Mirza was the grandson of Shah Abu'l Ghazi Sultan Mirza Husayn Bayqarah, the great grandson of Emperor Timurlane. Baba Ayub Mirza arrived in Chitral and married the daughter of the ruler Shah Raees, a supposed descendant of Alexander the Great. The grandson of this marriage founded the present Katoor dynasty. Accordingly, the family actually owes its fortunes to Sangan Ali, sometime Minister to Shah Rais, ruler of Chitral during the sixteenth century. His sons seized power following his death in 1540, establishing a new ruling dynasty over the state. The present ruling dynasty descends from the second of these two sons. The period between Sangan 'Ali's accession to power and modern times is clouded by fratricidal warfare. So much so that it is nearly impossible to date the reigns or lives of many of the rulers. Only during the middle of the nineteenth century, European travelers, administrators and scholars began to enter the area and take an interest in its history, and gradually the history of the country, its people, languages and culture, began to emerge from the mists of time. However, this task is far from complete and it will be many years before Chitral yields up all its mysteries and secrets.
Mehtar Shah Afzal II (1837–1853)
Shah Afzal II who ruled during the first half of the nineteenth century, fought against the Afghans in support of his allies, the rulers of Badakhshan. He also fought against the Dogras and against his Kushwaqte kinsmen, but later switched sides and concluded treaty relations with the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, thereafter becoming an ally of Kashmir in return for an annual subsidy to pay for troops and the supervision of the Afghan border.
Mehtar Aman ul-Mulk (1857-1892)
Aman ul-Mulk, Afzal's younger son, succeeded his brother in 1857. After a brief dispute with Kashmir, in which he laid siege to the garrison at Gilgit and briefly held the Puniyal valley, he accepted a new treaty with the Maharaja in 1877. Aman ul-Mulk was such a strong ruler that no serious attempt to challenge his authority was made during his reign. Describing Aman ul-Mulk in 1899 Algernon Durand wrote,
"His bearing was royal, his courtesy simple and perfect, he had naturally the courtly Spanish grace of a great heredity noble".
Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from (1897-1902) visited Chitral in 1890 while he was a member of the British Parliament. He witnessed the proceedings of the Mahraka (Royal Court) presided over by Aman ul-Mulk and recorded in his diary,
”Chitral, in fact, had its parliament and democratic constitution. For just as the British House of Commons is an assembly, so in Chitral, the Mehtar, seated on a platform and hedged about with a certain dignity, dispensed justice or law in sight of some hundreds of his subjects, who heard the arguments, watched the process of debate, and by their attitude in the main decided the issue. Such ‘durbars’ were held on most days of the week in Chitral, very often twice in the day, in the morning and again at night. Justice compels me to add that the speeches in the Mahraka were less long and the general demeanour more decorous than in some western assemblies” (Curzon 1923:133)
Wars of Succession
Without any law of succession, a long war of succession ensued between Aman ul-Mulk's sons after his death. Aman's younger son, Afzal ul-Mulk, proclaimed himself ruler during the absence of his elder brother. He then proceeded to eliminate several of his brothers, potential contenders to his throne. This initiated a war of succession, which lasted three years. Afzal ul-Mulk was killed by his uncle, Sher Afzal, the stormy petrel of Chitral and a long-time thorn in his father's side. He held Chitral for under a month, then fled into Afghan territory. Nizam ul-Mulk, Afzal ul-Mulk's eldest brother and the rightful heir, then succeeded in December of the same year. At about that time, Chitral came under the British sphere of influence following the Durand Agreement, which delineated the border between Afghanistan and the Indian Empire. Nizam ul-Mulk's possessions in Kafiristan and the Kunar Valley were recognised as Afghan territory and ceded to the Amir. Within a year, Nizam was himself murdered by yet another ambitious younger brother, Amir ul-Mulk. The approach of the Chitral Expedition, a strong military force composed of British and Kashmiri troops prompted Amir to flee with to his patron, the Khan of Jandul.
The Reign of His Highness Sir Shuja ul-Mulk (1895–1936)
The British had decided to support the interests of Shuja ul-Mulk, the youngest legitimate son of Aman ul-Mulk, and the only one untainted by the recent spate of murder and intrigue. After installing the young Mehtar, British and Kashmiri forces endured the famous defence against a seven-week siege by Sher Afzal and the Khan of Jandul. Although Shuja ul-Mulk was now firmly established as ruler, the Kashmiris annexed Yasin, Kush, Ghizr and Ishkoman. Kashmiri suzerainty over Chitral ended in 1911, and Chitral became a salute state in direct relations with the British. Mastuj, also removed from the Mehtar's jurisdiction in 1895, was restored to him within two years.
Shuja reigned for forty-one years, during which Chitral enjoyed an unprecedented period of internal peace. He journeyed outside of the Hindu kush region, visiting various parts of India and meeting a number of fellow rulers, as well making the Hajj to Arabia and meeting Ibn Saud. He was invited to the Delhi Durbar in January 1903. Shuja ul-Mulk sent his sons abroad to acquire a modern education. The princes travelled to far-off places such as Aligarh and Dehradun accompanied by the sons of notables who were schooled at state expense. He supported the British during the Third Afghan War in 1919, during which four of his sons and the Chitral State Forces served in several actions guarding the border against invasion.
Mehtars after H.H Sir Shuja ul-Mulk
Nasir ul-Mulk succeeded his father in 1936. He received a modern education, becoming a noted poet and scholar in his own right. He took a deep interest in military, political and diplomatic affairs, and spent much of his time on improving the administration. Dying without a surviving male heir in 1943, his successor was his younger brother, Muzaffar-ul-Mulk. Also a man with a military disposition, his reign witnessed the tumultuous events surrounding the transfer of power in 1947. His prompt action in sending in his own Body Guard to Gilgit was instrumental in securing the territory for Pakistan.
The unexpected early death of Muzaffar-ul-Mulk saw the succession pass to his relatively inexperienced eldest son, Saif-ur-Rahman, in 1948. Due to certain tensions he was exiled from Chitral by the Government of Pakistan for six years. They appointed a board of administration composed of Chitrali and Pakistani officials to govern the state in his absence. He died in a plane crash while returning to resume charge of Chitral in 1954.
Saif ul-Mulk succeeded his father at the age of four. He reigned under a Council of Regency for the next twelve years, during which Pakistani authority gradually increased over the state. Although installed as a constitutional ruler when he came of age in 1966, he did not enjoy his new status very long. Chitral was absorbed and fully integrated into the Republic of Pakistan by Yahya Khan in 1969. In order to reduce the popular Mehtar's influence, he, like so many other princes in neighbouring India, was "invited" to represent his country abroad. He served in various diplomatic posts and retired from the service as Consul-General in Hong Kong in 1989.
The Mehtar The person of the Mehtar was the pivot of all political, economic and social activity in the state. Intimacy with or loyalty to the ruling prince was a mark of prestige among the Mehtar’s subjects.
Civil Administration The Mehtar was the source of all power in the land, the final authority on civil, military and judicial matters. To function effectively, he built around himself an elaborate administrative machinery. From Chitral, the Mehtar maintained control over distant parts of the state by appointing trusted officials. From the Chitral fort, which housed the extended royal family, the Mehtar presided over an elaborate administrative hierarchy.
The State Flag The state flag of Chitral was triangular in shape and pale green in colour. The wider side of the pennant depicted a mountain, most likely the Terich Mir peak. In the later Katoor period, this flag served as a symbol of the Mehtar’s presence and flew above the Chitral fort. It was hoisted every morning, accompanied by a salute from the bodyguards, and taken down each evening after another salutation.
The Royal Fort, the Shahi Mosque and the Summer Palace The forts of Chitral have historically resembled medieval castles. They were both fortified residences and the seat of power in the area. The Mehtars’ fort in Chitral has a commanding position on the Chitral River. It is believed to have been built by Raja Nadir Shah in the 14th Century and was restored in 1774 and 1911. It remains the seat of the current Mehtar so one can’t enter it without an invitation. To the west of the fort is the Shahi Masjid, built by H.H. Shuja-ul-Mulk in 1930. Its pinkish walls and white domes make it one of north Pakistan’s most distinctive mosques. The tomb of H.H Mehtar Shuja ul Mulk is located in a corner of the mosque.The summer palace of the ex-ruler of Chitral is on the hilltop above the town at Birmoghlasht. This mountain top towers over the Chitral town and the fairy-tale summer palace is perched at a height of 2743 meters (9,000 feet). It offers awe-inspiring views of Trichmir and panoramic vistas of the valleys below.
Scions of the Royal Family of Chitral
The scions of the Katur dynasty are still widely respected and honoured by the people of Chitral today. The last ruling Mehtar H.H. Muhammad Saif-ul-Mulk Nasir was educated at Aitchison College. He had received Queen Elizabeth II Coron (2.6.1953) and Pakistan Republic (1956) medals. He was married to the daughter of Nawab Muhammad Saeed Khan, the Nawab of Amb and has two sons and two daughters including:
1. H.H. Mehtar Fateh-ul-Mulk Ali Nasir, elder son of H.H. Mehtar Muhammad Saif-ul-Mulk Nasir, was appointed as Head of the Royal House of Chitral on 20 October 2011, after the death of his father. He has studied law at the University of Buckingham and the University of Miami.
2. Shahzada Hammad ul-Mulk Nasir, born 20 September 1990
The family continues to be one of the strongest political forces in the district, although it has not consistently aligned itself with any particular party in the district. Shahzada Mohiuddin, grandson of HH Sir Shuja ul-Mulk, served as the Minister of State for Tourism in the 1990s. He was twice elected as Chairman District Council, once as District Nazim, and four times as Member National Assembly (MNA). Shahzada Mohiuddin also served as Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA. His son, Shahzada Iftikhar Uddin is the current MNA of Chitral.
Notable Members of the Royal Family
Shahzada Colonel Khushwaqt ul-Mulk, one of the younger sons of H.H Sir Shuja ul-Mulk served as the Commandant of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Rifles. He was educated at the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (now renamed the Rashtriya Indian Military College) at Dehradun, India. Following his father's death in 1936 he became the Governor of Upper Chitral. He was a renowned philanthropist and helped the Brooke Hospital for Animals, the British-based equine charity, to set up a centre in Pakistan. At the time of his death, he was the senior most surviving military officer of the Pakistan Army. His youngerst son Shahzada Sikander ul-Mulk has captained the Chitral Polo Team at Shandur for over a decade.
Shahzada Masood ul-Mulk grandson of H.H Sir Shuja ul-Mulk, is a leading Pakistani expert on humanitarian aid. He is the eldest son of Shahzada Khush Ahmed-ul Mulk, who is renowned for his botanical fall garden at Ayun. Shahzada Khush Ahmed ul-Mulk is the only surviving son of Mehtar Shuja ul-Mulk.
List of Rulers
The rulers with the date of their accession:
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- "Familial glory: In Chitral and Swat, what’s in a name?". The Express Tribune.
- "PML-Q MNA from Chitral joins PPP".
- "MNA elected NA Committee Chairman". Chitral News.
- "Iftikhar Uddin". Election Pakistan 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "Remembering Burhanuddin". Chitral News.
- "Colonel Khushwaqt-ul-Mulk". The Telegraph. 17 March 2010.
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- "Battle for the high ground: saving the polo festival at the world's highest pitch".
- "No quarter given in world's highest polo match".
- "Pakistani Relief Expert to Speak at Cambridge". http://www.cam.ac.uk/news/pakistan-emergency-relief-expert-to-speak-in-cambridge.
- "Fall Colour Garden at Ayun".
- Najib, Shireen. My Life, My Stories. Dorrance Publishing.