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Group of Afridis at Jamrūd, 1866 WDL11469, crop.png
Afridi tribesmen photographed by Charles Shepherd at the Jamrud Fort in British India, 1866
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Khattaks · Orakzais · Wazirs · Mehsuds
and other Karlani Pashtun tribes

The Afridi (Pashto: افریدی; also spelled Apridi) are a Pashtun tribe found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are largely concentrated in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where they are predominantly found in Darra Adam Khel and Khyber District.[2] The Afridi speak a subdialect of the northern dialect of the Pashto language, known as Afridi Pashto.

Historically, the Afridi have been known for the strategic location they inhabit in South Asia and their belligerence against foreign forces.[1] Under the leadership of Darya Khan Afridi, they engaged in protracted warfare against the Mughal army in the 1670s.[3] During the First, Second, and Third Anglo-Afghan Wars, Afridis fought against the British on the Afghan side; these skirmishes comprised some of the fiercest fighting of the Anglo-Afghan Wars.[4] Ajab Khan Afridi was a well-known Pashtun independence activist against British rule in India.

The British colonial administration frequently classified the peoples of the Indian subcontinent with fixed personality or "racial" traits and regarded the Pashtun Afridi tribesmen "martial" under the martial races theory. Different Afridi clans also cooperated with the British in exchange for subsidies, and some even served with the Khyber Rifles, an auxiliary force of the British Indian Army.[citation needed]

Shortly after the Partition of British India and creation of Pakistan, Afridi tribesmen were among the ranks of the Pashtun militias that invaded the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, sparking the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948 and the ongoing Kashmir conflict.[5] Today, Afridis make use of their dominant positions along the Durand Line in areas of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province by controlling transport and various businesses, including trade in armaments, munitions and goods.[1]

Etymology and origins[edit]

The Afridis, classically called the Abaörteans (/ˌæbə.ɔːrˈtənz/; Latin: Abaortae), have their original homeland in Tirah, Khyber Agency.

A tribe of ancient Pashtuns[edit]

Herodotus mentions a tribe of Aryans as Aparytai (Ἀπαρύται).[6] Scholars Grierson, Stein and Olaf Caroe equate these with modern Afridis on the basis of linguistic and geographic analysis.[7]

Theory of Afridi descent from Israelites[edit]

The Afridis, Yusufzais and other Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan have also been alleged to be the descendants of the lost Jewish tribes such as the Efraim.[citation needed] However, DNA and other research towards validating such claims has been inconclusive.[8][9][10]


The Afridi Tribe is subclassified into eight sub-tribes listed below.

All Afridi clans have their own areas in the Tirah Valley, and most of them extend down into the Khyber Pass over which they have always exercised the right of toll. The Malikdin Khel live in the centre of the Tirah and hold Bagh, the traditional meeting place of Afridi jirgas or assemblies. The Aka Khel are scattered in the hills south of Jamrud. All of this area is included in the Khyber Agency. The Adam Khel live in the hills between Peshawar and Kohat. Their preserve is the Kohat Pass in which several of the most important Afridi gun factories are located.


All Afridis follow the Sunni sect of Islam. Their conversion to Islam is attributed to Sultan (Emperor) Mahmud of Ghazni by Ibbetson[11] and Haroon Rashid.[12]


Resistance against the Mughals[edit]

The Afridis and their allies Khalils were first mentioned in the memoirs of Mughal Emperor Babar as violent tribes in need of subduing.[13] The Afridi tribes controlled the Khyber Pass, which has served as a corridor connecting the Indian subcontinent with Afghanistan and Central Asia. Its strategic value was not lost on the Mughals to whom the Afridis were implacably hostile.[14]

Over the course of Mughal rule, Emperors Akbar and Jahangir both dispatched punitive expeditions to suppress the Afridis, to little success.[15]

The Afridis once destroyed two large Mughal armies of Emperor Aurangzeb: in 1672, in a surprise attack between Peshawar and Kabul, and in the winter of 1673, in an ambush in the mountain passes.[16] The emperor sent his Rajpoot general Rai Tulsidas with reinforcements into the mountains to suffocate the revolt and liberate the mountain.[16][17]

Allegedly, only five Afridis made it out of the battle alive.[18][19][20]


Meat is an important part of their diet, which they often eat in the form of kabab (minced meat fried in oil), lamb shorba, chicken shorba, or goat shorba. The hotels in Peshawar Namak Mandi Bazar represent the traditional food of Afridis, especially lamb karahi.[21]

List of notable Afridis[edit]

Shahid Afridi at the County Ground, Taunton, during Pakistan's 2010 tour of England

  • Malik Sher Muhammad Khan Afridi, Chief of Sepah. He along with the Maliks of Khyber Agency visited Kolkatta on train from Peshawar along with Political Agent, Colonel Robert Warburton.[22] He also was a key figure in the relations between the Pathans especially the Afridis and the British Government during the 19th century, also mentioned in the book Eighteen Years in the Khyber.[23]
Malik Sher Muhammad Khan Afridi Sipah, then at the age of 9 (young boy sitting on the ground), serving under major Roos-Keppel (back row, center)


  1. ^ a b c Afridi demographics in Pakistan and Afghanistan The excessive figure sometimes mentioned in Afghanistan reflects in a particular way the Afghan claim to Pashtunistan and actually represents an estimate of the whole of the Afridi tribe on both sides of the frontier.
  2. ^ a b "Afridi demographics in FATA and FR Kohat". Archived from the original on 17 October 2018. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  3. ^ Momand, Ahmad Gul. The Bare Language of Khoshal's Poetry. Nangarhar University. p. 13.
  4. ^ L. Thomas, Beyond Khyber Pass, London, n.d. (ca. 1925)
  5. ^ M.K. Teng (2001) Kashmir: The Bitter Truth Archived 26 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine Kashmir Information Network
  6. ^ "The History of Herodotus Chapter 3, Verse 91; Written 440 B.C.E, Translated by G. C. Macaulay". Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  7. ^ Caroe, Olaf (1957). The Pathans, 550 B.C.-A.D. 1957. Oxford University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-19-577221-0.
  8. ^ Amir Mizroch (9 January 2010). "Are Taliban descendants of Israelites?". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011.
  9. ^ Sachin Parashar (11 January 2010). "Lucknow Pathans have Jewish roots?". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011.
  10. ^ Rory McCarthy (17 January 2010). "Pashtun clue to lost tribes of Israel". The Observer.
  11. ^ Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H. A. Rose "A Glossary of The Tribes & Castes of The Punjab & North-West Frontier Province", 1911 AD, Page 217, Vol. III, Published by Asian Educational Services
  12. ^ History of the Pathans by Haroon Rashid Published by Haroon Rashid, 2002 Item notes: v. 1 Page 45 Original from the University of Michigan
  13. ^ A. S. Beveridge, Babor-nama London, 1922 [repr. 1969], p. 412
  14. ^ History of Khyber Agency: Gateway to the Subcontinent Archived 13 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Office of the Political Agent, Khyber Agency
  15. ^ C.M. Kieffer, Afridi, Encyclopædia Iranica
  16. ^ a b Richards, John F. (1996), "Imperial expansion under Aurangzeb 1658–1869. Testing the limits of the empire: the Northwest.", The Mughal Empire, New Cambridge history of India: The Mughals and their contemporaries, vol. 5 (illustrated, reprint ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 170–171, ISBN 978-0-521-56603-2
  17. ^ Khyber Agency, 3 July 2005
  18. ^ Geoffrey Powell; J. S. W. Powell (1983), Famous regiments (illustrated ed.), Secker & Warburg, p. 69, ISBN 978-0-436-37910-9
  19. ^ Robert E. L. Masters; Eduard Lea (1963). Perverse crimes in history: evolving concepts of sadism, lust-murder, and necrophilia from ancient to modern times. Julian Press. p. 211. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  20. ^ Robert E. L. Masters; Eduard Lea (1963). Sex crimes in history: evolving concepts of sadism, lust-murder, and necrophilia, from ancient to modern times. Julian Press. p. 211. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  21. ^ "The End of Afghan Cuisine in Pakistan?". 8 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Eighteen Years in the Khyber, 1879-1898 — Viewer — World Digital Library".
  23. ^ "Review of Eighteen Years in the Khyber, 1879–1898 by Col. Sir Robert Warburton"

External links[edit]