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Pashto, Urdu
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Khattaks · Orakzais · Wazirs · Mehsuds
and other Karlani Pashtun tribes
Afridis at Jamrūd Fort (1866); photo by Charles Shepherd. Jamrūd Fort was strategically located at the eastern entrance to the Khyber Pass in present-day Pakistan.

The Afrīdī (Pashto: اپريدیAprīdai, plur. اپريدي Aprīdī; Urdu: آفریدی‎) are a Pashtun tribe present in Pakistan, with substantial numbers in Afghanistan. The Afridis are most dominant in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, inhabiting about 100p mi² (8000 km²) of rough hilly area in the Zarlash eastern Spin Ghar range west of Peshawar, covering most of Khyber Agency, FR Peshawar and FR Kohat.[2] Their territory includes the Khyber Pass and Maidan in Tirah. Afridi migrants are also found in India, mostly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir.[3]

The Afridis are historically known for the strategic location they inhabit and their belligerence against outside forces; battling the Mughal dynasty's armies throughout Mughal rule.[1] The later clashes against British expeditions comprised the most savage fighting of the Anglo-Afghan Wars.[4]

After the creation of Pakistan, Afridi tribesmen also helped attack Jammu and Kashmir for Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947.[5] Today, Afridis make use of their dominant social position in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by controlling transport and various businesses, including trade in arms, munitions, and other goods.[1]

The Afridi are Pashtuns, part of the Karlani tribal confederacy, who fought against and with the British in Afghanistan during all three Anglo-Afghan wars. The British frequently classified the peoples that they conquered with fixed personality or “racial” traits and regarded the Pashtun Afridi tribesmen as “warlike” peoples and one of the Martial Race. Different Afridi clans cooperated with the British forces in exchange for subsidies, and some even served with the Khyber Rifles, an auxiliary force of the British Indian Army.[6] Afridis speak the Afridi Pashto.

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 the Pactyans as Aparytai (Ἀπαρύται).[7] Scholars Grierson, Stein and Olaf Caroe equate these with modern Afridis on the basis of linguistic and geographic analysis.[8]

Theory of Afridi descent from Israelites[edit]

The Afridis 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.[9][10][11]


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 Islam Sunni by sect. Their conversion to Islam is attributed to Sultan (Emperor) Mahmud of Ghazni by Ibbetson[12] and Haroon Rashid.[13]


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.[14] 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.[15]

Over the course of Mughal rule, Emperors Akbar and Jahangir both dispatched punitive expeditions to suppress the Afridis, to little success.[16]

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.[17] The emperor sent his Rajpoot general Rai Tulsidas with reinforcements into the mountains to suffocate the revolt and liberate the mountain.[17][18]

Allegedly, only five Afridis made it out of the battle alive.[19][20][21]

Resistance against the British[edit]

Afridi fighters photographed by John Burke in 1878
The Khyber Rifles in 1895 comprising an all-Afridi personnel

The British connection with the Adam Khel Afridis commenced immediately after the annexation of the Peshawar and Kohat districts. Following the example of all the previous rulers, the British agreed to pay the tribe a subsidy to protect the pass. However, in 1850, 100p Afridis attacked a body of British sappers engaged in making a road, killing 12 and wounding 6. It was supposed that they disliked the construction of a road. An expedition of 3200 British troops was despatched, which traversed the country and punished them.

When the Afridis of the Kohat Pass resisted, the Jowaki Afridis offered the use of their route instead; but they turned out more aggressive than the others, and in 1853, a force of 1700 British traversed their country and destroyed their stronghold at Bori.[citation needed]

In 1854, the Aka Khels Afridis, not finding themselves admitted to a share of the allowances of the Kohat Pass, commenced a series of raids on the Peshawar border and attacked a British camp. An expedition of 1500 troops entered the country and inflicted severe punishment on the tribe, who made their submission and paid a fine.[citation needed]

In 1877, the British government proposed to reduce the Jowaki allowance for guarding the Kohat Pass, and the tribesmen showed their resentment of this by cutting the telegraph wire and raiding into British territory. A force of 1500 troops penetrated their country in three columns in the Jowaki Expedition and did considerable damage by way of punishment. However, the attitude of the Jowakis continued the same, and their raids into British territory went on. A much stronger force, therefore, of 7400 British troops, divided into three columns, in 1877 and 1878, destroyed their principal villages and occupied their country for some time, until the tribe submitted and accepted government terms. The Kohat Pass was afterwards practically undisturbed.[citation needed]

At the time of the British advance into Afghanistan in 1878, during the Second Afghan War, the Zakka Khel opposed the British advance and attacked their outposts. A force of 2500 British troops traversed their country, and the tribesmen made their submission. The Afridis of the Khyber Pass continued to cause the British trouble during the progress of the Second Afghan War so another force of 3750 British troops traversed their country, and after suffering some loss the tribesmen made their submission.[citation needed]

In 1897, Afridis suddenly rose, captured all the posts in the Khyber held by their own countrymen and attacked the forts on the Samana Range near the city of Peshawar. The Tirah Expedition of the British forces followed, and negotiations for peace were then begun with the Afridis, who, under the threat of another expedition into Tirah in spring 1898, at length agreed to pay the fines and surrender the rifles demanded.[citation needed]

In February 1908, the restiveness of the Zakka Khel again made a British expedition necessary, but the campaign was speedily ended.[citation needed]


Meat is an important part of their diet, which they often eat in the form of kabab (minced meat fried in oil), lamb curry, chicken curry or goat curry. The hotels in Peshawar Namak Mandi Bazar represent the traditional food of Afridis, especially lamb karahi.[22]

List of notable Afridis[edit]

  • Zakir Husain Khan was the third President of India, from 13 May 1967 until his death on 3 May 1969.
  • Asghar Khan Afridi [1st COAS of PAF]
  • Shakeel Afridi , A physician regarded as an American spy , Helped US find out Osama Bin Laden by giving secret reports and Let a patient die. He is now under arrest for high treason and conspiracy against the nation [24]
  • 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.[25] 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.[26]
Malik Sher Muhammad Khan Afridi Sipah , then at the age of 9(Young boy sitting on the ground) , in a photo consisting of Major Roosekeppel

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Afridi demographics in FATA and FR Kohat
  3. ^ Study of the Pathan Communities in Four States of India, (retrieved 30 January 2008)
  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. ^ Library of Congress
  7. ^ "The History of Herodotus Chapter 3, Verse 91; Written 440 B.C.E, Translated by G. C. Macaulay". Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  8. ^ Caroe, Olaf (1957). The Pathans. Oxford University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-19-577221-0.
  9. ^ Amir Mizroch (9 January 2010). "Are Taliban descendants of Israelites?". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011.
  10. ^ Sachin Parashar (11 January 2010). "Lucknow Pathans have Jewish roots?". Times of India.
  11. ^ Rory McCarthy (17 January 2010). "Pashtun clue to lost tribes of Israel". The Observer.
  12. ^ Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H. A. Rose "A Glossary of The Tribes & Casts of The Punjab & North-West Frontier Province", 1911 AD, Page 217, Vol. III, Published by Asian Educational Services
  13. ^ History of the Pathans by Haroon Rashid Published by Haroon Rashid, 2002 Item notes: v. 1 Page 45 Original from the University of Michigan
  14. ^ A. S. Beveridge, Babor-nama London, 1922 [repr. 1969], p. 412
  15. ^ History of Khyber Agency: Gateway to the Subcontinent, Office of the Political Agent, Khyber Agency
  16. ^ C.M. Kieffer, Afridi, Encyclopædia Iranica
  17. ^ 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, 5 (illustrated, reprint ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 170–171, ISBN 978-0-521-56603-2
  18. ^ Khyber Agency, 3 July 2005
  19. ^ Geoffrey Powell; J. S. W. Powell (1983), Famous regiments (illustrated ed.), Secker & Warburg, p. 69, ISBN 978-0-436-37910-9
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Helen Ellis (July 2009) The Assassination of Lord Mayo: The 'First' Jihad? Australian National University
  24. ^ Pakistan Doctor, Who Helped CIA, Accused Of Treason
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Review of Eighteen Years in the Khyber, 1879–1898 by Col. Sir Robert Warburton"

External links[edit]