Dir (princely state)

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This article is about the historical State of Dir. For other uses, see Dir (disambiguation).
Princely state of Pakistan
19th century or earlier–28 July 1969

Flag of Dir


Location of Dir
Map of Pakistan with Dir highlighted
Capital Dir
 -  Established 19th century or earlier
 -  Disestablished 28 July 1969
Area 5,282 km2 (2,039 sq mi)
Today part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
Coat of arms of Pakistan
This article is part of the series
Former administrative units of Pakistan

Dir was a small princely state in a subsidiary alliance with British India until August 1947 when the British left the subcontinent. For some months it was unaligned, until February 1948, when its accession to the new Dominion of Pakistan was accepted.

Dir ceased to exist as a state in 1969, when it was incorporated into Pakistan. The territory it once covered, some 5,282 km2 (2,039 sq mi), is today within the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, forming two districts called Upper Dir and Lower Dir.


Most of the state lay in the valley of the Panjkora river, which originates in the Hindu Kush mountains and joins the Swat River near Chakdara. Apart from small areas in the south-west, Dir is a rugged, mountainous zone with peaks rising to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) in the north-east and to 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) along the watersheds, with Swat to the east and Afghanistan and Chitral to the west and north.


Dir took its name from its main settlement, also called Dir, location of the ruler's palace. The princely state was established by Akhund Baba, the leader of a Pakhtun clan, and ruled afterwards by his descendants.

The first rulers[edit]

The territories surrounding Dir were populated by their current ethnic majority, the Pakhtuns, beginning from the end of the 14th century. The Pakhtun were divided in several clans (khels), often battling one against the other. The three great clans which conquered the zone were the Yusafzai, Tarkanrai and the Utman Khel.[1] The Dir territory was populated in the 16th century by the Malizai tribe of the Yusufzai khel, who took control of the zone assimilating or chasing away the previous inhabitants,[1] and within this tribe the most prominent fractions became the Painda and Sultan khels.[2]

By the 18th century a section of the Painda Khel, coming from the Kohan village in the valley of Nihag (a Panjkora tributary), seized the trade routes with Chitral and Afghanistan.[2] A member of this family, Mulla Ilyas, lived in the 17th century, was recognized as spiritual leader because of his religious merits, who procured him the title of Akhund ("scholar" in Persian) Baba. Thanks to his charisma, Akhund acquired a prominent position in the Malizai tribe and founded the Dir village.[3] His successors managed to preserve and expand the leadership, giving birth to an embryonal autonomous political entity which would eventually become the princely state.[1] The clan of Mulla Illas Khan would took the name of Akhund khel from the name of its progenitor,[4] and a dynasty stemming from him was recognized as Khans (rulers) of Dir. However, till the end of the 19th century, the dominion of the family was limited to the upper Dir.[2]

In 1881 the ruler of Dir, Muhammad Sharif Khan, was chased away by Khan Umra khan of Jandool, who conquered Dir, Swat and the Malakand area. In 1895, however, while the forces of Umara Khan were besieging a British force near Malakand, Muhammad Sharif Khan decided to make his soldiers join the British relief force coming in aid, the Chitral Expedition. During that expedition Sharif Khan made an agreement with the British Government to keep the road to Chitral open in return for a subsidy.[5] The British eventually won the war and exiled Umara Khan. As a reward for his help, Sharif Khan was given the whole Dir and also the lower Swat (the latter territory would be lost in 1917 to the Wali of Swat). Moreover, some years later he received the title of Nawab.[2]

The Nawabs[edit]

The Nawab title was inherited by Sharif's oldest son,[1] Awrangzeb Badshah Khan, who ruled between 1904 and 1925. In 1906 his younger brother, Miangul Jan, tried in vain to conquer the power with the assistance of the Khan of Marwa, Saiyid Ahmad Khan, a former ally of Mohammad Sharif. A second attempt in 1913 was crowned by success, but for a very short time,[1] as in 1914 Awrangzeb regained the rule over Dir.[6] Also the other son of Mohammad Sharif, Mohammad Isa Khan, attempted around 1915 to seize the Dir throne by allying with the Khan of Barwa, but Awrangzeb managed to conserve the rule.[1]

At Awrangzeb's death, in 1925, the title passed to his eldest son, Mohammad Shah Jahan Khan, who was supported by the British Government against the small rival faction that favored his brother Alamzeb Khan. Alamzeb was exiled in 1928 because of his attempts to take the power. Jahan Khan was loyal to the British, who nominated him KBE in 1933.[1] In 1947, Jahan Khan sent his troops to support Pakistan during the First Kashmir War, and in 1948 united his princely state with the new Dominion of Pakistan.[7] He also nominated his sons (Muhammad Shah Khan Khusro, Shahabuddin Khan and Mohammad Shah) governors of different provinces.[2]

The politics of Nawabs are described as reactionary and harsh.[2][8] The Italian anthropologist Fosco Maraini, who visited the state in 1959 during an expedition towards Hindu-Kush, reports the opinion of the people as the Nawab Jahan Khan (who was about 85 years old at that time) being a tyrannical leader, denying his subjects any freedom of speech and instruction, governing the land with a number of henchmen and seizing for his harem any girl or woman he wanted. Maraini also noticed the lack of schools, sewers and paved roads, and the presence of just a rudimentary newly built hospital. The Nawab was negatively compared to the Wali of Swat, whose liberal politics allowed his state to enter into the modern era.[9]

As a consequence uprisings began eventually to explode. A repressed revolt in 1959 is reported in Maraini's account.[9] Another insurrection in 1960 led to the death of 200 soldiers and put the Nawab in bad light in the view of the press. General Yahya decided to exile Jahan Khan, who would die in 1968. His throne passed in October 1961 to his eldest son, Mohammad Shah Khosru Khan, educated in India and a serving Major General of Pakistan Army. However, the effective rule of Dir was taken by the Political Agent. A few years later, on 28 July 1969, the Dir state was incorporated into Pakistan, ceasing its existence.[2] The royal status of the Nawabs was abolished in 1972, at the same time as most other princes of Pakistan.[10]


The information of the following table are taken from www.worldstatesmen.org[6] and Who's Who in the Dir, Swat and Chitral Agency.[1] The ruling dates of the first rulers are not reported, as inconsistent between the sources: according to www.worldstatesmen.org, Akhund Baba's tenure began in 1626. However, Encyclopædia Britannica[3] and accounts by local people[11] date him back to the 17th century.

Tenure Ruler
1626_1676 Akhund Baba (Mulla Ilyas Khan)
1676-1752 Mulla Ismail
1752-1804 Ghulam Khan Baba
1804-1814 Khan Zafar Khan
1814-1822 Khan Qasim Khan
 ?[12] Ghasan Khan
1886–1890 Mohammad Sharif Khan
1890–1895 Mohammad Umara Khan (1850 - 1903)
1895 – December 1904 Nawab Mohammad Sharif Khan (1848 - 1905)
December 1904 – February 1925 Nawab Awrangzeb Badshah Khan)
1904-1907 Nawab Miangul Jan)
May 1925 – 9 November 1960 Nawab Mohammad Shah Jahan Khan)
9 November 1960 – 28 July 1996 Nawab Mohammad Shah Khosru Khan)


According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the population of the state in 1911 amounted to about 100,000 people.[5]

At the 1947 Partition of India, there was a Muslim majority in Dir with small minorities of Hindus and Sikhs, many of whom left for India during partition.


The state flag contained several Islamic symbols and three sentences (not shown in the present image): the top writing is the Bismillah: "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful", the center one is the shahada in urdu language: "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God". The bottom phrase reads "with the help of God, victory is near" in Arabic language. The flag also existed in a red variant with the same drawings.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Who's Who in the Dir, Swat and Chitral Agency – Corrected up to 1st September 1933 (PDF). New Delhi: The Manager Government of India Press. 1933. Retrieved 2013-07-31. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Syed Ziafat Ali. "Welcome To Dir State". Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  3. ^ a b Dir at Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ Rose, Horace Arthur; Ibbetson, Denzil; Maclagan, Edward Douglas (1911). A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province: A.-K, Volume 2. Lahore: Printed by the superintendent, Government Printing, Punjab. p. 11. Retrieved 2013-07-31. 
  5. ^ a b Public Domain Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dir". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  6. ^ a b Ben Cahoon, WorldStatesmen.org. "Pakistan Princely States". Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Jinnah Papers The states: Historical and Policy Perspectives and Accession to Pakistan. First series volume VIII, Editor: Z.H.Zaidi, Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project, Government of Pakistan 2003 Pg xxxix.
  8. ^ Jinnah Papers The states: Historical and Policy Perspectives and Accession to Pakistan, First series volume VIII, Editor: Z.H.Zaidi, Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project, Government of Pakistan 2003 Pg xvii.
  9. ^ a b Maraini, Fosco (1965). Where four worlds meet: Hindu Kush, 1959. London: Hamish Hamilton. 
  10. ^ Buyers, Christoper. "Pakistan: Brief History". The Royal Ark. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "Call for preservation of Sufi shrine in Dir". Dawn. 14 January 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  12. ^ 1863-1874, according to www.worldstatesmen.org. However, an 1845 source already describes Ghazzan as chief of the Dir ("Deer") valley: Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, edited by the Secretary. vol. XIV. part II.— July to December, 1845. Retrieved 2013-07-31. 
  13. ^ 1874-1884 according to a different source (Haseeb Naz. "Chiefa Coins - Dir". Retrieved 13 August 2013. ).
  14. ^ Roberto Breschi. "Dir". Retrieved 2013-07-25. . The site cites J.D. McMeekin, Arms and Flags of the Indian Princely States, 3, sec. 12, 1990.

External links[edit]