Pakhli was an ancient sarkar (district) of the Mughal Subah of Punjab, now part of Hazara, Pakistan. It roughly corresponds to the ancient Urasa, the Aρσa or Οΰaρσa which Ptolemy placed between the Bidaspes (Jhelum) and the Indus.
It was part of the Gandhara or Gandharva country of antiquity). It later became part of Chandragupta Maurya's Empire. The archaeological remains found here suggest that this was a place of great Hindu and Buddhist learning.
In the Rajatarangini this place now appeared as a separate kingdom and then again as tributary to the Kashmir valley. The Ain-i-Akbari refers to this entire region as Sarkar Pakhlim, which formed a part of the larger Kashmir province, which in turn was part of Subah Kabul. The area of Pakhli today forms a part of the Hazara Division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
The king of Pakhli at the time of Alexander the Great was Arsakes, during the time of the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang visited the area it was a tributary of Kashmir. The area was named after Sultan Faghal Jahangiri or Sultan Pakhaal the elder brother of Sultan Behram Jahangiri who conquered all the area from Jalalabad to Kashmir from Hindus. His rule didn't last long as he died very young.
According to the Kashmir Chronicle - Rajatarangini, the area was now a separate kingdom and a tributary to the Kashmir state. In it lay Agror, the ancient Atyugrapura. In Babar's time this tract was held by the Khakha and Bambha tribes, whose chiefs had been the ancient rulers of the country east of the Indus, but had been driven out by the Gibari Sultans of Bajaur and Swat; and the tract derives its name from Pakhli, one of these conquerors.
In the Ain-i-Akbari it is described as bounded on the east by Kashmir, on the south by the country of the Gakhars, on the west by Attock, and on the north by Kator (Chitral). Under Durrani rule Saadat Khan was chosen as chief of Pakhli, then a dependency of Kashmir. He founded the fort of Garbi Saadat Khan, which was the headquarters of Azad Khan's rebellion against Timur Shah.
Its main city was Agror, the ancient Atyugrapura. In Babur's time this tract was held by the Khakha and Bambha tribes, whose chiefs had been the ancient rulers of the country east of the Indus but had been driven out by the Gibari or Jahangiri Sultans of Bajawar and Swat.
Early in the nineteenth century Pakhli comprised three districts: Mansehra in the south and south-east, Shinkiari (subdivided into Kandhi and Maidan) in the north-east, and Bhir-Kand in the centre. The valleys of Kagan, Bhogarmang, and Agror were dependent on it.
Arrival of Karlugh Turks
Around 1472 Karlugh Turk Prince Shahab-ud-Din came from Kabul and established his rule in the entire Pakhli (Hazara) region. This state came to be known as Pakhali Sarkar with Guli Bagh as its capital. According to Raja Irshad (Tareekh-e-Hazara by Raja Irshad), Prince Shahab-ud-Din was a Karlugh Turk and his family tree linked to Timur. Karlugh Turks ruled Pakhli Sarkar until 1703.
Pakhli Sarkar was the only state in Mughal Empire which was exempted from any tax payments to Delhi. This is attributed to the fact that, just like the Mughal emperors, the rulers of Pakhli were of Central Asian origin.
During Akbar's era, Sultan Hussain Khan of Pakhli revolted against him on the basis that the Delhi Sultanate was interfering into Pakhli's internal affairs. Akbar defeated him, but restored him in his position later on. This special treatment again may be due to their similar Central Asian background.
Decline and fall of Karlugh Turks and arrival of Syed's and Swatis
During the entire period of Mughal ascendancy in Indian sub-continent, Mughals acknowledged Karlughs as the rulers of Pakhli sarkar. In addition, probably due to their common Central Asian origin, Mughals never levied taxes on the state of Pakhli Sarkar. Sultan Maqarrab revolted against his own brother Sultan Mehmud Khurd, but was defeated by the Sultan due to intervention from the Delhi Sultanate under the command of Syed Jalal Tirmizi Baba the grandson of Pir Baba. In the honor Sultan Mehmud Khurd marry his daughter with to Syed Jalal Baba in 1701. Around 1713 Sultan Mehmud Khurd went to Delhi, in his absence Shamsher Khan a general of Sultan Khurd revolted against the Mughals citing increased interference on the part of Mughal Empire at Jhanjal fort of Thakot. This revolt was successfully put down after a siege of several months by Syed Jalal Baba and their allies Swaties, defeated Shamsher Khan, who was killed in battle.
After the Karlugh Turks were overthrown, the Swati tribes established their rule in the plains of Pakhli and mountains of Kaghan valley.These areas were then divided between Swatis and Syeds. The region of Mansehra that previously belonged to the Sum Elai-Mang was handed over to the Swati Khankhails. The Kaghan valley was given to the Syeds and Oghi and Swat was delivered to Swati Jahangiris,Allasheri Khankhels and different Swati clans. Swatis had old claim in Pakhli as it was conquered by their ancestor Sultan Faghal Jahangiri of Nangrahar. The Karlugh Turks had already lost their control over the areas now known as the Haripur and Abbottabad districts due to their internal feuds. Sultan Muqarrab was Waali (Governor) of these areas, who revolted against his own brother Sultan Mehmud Khurd. Though Sultan Muqarrab was defeated with help from Delhi, the Karlugh Turks never regained their previous strength. Ultimately, Jadoons from Swabi subjugated the Rash areas. Sultan Qyas-ud-din, younger brother of Sultan Mehmud, became the Waali (Governor) of Tanawal. In Tanawal areas, Karlugh Turks retained their power for another 90 years. But ultimately, they were restricted to a small area of lower Tanawal from Sherwan (Abbottabad) to Behali (Mansehra).
In the early nineteenth century, Pakhli formed part of the Kingdom of Kabul (modern day Afghanistan) and through it ran the high road connecting Kabul to Kashmir. In 1813, the Afghans lost the strategically placed Fort of Attock (on the left bank of the Indus) to the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The tribute due from the lower regions of Pakhli, formerly collected by the Afghan Governor of Attock, now became due to the Sikhs. In 1819, when the Sikhs wrested Kashmir from the Afghans, the tribute due from the upper reaches of Pakhli also became due to them. Numerous attempts to collect tribute from Hazara-i-Karlugh not only met with failure, but also the loss of prominent Sikh administrators and commanders.
In 1822, Maharaja Ranjit Singh granted both Pakhli and Damtaur as a jagir to Hari Singh Nalwa as a reward for his remarkable success in the Kashmir mountains. As soon as Hari Singh received Pakhli and Damtaur in jagir, he built the famous town of Haripur in the heart of the plains of Hazara-i-Karlugh. This fortified township has grown over the last 175 years into the Haripur District (Pakistan). The ruins of several forts built by this indomitable Sikh general continue to dot the landscape of Pakhli, which continued as Hari Singh Nalwa's jagir till his death in 1837. It was after him that this entire region came to be known as Hazara.
Descendants of these last Karlugh Turkish rulers still live in Bahali (Mansehra), Richh Behn (Abbottabad), (Manakrai, Bayan ahmed Ali khan, Pharhari, Nartopa), Haripur and adjoining areas of Azad Kashmir.
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- Pakhli - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 318
- Abu'l-Fazl, 16-17th century. tr. H.S. Jarrett, v 2, p 397 (1891)
- Pakhli - Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 19, p. 319
- Nalwa, V. 2009. Hari Singh Nalwa - Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar, pp. 78-9
- Latif, S.M. (1891) 1967. History of the Punjab - From the remotest antiquity to the present time, rpt, New Delhi: Kalyani Publishers, p. 427
- Hazara Gazetteer 1907, Lahore: Punjab Government, p. 233
- Tareekh-e-Hazara, By Raja Irshad Khan