Tribes and clans of the Pothohar Plateau

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Tilla Jogian, second highest peak in Pothohar

The Potohar plateau, sometimes pronounced Pothohar Plateau (Urdu: سطح مرتفع پوٹھوہار‎), is a large region of plateau situated in northern Punjab, Pakistan. It is bounded on the east by the Jhelum River, on the west by the Indus River, on the north by the Kala Chitta Range and the Margalla Hills, and on the south by the Salt Range.[1]

The region roughly covers the modern-day Punjab districts of Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum and Rawalpindi and the Islamabad Capital Territory.

Tribes of the region[edit]

The Pothohar region is home to a number of tribal groupings, many of whom occupy distinct tracts. The Jhelum District Gazetteer gave the following account of the tribal groupings at the beginning of the 20th century.

The population is generally clearly sub-divided into tribes (quoms or zats), having a common name and generally supposed to be descended from a traditional common ancestor by agnatic descent, i.e through males only.... Almost every tribe is again sub-divided into clans (muhi), or smaller groups of agnates, distinctly recognized as descended from a somewhat remote ancestor and usually bearing a common name.[2]

More recent works by the British anthropologist Pnina Werbner have confirmed the continuing strength of tribal feelings among emigrant Pothoharis in the United Kingdom.[3] This region was and still is an important source of recruitment into the old colonial British Indian army, and its successor, the Pakistan Army.[4] Official recruitment policies have also encouraged the sense of tribal belonging among the Pothoharis.[5]

The present Chakwal District was created out of the merger Talagang Tehsil of Attock District and Chakwal Tehsil of Jhelum District in 1985. The Islamabad Capital Territory was carved out of Rawalpindi District in 1959.


The Chauhan is a Rajput clan. Prithvi Raj, the last Hindu ruler of North India, belonged to the clan. According to their bardic traditions, the Chauhan are one of the four Agnivanshi or 'fire sprung' tribes who were created by the gods in the Agni kund or "fountain of fire" on Mount Abu to fight against the Asuras or demons.


The Cheema are a well-known Jat clan, found mainly in Gujranwala and Sialkot districts. In the Pothohar region, they occupy a lone village, Sui Cheemian in Gujar Khan Tehsil.


The Chhina.


The Chib are a Rajput tribe.


The Dhanial occupy the Karor villaqa of Murree Tehsil, as well as the adjoining areas of the Islamabad Capital Territory. They have been called rajput as well in Pothar Punjab.[6]

Abbasis or Dhund Abbasi[edit]

The Dhund Abbasis are the most prominent of the Muree Hill tribes, and make up the bulk of the population of the Murree Tehsil. The Dhund also dwell in villages named Khuian, Salamber, Sore, Keral and Salitha of Tehsil Kahuta of District Rawalpindi[7]


The Dulal are a small tribe, confined to the Gujar Khan Tehsil of Rawalpindi District. They claim to be Qureshi Arabs, and occupy a number of villages near the town of Mandrah, the main ones being Hachari Dulal, Nathu Dulal, Noor Dulal, Pharwal Dulal, Narali, Bhattian and Kuri Dulal.[8] They should not be confused, by the Dulal branch of the Janjua, who are entirely distinct.


The origins of the Gujjars are uncertain.[9] The Gujjar form a tribal element in the Pothohar region.


The Janjua are a Jat/Rajput tribe found in every district of the Pothohar region, barring the hill tehsils of Murree, northern parts of Kahuta (where Dhund Abbasis & Satti tribes dwell) and Kotli Sattian.

Alexander and the wounded King of the Pauravas


The Aura are a small Jat clan, found in Rawalpindi and Gujar Khan tehsils. The village of Balakhar in Rawalpindi is an important centre of the tribe. Abdullahpur is also a major centre of this tribe in Jhelum District.


The Jethal are a Rajput clan who claim Bhatti Rajput descent. Their origin is traced to a Bhutta who 12 or 14 generations ago married the sister of a Ghori Sultan. The king, however, drove Bhutta with his 21 sons in the Kirana Bar. Bhutta eventually crossed the Jhelum River, and settled at Ratta Pind, now a mound near the town of Kandwal.


Kassar is one of the three major land-owning tribes in the Dhani[disambiguation needed] of Chakwal District.[citation needed]


The Khattar are an indigenous tribe of Rajput or Jatt origins.


Like many other Potohar tribes, the Khingar claim to both of Jat and Rajput status. The Jhelum branch tend generally calls itself Jat, while some members in Gujar Khan claim to be Rajput and others to be Jat. There are also several Khingar villages in the Thal portion of Mianwali District. The tribe claims descent from Khingar, who was said to be a Suryavanshi Rajput.


The Langrial is a tribe of both Jat and Rajput status.

The Langrial are found throughout Punjab, the tribe has different traditions to its origin, depending on the region it inhabits.

The Multan Langrial, claim descent from a Brahmin of Bikaner. According to another tradition, they are Quraishi Arab, who held sawy over Thatta in Sindh under one Ghiasudin, who from the lavishness of his public kitchen (langar in Sindhi and Seraiki) obtained the title Langrial.[10]

Mair-Minhas and Minhas[edit]

The Minhas are a Suryavanshi Rajput clan and claim descent from Rama a legendary king of Ayodhya. It is an offshoot of Jamwal-Dogra Rajputs, the founders of the city and state of Jammu and its rulers from ancient times to 1948.


The Maliar are a major tribe of the Pothohar, and have often been confused with the Arain tribe of central Punjab, with whom they have no connection.[11]

The term Maliar is said to from the Sanskrit word Malakara or makers of garland. According to their traditions, their ancestor Mahbub accompanied Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna to India. The Sultan assigned him gardening as a vocation, and as such the community became horticulturists.[12] There is no consensus as to the ethnic identity of this Mahbub. If we accept this account, the community thus settled in India at the start of the 11th century. Historically, the community was at a disadvantage, particularly in the Peshawar valley, where it suffered at the hands of Pashtun landlords.[13]


The Pashtun, or Pathans, as they are referred to in the Pothohar region, are found principally in the Attock District and belong to different tribes who immigrated here. There are two Pathan settlements in that district, one in the south-west of Pindigheb Tehsil at Makhad and in the Narrara hills, the other in the Attock Tehsil, chiefly in the Chhachh illaqa. In addition, there are also a few scattered villages, in Rawalpindi District.

Chhachh Pathans[edit]

The Attock Pathans are found in two parts of the tehsil, those of Sarwala, and those of Chhachh. The Chhachh Pathans have very little in common with the Sagri Khattaks, as they are separated by the Kala Chita mountains. The Chhachhies are also known as Chhachi (Pashtun). The Chhachh have both Hindko and Pushto speaking communities, and have much in common with the Pashtun tribes settled in the neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Chhachh have Pukhtun culture and some people are following Pashtunwali code of conduct strictly like in KPK. Mostly Pathans in Chhachh came with Ghaznavi.

The Chhachh ilaqa is almost entirely held by the Pathans, as is the Nala estates, along the Haro river valey. The Attock Pathans were the earliest group of Pothoharis to start emigrating to Europe and North America. There are now large communities of Chhachh Pathan settled in British cities, such as Bradford, Birmingham and Manchester.[14]


The name originally signified ancestry from the Arab tribe of Quraish.[15]


File:Rajpoots 2.png
An 1876 engraving of rajputs, from the Illustrated London News.

The Rajputs are large caste cluster, found in North India and Pakistan. They regard themselves as being descended from the vedic warrior class known as the Kshatriyas. The word Rajput, it is claimed is a corruption of the word Rajputra, which literally means "son of a King". Rajputs belong to one of three great patrilineages, which are the Suryavanshi, the Chandravanshi and the Agnivanshi.

The Pothohar Rajputs have almost all converted to Islam.[10] Their reasons for conversion are complex and controversial, but all that can be said with certainty, is towards the middle of the 16th century, all the Rajput clans had converted to Islam,[clarification needed] and indeed the Janjua say they converted much earlier. Rawalpindi District is seen as the home of the Rajput clans, and the district is home to innumerable number of clans. Many are muhi of larger tribes, for example the Hattar and Kural of Attock District are Bhatti, while the Ratial are a clan of the Katoch. The threefold division of Agnivanshi, Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi is less important here them among the Hindu Rajput clans of North India.

Here is a brief description of some of the Rajput clans that have not been already noted:


The Sandhu are one of the largest Jat tribes, of central Punjab. They hold the village of Mohra Sandhu, and neighbouring hamlets near the town of Bewal in Gujar Khan Tehsil, where their ancestors settled in the 18th century.


The Sarral are a Rajput tribe, claiming to be Suryavanshi. They are found in throughout the south-eastern part of the Pothohar region.


The Shaikh community are found mainly in Attock District, entirely in Attock Tehsil. They occupy ten villages between Attock city and the Chhach area. Their prominent families include the those of the villages of Tagall and Saman. In the Chhach area, they also found mainly as peasant proprietors. They belonged mainly to the Siddiqui and Qanungoh biradaris.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Salt Range: A Hidden Treasure". Daily Times. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  2. ^ Gazetteer of the Jhelum District, 1904, Punjab district gazetteers, Part A, at p. 86.
  3. ^ The Migration Process: Capital, Gifts and Offerings among British Pakistanis (Berg, 1990 and 2002).
  4. ^ Mustapha Kamal Pasha, Colonial Political Economy: Recruitment and Underdevelopment in the Punjab, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 198–200. ISBN 0 -19-577762-X
  5. ^ Stephen P. Cohen, The Pakistan Army (1998 edition; paperback), Oxford University Press (July 1, 1998). ISBN 0-19-577948-7
  6. ^ A Gazetteer of Rawalpindi District, 1907, Part A, p. 75.
  7. ^ Marriage Among Muslims: Preference and Choice in Northern Pakistan by Donnan, Hastings Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-08416-9
  8. ^ A Gazetteer of Rawalpindi District, 1907, Part A, p. 62.
  9. ^ "Gurjara-Pratihara Dynastyrv". Britannica Concise. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  10. ^ a b Horace A. Rose, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of Punjab.
  11. ^ A Gazetteer of Attock District, Part A, 1929, p. 108.
  12. ^ Rose, H. A.; Denzil Ibbetson; Edward Maclagan (1996). Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of Punjab. Asian Educational Services. p. 809. ISBN 978-81-206-0505-3. 
  13. ^ Inayatullah; Q. M. Shafi (1963). Dynamics of development in a Pakistani village. Peshawar: Pakistan Academy for Rural Development. OCLC 34376120. 
  14. ^ Alison Shaw, Kinship and Continuity: Pakistani Families in Britain, Routledge. ISBN 90-5823-075-9.
  15. ^ Sekh Rahim Mondal, Muslims of Siliguri, Institute of Objective Studies (New Delhi, India).