1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Waziristan

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WAZIRISTAN, a section of the mountain tract in the North-West Frontier Province of India, lying between the Tochi river on the north and the Gomal river on the south. The whole of Waziristan lies within the British sphere of influence, the boundary with Afghanistan having been demarcated in 1894. It forms two political agencies, but only a portion, consisting of the Tochi valley, with an area of about 700 sq. m. and a population (1903) of 24,670, is directly administered. Northern Waziristan has an area of about 2310 sq. m., and southern Waziristan an area of about 2734 sq. m.

The Tochi and the Gomal rivers enclose Waziristan, their affluents rising to the west of that country in the upland valleys of Shawal and Birmal, and flowing north and south to a junction with the main streams. Between the two rivers stretches the central dominating range of Waziristan from north-east to south-west, geologically connected with the great limestone ranges of the Suliman hills to the south, and dominated by the great peaks of Shuidar (Sheikh Haidar) and Pirghal, both of them between 11,000 and 12,000 ft. above the sea, and hardly inferior to the Khaisargarh peak of the Takht-i-Suliman. From these peaks westwards a view is obtained across the grass slopes and cedar woods of Birmal and Shawal (lying thousands of feet below) to the long, serrated ridges of the central watershed which shuts off the plains of Ghazni. To the eastward several lines of drainage strike away for the Indus, breaking through parallel folds and flexures of the mountains, of which the conformation is here distinctly observable, although not so marked as it is south of the Gomal. These lines of drainage are, as usual, the main avenues of approach to the interior of the country. They are the Khaisora and the Shakdu on the north, which, uniting, join the Tochi south of Bannu, and the Tank Zam (which is also called Khaisor near its head) on the south. The two former lead from the frontier to Rasmak and Makin, villages of some local importance, situated on the slopes of Shuidar; and the latter leads to Kaniguram, the Waziri capital, and the centre of a considerable iron trade. Kaniguram lies at the foot of the Pirghal mountain.

Amongst the mountains of Waziristan there is much fine scenery and a delightful climate. Thick forests of ilex clothe many of the spurs, which reach down to the grassy deodar-covered uplands of Birmal on the west; and the spreading poplar attains magnificent dimensions amongst the flats and plateaus of the eastern slopes. The indigenous trade of the country is inconsiderable, although Waziri iron is much esteemed. The agricultural products are poor, and the general appearance of the priest-ridden people is significant of the endurance of many hardships, even of chronic starvation. The most notable product of the country is the Waziri breed of horses and donkeys. The latter especially deserve to rank as the best of their kind on the Indian frontier, if not in all India.

The geological formation of Waziristan is the same as that of the contiguous frontier. Recent subaqueous deposits have been disturbed by a central upheaval of limestone; the lower hills are soft in composition and easily weather-worn, the slopes are rounded, and large masses of detritus have collected in the nullah beds and raised their level. Through these deposits heavy rain-floods have forced their way with many bends and curves to the plains, enclosing within each curve a "warn" or "raghza," which slopes gradually to the hills and affords the only available space for irrigation and agriculture. A "warn" is a gently sloping open space, generally raised but slightly above the river level. A "raghza" differs from a "warn" in being on a higher level and often beyond the reach of irrigation. Pasture is found abundantly in the hills, but cultivation only on the borders of the main streams. Passing up and down these main water-courses, there is an appearance of great fertility and wealth, which is entirely due to these thriving strips of verdure, their restricted and narrow limits being hardly visible from the river beds. From above, when viewed from the flanking ridges, the vast extent of hill country, neither high, nor imposing, nor difficult of access, but invariably stony and rough, compares strongly with the narrow bands of enclosed cultivation winding about like green ribbons, and marking the course of the main streams from the snowcovered peaks to the plains. The physiography of Waziristan is that of the Kurram to the north rather than that of the Suliman hills to the south.

The Waziris are the largest tribe on the frontier, but their state of civilization is very low. They are a race of robbers and murderers, and the Waziri name is execrated even by the neighbouring Mahommedan tribes.. Mahommedans from a settled district often regard Waziris as utter barbarians, and seem inclined to deny their title to belong to the faith. They have been described as being "free-born and murderous, hot-headed and light-hearted, self-respecting but vain." The poverty of their country and the effort required to gain a subsistence in it have made the Waziris a hardy and enduring race. Their physique is uncommonly good, and though on the average short of stature, some extremely tall and large men are to be found amongst them. They are generally deep-chested and compact of build, with a powerful muscular development common to the whole body, and not confined to the lower limbs as is the case with some hill tribes of the Himalayas. As mountaineers the Waziris would probably hold their own with any other Pathan tribe of the frontier.

Except in a few of the highest hills, which are well-wooded, the Waziri country is a mass of rock and stones, bearing a poor growth of grass and thinly sprinkled with dark evergreen bushes; progress in every direction except on devious paths known to the natives is obstructed by precipices or by toilsome stony ascents; and knowledge of the topography, a mere labyrinth of intricate ranges and valleys, comes only as the result of long acquaintance. Broken ground and tortuous ravines, by making crime easy and precaution against attack difficult, have fostered violence among the people and developed in them an extraordinary faculty of prudence and alertness. In consequence of his isolation the Waziri has become independent, self-reliant and democratic in sentiment. Through the inaccessibility of his own country to lowlanders, combined with the proximity of open and fertile tracts inhabited by races of inferior stamina, he has developed into a confirmed raider; and the passage through his country of mountain footpaths, connecting India with Afghanistan, has made him by frequent opportunity a hereditary highwayman as well. The women enjoy more freedom than amongst most Pathan tribes, and are frequently unfaithful. The ordinary punishment of adultery is to put the woman to death, and to cut off half the right foot of the man. Amongst Waziris also, as amongst other Pathans, the blood-feud is a national institution.

The Waziris, who number some 40,000 fighting men altogether, are divided into two main sections, the Darwesh Khel (30,000) and the Mahsuds (8000), with two smaller sections. The Darwesh Khel, the more settled and civilized of the two, inhabit the lower hills bordering on Kohat and Bannu districts, and the ground lying 'on both sides of the Kurram river, between Thal on the north and the Tochi Valley on the south. The Mahsuds, who inhabit the tract of country lying between the Tochi Valley on the north and the Gomal river on the south, have earned for themselves an evil name as the most confirmed raiders on the border; but they are a plucky race, as active over the hills as the Afridis, and next to them the best-armed large tribe on the frontier. The Mahsud country, especially that part within reach of British posts, is more difficult even than Tirah. To the south and east it is girt by an intricate belt of uninhabited, generally waterless hills and ravines. To the north a zone of Darwesh Khel territory, not less than 20 m. in width, hilly and difficult, separates the Mahsuds from the Tochi. The Tochi Valley is inhabited by a degraded Pathan tribe, known as Dauris, who have voluntarily placed themselves under British protection since 1895. In dealing with the Mahsuds it must be remembered that from Wana to Tank, from Tank to Bannu, and from Bannu to Datta Khel, or for a distance of over 200 m., British territory is open to Mahsud depredations. This length of frontier is equal to the whole Thal-Kohat-Peshawar-Malakand line, covering the eight or ten tribes that took part in the frontier risings of 1897. So that the Mahsuds should really be compared with the whole of those ten tribes, and not with any single one.

British expeditions were needed against various sections of the Waziris in 1852, 1859, 1860, 1880, 1881, 1894, 1897 and 1902.

The success of Sir Robert Sandeman in subduing the wild tribes of Baluchistan had led to a similar attempt to open up Waziristan to British civilization; but the Pathan is much more democratic and much less subject to the influence of his maliks than is the Baluchi to the authority of his chiefs; and the policy finally broke down in 1894, when the Waziris made a night attack upon the camp of the British Delimitation Commission at Wana. The Commission had been appointed to settle the boundary with the Afghans, and the Waziris regarded it as the final threat to their independence. The attack was delivered with such determination that the tribesmen penetrated into the centre of the camp, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that friend could be distinguished from foe. A large force of 11,000 British troops subsequently traversed the tribal country, destroyed their towers and dictated terms, one of which was that the Tochi Valley should be occupied by British garrisons. But still there was trouble, which led to the Tochi expedition of 1897; and, in spite of the further lessons taught the Waziris in two expeditions in 1902, the attempt to "Sandemanise" Waziristan was given up by Lord Curzon. The British garrisons in the Tochi and Gomal valleys were withdrawn, and two corps of tribal militia, from 1300 to 150o strong, were gradually formed to replace the British troops.

See Grammar and Vocabulary of Waziri Pashto, by J. G. Lorimer (Calcutta, 1902); Paget and Mason's Frontier Expeditions (1884); Mahsud Waziri Operations (1902), Blue-book.