The state of
Swat was one of the last princely states to be
established in the old Indian Empire. Recognised as such
by the viceroy in 1926, rule of the fertile Swat valley
and surrounding districts had been contested by two
religious families for seventy years. During this time
authority had not only fluctuated between the two
families, but also between members of each family. The
fratricidal nature of politics left the area without any
form of actual government or administration for fifty of
those seventy years.
The first attempt at establishing an administration
occurred in 1849. Sayyid Akbar Shah, leader of a
distinguished family descended from the Islamic saint,
Baba Rahmatu'llah Allahi, was invited by the religious
community and tribal elders to assume office as
Amir-i-Shariyat. The state was theocratic in nature, but
its leaders were occupied for most of their time on
jihad, either against the Sikhs or the British. Rule was
essentially personal, so on the death of Akbar Shah in
1857, his son and successor was unable to effect any
control over the tribes. Continuous rebellion and
sedition ultimately drove him to abandon his charge
without much hesitation in 1863.
Thereafter, a long period of contest ensued between
various groups, tempered by the spiritual leadership of
the Shaikh ul-Islam, 'Abdu'l Ghafur known as Saidu Baba.
He did his best to advise and encourage his flock through
a system of Sheikhs resident in various parts of the
valley. However, he took no steps to establish his own
rule or take political control. His death in 1877,
resulted in another vacuum. Although his elder son
attempted to establish himself as Amir, he could not
gather a large enough following to succeed. After his
death in 1887, his younger brother, with whom he had
contested the moral leadership of his father's followers,
re-established a large measure of the influence lost at
his father's death. He had no army or administrative
machinery, nor any aspirations to worldly office, so
again no system of government evolved.
Miangul 'Abdu'l Khaliq died in 1892, leaving two young
sons and their first cousins to contest the legacy of the
family. The strongest to emerge from the contest being
his elder son, Miangul Gulshazada 'Abdu'l Wadud. His
contest with his younger brothers and cousins was long
and dangerous, and his ultimate victory did not
materialise for a quarter of a century.
In the meantime, some attempts were made at
re-establishing the theocratic state in the early years
of the twentieth century. Ultimately, in 1914, the
grandson of Sayyid Akbar Shah, Sayyid 'Abdu'l-Jabbar
Shah, was invited back by the tribal elders and asked to
become Amir-i-Shariat. Opposed by Gulshazada 'Abdu'l
Wadud from the very outset of his rule, he faced almost
the same challenges as the last occupant of the office.
Eventually he was politely "invited to leave"
after just three years.
Gulshazada 'Abdu'l Wadud established a measure of control
over the valley in September 1917, and secured election
as ruler fourteen months later. He assumed the grandiose
title of "Badshah" or Emperor of the little
mountain valley. Thereafter, he set about consolidating
his rule, annexing adjacent lands and began establishing
the rudiments of administration and government. After
nine years of continuous progress, he approached the
British Indian government for recognition and support.
Until then, relations between the two had been uneasy,
mutual suspicion prevailing amongst both sides. However,
his straightforward character, sincerity in friendship
and obvious feat in disarming hitherto fractious
tribesmen, won the day.
Swat was recognised as a fully-fledged princely state in
1926, with 'Abdu'l Wadud as "Wali of Swat" and
his eldest son as "Wali Ahad" in 1933.
Thereafter, the little state progressed in leaps and
bounds under their energetic and surprisingly modern
minded ruler. Revenue collection was regularised,
government departments and offices established, roads,
hospitals, schools and public works of all kinds begun in
earnest. For the first time in centuries, peace and
prosperity reigned supreme and the beautiful valley
slowly entered the twentieth century.
The establishment of Pakistan in 1947 saw Swat accede to
the new dominion with little hesitation, unlike some of
her sister states and neighbours. The old Wali gave
generously to good causes and supported the government
faithfully, but felt himself out of sorts with the times.
Though still in good health, he abdicated in favour of
his eldest son, whom he had carefully educated along
modern lines, and gradually trained up to assume the full
burdens of government.
Miangul Jehanzeb immediately hastened the rate of
development and change, establishing representative forms
of local and state government, expanding educational
opportunities, modernising the administration and
infrastructure. His close relationship with the martial
law regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and the family
ties which he later established with the former, ensured
a level of autonomy for the little state. Quite unlike
other former princely states, most of whom were quickly
deprived of their independent status. Foreign Heads of
State and VIPs became regular visitors to the valley, and
the Wali became a frequent player on the national stage.
Although the Bhutto government eventually abolished the
remaining powers of the rulers in 1972, his status and
regard continued for the remainder of his days.
At the death of Miangul Jehanzeb in 1987, his eldest son,
Captain Miangul Aurangzeb succeeded him. No less a figure
on the national scene, he has held high office under
several administrations, most importantly as Governor of
Baluchistan and later of his home province of the North
West Frontier. He continues to serve his country as a
member of the national assembly, having held elected
office intermittently since 1958. He leads a clan of
equally prominent brothers, sons and nephews, all of whom
play a part on the national stage far greater than could
be expected from such a once small and forgotten valley
of the sub-continent.
STYLES & TITLES:
The ruling prince: Miangul (personal name), Wali
of Swat, with the style of His Highness.
The principal consort of the ruling prince: (personal
name) Begum, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Miangul (personal name)*, Wali
Ahad of Swat.
The sons, grandsons and other male descendants of the
ruling prince, in the male line: Miangul Shahzada (personal
The daughters, granddaughters and other female
descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: (personal
* male members of the family are usually addressed as
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
Male legitimate primogeniture, qualified by nomination by
the ruling prince.
ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
Muhammad Altaf Husain, The Story of Swat as told by the
Founder, Miangul Abdul Wadud [Badshah Sahib], to Muhammad
Asif Khan. Miangul Abdul Wadud [Badshah Sahib], Peshawar,
Miangul Jehanzeb, The Last Wali of Swat, as told to
Fredrik Barth. Norwegian University
Press/Universitetsforlaget AS, Oslo, 1985.
H.H. The Wali of Swat.
I would be
grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes,
corrections or additions to contribute. If you do, please
be kind enough to send me an e-mail using the contact
details at: Copyrightę Christopher Buyers