SWAT

 

BRIEF HISTORY

 
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. 

SALUTE:
15-guns (1958).

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 name)*.
The daughters, granddaughters and other female descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: (personal name) Bibi.
* male members of the family are usually addressed as "Bacha".

RULES OF SUCCESSION:

Male legitimate primogeniture, qualified by nomination by the ruling prince.

ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
None.

SOURCES:
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, 1963.
Miangul Jehanzeb, The Last Wali of Swat, as told to Fredrik Barth. Norwegian University Press/Universitetsforlaget AS, Oslo, 1985.
http://www.swatvalley.com/swat

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:
H.H. The Wali of Swat.
Morag Brownlow.
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Copyrightę Christopher Buyers, January 2005 - September 2008