ISLAMABAD – The state of Swat, economically self-sustained with rice paddy fields at the town of Thana and wheat and corn producing fields en route to Matta, Kabal, Mingora, Madian, Bahrain, and ending at Walnut Heights of Kalam where trout is the most available all-season food, is home to the peaceful and docile Pashtuns.
The majority of these Pashtuns came into Swat from Dir and Bajour, others from Kailash and Chitral. Their ancestry, some historians claim, is Greek. To an extent Kailash-Chitral, neighboring Swat, gives credence to this claim.
Kailash is a rock-locked valley where one of the generals of Alexander the Great once lost his garrison. One can trace the semblance of Greek within the Kalasha language. Some scholars reject the claim of Greek ancestry, but when the present head of Kailash, Luxun Bibi, took up an invitation by the government of Greece, the meeting state officials discovered that there are many common words between Greek and Kalasha.
Swat always remained a self-sustained economy also for its valuable emeralds, extracted from Swat and from the Panjsheer Valley of Afghanistan. Even during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, gemstone dealers from the Indian town of Jaipur would regularly camp at the Pearl Continental Hotel of Peshawar to buy emeralds that were cut and polished in Hong Kong or Belgium.
The majority of Swati people are proudly self-proclaimed “Blue Blood Pashtuns”, again raising the question of ancestry. Afridis and Shinwaris of the Khyber Agency claim to be the direct descendents of Alexander the Great, and some claim Pashtuns are Jews who converted when they came to Afghanistan.
The majority of Swati Pashtuns are gujars, or herdsmen, not belonging to Swat’s economic elite.
Before the people of Swat embraced Islam they were mostly influenced by Buddhism, which is reflected in relics and statues often extracted by archeologists from Dir and Swat. An old museum is located in Dir where statues are still kept, but there is no one there to guard them at present.
Swat was a princely state at the time of partition of the Indian subcontinent, when the Wali of Swat, the Ruler of Dir, and the Mehter of Chitral all opted to join Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan voluntarily.
Swat had become a princely state before the partition under Mian Gul Shahzada Abdul Wadud, the son of a powerful Pashtun, Abdul Khaliq of the Akhund caste of Pashtuns. Abdul Khaliq died in 1892. His son Abdul Wadud was a saint who had many disciples and would often be invited to chair local jirgas, or grand assemblies, to settle local disputes.
Many Sikhs also settled in Swat after the conquests of Mahraja Ranjit Singh, a warrior from Punjab who conquered Afghanistan from Kabul to Kandahar. Sikhs still live in Swat and many are wealthy businessmen. In 2002, a descendent of the conqueror, Sardar Gayan Singh, became a member of the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan’s Parliament.
Saint Mian Gul Shahzada Abdul Wadud established Swat as a princely state when, during a jirga, he ordered two rival groups to surrender their arms to his disciples. Using this opportunity, Abdul Wadud established his personal rule in 1917 and declared himself Badshah, or King, of Swat.
Thereafter he set about consolidating his rule, annexing adjacent lands and 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 and mutual suspicion prevailed on both sides. However, his straightforward character, sincerity in friendship, and demonstrated feat in disarming hitherto fractious tribesman, won the day.
Swat was recognized as a full-fledged princely state in 1926, with Abdul Wadud as “Wali of Swat” and, in 1933 his eldest son became “Wali Ahad”, or heir apparent. The little state progressed in leaps and bounds under their energetic and surprisingly modern-minded rule.
Revenue collection was regularized. Government departments and offices were established. Roads, hospitals, schools, and public works of all kinds began in earnest. For the first time in centuries, peace and prosperity reigned supreme and the beautiful valley slowly entered the twentieth century.
Abdul Wadud was himself a saint and a believer in Sufism, but since he was anxious to consolidate his power in the name of Islam, he introduced Fatawa-e-Wadudia in Swat.
“It was an Islamic legal system coupled with Pashtun customary laws known as Rawajnama Swat,” explained Mian Gul Aurangzeb in an interview with me for Foreign Policy Journal. At 81, he is the son of the last ruler of Swat, Mian Gul Jehanzeb, and son-in-law of Pakistan’s first military ruler, Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
While Abdul Wadud introduced Fatawa-e-Wadudia, he allowed officially sanctioned bars in the posh localities of Mingora, Saidu Sharif and Kalam. He lived in a white marble palace located near Mingora at Marghazar. Abdul Wadud also gave official permission for “dancing girls” to operate, but not in the main cities.
Having a self-sustained economy, Abdul Wadud promoted education and tourism. “He wanted to turn Swat into another Switzerland of Asia,” explained Riaz Naqvi, a former bureaucrat with an extensive knowledge of Swat. Naqvi is healthy at 74, and retired from his former position as Chairman of the Central Board of Revenue, now renamed as the Federal Bureau of Revenue.
“Certainly my grandfather wanted to modernize Swat state, and we promoted education in our state,” commented Prince Mian Gul Auarngzeb.
President of Pakistan from 1958 until 1969, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, whose daughter Begum Nasim was married to young Captain Mian Gul Auarngzeb while the prince was serving the president as his aide-de-camp (ADC), adopted three different policies for three princely states. He accepted Wali Jehanzeb as the Ruler of Swat but detained Khan of Dir and dethroned the Mehter of Chitral.
Until 1969, Swat remained a semi-autonomous state with its own police and a small army, the Swat Militia, with its own state emblem.
Field Marshal Ayub Khan had to step down in March 1969 and handed over Pakistan to his Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, an Afghan of Qizilbash caste. It was General Yahya Khan who, after making Chief Marshal Law Administrator and President of Pakistan, disapproved Swat’s semi-autonomous status and merged it under Pakistani rule.