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World Politics

Clash at the Crossroads: The Tense Encounter Between Afghanistan and Chitral in the Battle of Birkot

In the summer of 1919, amidst the third Anglo-Afghan war, a fresh conflict emerged in the highest reaches of the Hindu Kush mountains, where Afghan troops engaged with British forces.

Chitralis Bangerd Afghans

As the Third Anglo-Afghan war commenced, the Afghan emir requested Chitral’s mehtar to oust the British and align with their cause. The resounding refusal led to a sequence of Afghan incursions and retaliatory Chitrali raids into the adjacent territories of each party. Facing off were Afghan troops commanded by a regional leader, while on the opposing side stood the Chitralis, led by the presumptive successor Nasir-ul-Mulk. They were supported by a minor contingent from the British Indian army and a handful of non-Muslim Nuristanis who had been ousted from Nuristan by the Afghans and granted sanctuary in Chitral.

The scene was arranged near the modest town of Birkot in Kunar, providing a fitting backdrop for a significant face-off.

As the morning of May 23, 1919 arrived, the resounding war cries of the Chitralis echoed through the Afghan mountains, heralding the onset of a fierce battle. A tumultuous clash ensued, marked by a deluge of gunfire, swords clashing, and cannonballs thundering.

At precisely 2 pm, the battle concluded with the Afghan forces in retreat. The Chitrali troops swiftly began the task of seizing all abandoned possessions of the opposing side. The Afghan cannons left behind now stand as proud exhibits in Chitral fort, accessible for visitors to admire.

Yet, this did not mark the conclusion. Despite the signing of an armistice, numerous raids persisted and were met with resistance.

In the 1930s, the Afghans sought retribution through a comprehensive embargo on Chitral. This action dealt a lasting blow to Chitral’s burgeoning role in Central Asian trade, permanently undermining its position.

The youthful leader of the Chitrali forces eventually ascended to the position of Mehtar of Chitral. A close associate of Allama Iqbal, he was not only a learned scholar and accomplished author but also the pioneer of Chitral’s inaugural public school. In my estimation, he stands as the most remarkable Mehtar Chitral ever saw.

Chitral has been receiving an abundance of attention lately, primarily fueled by hearsay. However, our longstanding history with Afghanistan dates back centuries. Commerce, unions, population movements, and conflicts have all played a role. Throughout it all, our people have endured and demonstrated remarkable resilience.

Afghans may passionately discuss their history of resisting invasions in their homeland. However, when another nation engages in similar actions, it is often viewed with disdain. It’s important to broaden our perspective. Any region faced with an invasion from a neighboring country will naturally seek to defend itself, regardless of the invader’s identity. By the way, Ranjit Singh conducted an invasion up to the Durand Line.

About time that we present a new solution for Afghanistan.

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