Ghilzai

Ghilzai

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Ghilzai (meaning: Hill-man) are the largest Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 tribal confederacy found in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. They are also known historically as Ghilji, Khilji, Ghalji, Ghilzye, and possibly Gharzai. These Pashtun people
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 are located mainly in southeastern Afghanistan, between Kandahar
Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

 and Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, and extending eastwards towards the Suleiman Mountains into Pakistan. In Afghanistan per se, they are the second largest Pashtun tribal
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

 confederation
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 after the Abdali
Abdali
Abdali may refer to:* Abdali Urban Regeneration Project, district in Amman, Jordan* Durrani, one of the two largest Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan* Ahmed Shah Abdali, founder of the Durrani Empire...

/Durrani
Durrani
Durrani or Abdali is the name of a chief Pashtun tribal confederation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Originally known by their ancient name Abdali later as Durrani they have been called Durrani since the beginning of the Durrani Empire in 1747. The number of Durranis are estimated to be roughly 16%...

. Ghilzai are considered to be the most courageous,fiercely independent, warlike and tough Afghan Pashtun tribe.

Etymology



One theory states that the name of the Ghilzai is derived from Gharzai (غلزې), (Ghar-zai)meaning "son of mountain" or "swordsman."

The folk story is that the ancestor of the Ghilzai was a prince who married with the daughter of a local ruler. The couple are identified as "either Shah Hussain, a Ghurid prince, and Bibi Mato, a granddaughter of Qays Abdar Rasheed
Qais Abdur Rashid
Qais Abdur Rashid Khan , also known as Kesh, Kish, Qesh and Imraul Qais is a legendary ancestor of the Pashtun race, claimed to be the first ethnic Pashtun who travelled to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia during the early days of Islam.) He is believed to be the 37th descendent of King Saul .He...

, the putative ancestor of all Pashtuns, or Mokarram Shah; Hussain from Ghor, and the daughter of a Pashtun noble."

History and origins


The Ghilzais are a confederation
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 of Pashtun tribes
Pashtun tribes
The Pashtun people are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and the second largest in Pakistan. Pashtun, tribes are divided into four supertribal confederacies: the Arbanee , Betanee , Gharghasht, and Karlanee .Traditionally, according to folklore, all Pashtuns are said to have descended, at...

 whose origin is unknown. They are reputed by some to be descended at least in part from the Ghurids
Ghurids
The Ghurids or Ghorids were a medieval Muslim dynasty of Iranian origin that ruled during the 12th and 13th centuries in Khorasan. At its zenith, their empire, centred at Ghōr , stretched over an area that included the whole of modern Afghanistan, the eastern parts of Iran and the northern section...

.

Others suggest that they descended from the Khalaj
Khalaj
Khalaj may refer to:* Khalaj language* Khalaj people* Khalaj, Afghanistan, in Helmand Province* Khalaj, Armenia* Khalaj, Iran...

 or Khilji
Khilji dynasty
The Khilji Sultanate was a dynasty of Turko-Afghan Khalaj origin who ruled large parts of South Asia from 1290 - 1320. They were the second dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate of India...

 Turks, who entered Afghanistan in the 10th century. According to Elphinstone
Mountstuart Elphinstone
Mountstuart Elphinstone was a Scottish statesman and historian, associated with the government of British India. He later became the Governor of Bombay where he is credited with the opening of several educational institutions accessible to the Indian population...

, the Khilji, "though Turks
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 by descent...had so long settled among the Afghans that they had almost identified with that people."

Ghilzais have played an important role in creating Afghan history. Afghan history would be incomplete without a complete understanding of them.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, various Ghilzai Afghan (Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

) dynasties took control over vast areas of India. The Lodi Dynasty ruled over the Delhi Sultanate
Delhi Sultanate
The Delhi Sultanate is a term used to cover five short-lived, Delhi based kingdoms or sultanates, of Turkic origin in medieval India. The sultanates ruled from Delhi between 1206 and 1526, when the last was replaced by the Mughal dynasty...

 during its last phase. The dynasty, founded by Bahlul Khan Lodi ruled from 1451 to 1526 when the last Lodi ruler, Ibrahim Lodi died. Other Ghilzai dynasties included the Suri Dynasty who was founded by the powerful medieval conqueror, Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri , birth name Farid Khan, also known as Sher Khan , was the founder of the short-lived Sur Empire in northern India, with its capital at Delhi, before its demise in the hands of the resurgent Mughal Empire...

 (Shere Khan
Shere Khan
Shere Khan is a fictional tiger of the Indian jungle. He is the chief antagonist in two of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book stories featuring Mowgli. Shere Khan is named after an Afghan Prince Kipling encountered on his trips to Afghanistan...

), who defeated the Mughal
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 Humayun
Humayun
Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun was the second Mughal Emperor who ruled present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1530–1540 and again from 1555–1556. Like his father, Babur, he lost his kingdom early, but with Persian aid, he eventually regained an even larger one...

 in Chausa in June 1539 and again in Bilgram in May 1540.
When the Hotak tribe, under the leadership of Mir Wais Hotak
Mir Wais Hotak
Hajji Mirwais Khan Hotak, also known as Mir Vais Ghilzai , was an influential tribal chief of the Ghilzai Pashtuns from Kandahar, Afghanistan, who founded the Hotaki dynasty that ruled a wide area in Persia and Afghanistan from 1709 to 1738...

 revolted against the Safavid dynasty
Safavid dynasty
The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning...

 in 1709, the Ghilzai came into conflicts with their western neighbors. Mir Wais Hotak, an influential Afghan tribal leader and founder of the Hotaki dynasty, had visited the Persian court and studied their military weaknesses. The Afghan tribes (Pashtun tribes
Pashtun tribes
The Pashtun people are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and the second largest in Pakistan. Pashtun, tribes are divided into four supertribal confederacies: the Arbanee , Betanee , Gharghasht, and Karlanee .Traditionally, according to folklore, all Pashtuns are said to have descended, at...

) rankled under the ruling Shia Safavids because of their continued attempts to convert the Pashtuns from Sunni
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

 to Shia Islam. Spawning Afghan nationalism, Mirwais succeeded in expelling the Safavid Georgian
Georgians
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

 Governor of Kandahar
Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

, Gurgin Khan, and assumed the post for himself. His eldest son, Mahmud
Mir Mahmud Hotaki
Shah Mahmud Hotaki, , also known as Mahmud Ghilzai , was an Afghan ruler of the Hotaki dynasty who defeated and overthrew the Safavid dynasty to become the king of Persia from 1722 until his death in 1725.He was the eldest son of Mirwais Hotak, the chief of the Ghilzai-Pashtun tribe of Afghanistan,...

, effected a successful invasion of Persia (now Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

) which culminated in the conquest of Isfahan and the deposition of the Safavid Shah Sultan Husayn. Mahmud was then crowned Shah and ruled for a brief period before being deposed by his own clansmen. His cousin and successor (Ashraf Khan
Ashraf Khan
Shah Ashraf Hotaki, , also known as Ashraf Ghilzai , son of Abdul Aziz Hotak, was the fourth ruler of the Hotaki dynasty. An Afghan from the Ghilzai Pashtuns, he served as a commander in the army of Shah Mahmud during their conquest of the Persia Empire...

) reigned for nearly five years before being killed by Baloch tribes
Baloch tribes
The Baloch are a tribal society settled in Balochistan in southwestern Asia. The Balochistan region is divided among Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.The following is a partial list of major Baloch tribes.A* Ahmadani...

 while fleeing towards Kandahar. The Safavid dynasty in Iran was then restored in the person of Sultan Husayn's only surviving son, Tahmasp II
Tahmasp II
Tahmasp II was one of the last Safavid rulers of Persia . Tahmasp was the son of Husayn , the Shah of Iran at that time. When Husayn was forced to abdicate by the Afghans in 1722, Prince Tahmasp wished to claim the throne. He fled to Tabriz where he established a government...

.

During their short but violent occupation of Persia, the Hotakis mismanaged the state funds and administration, massacred civilians, caused famine, and largely destroyed the world-renowned imperial city of Isfahan. In just short seven years of their occupation of Isfahan (1722–1729), the population of the metropolis had dropped from around 1.2 million to just around 10,000 souls. In 1738 Nader Shah
Nader Shah
Nāder Shāh Afshār ruled as Shah of Iran and was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty. Because of his military genius, some historians have described him as the Napoleon of Persia or the Second Alexander...

 of Persia, on his way to occupy the Mughal
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 India, overthrew Hussein, the last of the Hotakis at Kandahar, dispersed the Ghilzai and destroyed both Kandahar
Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

 and Qalat-i-Ghilzai. Nader Shah
Nader Shah
Nāder Shāh Afshār ruled as Shah of Iran and was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty. Because of his military genius, some historians have described him as the Napoleon of Persia or the Second Alexander...

 then supported the rise of the rival Durrani
Durrani
Durrani or Abdali is the name of a chief Pashtun tribal confederation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Originally known by their ancient name Abdali later as Durrani they have been called Durrani since the beginning of the Durrani Empire in 1747. The number of Durranis are estimated to be roughly 16%...

 Pashtuns, extinguishing the aspirations of the Ghilzais for the next three centuries.

In more recent times, three of the pro-communist presidents were Ghilzais, Nur Muhammad Taraki
Nur Muhammad Taraki
Nur Muhammad Taraki was an Afghan politician and statesman during the Cold War. Taraki was born near Kabul and educated at Kabul University, after which he started his political career as a journalist...

 (of the Taraki tribe), Hafizullah Amin
Hafizullah Amin
Hafizullah Amin was the second President of Afghanistan during the period of the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan....

 (of the Kharoti
Kharoti
Kharoti is a Pashtun tribe of Ghilzai origin. The tribe has an estimated population of about 2.5 million ....

 tribe), and Mohammed Najibullah (of the Ahmadzai
Ahmadzai
Aḥmadzai is a Pashtun tribe. There are many separate and distinct clans, sub-clans, tribal fractions, large families etc. that trace their ancestry to different Aḥmads.-Afghanistan:...

 sub tribe of suleimankhail). Although the Khalq
Khalq
Khalq was a faction of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Its historical leaders were Presidents Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. It was also the name of the leftist newspaper produced by the same movement. It was supported by the USSR and was formed in 1965 when the PDPA was born...

 was dominated mostly by Ghilzais, many of the Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

 were also Ghilzais during the Soviet war in Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

, including the violent warlords, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is an Afghan Mujahideen leader who is the founder and leader of the Hezb-e Islami political party and paramilitary group. Hekmatyar was a rebel military commander during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan and was one of the key figures in the civil war that followed the...

 and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf
Ustad Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf is an Afghan Islamist politician. He took part in the war against the PDPA government in the 1980s, leading the Mujahedin faction Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan....

. The Taliban leadership, such as the headman, Mullah Omar
Mohammed Omar
Mullah Mohammed Omar , often simply called Mullah Omar, is the leader of the Taliban movement that operates in Afghanistan. He was Afghanistan's de facto head of state from 1996 to late 2001, under the official title "Head of the Supreme Council"...

 and most of the Taliban functionaries have been likewise of the Ghilzai tribal confederacy, generating much ill will and disrepute for the Ghilzais.

Ghilzais are known to be extensively hospitable yet remain one of the most troubled and troublesome people among the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continue to be subject of controversy and violence, concurrently, owing to their warlike nature.

Location and economy


The Ghilzais are concentrated in an area spanning Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

 and Qalat-i-Ghilzai eastward into western Pakistan, but are predominantly a nomadic group unlike the Durranis who can be found in permanent settlements. They regularly cross over between the two countries often being exempted from customs due to the acceptance of their nomadic traditions by officials from both countries. Population estimates vary, but they are most likely around 20% to 25% of the population of Afghanistan and probably number over 9 million in Afghanistan alone with 4 million or more found in neighboring Pakistan. Most Ghilzais are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi
Hanafi
The Hanafi school is one of the four Madhhab in jurisprudence within Sunni Islam. The Hanafi madhhab is named after the Persian scholar Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man ibn Thābit , a Tabi‘i whose legal views were preserved primarily by his two most important disciples, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani...

 school, often devout to their faith and intensely follow the Pashtun code of honor known as Pashtunwali
Pashtunwali
Pashtunwali or Pakhtunwali is a non-written ethical code and traditional lifestyle which the indigenous Pashtun people from Afghanistan and Pakistan follow. Some in the Indian subcontinent refer to it as "Pathanwali". Its meaning may also be interpreted as "the way of the Pashtuns" or "the code of...

. Most Ghilzais work as herdsmen as well as construction workers and in other jobs that allow them to travel. Often possessing great mechanical aptitude, the Ghilzai nonetheless have an extremely low literacy rate hovering below 10% in Afghanistan but this improving especially in Pakistan where their literacy rate is fast approaching the national average of 58%.

The Afghan province of Paktika is considered to be a heartland of the Ghaljai tribe. Ghilzai sub-tribes in Paktika include the Kharoti
Kharoti
Kharoti is a Pashtun tribe of Ghilzai origin. The tribe has an estimated population of about 2.5 million ....

, especially in the Sar Hawza and Urgon districts, the Andar
Andar
Andar may refer to:*Andar tribe, a Pashtun sub-tribe*Andar, Iran*Andar District, Ghazni province, Afghanistan*Andar, Wardak -town*Andar, Ghazni - town...

 and the largest single Ghilzai sub-tribe, the Suleimankhel, who are the majority in Northern and Western areas of Paktika such as Katawaz.

Many members of the Ghilzai tribe, such as the Kharoti sub-tribe and particularly the Nasher clan were exiled from Loya Paktia (Paktia, Paktika and Khost
Khost
Khost or Khowst is a city in eastern Afghanistan. It is the capital of Khost province, which is a mountainous region near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan...

) to the Afghan North (Qunduz province) by the ruling Abdali tribe of the Afghan Royal family due to their rebellious nature.

The Kharoti tribesmen own several, tightly bound carpet and fabric businesses in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, especially Karachi
Karachi
Karachi is the largest city, main seaport and the main financial centre of Pakistan, as well as the capital of the province of Sindh. The city has an estimated population of 13 to 15 million, while the total metropolitan area has a population of over 18 million...

.

The Ghilzai remain a somewhat divided family, with the Kharoti and the Suleimankhel being traditional rivals.

See also

  • Pashtun people
    Pashtun people
    Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

  • Khilji dynasty
    Khilji dynasty
    The Khilji Sultanate was a dynasty of Turko-Afghan Khalaj origin who ruled large parts of South Asia from 1290 - 1320. They were the second dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate of India...

  • Tokhi
    Tokhi
    Tokhi is an influential Ghilzai Pashtun tribe found throughout southern, western Afghanistan. In the Pashtun tribal hierarchy Tokhi is one of the most respected tribes.They are wholly powerful, rich and widely considered to be one of the most brave, warlike and tough Pashtun tribes, concurrently...

  • Niazi
    Niazi
    The Niazi are a tribe of Ghilzai Pashtun people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. The name Niazi is derived from Niazai, like the other forms of Pashtun tribes, such as Yusufzai and Orakzai...

  • Suri dynasty
  • Lodi dynasty
  • Khalaj
    Khalaj
    Khalaj may refer to:* Khalaj language* Khalaj people* Khalaj, Afghanistan, in Helmand Province* Khalaj, Armenia* Khalaj, Iran...

  • Povindah
    Povindah
    Povindah was the name of a class of warrior nomadic traders in Afghanistan, who belonged chiefly to the tribes of Ghilzais. Their name, which designates their occupation, is derived from the same root as the Pushtu word for to graze....

  • Gill (clan)
    Gill (clan)
    Gill is a gotra/surname of the Jat ethnicity found in Punjab. Though, to westerners, Gill seems like a familiar given name , the Gill surname does not have the same etymological origins. "Gill" stands out to be one of the most popular surnames of the Jat race, with population of Gills being resided...