Afghan War (Part I)

Afghanistan has been a geographical area which is marked by strife and struggle in the form of battles, civil wars and terrorism.  Afghanistan was a part of India then and India was ruled by different clans. The Hindu, Sikh and the Afghans has their kingdom spread all over North India and the initial wars were fought between these kingdoms to get a supremacy on the region. Like in most battles some were for power others for money. Slowly the scenario changed. India came under the British and the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India were formed. Since then Afghanistan has been facing attacks from its neighbouring countries with the exception of India. More recently terrorists’ outfits and clashes between different clans have taken centre stage and the struggles go on in that strife-ridden country.

Battle of Gulnabad

History cites the first major battle as the Battle of Gulnabad. This battle was fought between Hotaki Dynasty and Safavid Empire.


Safavid dynasty was a dynasty from Iran which dates back to the sixteenth century. It has its origin in Safaviyya Sufi order. They were very powerful and ruled many countries including Afghanistan from 1501 to 1722. Hatoki dynasty was a dynasty of Afghan Ghilji Pashtuns. The native Afghans wanted their own ruler instead of being under a foreigner. When the Hatoki dynasty became equally powerful, they decided to end the rule of Safavid dynasty in Afghnaistan. The battle of Gulnabad was fought in March 1722.


  • Since Safavid army was defeated it sealed the end of a dynasty which held on to its power and influence for early 16th
  • There were major losses in the Safavid army.
  • Hotaki dynasty gained more confidence and began to slowly march into the interior of Persia and Isfahan, the capital of Safavid.

This was one of the first war that had Afghans fought. Since then they endeavoured to expand their kingdom.


Battle of Damghan

The battle of Damghan which is also called the Battle of Mihmandoost happened between the September 29th and October 5th 1729. The battle happened near the city of Damghan.


  • Ashraf the ruler of Persia came into power as a result of a coup against his predecessor, Mahmud Hotaki and became popular following his success in the war against the Ottomans.
  • He defeated the Turkish army even though they were much stronger than him.
  • Following the victory Ashraf agreed to a settlement which separated the west of Safavid Empire with his Ottoman enemy and this resulted in getting Turkish support and acceptance as the legal ruler of Persia.
  • Nader and Tahmasp in the meantime was building their army to fight Ashraf and hearing about the preparation made Nader, Ashraf started from Isfahan in August 1729 along with a 30,000 strong army to conquer Khorasan.


  • Nader gathered his army and set out through Sabzevar on September 12, 1729.
  • The first clash between the two happened and in this fight 14 Afghans were made prisoners and was taken to Nader for questioning.
  • On September 29, Ashraf drew up his army in the conventional style in three separate formations making up the centre, left and right as opposed to the Persian army which Nader had formed up in four divisions.
  • Ashraf was confident of victory and set aside two to three thousand of hishorsemen to hound and capture Tahmasp and Nader after his victory.


The result was a crushing victory for Nader and Safavid cause taken up by him. The win did not end the rule of Ashraf in Persia but the win led to further victories and helped restore Tahmasp II to the throne. The Battle of Damghan was followed by another battle in Murcheh-Khort, a village near Isfahan. Nader’s army was victorious in both the battles and this helped them to get rid of the Ghilzai Afghan dynasty from their short stint on the throne of Persia. Following this the Hotakis were forced back to their territory which is the present southern Afghanistan. The battle of Damghan established the supremacy of the Nader’s military system compared to the old exclusively cavalry based system used by the Afghans. Ashraf, on the hand failed to build a proper military structure to defend the attack of the Nader’s army.


Third Battle of Panipat


The third battle of Panipat took place at Panipat about 97 km north of Delhi on 14th January 1761. The battle took place between a northern expeditionary force of Maratha Empire and the invading forces of the King of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali. The King of Afghanistan was supported by two Indian supporters, the Rohilla Afghans of the Doab and Shuja-ud-Daula who was the Nawab of Awadh. The third battle of Panipat is one of the largest and most eventful battles fought in the 18th century.


  • The battle lasted for many days and involved more than 125,000 troops and wins and losses happened on both the sides.
  • It is believed that anything between 60,000 to 70,000 soldiers on both sides were killed in the fighting and many were injured and taken prisoners by both the sides.
  • About 40,000 Maratha prisoners were massacred in cold blood the day after the battle and studies says that not less than 100,000 Maratha soldiers perished during and after the battle.


At the end of the battle Ahmad Shah Durrani’s army came out victorious after wiping out many Maratha borders and men.  The advances made by the Maratha forces in the north stopped after the battle and destabilisation of the territories happened for nearly ten years. Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao never recovered from the shock he faced in Panipet and returned to Pune and died heart broken in a temple on Paravati Hill. Peshwa Madhavrao sent a large Maratha army to the northern side of India ten years after the battle of Panipet to reinstate the domination of the Maratha kingdom in North India. He also wanted to punish headstrong powers of Afghans like Rohillas.


Battle of Attock


The battle which happened between the Sikh Empire and the Durrani Empire on 13th July 1813 is called the Battle of Attock. This battle is also known as Battle of Chuch or the Battle of Haidru and this is one of the important battles won by the Sikh over the Durranis.


  • The background of the battle goes back to 1811-12 when Ranjit Singh attacked the hill states of Bhimber, Rajauri and Kullu as rehearsal for the invasion of Kashmir.
  • In 1812 towards the fag end of the year Fateh Khan, the Vizier of Kabul, crossed the Indus River in order to raid Kashmir under the instruction of Mahmud Shah Durrani.
  • The other intention of the attack was to free Shuja Shah Durrani from its rebel vizier, Atta Muhammad Khan.
  • As per the understanding with Ranjit Singh, Fateh Khan agreed to attack Kashmir as a joint venture with Ranjit Singh.
  • Fateh Khan wanted the support of Sikh Empire as he would not able to attack Kashmir without the help of Sikh Empire.
  • In return Fateh Khan offered that a small Sikh force under Dewan Mokham Chand would receive one third of the loot.
  • The invasions began at Jhelum and once the armies reached the Pir Panjal Range, Fateh Khan used the weather conditions, heavy snowfall, to speed up his veteran mountain troops through this range.
  • The Vizier of Kashmir offered no resistance and Fateh Khan quickly took over Kashmir.
  • However Fateh Khan refused to share the loot with Ranjith Singh as promised earlier
  • So Ranjith Singh changed sides and and joied hands with the brother of the Vizier of Kashmir Jahandad Khan and took over the Fort of Attock.

 The Battle

On hearing that Fort had been taken Fateh Khan returned from Kashmir. Ranjith Singh had the help of Dewan Mokham Chand and Karam Chand Chahal from Burhan and their artillery, infantry and cavalary to face the Afghans. There were many skirmishes which took the lives of a few soldiers but not a full fledge battle. When the Afghan supplies were exhausted Dewan Mokham Chand marched forward to attack the Afghans. It was Fateh Khan who started the battle by sending his Ghazis on horses.  This was repulsed by heavy artillery shelling by the Sikhs. However under Dost Mohammad Khan the Afghans managed to hold their ground, disarray one wing of the Sikh army and even captured some artillery from the Sikhs.  It was almost that Sikhs had lost the battle but Dewan Mokham Chand led his men and repulsed the Afghans at all points and routed the Afghan troops.  Fearing that Dost Mohammad Khan had died Fateh Khan escaped to Kabul and then it eas easy for the Sikhs to capture the Afghan camp. They even got back their lost artillery.


There was rejoicing all around and the celebrations went on for two months. Lahore, Amritsar and other important cities wee illumined. Fateh Khan had more problems. Ali Shah, the ruler of Persia and his son Ali Mirza attacked Durrani province of Heart. In trying to foil this he had to leave the newly captured Kashmir and face Ali Shah. He was not able to win and had to escape where he was chased and executed after a few months was executed.


Battle of Multan


The Battle of Multan was a battle between a Vizier of the Durrani Empire and the Sikh Empire which started in the month of March 1818 and ended on 2 June 1818.


Fateh Khan, the Vizier of the Durrani Empire, who was defeated at the Battle of Attock, fought off an attempt by Ali Shah, the Persian ruler, to capture the Durrani province.  Ali shah wanted to capture the province of Heart. Fateh Khan was supported by his brother, Dost Mohammad Khan and the rogue Sikh Sardar Jai Singh Attarwalia. After capturing the city, Fateh Khan tried to remove the ruler Mohammed Shah and tried to rule himself.  During this attack Dost Mohammad Khan’s men robbed the princess of her jewels. Mahmud Shah’s son, Kamran Durrani, as an excuse to remove Fateh Khan from control, had him agonized and executed. While in power Fateh Khan had appointed 21 of his brothers in different positions throughout the empire and after his death they started fighting and divided up the provinces between themselves. The Sikh Empire had attacked Multan many times and the largest of the attack was in 1810. During the previous attacks Sikh forces defeated the enemies and seized the city and the governor of Multan, Muzaffar Khan Sadozai backed away into the Multan Fort. In all the previous attacks the Sikhs managed to settle for a large single payment of tribute from Durrani Empire but the 1810 attack resulted in Multan paying a yearly tribute.

The Battle

  • The Sikhs were planning an expedition against Multan.
  • By January 1818, a supply chain of grain, horses and ammunition was arranged from Lahore to Multan. Boats were used to ferry supplies across the Ravi, Jhelum and Chenab.
  • So the battle with the Durrani Empire was planned. Early January the forts of Khangarh and Muzzafargarh were captured.
  • The Sikhs under Kharak Singh reached Multan and wanted Muzzaffar to pay a large tribute which was refused. The Sikh forces took a lead in the initial engagement but could not capture Muzzafar and he retreated to the fort.
  • More artillery was sent for and Ranjit Singh sent more artillery with which the fort was attacked.
  • Sadhu Singh and his men entered the fort through a breach in the wall created by the firing and attacked Muzaffar. Muzaffar and his sons tried to defend the fort but failed and were killed in the battle.


The significant result of the battle of Multan was the end of Afghan influence over the Peshawar region. Sikhs were encouraged to make more attempts to capture and finally Peshawar was captured fully.

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