Khans and the ‘Kasuri’ factor

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn, Mar 17, 2014


The ‘Khans’ of Kasur are originally Afghan, and they have always posed major problems of control to the rulers of Lahore. In a way the ‘Kasuri’ factor can be seen in all things even today, and their story is most interesting.

Unlike the rest of Punjab, these Afghan Khans had been rulers for the last many centuries. It was a Khan from Kasur who conducted the hanging of Bhagat Singh.

Almost 60 years down the road another great patriot Z.A. Bhutto was hanged on a complaint from a gentleman from Kasur in a case which surely was circumstantial.

When Maharajah Ranjit Singh took over Lahore from Afghan control in 1799, he was opposed by Nizamuddin Khan of Kasur. Immediately an alliance was formed with a rival of the maharajah, namely Sahib Singh Bhangi, and the initial thrust of the Lahore ruler was repulsed.

Two years later in 1801 Maharajah Ranjit Singh sent a formidable force under Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia. Seeing that defeat was possible, the Kasuri immediately agreed to serve the maharajah and sent his brother Qutabuddin Khan Kasuri to Lahore to pay his respects. The Punjabi ruler decided to allow him to rule.

But hardly had they returned home when they organised a force and again attacked Lahore, pillaging the outer villages. The Kasur ruler Nizamuddin Khan gathered a large Afghan army to actually attack Lahore.

The maharajah immediately sent Fateh Singh to stop this force, and he himself headed an army to finish off this menace. But the Kasuri forces were well-prepared and a long bloody series of battles followed. Seeing defeat they retreated to the fort of Kasur and continued the battle.

The Lahore forces completely destroyed the fort and took thousands of prisoners, including women and children. The Afghan ruler then decided to pay a massive ‘nazrana’ to the Lahore Darbar, and peace returned.

After this defeat there was internal strife within the Kasuri Khan family and Nizamuddin was killed by his brother-in-law. The new ruler Qutabuddin moved quickly and resumed the ‘jagirs’ of the murderers, which led to still more strife.

The maharajah moved quickly to restore order and found that Qutabuddin Khan Kasuri, who had sworn allegiance to the Lahore ruler, was ready to oppose him.

Another series of bloody battles followed and the Afghans resorted to guerilla tactics of hit and run. A few men who surrendered and vowed to fight for Lahore suddenly changed sides to kill Sikh troops at night.

It was a confusing time and the maharajah decided that the only way out was to eliminate all resistance with an iron fist.

He surrounded Kasur and waited for them to starve. Deaths and famine hit the Kasuri forces, who surrendered and agreed to become part of Lahore on the promise that they be allowed to retain power in their city.

The maharajah agreed for the third time. But then barely had peace been in place for a few months that the Afghan forces had been reinforced and Qutabuddin Khan Kasuri again took to the field attacking Lahore villages.

As documents now tell us the Kasuri rulers wanted to restore Afghan rule to Lahore.

The maharajah now decided to end this menace and he personally headed a huge force, assisted by Jodh Singh Ramgarhia, in February 1807 by surrounding Kasur and cutting off all communications.

The entire land right up to the fort was laid waste. The Sikhs moved with till then unknown barbarity.

The slogan was “baykadaray Afghan lutaray moyay changay” (Ungrateful Afghan thieves are best dead). For the first time the Lahore Darbar artillery reduced Kasur to rubble. It was unrelenting and savage.

As is, sadly, normal in such situations, women were plundered like never before. Qutabuddin surrendered and fled to Mamdot. For a few years Kasur lay in ruins. According to S.M. Latif for quite a few years the rare books looted in Kasur were sold in the bazaars of Lahore.

But then the family of the Kasur Khans joined the British to plot the overthrow of the maharajah. Afghan spies of the Khan played a major role in the planning of battles against the Lahore Darbar.

For their role in helping the British they returned to power immediately in 1849, reclaiming all their property and lost wealth. The relationship of Lahore and Kasur has, at the best of times, been an uneasy one.




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