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Graveyard of Durrani princes receding into oblivion

Abdul Sami Paracha

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Although archaeology department has taken over the ancestral graveyard and the palace of Durrani princes, who ruled Kohat from the 19th century to 20th century, these historical sites are still among the most neglected ones in the region.

The Durrani rulers of Kohat, Prince Sir Sultan Jan Sadozai and his father King Jamhoor (who was given Star of India posthumously), lie buried in Shahpur village about two kilometres away from Kohat city.

Sir Sultan Jan Durrani Sadozai (third from left) with tribal elders in a rare picture in Pewar Valley of Kurram Agency in 1878. (Below) Grave

King Jamhoor was appointed first extra assistant commissioner/sessions judge of Kohat in November 1849 after British took control of Punjab. He was given area up to Kurram Agency. He held court in Kohat.

His forces were stationed in the Durrani Fort, now headquarters of IXth division of Pakistan Army. After his death in 1868, Prince Sultan Jan became the ruler. The wives of King Jamhoor Jan Sadozai Durrani and Prince Sultan Jan Sadozai Durrani are also buried in the graveyard with a number of other princes and princesses.

The Durranis came to Kohat after the death of King of Afghanistan Shah Shujaa in 1842 during fighting with the rebels.

Prince Sultan Jan Durrani Khawar Sadozai belonged to the fifth generation of Ahmed Shah Abdali, who laid the foundation of Durrani dynasty in Afghanistan in 1747 and ruled it until 1772. Born in Multan, Ahmed Shah Abdali is remembered as Ahmed Shah Baba and the entire Pakhtun nation regards him as its spiritual father.

Kohat

The historical sites are located on the main road leading to Tanda Dam for which the local MNA had announced Rs10 million to build a family resort there. The lawmakers along with their families have been passing through the graveyard during their trip to the dam but ironically it has remained in oblivion for the successive governments.

During regular visits to the place for the last more than two decades, this scribe has noticed no significant change. However, archaeology department has erected a signboard at the entrance of the graveyard and retaken a mosque, situated there, from a religious group.

But no practical steps have been taken to repair the graves and tomb to restore the grandeur of the place and the last remaining palace of Durrani rulers in the area. The graves have been plundered by thieves. A huge hole in the grave of King Jamhoor, made a decade ago, has not been repaired.

The thieves, perhaps frustrated by not finding any treasure in the graveyard, have taken away historical stones from the graves. The members of the royal family, who died after 1886, are buried outside the tomb.

The double-storey courtroom, lock-up and rooms of guards are in dilapidated condition and can collapse anytime.

The natural spring and the underground pool with stairs, meant for ablution and drinking water, has collapsed owing to the negligence of the authorities concerned. The bricks had also been taken away by the people, residing nearby, to use those in construction of their houses. The underground pool and stairs have been buried under tonnes of soil with the passing of time.

Officials of archaeology department have been visiting the palaces and graveyard of Durrani princes, promising to help preserve the site. But they have largely left it to thieves, who have looted the site. Most of the stones and tiles of the graves have been stolen.

Experts believe that the artisans, who preserved the outer wall of Balahisar Fort in Peshawar, can repair and preserve this historical site.

A mosque located close to the residence of Prince Sultan Jan is exactly of the same size of the mosque, which was built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir for writing the Holy Quran, experts say. Persian couplets have been written on the walls of mosque by Prince Sultan Jan. He was an excellent artist, a poet of Persian language and calligrapher.

His portrait which he made himself by sitting in front of mirror is a marvelous piece of art.

“Recently, members of a cartel involved in smuggling of antiques came at night from Peshawar and dug up the grave of Prince Sultan Jan in the hope of finding a treasure. When neighbours intervened, they ran away. We lodged an FIR with police but so far no action has been taken at any level,” says Prince Taifoor Jan.

Prince Taifoor Jan, a seventh generation descendant of the dynasty, told Dawn that there was only one palace left as all others were destroyed and modern structures were erected there.

He showed this scribe a letter, addressed to the Queen of Britain, which he had wrote to her in 1993 when he was in Dubai and laid claim to the famous diamond Koh-i-Noor as heir of Ahmed Shah Abdali.

He got a reply from the administrator of The Royal Collection, Danil Rankin-Hunt on October 18, 1993. “I am commanded by the Queen to thank you for your letter of 28th November, 1993, regarding the Koh-i-Noor diamond. I was very interested to read your family history and of your connections with the late Ahmed Shah Abdali. There are, of course, a number of claimants to Koh-i-Noor diamond, all of whom have what would appear to be a legitimate claim to the diamond. The whole issue has become rather confused and it would be impossible to try and give a ruling and I cannot envisage this situation ever changing. It was, nevertheless, very kind of you to write and I wish you the very best of good fortune for the future.

Kohat

I am returning your very valuable family history, which I am sure you wish to keep near you,” the letter says.

Mr Taifoor says that the diamond is their property because the British in history books mentioned that they had seen it in the crown of Shah Shuja Durrani, the King of Afghanistan during a meeting at Qilla Balahisar, Peshawar.

He says that the heirs of Emperor Zaheerud Din Babar were given back all his jewels, crown, dresses even shoes and swords by the Uzbekistan government but he was let down to get back Koh-i-Noor for his country.

Published in Dawn February 15th , 2015

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