Modern rendering Qutub ud din Aibak

In the spurt of the Ghaznavid conquests in this region, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi realized the importance of an agency trying to collect information for consolidation of his rule. A secret network was formed and the informers to the Sultan included many Hindu Rajas. Hindus spying on Hindus as well as spying on the representatives of the Sultan, so that the Sultan may receive adequate information for all actions. This was the first Muslim Secret Service of the region. We do not have adequate knowledge of the network but many of the Sultan’s conquests were a result of timely information of gathering events.

Qutubuddin Aibak grave 1912

When Sultan Muhammed Ghauri was assassinated by the Ismaeli assassins on the bank of the river, near the village of Damyak, on 15th March 1206 AD, it was a failure of intelligence. The Fidai Mulahidah were ruthless in their work and had made everyone realize the importance of espionage. They had chosen to secretly swim in the river and attack the Sultan while he was asleep in his tent. A number of other prominent leaders through out the Indian region were caught and murdered in cold blood. The new Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibeg knew all this well. A very methodical secret service was set by him in Lahore, as he ruled most of his life from Lahore itself. Even when in Delhi, he would come to Lahore for weekends. Although famous that he died naturally when playing polo in Lahore, Taj-ud-din Hassan Nizami paints a different picture. It was known before hand that he was to be assassinated and the saddle maker in the mohalla cursed him on way, and predicted his end that day. It is reputed that a bur was placed under the saddle of his horse so that the horse would panic and throw him down. Lack of intelligence resulted in his death.

Sultan Qutbuddin Aibeg 1236 Lahore

In a class system like Hindustan, resentments were great. Ethnic played a great role, and there was no unity amongst the various Hindu Rajas. There is an interesting fact narrated in the Chach-nama about Jats and Gujjars. These people were literally slaves and held in utter contempt by the rulers. The historian Peter Jackson himself quotes this:

“It (Chach-nama) alleges that Muhammed Bin Qasim, the conqueror of Sind, learned of the disabilities imposed on a local people , the Jats, in the era of the deposed Brahman dynasty. One was that the Jats were to take dogs with them whenever they went out of doors, in order that they might be recognized.”

Studies behind espoinage

When there was so much disparity, how could the society function? One of the reason for the success of the Muslim conquests was that many classes of people were not considered fit to fight a war with enemies. And these were the people who befriended Muslims and how the Rajas lost their hold due to their own ruthlessness with their own people.

The formation of Diwan-Barid was inevitable. To execute the functions of the State, a very effective intelligence gathering system was evolved and named as Diwan-Barid. The exclusive group composed of many rungs of life, including Rajas themselves, had the responsibility of gathering information and providing to the Sultan well in time.  We see today that espionage activities in modern times are considered really essential for the survival of a country. More was at stake at that time, and Lahore famous for people of culture, also had its share of the Secret agents of those times., History goes on repeating it self and man goes on making the same mistakes. This is all well elucidated by Taj-ud-din Hassan Nizami in the times of the Sultan himself.

Secret planning

Rudyard Kipling in his story of Kim of Lahore narrates the actual presence of secret agents in the Serai of Muhammed Sultan in Lahore. The adventures of Kim tells us of the risks involved in this venture, and involved Afghan merchants traveling through the city. A personal confession of an American secret agent tells us that he was once a student at the American School in Lahore. Amazing! There are naturally two kinds  of agents. One working for good of the country and one working with utter malice. We need to recognize that in our analysis of secret services. Today ISI is the successor of Diwan-Barid of a 1000 years ago. And no doubt what Qutub-ud-din did then, today the same is being done again. Saving the identity and integrity of Pakistan. The same passion generated by Allah-0-Akbar!


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