Survival issues of Lahore

Ahmad Shah Abdali
Ahmad Shah Abdali

There is a havelli near Dabbi Bazaar in Lahore. To this day people call it the Havelli of Kabuli Mal, a figure inter-wined in history of Lahore in the worst period of its existence. It is on the tongue of many and yet this character stands forgotten in history. As the name suggests, he belonged to the city of Kabul in Afghanistan, and he was the vassal of Ahmad Shah Abdali. Ahmad Shah Abdali had captured Lahore many times, and left his Governors here. For some years Ahmad Shah Abdali even stayed in Lahore. The great historical incident between Mir Mannu Governor of Lahore and Ahmad Shah Abdali also took place outside Lahore.

Obviously being from Kabul was not unique in any way for the Abdalis, but being a Hindu from Kabul was indeed different. Kabuli Mal was a trusted vassal of Ahmad Shah Abdali, and he appointed him for some years as the Governor of Lahore. The worst period can be understood from the writings of G. Forster, who published a book on his travelogue from Bengal to England, in 1809. Forster writes:

“Soon after the march of Ahmad Shah, the Siques (Sikhs) were seen descending from their various holds on the Punjab, which they rapidly laid waste and after several desultory                 actions, in which the Afghans were defeated, they besieged, and what seems                             extraordinary, they took the city of Lahore; where wildly indulging the enmity, that had               ceased to inflame them against these severe scourges of their nation, they committed               violent outrages. The mosques that had been ever rebuilt or restored to use by the                     Mohamedans, were demolished with every mark of contempt and indignation; and the               Afghans in chains, washed the foundations with the blood of hogs.”

Ahmad Shah Abdali's grave
Ahmad Shah Abdali’s grave

The Muslim Kings cooperation with Hindus was phenomenal. Much to the distaste of general media hype, the Hindus were enlisted by the Kings all the time in their service. Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi had Hindu generals in his army, and had built temples for Hindu subjects in Ghazni itself for prayers. Unbelievable, but very very true! Such tales abound in history channels. Often considered in such a bad light by bigoted people, Emperor Aurangzeb patronized Hindus all the time. Farmans exist of his donations to various Jogis of Hindustan and maintenance of temples. But those are separate stories. So if Ahmad Shah Abdali had Hindus with him, it was not very different. In fact Guru Aqil Dass had written to Abdali for help. In history we find that those were political wars going on to maintain law and order, nothing else.

Kabuli Mal was defeated by a general Daud Khan, and the citizens of Lahore came to the rescue of Kabuli Mal, and saved him from certain death. But the truce was short lived, as Kabuli Mal imprisoned Daud Khan. Again the citizens of Lahore, particularly Qazi Idrees helped Kabuli Mal to regain power in Lahore. This is a story of the period between 1763 and 1767. One of the worst periods in the history of Lahore. And Kabuli Mal, the pragmatic character of the times and his nephew Amir Singh leaves us to decide in our minds the rights and wrongs of politics of existence.


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