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Pashtun poet, warrior, and tribal chief Khushal Khan Khattak

Khushal Khan Khattak (1613–1689) was a prominent Pashtun poet, warrior, and tribal chief of the Khattak tribe. He wrote a huge collection of Pashto poems during the Mughal Empire in the 17th century, and admonished Afghans (Pashtuns or Pakhtuns) to forsake their divisive tendencies and unite against the Mughal Army. Promoting Afghan nationalism through poetry, he was a renowned military fighter who became known as the "Afghan Warrior Poet". Khushal Khan lived in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.

Khushal Khan was born in or about 1613 into a Pashtun family of the Khattak tribe. He was the son of Shahbaz Khan from Akora, Mughal ruled India (now in Nowshera District of Kyber-Pakthunkhwa, in Pakistan). His grandfather, Malik Akoray, was the first Khattak to enjoy widespread fame during the reign of the Mughal King Jalal-ud-din Akbar. Akoray moved from Teri(a village in Karak District) to Sarai Akora, the town which Akoray founded and built. Akoray cooperated with the Mughals to safeguard the trunk route and was generously rewarded for his assistance. The Akor Khels, a clan named after Akoray, still hold a prominent position in the Khattak tribe. The Khattak tribe of Khushhal Khan now lives in areas of Karak, Kohat, Nowshera, Cherat (Nowshera), Peshawar, Mardan and in other parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Khushhal Khan’s life can be divided into two important parts — during his adult life he was mostly engaged in the service of the Mughal king, and during his old age he was preoccupied with the idea of the unification of the Pashtuns.
His first involvement in war occurred when he was just 13 years old. Emperor Shah Jehan appointed him as the tribal chief and Mansabdar in 1641 at the age of 28 after the death of his father. In 1658, Aurangzeb, Shah Jehan's successor, threw him away as a prisoner in the Gwalior fortress.
His Contemporaries
  • Hazrat Kaka Sahib Kasteer Gul ( Mazar at Ziarat Kaka Sahib)
  • Hazrat Sheikh Akhund Adeen/Adyan Seljoki (Mazar at Akora kahttak). Well known politician of Jamaat Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmad belong to his family. Most of the Qazi are living at Ziarat Kaka Sahib and are famous for their knowledge ,qaza and teaching and education.
  • Jameel khan khattak (Khushal's brother)

Rebellion and the Moghul Empire

After that the revolt spread, with the Mughals suffering a near total collapse of their authority along the Pashtun belt. The closure of the important Attock-to-Kabul trade route along the Grand Trunk road was particularly critical. By 1674, the situation had deteriorated to a point where Aurangzeb himself camped at Attock to personally take charge. Switching to diplomacy and bribery along with force of arms, the Mughals eventually split the rebellion and while they never managed to wield effective authority outside the main trade route, the revolt was partially suppressed. However, the long term anarchy on the Mughal frontier that prevailed as a consequence ensured that Nadir Shah's Khorasanian forces half a century later faced little resistance on the road to Delhi.After Khushal Khan was permitted to return to Pashtun dominated areas (Eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan), he incited the Afghan tribes to rebel against the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Along with the Rajputs, the Pashtun tribesmen of the Empire were considered the bedrock of the Mughal Army. They were crucial defenders of the Mughal Empire from the threat of invasion from the West. The Pashtun revolt in 1672 was triggered when soldiers under the orders of the Mughal Governor Amir Khan attempted to molest women of the Safi tribe in what is now Kunar. The Safi tribes attacked the Mughal soldiers. This attack provoked a reprisal, which triggered a general revolt of most of the tribes. Attempting to reassert his authority, Amir Khan led a large Mughal Army to the Khyber pass. There, the army was surrounded by tribesmen and routed, with only four men, including the Governor, managing to escape.

Death and tribute

Forced to flee after the Mughals reasserted control, he died on February 25, 1689 at Dambara, many years after attempting to unite the various Pakhtun tribes together. It is believed that Khattak had gone on an expedition to "Tirah", a rugged mountainous area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where he died. People searched for him and found his dead body a number of days laters with his sword and the carcass of his horse (known as "Silai" in Pashto, which means Wind). His death symbolises his courage and his love for his Afghan (Pakhtun) motherland.
He is buried near Akora Khattak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where many Pashtuns continue to pay tribute and visit his tomb. His grave carries the inscription:da afghan pa nang may watarla tura, nanagyalai da zamana khushal khattak yam "I have taken up the sword to defend the pride of the Afghan, I am Khushal Khattak, the honorable man of the age."
The Mazar (tomb) of Khushal Khan Khattak is situated near the Railway Station of Akora Khattak in the Nowshera district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Pakistan.
Published Works
Khushal Khan's poetry consists of more than 45,000 poems. According to some historians, the number of books written by Khattak are more than 200. His more famous books are Baz NamaFazal NamaDistar Nama and Farrah Nama'.
H. G. Raverty was the first translator of Khattak into English; Selections from the Poetry of Afghans (1862, Kolkata) has ninety eight poetic pieces. This was followed by Biddulph’s translation Selections from the Poetry of Khushhal Khan Khattak in 1890 published in London. Evelyn Howell and Olaf Caroe jointly translated and published The Poems of Khushhal Khan Khattak in 1963, from the University of Peshawar. Another translation was that by Dr N. Mackenzie Poems from the Diwan of Khushhal Khan Khattak published from London in 1965.
Dost Mohammad Khan Kamil was the first Pakhtun scholar to initiate research on Khattak along scientific lines. He wrote two important and comprehensive books, one in English called On a Foreign Approach to Khushhal and the other in Urdu titled Khushhal Khan Khattak published in 1952. Diwan-i-Khushhal Khan Khattak was published under the directive of H .W. Bellew in 1869 (Jail Press, Peshawar), the manuscript of which was provided by Sultan Bakhash Darogha, an employee of the British government. More recently his poetry has been translated again.
In October 2002, a book on Khushal Khan Khattak, Khushal Khan, The Afghan Warrior Poet and Philosopher, has been published. It is sponsored by Pashtun Cultural Society and Pashto Adabi Society of Islamabad/Rawalpindi. The book is written by a well known writer and scholar, Ghani Khan Khattak, who is reputed for having established the literary and cultural societies, and for promoting Pashto literary and cultural activities in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. The significance of the book lies in that this is the first book in English on Khushal Khan. Most of the written material available on Khattak is either in Pashto or in Urdu. Although orientalists have always given importance to Khattak in their findings but they have not ever presented a detailed life story of Khushal Khan.


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