Pakistan’s lost territory, the Wakhan Corridor

Our claim on the lost northern territory is very vital keeping in view the new geo-political affairs, and by our right it should be returned to us, but as the verse of Oliver Wendell Homles describes exactly the men, who are needed to achieve this end: A Time Like This Demands. Great Hearts, Strong Minds, True Faith, and Willing Hands; Men whom the lust of office does not kill; Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy; Men who possess Opinions and a Will; Men Who have Honor, Men Who will not Lie.




by Naveed Tajammal





The birth of the new geographic entity of Afghanistan was based on global events as they started to unfold, and so the British Empire; the ’’ King Makers’’ from the turn of the 19th Century set about creating new States, by awarding them new names, and thereby delinking them from their past heritage. Khurassan, too met the same fate as did the Sind Valley, whose integral part it always had been, Sir. Thomas Holdich, writing in 1901 was correct when he confessed the same in his book,” The Indian Borderland’’.

He wrote, ’’We have contributed much to give a National Entity to that Nebulous Community which ‘’WE’’ call ‘’AFGHANISTAN’’ (but which the Afghan, Never, CALL, by that name) by drawing a boundary all around it and elevating it into a position of a Buffer State, between ourselves and Russia. All this has been done at great expense, and with infinite pains……….’’.

With the spread of Russia’s sphere of influence in Central Asia, British foreign policy in the 19th century was motivated by fears of their Indian Empire being vulnerable to Russian moves southwards. The Anglo-Russian rivalry in Asia, termed the Great Game, precipitated the Second Afghan War. The British were trying to establish a permanent mission at Kabul which the Amir Sher Ali, trying to keep a balance between the Russians and British, would not permit. The arrival of a Russian diplomatic mission in Kabul in 1878 increased British suspicions of Russian influence and ultimately led to them invading Afghanistan.

In 1805, Napoleon had declared war on Russia, and by 1807, Fateh Ali Shah of Persia had accepted the French proposal to appoint an Army to march on India by the way of Kabul and Kandhar. The British, however, succeeded in thwarting the French Alliance. But still the danger remained, for the future, so the British felt the need for a new buffer state, or ‘Corridors’ that led in to the British Indian Empire, from Persia as well from the North.

Consequently Mountsuart Elphinstone, of the book fame, ’’An Account of Kingdom of Cabul’’ was sent to meet Shah Shuja in 1809, and a treaty was signed between the British and Cabul Kingdom, by terms of which French and other Europeans were to be rigorously excluded from the ‘Kingdom of Cabul’. However, the rupture between, France and Russia, which occurred at this period, removed all fears of an invasion of India by the two powers.

Then came the First Afghan War, with it came the threat again from the Russian side, as by late 1830’s,the tentacles of the Russian Empire were being felt all over the Central Asian Chess Board. The Russian ‘’Menace’ was a cause for watchfulness & anxiety, though the British boundary which till then was limited to Cis-Sutlej Regions, and the show of Flag.

The rationale of the first Afghan War, was the danger that Russia was again becoming predominant at the court of Shah of Persia, and so an apprehension was felt by the British that there may be a move in the “Corridor”. Persia, by then was now demanding the return of its old provinces of HERAT, KANDHAR & KABUL and for which the Russians were ready to help. 


From the Russian point of view, it was considered that if Persia took ‘’HERAT’’, she would ultimately absorb Kandhar and Kabul. And that, through Persian Agency and without any cost whatsoever to the Russian Exchequer, and thus a heavy strain would be placed on Britian to meet the new situation.


Right: Russia-229 (Photo credit: didkovskaya)

This was seen, in the Persian policy of the next twenty five years, 1832 till 1857. It was solely focused on capture of Herat. By now the Afghan Entity had been created at least on papers, the boundaries had yet to be drawn, and all this was done to thwart any claim on the old provinces of Persia by Shah of Persia, with the backing of the Czar of Russia.

Dost Mohammad of Kabul was still not in full command of the new entity, so he appealed for help from Lord Auckland, the Viceroy of British India. The appeal was to allow him to take over the Trans-Indus regions, and thus force out Ranjit Singh, to remain confined in the CIS-Indus and Trans-Sutlej belt, and a final plea for weapons and cash to help him fight the Persians.

The Brothers of Dost Mohammad –seeing, the change in air, sent envoys to the Shah of Persia with Letters of Submission and a request to the Russians for an intervention. Both were pleased. The Russian sent a, Captian Vitavich. Thus started a new round of the Great Game, and with it came the First Afghan War as has been highlighted above with reasons why.

The flexing of British muscle power, though in vain, was seen as the greatest disaster suffered by the British in Asia till then. Meanwhile, the Russian Empire continued its moves across the Central Asian Chess board. By 1844, the Sea of Aral had been explored, a massive fort built on the mouth of Syr-DARAYA, at AK MAasjid. The Khanate of Kohkand fell in 1853, Tahskent in 1865, Bokhara in 1868, and then, fell Samarkand too, followed by Khiva, and soon the Russains were in contact with old districts across the OXUS which had been part of Bokhara state now with the Russians.

The internal feuds between the rival candidates of Afghanistan continued meanwhile. Sher Ali was now installed on the throne of Kabul, and his relations with the British improved, as he met Lord Mayo in 1869 and was awarded a subsidy of POUNDS 60,000/. And the work on demarcation of the new Afghan state on paper between two empires took off, between Lord Granville of British Government and Prince Gortchakoff, the Russian Ambassador in London. Unknown were these things to Sher Ali sitting in Kabul, so between 17th October 1872 and 19th to 31st January 1873, a paper on the new boundary had been drafted in London between the two representatives, [the boundaries as drawn between Persia and Afghanistan and British India are not being discussed in this article].


The new face of the state of Afghanistan on its North West and North East was to be composed of the following districts: to the North East Badakhshan, and the District of WAKHAN, from old upper KASKAR state, the lower was declared by the British as CHITRAL. The old Turkistan was now Afghan Turkistan having the districts of Kunduz, Khulm & Balkh, the new northern boundary between the empires would be the OXUS river as it followed a path from the junction of the Kokcha river to the post of Khoja Saleh, inclusive of the High Road from Bokhara, to Balkh, the internal districts of AKCHA. SAR- EPUL, MAIMANA, SHIBARGAN and ANDKHUI. The latter was to be the extreme Afghan frontier possession, to the north west, the Desert beyond was to belong to the independent tribes of the Turkomans. However this was the British demand then.

In 1873, the Russians eventually agreed on it, but not before a long period in which they objected to this NEW map of Afghanistan, as the Russians, now the legal heirs to the old state boundaries of Bokhara felt cheated out of its Trans-Oxus territories, and also of other districts as they had grave reservations on the writ of Amir Abdur Rehman of Kabul on them. In 1893, twenty years hence from the date the final papers on the new face of Kingdom of Afghanistan had been drawn, when Amir ABDUR REHMAN of Kabul had tried to impose his writ in the Wakhan which was in the greater interest of the British. His forces had been soundly thrashed by the Czars Cossacks, at Somatash, on the banks of ALLCHUR river further north of Wakhan.

He had then realized how powerless he was to retaliate and so had refused to accept Wakhan, as his new territory. Subsequently, a larger money grant to the tune of RS. 18 lakhs were offered to induce him to accept it, with promises of the British intervention if and when anybody tried to dislodge his forces. So a part of our Sindh Valley was taken from us.

As stated earlier, many new states had been created by the British as buffers, some were front line & some the second line, which was to safeguard the northern gates to the Indian Empire. Hence came into being another state, that of Dogra Kashmir in 1846, a Hindu kingdom which composed  then 90% Muslims, [we will discuss this later on].

Coming back to the Wakhan corridor, the object of this long arm in these high altitudes or on the roof of the world, as it was not much of a buffer, it could be easily ridden in a hard days ride across from its extreme width, so it presented no vast physical obstacle to an advance of any sort, as that had been catered for earlier by creation of the new Kashmir state, that being the second line. Wakhan was a ‘’HEDGE’ as it were here that the Czar of Russia could not step, without violating Afghanistan, and violation of Afghanistan was to be regarded as a ‘’CASUS BELLI’’.


Since the creation of the Kashmir state our people had been in a state of REVOLT, that by itself was an alarm to the British or its policy makers. The new Maharajas of the state like Abdur Rehman in Afghanistan tried to impose his writ, but revolts continued. British tried all methods to keep the situation in control. In 1882, fresh disturbances had been created by the ruler of upper Kaskar State, Pahlawan Bahaduar, who ruled Yasin, Kuh, Ghizer and Ashkuman ranges and lands, Hunza and Nagar inclusively. Mir Ali Mardan Shah held Wakhan, and also resisted the Afghan writ, so both got removed. Phalwan Bahadaur lost his state, while MIR Ali Mardan Shah, was compensated with Ashkuman, and so in 1906, Yasin, Kuh, and Ghizer were made one district.

Mehtar Abdur Rehman, the eldest son of (Late) Pahelwan Bahadaur, was made the ruler. However, Hunza, Nagar and Chilas, old territories of the late ruler were made independent of Kashmir ruler, vide foreign department letter # 1800 dated 24 July 1901 with express orders that, no official of Kashmir had any suzerainty over them, and were forbidden to interfere directly in their internal administration, as they came directly under the foreign office of the British Empire.

The second line buffer state of Kashmir was created by a treaty dated 16th March 1846 signed at Amritsar. It had 10 articles, streamlining the yoke of the British rule, through its British East India Company. The clauses like the amount of payment, limits of territories, arbitration , not to hire or engage the services of any British subject, nor any subject of any European or American state, without consent of the British, that the British Government will protect the state of the Maharaja, from external enemies, and the Maharaja acknowledges the supremacy of the British government, and in token will pay, one horse, and 12 perfect Shawl goats.

On 13 March 1884 an amendment took place; that in future the Maharaja will ensure that he will present instead of 12 goats, it would be 10 lbs of PASHM in its natural state, as bought to Kashmir, from Leh – 4lbs of picked and assorted black wool; 4 lbs of ditto-ditto grey wool, ditto-ditto, white wool, and 1 lb each of the three best qualities of white Yarn.

How humiliating could they be when the British wanted to be, such was the nose binding rule of the British on this Hindu Maharaja of the second line buffer state, now with India.

Lastly our claim on the lost northern territory is very vital keeping in view, the new geo-political affairs, and by our right it should be returned back to our country, but as the verse of Oliver Wendell Homles describes exactly the men, who are needed to achieve this end:

A Time Like This Demands.

Great Hearts, strong minds, true faith, and willing hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who have honor, men who will not lie.

The writer Naveed Tajammal is a renowned Pakistani historian who has over 26 years of experience in investigative historical research and has many research papers on historical research to his credit.
 Source,    Cross publishedImages
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author (s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statement / s contained in this post.



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