Dir (princely state)

This article is about the historical State of Dir. For other uses, see Dir (disambiguation).
Princely state of Pakistan
19th century or earlier–28 July 1969


Map of Pakistan with Dir highlighted
Capital Dir
  Established 19th century or earlier
  Disestablished 28 July 1969
Area 5,282 km2 (2,039 sq mi)
Today part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
This article is part of the series
Former administrative units of Pakistan

Dir (or Dhir) was a small Muslim princely state in a subsidiary alliance with British India within the Northwest Frontier Province until August 1947 when the British left the subcontinent. For some months it was unaligned, until February 1948, when its accession to the new Dominion of Pakistan was accepted.

Dir ceased to exist as a state in 1969, when it was incorporated into Pakistan. The territory it once covered, some 5,282 km2 (2,039 sq mi), is today within the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, forming two districts called Upper Dir and Lower Dir.


Most of the state lay in the valley of the Panjkora river, which originates in the Hindu Kush mountains and joins the Swat River near Chakdara. Apart from small areas in the south-west, Dir is a rugged, mountainous zone with peaks rising to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) in the north-east and to 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) along the watersheds, with Swat to the east and Afghanistan and Chitral to the west and north.


Early period

Dir took its name from its main settlement, also called D(h)ir, location of the ruler's palace.

The territories surrounding Dir were populated by their current ethnic majority, the Pakhtuns, beginning from the end of the 14th century. The Pakhtun were divided in several clans (khels), often battling one against the other. The three great clans which conquered the zone were the Yusafzai, Tarkanrai and the SULTAN Khel.[1] The Dir territory was populated in the 16th century by the Malizai tribe of the Yusufzai khel, who took control of the zone assimilating or chasing away the previous inhabitants (Dilzak in Bajour; Jandool ; Maiden and Swatis from areas East of Panjkora ) [1] and within this tribe the most prominent fractions became the Painda - and Sultan khels.[2]

By the 17th century a section of the Painda khel, coming from the Kohan village in the valley of Nihag (a Panjkora tributary), seized the trade routes with Chitral and Afghanistan.[2]

The first ruling khans

The princely state was established in the 19th century as a Muslim khanate by Akhund Baba (alias Mulla Illas Khan), the leader of a Pakhtun clan, and ruled afterwards by his descendants. A member of the Painda khel's leading family, Mulla Ilyas, was recognized as spiritual leader because of his religious merits, who procured him the title of Akhund ("scholar" in Persian) Baba. Thanks to his charisma, Akhund acquired a prominent position in the Malizai tribe and founded the Dir village.[3] His successors managed to preserve and expand the leadership, giving birth to an embryonal autonomous political entity which would eventually become the princely state.[1] The clan of Mulla Illas Khan would take the name of Akhund khel from the name of its progenitor,[4] and a dynasty stemming from him was recognized as Khans (rulers) of Dir. However, till the end of the 19th century, the dominion of the family was limited to the upper Dir.[2]

Jandool rule and fort

Mohammed Umara Khan, the 'Napoleon of the Pashtun', took the power while killing his brother inside the fort and succeeded as khan of Jando(o)l.

According to the Sultan Alam Khan's (age 80 years) his son Sardar Alam Khan "Umara Khan killed his real brother inside the fort, Umara Khan was earlier exile by his elder brother and this came as a revenge with support of his female servant he managed all this", Sardar Alam Khan also add that ...

On the high landscape, the Jando(o)l fort shaped large building was built in 1960 by Shahabuddin Khan known as Jandool Khan the son of Shah Jehan Khan the then Nawab of Dir.

The fort is located strategically controlling the four directions with bordering area of Bajaur which is bordering Afghanistan.

In 2016 this building has been given to the renowned educationist Sultan Yousaf by Nawabzada Sadruddin Khan (son of Shahabuddin Khan) for the chain of schools and colleges namely The Intellectuals School & College, the local residents are happy to see this building used for such a noble cause.

In 1881 the ruler of Dir, Muhammad Sharif Khan, was chased away by Khan Umra khan of Jandool, who conquered Dir, Swat and the Malakand area. In 1895, however, while the forces of Umara Khan were besieging a British force near Malakand, Muhammad Sharif Khan decided to make his soldiers join the British relief force coming in aid, the Chitral Expedition. During that expedition Sharif Khan made an agreement with the British Government to keep the road to Chitral open in return for a subsidy.[5] The British eventually won the war and exiled Umara Khan. As a reward for his help, Sharif Khan was given the whole Dir and also the lower Swat (the latter territory would be lost in 1917 to the Wali of Swat).[2]

The ruling Nawabs

The heridatary Nawwab Khan Bahador title (nawab for short) was granted in 1897 to Mohammad Sharif Khan and inherited by Sharif's eldest son,[1] Aurangzeb Badshah Khan (Nicknamed as Charha Nawab ) who ruled between 1904 and 1925. In 1906 his younger brother, Miangul Jan (Munda Khan), tried in vain to conquer the power with the assistance of the Khan of Barwa, Sayed Ahmad Khan, a former ally of Mohammad Sharif. A second attempt in 1913 was crowned by success, but for a very short time,[1] as in 1914 Aurangzeb regained the rule over Dir.[6] Also the other son of Mohammad Sharif, Mohammad Isa Khan, attempted around 1915 to seize the Dir throne by allying with the Khan of Barwa, but Aurangzeb managed to conserve the rule.[1]

At Aurangzeb's death, in 1925, the title passed to his eldest son, Mohammad Shah Jahan Khan, who was supported by the British Government against the small rival faction that favored his brother Alamzeb Khan. Alamzeb was exiled in 1928 because of his attempts to take the power. Shah Jahan Khan was loyal to the British, who nominated him KBE in 1933.[1] In 1947, Jahan Khan sent his troops to support Pakistan during the First Kashmir War, and in 1948 united his princely state with the new Dominion of Pakistan.[7] He also nominated his son Muhammad Shah Khan Khusro as successor and other sons (Shahabuddin Khan and Mohammad Shah) governors of different provinces.[2]


On 8 Feb 1948, Dir accedes to the newly created Muslim dominion of Pakistan, initially continuing as one of the surviving princely states of Pakistan. The politics of the late Nawabs are described as reactionary and harsh.[2][8] The Italian anthropologist Fosco Maraini, who visited the state in 1959 during an expedition towards Hindu-Kush, reports the opinion of the people as the Nawab Jahan Khan (who was about 64 years old at that time) being a tyrannical leader, denying his subjects any freedom of speech and instruction, governing the land with a number of henchmen and seizing for his harem any girl or woman he wanted. Maraini also noticed the lack of schools, sewers and paved roads, and the presence of just a rudimentary newly built hospital. The Nawab was negatively compared to the Wali of Swat, whose liberal politics allowed his state to enter into the modern era.[9]

As a consequence, uprisings began eventually to explode. A repressed revolt in 1959 is reported in Maraini's account.[9] Another insurrection in 1960 led to the death of 200 soldiers and put the Nawab in bad light in the view of the press. General Yahya decided to exile Jahan Khan, who would die in 1968. His throne passed in October 1961 to his eldest son, Mohammad Shah Khosru Khan, educated in India and a serving Major General of Pakistan Army. However, the effective rule of Dir was taken by the Pakistani government's Political Agent.

A few years later, on 28 July 1969, the Dir state was incorporated into Pakistan, ceasing its political existence.[2] The royal status of the Nawabs was abolished in 1972, at the same time as most other princes of Pakistan.[10]

Rulers Timeline

The information for the following table stems from www.worldstatesmen.org[6] and Who's Who in the Dir, Swat and Chitral Agency.[1] The ruling dates of the first rulers are not reported, as inconsistent between the sources: according to www.worldstatesmen.org, Akhund Baba's tenure began in the 19th century. However, Encyclopædia Britannica[3] and accounts by local people[11] date him back to the 17th century.

1626–1676Akhund Baba (Mulla Ilyas Khan)
1676–1752Mulla Ismail
1752–1804Ghulam Khan Baba
1804–1814Khan Zafar Khan
1814–1822Khan Qasim Khan
1822–1868Khan Ghazzan Khan
?[12] Ghasan Khan
1870–1884Khan Rahmat Allah (=Rahmatullah) Khan (d. 1925)
1886– deposition 1890Mohammad Sharif Khan (1848–1905) (first time) (b. 1848 - d. 1904)
1890– 1895(Mohammad) Um(a)ra Khan (1850–1903), khan of Jandul, who annexed Dhir
1895 – December 1904Nawab Mohammad Sharif Khan (s.a.), from 1897 Nawwab Bahadur Khan
December 1904 – 1913Nawab Awrangzeb Badshah Khan (first time) (d. 1925
1913–1914Nawab Miangul Jan ((d. 1914)
1914 – February 1925Nawab Awrangzeb Badshah Khan (second time) (s.a.)
May 1925 – 9 November 1960Nawab Mohammad Shah Jahan Khan (b. 1890? - d. 1960; from 3 Jun 1933, Sir)
9 November 1960 – 28 July 1996Nawab Mohammad Shah Khosru Khan (b. 1936)


The population of the state in 1911 amounted to about 100,000 people According to Encyclopædia Britannica, [5] rising to 250,000 in 1931 and falling back to 107,000 in 1951.

At the 1947 Partition of India, there was a Muslim majority in Dir with small minorities of Hindus and Sikhs, many of whom left for India during partition.


The state flag contained several Islamic symbols and three sentences (not shown in the present image): the top writing is the Bismillah: "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful", the center one is the shahada in urdu language: "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God". The bottom phrase reads "with the help of God, victory is near" in Arabic language. The flag also existed in a red variant with the same drawings.[14]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Who's Who in the Dir, Swat and Chitral Agency – Corrected up to 1st September 1933 (PDF). New Delhi: The Manager Government of India Press. 1933. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Syed Ziafat Ali. "Welcome To Dir State". Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  3. 1 2 Dir at Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. Rose, Horace Arthur; Ibbetson, Denzil; Maclagan, Edward Douglas (1911). A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province: A.-K, Volume 2. Lahore: Printed by the superintendent, Government Printing, Punjab. p. 11. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  5. 1 2  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dir". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  6. 1 2 Ben Cahoon, WorldStatesmen.org. "Pakistan Princely States". Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  7. Jinnah Papers The states: Historical and Policy Perspectives and Accession to Pakistan. First series volume VIII, Editor: Z.H.Zaidi, Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project, Government of Pakistan 2003 Pg xxxix.
  8. Jinnah Papers The states: Historical and Policy Perspectives and Accession to Pakistan, First series volume VIII, Editor: Z.H.Zaidi, Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project, Government of Pakistan 2003 Pg xvii.
  9. 1 2 Maraini, Fosco (1965). Where four worlds meet: Hindu Kush, 1959. London: Hamish Hamilton.
  10. Buyers, Christoper. "Pakistan: Brief History". The Royal Ark. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  11. "Call for preservation of Sufi shrine in Dir". Dawn. 14 January 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  12. 1863–1874, according to www.worldstatesmen.org. However, an 1845 source already describes Ghazzan as chief of the Dir ("Deer") valley: Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, edited by the Secretary. vol. XIV. part II. — July to December, 1845. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  13. 1874–1884 according to a different source (Haseeb Naz. "Chiefa Coins – Dir". Retrieved 13 August 2013.).
  14. Roberto Breschi. "Dir". Retrieved 2013-07-25.. The site cites J.D. McMeekin, Arms and Flags of the Indian Princely States, 3, sec. 12, 1990.

External links and Sources

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