Pakhtun heritage: Remembering the battle of Maiwand

Over a hundred years ago on this day, an Afghan force repelled the mighty British-Indian Army.

Riaz Ahmad July 28, 2012


Almost 131 years ago on July 27, an Afghan militia engaged and defeated the mighty British Indian Army in the legendary battle of Maiwand.

The battle took place during the second Anglo-Afghan war, with Afghan troops being led by Sardar Muhammad Ayub Khan. Today, his grave lies in the Royal Durrani graveyard in Peshawar, near the shrine of Sheikh Habib Baba.

In the fierce battle, almost 971 British troops were killed by the Afghans. Afghan losses, however, were thrice as high. By the end of the battle, Afghans held their ground and the British were forced to retreat.

Although it was Sardar Ayub Khan’s leadership that shaped the victory, local legends speak of a girl named Malalai who inspired the Afghans to defeat an army that had been successful in all its military campaigns so far.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Nowshera DCO Ayaz Mandokhel, who is also a student of Afghan history, explained the story further. “It was the first time the British-Indian army was defeated by any Asian power,” he said.

Mandokhel says the victory turned the Afghan girl into a local legend. “She encouraged young men to go to the battlefield, support Ayub Khan and die with honour... her words are remembered by Pakhtuns to this day.”

‘If you are not killed in Maiwand, O my beloved, it is a life of shame which you will live,’ she is said to have cried.

Mandokhel says “this day (July 27) should be considered the ‘Pakhtun defence against colonialism’ day.”

The Maiwand area is located in the Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Ayub Khan, the son of Amir Sher Ali Khan, was the governor on Kandahar, Mandokhel informed. “He was a great figure of resistance against the British-Indian Army,” he said, adding many parts of Afghanistan had already been annexed by the British Empire at the time.

According to Mandokhel, after their defeat in the first Anglo-Afghan war, the British claimed that the ‘weather was against them’, since it had been snowing at the time. “This time, there was no excuse. The battle of Maiwand was in July,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.


Zalmai | 11 years ago | Reply

Pakistani Pashtuns don't care about The Battle of Maiwand or Malalai, their heroes are MAJ and ZAB.

Tahir | 11 years ago | Reply

My initial motivation to comment: There was not even a single comment to this piece! However, after having gone through it, I felt compelled to thank the author and appreciate his research effort. Thank you for educating me.

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