Dost Mohammad Khan (Emir of Afghanistan)

For the founder of the Bhopal State in Central India, see Dost Mohammad of Bhopal. For the city in Iran, see Dust Mohammad. For the Khan of Aqsu, see Dost Muhammad (Moghul Khan). For the Pakistani judge, see Dost Muhammad Khan (Justice).
Dost Mohammad Khan
Emir of Afghanistan, Amir al-Mu'minin

Miniature on ivory in gold frame, by a Company artist.
Emir of Afghanistan
Reign 1826–1839
Predecessor Shah Shujah Durrani
Successor Sher Ali Khan
Born December 23, 1793
Kandahar, Durrani Empire
Died June 9, 1863 (aged 69)
Herat, Emirate of Afghanistan
Spouse 25 wives[1]
Issue 27 sons and 25 daughters at the time of his death[2]
Full name
Amir Dost Mohammad Khan Barakzai
Dynasty Barakzai dynasty
Father Sardar Payinda Khan Muhammadzai (Sarfraz Khan)
Mother Zainab Begum[1]

Dost Mohammad Khan (Pashto: دوست محمد خان, December 23, 1793  June 9, 1863) was the founder of the Barakzai dynasty and one of the prominent rulers of Afghanistan during the First Anglo-Afghan War.[3] With the decline of the Durrani dynasty, he became Emir of Afghanistan from 1826 to 1839 and then from 1843[4] to 1863. An ethnic Pashtun, he was the 11th son of Sardar Payendah Khan (chief of the Barakzai tribe) who was killed in 1799 by Zaman Shah Durrani.[2] Dost Mohammad's grandfather was Hajji Jamal Khan.

The Musahiban family started with his older brother, Sultan Muhammad Khan, nicknamed "Telai", meaning "golden", a nickname he was given because of his love of fine clothing.[5] This brother was the ruler of Peshawar.

Background and rise to power

Dost Mohammad Khan was born to an influential family on 23 December 1793 in Kandahar, Durrani Empire.[6] His father, Payindah Khan, was chief of the Barakzai tribe and a civil servant in the Durrani dynasty. Their family can be traced back to Abdal (the first and founder of the Abdali tribe), through Hajji Jamal Khan, Yousef, Yaru, Mohammad, Omar Khan, Khisar Khan, Ismail, Nek, Daru, Saifal, and Barak. Abdal had Four sons, Popal, Barak, Achak, and Alako.[7] Dost Mohmmad Khan's mother is believed to have been a Shia from the Persian Qizilbash group.[8][9][10]

His elder brother, the chief of the Barakzai, Fatteh Khan, took an important part in raising Mahmud Shah Durrani to the sovereignty of Afghanistan in 1800 and in restoring him to the throne in 1809. Dost Mohammad accompanied his elder brother and then Prime Minister of Kabul Wazir Fateh Khan to the Battle of Attock against the invading Sikhs. Mahmud Shah repaid Fatteh Khan's services by having him assassinated in 1818, thus incurring the enmity of his tribe. After a bloody conflict, Mahmud Shah was deprived of all his possessions but Herat, the rest of his dominions being divided among Fatteh Khan's brothers. Of these, Dost Mohammad received Ghazni, to which in 1826 he added Kabul, the richest of the Afghan provinces.[11]

From the commencement of his reign he found himself involved in disputes with Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler of the Punjab region, who used the dethroned Sadozai prince, Shah Shujah Durrani, as his instrument. In 1834 Shah Shujah made a last attempt to recover his kingdom. He was defeated by Dost Mohammad Khan under the walls of Kandahar, but Ranjit Singh seized the opportunity to annex Peshawar. Dost Mohammad sent his son Akbar Khan to defeat the Sikhs at the Battle of Jamrud in 1837.[6] The non- recovery of the Jamrud Fort became the Afghan Amir's worst concern.[11]

European influence in Afghanistan

At the intersection of British, Russian and, to a lesser degree, French imperial interests, political maneuvering was necessary. Rejecting overtures from Russia, he endeavoured to form an alliance with Great Britain, and welcomed Alexander Burnes to Kabul in 1837. Burnes, however, was unable to prevail on the governor-general, Lord Auckland, to respond to the emir's advances. Dost Mohammad was enjoined to abandon the attempt to recover Peshawar, and to place his foreign policy under British guidance. He replied by renewing his relations with Russia, and in 1838 Lord Auckland set the British troops in motion against him.[11] To enable such an action, the British manufactured the evidence needed to justify the overthrow of the Afghan ruler.


In 1835, Dost Mohammad Khan, the youngest and the most energetic of the Barakzai brothers, who had supplanted the Durrani dynasty and become Emir (lord, chief or king) of Kabul in 1825, advanced up to Khaibar Pass threatening to recover Peshawar. In 1836 Hari Singh Nalva, the Sikh general who along with Prince Nau Nihal Singh was guarding that frontier, built a chain of forts, including one at Jamrud at the eastern end of the Khyber Pass to defend the pass. Dost Muhammad erected a fort at `Ali Masjid at the other end. In the beginning of 1837, as Prince Nau Nihal Singh returned to Lahore to get married and the Maharaja and his court got busy with preparations for the wedding.

Dost Muhammad Khan sent a 25,000 strong force, including a large number of local irregulars and equipped with 18 heavy guns, to invest Jam rud. The Sikh garrison there had only 600 men and a few light artillery pieces. The Afghans besieged the fort and cut off its water supply, while a detachment was sent to the neighbouring Sikh fort of Shabqadar to prevent any help from that direction. Maha Singh, the garrison commander of Jamrud, kept the invaders at bay for four days and managed meanwhile to send a desperate appeal for help to Hari Singh Nalva at Peshawar. Nalva rose from his sick bed and rushed to Jamrud.

In the final battle fought on 30 April 1837, the Afghans were driven off, but Hari Singh Nalva was mortally wounded. In 1838, the Sikh monarch became a party to the Tripartite Treaty, as a result of which Shah Shuja` was reinstalled on the throne of Kabul in August 1839 with British help. Dost Muhammad Khan was exiled to Mussoorie in November 1839, but was restored to his former position after the murder of Shah Shuja` in April 1842. He thereafter maintained cordial relations with the Lahore Darbar. The second Anglo Sikh war reawakened Dost Muhammad`s ambition to seize Peshawar and the trans Indus territories, although overtly he sympathized with the Sikhs and even hired out an irregular Afghan contingent of 1500 horse to Chatar Singh, leader of Sikh resistance against the British.

Second reign

Dōst Moḥammad Khan seated slightly to the right of center in this photograph. To Dōst Moḥammad’s right, the first figure in a white chapan (overcoat) is his son and successor Sher ʻAlī Khān (1825–79), who ruled Afghanistan from 1863 to 1879. Abd al-Raḥmān Khān (circa 1844–1901), the grandson of Dōst Mohammad and future “Iron Amir” of Afghanistan, is on Dōst Moḥammad’s far left.
Dost Mohammad Khan sitting with one of his sons.

He was then set at liberty, in consequence of the resolve of the British government to abandon the attempt to intervene in the internal politics of Afghanistan. On his return from British India, Dost Mohammad was received in triumph at Kabul, and set himself to re-establish his authority on a firm basis. From 1846 he renewed his policy of hostility to the British and allied himself with the Sikhs. However, after the defeat of his allies at Gujrat on 21 February 1849, he abandoned his designs and led his troops back into Afghanistan. In 1850 he conquered Balkh,[12] and in 1854 he acquired control over the southern Afghan tribes by the capture of Kandahar.[11]

On 30 March 1855, Dost Mohammad reversed his former policy by concluding an offensive and defensive alliance with the British government, signed by Sir Henry Lawrence, Chief Commissioner of the Punjab, first proposed by Herbert Edwardes.[13] In 1857 he declared war on Persia in conjunction with the British, and in July a treaty was concluded by which the province of Herat was placed under a Barakzai prince. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Dost Mohammad refrained from assisting the insurgents. His later years were disturbed by troubles at Herat and in Bukhara. These he composed for a time, but in 1862 a Persian army, acting in concert with Ahmad Khan, advanced against Herat. The old amir called the British to his aid, and, putting himself at the head of his warriors, drove the enemy from his frontiers. On 26 May 1863 he re-captured Herat, but on the 9th of June he died suddenly in the midst of victory, after playing a great role in the history of South and Central Asia for forty years. He named as his successor his son, Sher Ali Khan.[11]


"We have men and we have gold and treasure and sacred land in plenty, we have everything."[14]
Dost Mohammad Khan to John Lawrence

See also


  1. 1 2 Royal Ark
  2. 1 2 Tarzi, Amin H. "DŌSTMOḤAMMAD KHAN". Encyclopædia Iranica (Online ed.). United States: Columbia University.
  3. Encyclopædia BritannicaDost Mohammad Khan, "ruler of Afghanistan (1826–63) and founder of the Barakzay dynasty, who maintained Afghan independence during a time when the nation was a focus of political struggles between Great Britain and Russia..."
  4. "Anglo-afghan wars", Encyclopaedia Iranica
  5. Noelle, Christine (1997). State and Tribe in Nineteenth-Century Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir Dost Muhammad Khan (1826-1863). Routldege. p. 19. ISBN 978-0700706297. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  6. 1 2 Adamec, Ludwig W. (2010). The A to Z of Afghan Wars, Revolutions and Insurgencies. Scarecrow Press. p. 105. ISBN 0-8108-7624-8. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  7. Life of the Amîr Dost Mohammed Khan, of Kabul: with his political ..., by Mohan Lal, Volume 1. Page 1-3.
  8. Tarzi, Amin H. "DŌSTMOḤAMMAD KHAN". Encyclopædia Iranica (Online ed.). United States: Columbia University.
  9. The Rise of Afghanistan, page 124 // Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War Against the Taliban. Author: Stephen Tanner. First published in 2002 by Da Capo Press; (revised edition) reprinted in 2009. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2009, 375 pages. ISBN 9780306818264
  10. 5. The Rise of Afghanistan, page 126 // Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War Against the Taliban. Author: Stephen Tanner. First published in 2002 by Da Capo Press; (revised edition) reprinted in 2009. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2009, 375 pages. ISBN 9780306818264
  11. 1 2 3 4 5  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dost Mahommed Khan". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 438.
  12. "Persia, Arabia, etc.". World Digital Library. 1852. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  13.  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1889). "Edwardes, Herbert Benjamin". Dictionary of National Biography. 17. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  14. Karl Meyer, Shareen Brysac "Tournament of Shadows, The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia" Abacus, 2001 (ISBN 0-349-11366-1)

Secondary sources

Primary sources

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Political offices
Preceded by
Ayub Shah
Emir of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Shah Shujah Durrani
Preceded by
Akbar Khan
Emir of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Sher Ali Khan
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