Khan Hotak (1709 - 1715)
A picture of life
in the old city of Kandahar under the Timurids, the Safavids and
the Moghuls has begun to emerge since the British Institute began
its excavations in 1974. Bronze ewers, imported glazed ceramics
and ornate glass from Persia and imported porcelains from China
speak of widespread trade. Locally made glazed wares in the
Persian style speak of a cultural orientation toward the west.
On the whole the
indigenous Pushtun tribes living in the Kandahar area were more
attached to the Persians and, indeed, on those occasions when the
Moghuls received the city by means other than conquest, it was
disaffected Persian governors who instigated the transfer, not the
tribes. The tribes were not above pitting foreigner against
foreigner in order to further their attempts to better one
another. However, siding sometimes with the Persians, sometimes
with the Moghuls, but never with each other, they perpetuated
tribal disunity and prolonged foreign domination.
Afghanland.com sources, The principal
contenders in these tribal disputes came from the two most
important Pushtun groups in the Kandahar area, the Ghilzai and the
Abdali (later Durrani), between whom there was long-standing
enmity. As a matter of fact, because of these quarrels, the
irritated Persians had forcibly transferred many of the turbulent
Abdali to Herat by the end of the 16th century. This left the
Ghilzai paramount in Kandahar, but the dispute more hotly
contested, the hatred more deeply entrenched, and revenge more
The Persians were
adept at manipulating such machinations and their rule at Kandahar
was tolerant until the court at Isfahan began to sink in
decadence. Mirroring this, the Persian governors of Kandahar
became more and more rapacious and, in response, the tribes became
more and more restless. Mounting tribal disturbances finally
caught the concern of the court and they sent Gurgin, a Georgian
known for his uncompromising severity toward revolt, to Kandahar
in 1704. Kandahar's mayor at this time was Mir Wais Hotak, the
astute and influential leader of the Ghilzai.
of law by force, burnt, plundered, murdered and imprisoned, but
the tribes would not be subdued; revolts were crushed only to
break out anew and Mir Wais, credited with master-minding the
rebellions, was sent to Isfahan tagged as a highly dangerous
prisoner. Imagine Gurgin's surprise and dismay when Mir Wais
returned to Kandahar shortly thereafter clothed in lustrous robes
of honor, symbols of respect and trust. The Shah of Persia thus
declared the influence of Mir Wais, not Gurgin, at the Persian
court. Mir Wais had extricated himself from a very nasty situation
but, more importantly, he had observed the depths of decay at
Isfahan, much as Babur had observed it at Herat, and correctly
determined that the Safavid Empire was on the brink of collapse.
formulated plans for disposing of the hated Gurgin; only the
difficult task of waiting for the right moment remained.
The moment came
in April 1709. Because details of the assassination are varied,
this discussion recounts the version popular among Kandaharis
today who say that Mir Wais invited Gurgin to a picnic at his
country estate at Kohkran on the outskirts of Kandahar city. Here
the guests were fed all manner of rich dishes and plied with
strong wines until "everyone was plunged in debauch."
This was the moment. Mir Wais struck, killing Gurgin, and his
followers killed the Georgian's escort. The rebels then marched to
take possession of the citadel.
astounded and sent emissaries to complain. The emissaries were
imprisoned. Isfahan sent armies to take the city. The armies were
defeated. The Persian court then sat in stunned idleness while Mir
Wais extended his authority throughout the Kandahar region.
If they were to
remain free the tribes must be united and to this formidable task
the venerable statesman devoted the rest of his life. But not many
years were left for Mir Wais. He died in 1715. An imposing blue
domed mausoleum at Bagh-i-Kohkran, next to the orchard where
Gurgin was assassinated, is a fitting monument to Afghanistan's
first great nationalist.
18-year-old son, Mahmud, whose visions only encompassed conquest
and power, did not, unfortunately, inherit the qualities, which
enabled Mir Wais to lead the tribes toward a meaningful unity.
Killing his uncle, elected successor to Mir Wais, Mahmud gathered
his followers and marched across Persia and seized the Safavid
throne (1722). Mahmud met an early death in 1725 and was succeeded
by his cousin, Ashraf, who ruled until 1730 when a new
soldier-of-fortune, the Turkoman Nadir Quli Beg, ended Ghilzai
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