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South Waziristan Agency

Wazirs are the most important tribe in the tangle of mountains that form the western border of the North-West Frontier Province with the Zhob District of Balochistan. Administratively it is divided into two agencies: North Waziristan Agency and South Waziristan Agency. The Wazirs are further divided into the Utmanzai and Ahmadzai clans. The former live in the North Waziristan Agency, while the latter live in the South Waziristan.

The Wazirs and Mahsuds of South Waziristan are unlikely to form any other than an uneasy and temporary alliance, and this holds for other Agencies. In Khyber there is a savage feud between the Deobandi and Barelvi sects of Sunni Islam, and the Sunnis and Shias of Orakzai and Kurram Agencies lose no opportunity for reciprocal mayhem.

Lying at the southern side of two Waziristans and named after the Wazir tribe. South Waziristan Agency is the largest in size of all the FATA bordering North West Frontier Province. It has two headquarters. Tank is the winter headquarter of the Agency while Wana is its summer headquarter. It is functioning since 1895 A.D. It is bounded on the north by North Waziristan Agency on the north-east by Bannu and Lakki Marwat Districts, on the east by Tribal Area Adjoining Tank. Tank District and D.I.Khan Districts on the south by Zhob district of Balochistan Province and Tribal Area adjoining D I.Khan District and on the west by Afghanistan. The total area of the Agency is 6.619 square Kilometers.

The Agency is mostly a mass of rugged and complex hills and ridges. There are no regular mountain alignments. The land rises gradually from south and east to north and west. The dominating range is the Preghal in the west along the border with Afghanistan. It is the highest peak which is 3515 meters high. Zarmelan, Wana, Shakki, Zalai, Spin and Tiarza are the main plains of the Agency.

There is hardly significant mining to be mentioned. Coal mines have been discovered in the disputed area of Neeli Kach Tehsil Wana. Copper is found in Preghal and Spin Kamar.

The Agency has hot summers and very cold winters. In winters the mercury goes below freezing point in places of high altitude. The summer season starts in May and ends by September. June is generally the warmest month when the mean maximum temperature rises slighhtly over 30 degrees centigrade. The winter starts in October and continues till April. December, January and February are the coldest months. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures for this period are 10 and -2 degrees centigrade respectively. The Agency is outside the monsoon zone, yet at higher altitudes fair amount rainfall is received. South Waziristan Agency has an arid climate for the most part and receives little precipitation generally. The western portion bordering Afghanistan receives more rainfall than the eastern portion touching Tank and D.I.Khan districts. Most of the Agency receives mean annual rainfall of 6 inches, while a small piece in the south eastern corner receives less than 10 inches annually.

From the time of taking over the Frontier from the Sikhs, in 1849 the Deputy Commissioner Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu controlled all political matters in Waziristan up to 1895. These areas did not come under the British control until November 1893, when the Amir of Afghanistan signed a treaty renouncing all claims to these territories. After attack on the Delimitation Commission Escort at Wana in 1894 and subsequent large military operations in 1894-95, a Political Agent for South Waziristan was permanently appointed with headquarters at Wana. Another was also appointed for Tochi area (North Waziristan) with headquarters at Miranshah. The post of Resident in Waziristan was created in 1908. The Political Agent in North Waziristan was subordinate to the Resident, who was directly responsible to the Chief Commissioner of North Western Frontier Province.

With the withdrawal of Indian government to the settled districts, the regular armed forces were withdrawn and instead local Militia was raised in 1900. However, large scale disturbances occurred in 1904 resulting murder of the Political Agent and Militia Commandant at Sarwakai. Later a plot to murder all the British Officers, seized the Wana fort and handed it over to Mullah Powindah, the self-styled king of Waziristan was discovered. The Political Agent and the Commandant on the same night disarmed and dismissed all the Mahsuds from the Militia. A few months later they were again enlisted but once again they were disbanded in 1906.

In 1936 the dales and mountains of Waziristan resounded with the echoes of Jehad. The main cause of the war was the marriage of Islam Bibi (a Hindu Girl of Bannu who was named Islam Bibi after conversion to Islam) with a Muslim. She was later on returned to her parents in accordance with the decision of the British law court. The Government sent over 30,000 well equipped army to curb the activities of the tribal lashkars in Waziristan but it met with no or little success.

Mahsuds and Wazirs are the two main tribes of this Agency. There are also some Dotaris and other Powindah settlers in the south-west corner of the Agency between Thati to Zarmelan. The Bhittanis inhabit a strip of country along the south-east border of the Agency. The Manzais are divided into Giddi Khel and Palli Khel. The Manzais have a small number of Syeds as their Hamsayas (neighbors). They are said to have come either from Yaman or Turkistan. The Shaman Khel of Shah, commonly known as "Shahoor Shaman Khel" are a mixed community of Khalli Khel and Char Khel but are treated separately: The Marsanzai is a small tribe living in Shaktu but usually treated separately.

The Mahsuds are divided into three main divisions and hence the term Dremahsuds. These are Alizai (Shabi Khel and Manzai), Shaman Khel and Bahlolzai. Each of these are divided into sections and sub-sections. These three divisions share benefits and losses equally according to what is known as Nikat. In 1917 an arduous campaign was undertaken by the British against the Mahsuds and an aeroplane was made use of for the first time in Waziristan. In 1921, the Mahsud feared an encirclement when they fought the British to a standstill in the famous battle of Ahnai Tangi. Britain wanted to occupy Razmak, which would have threatened the Masud strongholds of Makin and Kaniguram. In this fight the British casualties were 2,000 killed and injured. They finally negotiated a read peace deal with the Utmanzai Wazirs to obtain the Razmak cantonment. The Mahsud never forgave the Wazirs for bringing the British to their stronghold.

Some western ethnologists consider the Wazirs a tribe of Rajput origin probably an Indian race with admixtre of some foreign blood like that of Seythians of Tartars. According to their own traditions, the Wazirs call themselves the descendants of Wazir who was the son of Sulaiman, the son of Kaakai, the son of Karian and grandson of Ghurgust. So they are usually described as being a tribe of Karlanri or Gurgust Pathans. From this common origin come the Wazirs, a title which properly includes both the Wazirs and Mahsuds but the word Wazir has now practically been appropriated by the former.

Unlike most other independent border tribes, the Wazirs had the good sense to avoid, to a large extent, internal feuds, and their unity as a tribe is proverbial. Their blood feuds are consequently not so indiscriminate as those of some of their neighbours, it being ruled that the slaying of the actual murderer is sufficient. They are satisfied also with what they call " make-up money," the price of a male adult being Rs. 1300; a woman is only half-price, while the tariff for sword-cuts is on a graduated scale-some twelve rupees for the first half inch.

The Wazirs are Muhammadans of the Sunni sect, but, like any other Pathan tribe, they were not particularly strict in the performance of their religious duties. The mullahs have influence only so far as the observances of religion go, and are powerless in political matters, but the Wazirs are an especially democratic and independent people, and even their own Maliks have little real control over them.

Of the Wazirs, Enriquez tells us that they "are held in abomination by all their Pathan neighbours, who have a common saying to the effect that ' a Wazir will murder you for the sake of your pugaree.' ... To the poor of their own community they are said to be charitable, and they do not offer violence to the wives and children of their personal foes. Their barbarity to all strangers, however, is such that every Pathan sepoy in the Indian Army longs for nothing so keenly as a Wazir war."

"Of the Wazir," said Edwardes, "it is literally true that his hand is against every man, and every man's hand against him."

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica said that "The Waziris are the largest tribe on the frontier, but their state of civilization is very low. They are a race of robbers and murderers, and the Waziri name is execrated even by the neighbouring Mahommedan tribes... Mahommedans from a settled district often regard Waziris as utter barbarians, and seem inclined to deny their title to belong to the faith. They have been described as being "free-born and murderous, hot - headed and light-hearted, self-respecting but vain." The poverty of their country and the effort required to gain a subsistence in it have made the Waziris a hardy and enduring race. Their physique is uncommonly good... . The Waziris, who number some 40,000 fighting men altogether, are divided into two main sections, the Darwesh Khel (30,000) and the Mahsuds (8000), with two smaller sections. The Mahsuds, who inhabit the tract of country lying between the Tochi Valley on the north and the Gomal river on the south, have earned for themselves an evil name as the most confirmed raiders on the border; but they are a plucky race, as active over the hills as the Afridis, and next to them the best-armed large tribe on the frontier."


Direction of water courses, in general, is from west to south i.e. from the watersheds of Sulaiman mountains to the Indus. There are two principal rivers in the Agency viz. Gomal of Luni and Tank Zam. Some important rivulets are Khaisora, Shaktu, Splitoi,  Wana Toi, Shuza, Shinkai and Shahur. The rest are merely mountain streams generally insignificant but they all become dangerous and impassable during heavy rains which frequently occur during the months of July and August. The Gomal River rises in two branches in the eastern slopes of the western Sulaiman range in the Birmal District of Afghanistan not far from the source of the Tochi River. The Tank Zam is formed by the junction of the Tauda China and the Baddar Toi, at Dwa Toi, south of Razmak.

The tribal people of this area wear special and distinctive dress. The dress of men consists of a turban smock; Shalwar and Chaddar. The smock is generally white or grey and occasionally embroidered on the chest with silk or cotton. Their Shalwars are baggy and big. Maliks and other well-to-do wear white cotton smocks and carry Chaddar on their shoulders. The young educated males wear modern dress as worn by people elsewhere in the country. Women wear different coloured clothes as to be identified. Married women put on dark-blue or dark-red smocks of coarse cotton. The spinsters invariably of both married and unmarried women are similar and fit closely below the knee.

The people of South Waziristan eat simple food of wheat and maize bread. They are also fond of rice cooked in mutton. Pullo and roasted meat are served on special occassions.

The houses in settlements are built of Pucca bricks plastered with mud and give appearance like a fort with a tower for defence. Along Tank- Wana road passing through a grim rocky country hills, there are scattered groups of neatly built mud houses standing in the middest of grazing grounds and cultivated patches and dominated by tall watch towers. The principal villages of the Mahsuds are Makin and Kanigurram. Some of the Mahsuds and Wazirs are migratory who come down in winter and live in tents or huts in the district of Dera Ismail Khan.

Majority of Wazirs and Mahsuds of South Waziristan are pastoral. The Wazirs breed a good race of horses and sheep and earn their livelihood from sheep rearing. A large number of Mahsuds are employed in the Army, as levies and Khassadars in Militia and scouts. Mahsuds have also taken to business in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan and run buses and trucks. The other articles of petty trade in this Agency are charcoal, wool, potatoes, chilghozas and a few varieties of locally grown fruits.

Wana is the summer headquarters of the Agency. It is an important tehsil and a camp at par with Razmak. The population is mostly of Ahmadzai Wazirs. It has a vast plain and extensive valleys surrounded on all sides by hills. It is an important industrial and agricultural centre, Ladha, Makin, Sararogha, Azamwarsak and Angoor Adda are the important places of the Agency. Khanigurram is inhabited principally by a tribe called Urmar, whose origin is not thoroughly known, but are believed to be of Indian descent. They have a language of their own, and identify themselves with the Mahsud. The tribesmen manufacture small arms and knives, which are much liked by the tourists and foreigners for their finish and performance.

The civil administration of South Waziristan Agency has been functioning since 1895 under a Political Agent who administers civil criminal and revenue cases in accordance with the Frontier Crimes Regulations and Customary Law. The Agency is divided into three administrative Sub Divisions of Sarwakai, Ladha and Wana. These three sub-Divisions are further divided into eight Tehsils. Sarwakai is administered by Assistant Political Officer whereas Ladha and Wana Sub Divisions are administered by Assistant Political Agents. Each tehsil is headed by a Political Naib Tehsildar. The Malik system introduced by the British government is functioning in the Agency. Maliks used to work like media between administrations and the (Qaum) or Tribe. A Maliki is hereditary and devolves on the son and his son so on and so forth for which regular benefits and subsidies are sanctioned from time to time. Lungi system known as Sufaid Resh is slightly lower form of Maliki.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:03:03 ZULU