Afridi (pashtun)

For other uses, see Afridi (disambiguation).
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Vernacular: Pashto
Diaspora: Urdu
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Khattaks · Orakzais · Wazirs · Mehsuds
and other Karlan Pashtun tribes

The Afridi (Pashto: اپريدی‎ Apriday, plur. اپريدي Afridi; Urdu: آفریدی‎) is a Pashtun tribe present in Pakistan, with substantial numbers in Afghanistan. The Afridis are most dominent in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, inhabiting about 1,000 square miles (3,000 km²) of rough hilly area in the eastern Spin Ghar range west of Peshawar, covering most of Khyber Agency, FR Peshawar and FR Kohat.[2] Their territory includes the Khyber Pass and Maidan in Tirahin Kurram agency . Afridi migrants are also found in India, mostly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir.[3]

The Afridis are historically known for the strategic location they inhabit, and for belligerence against outside forces; battling the Mughal dynasty's armies throughout Mughal rule.[1] Their later clashes against British expeditions comprised the most savage fighting of the Anglo-Afghan Wars.[4] After independence, Afridi tribesmen also helped attack Jammu and Kashmir for Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947.[5] Today, Afridis make use of their dominant social position in FATA and areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by controlling transport and various businesses, including trade in arms, munitions, and other goods.[1]

Etymology and origins

The Afridis, classically called the Abaörteans (/ˌæbə.ɔrˈtənz/; Latin: Abaortae), have their original homeland in the Spin Ghar, a mountain range on both sides of the Durand line, located east of Kabul and west of Peshawar. The Sanskrit grammarian and historian Pāṇini, who himself hailed from the nearby Shalatur, a village located near the confluence of the Kabul and Indus rivers, mentioned the names of tribes such as the Aprits (identified with the modern Afridis) and the Madhumants (identified with modern Mohmands) who inhabited the northwestern areas, in his Ashtadhyayi in the 5th century BC.[6]

The famous historian Herodotus mentions a region bordering on the banks of the Indus occupied by a people called the Pactyans who were divided into four tribes, one which were the Aparthea or Aparutai, likely to be the Aprit mentioned by Panini.[7] The Pactyans were overwhelmingly Hindus. They laid claim to an inaccessible upland area and forced passing invaders to pay toll tax for passage towards India through the Khyber Pass. Olaf Caroe and Aurel Stein are reported to have suggested that the Afridis may be the original inhabitants of the Gandhara area (which they still inhabit).

According to Pashtun folklore, the Afridi tribe traces its origin back to the eponymous ancestor of all Pashtuns, Qais Abdur Rashid, through his youngest son, Karlan. Thus, the Afridi tribe are one of the Karlani tribes, who had a formidable reputation as warriors.

Theory of Afridi descent from Israelites

The Afridis and other Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan have also been alleged to be the descendants of the lost Jewish tribes such as the Efraim. However, DNA and other research towards validating such claims has been inconclusive.[8][9][10]


The British classified the Afridi in 8 different clans, with many subtribes in a hierarchical structure:[11]

  • Kuki Khel
  • Malikdín Khel
  • Qambar Khel
  • Kamar Khel
  • Zakha Khel
  • Aka Khel
  • Sepáh
  • Adam Khel

All of the Afridi clans have their own areas in the Tirah, and most of them extend down into the Khyber Pass over which they have always exercised the right of toll. The Malikdin Khel live in the center of the Tirah and hold Bagh, the traditional meeting place of Afridi jirgas or assemblies. The Aka Khel are scattered in the hills south of Jamrud. All of this area is included in the Khyber Agency. The Adam Khel live in the hills between Peshawar and Kohat. Their preserve is the Kohat Pass. In which several of the most important Afridi gun factories are located. The Adam khel Afridis are further divided into four clans.


All modern Afridis follow Islam. Their conversion to Islam is attributed to Sultan (Emperor) Mahmud of Ghazni by sources such as Ibbetson[12] and Haroon Rashid.[13]


Resistance against the Mughals

The Afridis were first mentioned in the memoirs of Mughal Emperor Babar, as a violent tribe in need of subduing.[14] The Afridis controlled the Khyber Pass, which has historically served as a corridor connecting the Indian subcontinent with Afghanistan and Central Asia. Its strategic value was not lost on the Mughals, to whom the Afridis were implacably hostile.[15] Over the course of Mughal rule, Emperors Akbar and Jahangir both dispatched punitive expeditions to suppress the Afridis, to little success.[16]

The Afridis once destroyed two large Mughal army of Emperor Aurangzeb: in 1672 in a surprise attack between Peshawar and Kabul, and in the winter of 1673 in an ambush in the mountain passes.[17] The emperor himself had to lead an army into the mountains to suffocate the revolt and liberate the mountain passes, and even then another large army was "badly mauled" in Bajaur.[17][18] Allegedly, only five Mughals made it out of the battle alive.[19][20][21]

Resistance against the British

The British connexion with the Adam Khel Afridis commenced immediately after the annexation of the Peshawar and Kohat districts. Following the example of all previous rulers of the country, the British agreed to pay the tribe a subsidy to protect the pass. But in 1850 a thousand Afridis attacked a body of British sappers engaged in making a road, killing twelve and wounding six. It was supposed that they disliked the making of a road which would lay open their fastnesses to regular troops. An expedition of 3200 British troops was despatched, which traversed the country and punished them.

When the Afridis of the Kohat Pass misbehaved in 1850, the Jowaki Afridis offered the use of their route instead; but they turned out worse than the others, and in 1853 a force of 1700 British traversed their country and destroyed their stronghold at Bori.

In 1854 the Aka Khels Afridis, not finding themselves admitted to a share of the allowances of the Kohat Pass, commenced a series of raids on the Peshawar border and attacked a British camp. An expedition of 1500 troops entered the country and inflicted severe punishment on the tribe, who made their submission and paid a fine.

In 1877 the British government proposed to reduce the Jowaki allowance for guarding the Kohat Pass, and the tribesmen resented this by cutting the telegraph wire and raiding into British territory. A force of 1500 troops penetrated their country in three columns, and did considerable damage by way of punishment. However,the attitude of the Jowakis continued the same and their raids into British territory went on. A much stronger force, therefore, of 7400 British troops, divided into three columns, in 1877–78 destroyed their principal villages and occupied their country for some time, until the tribe submitted and accepted government terms. The Kohat Pass was afterwards practically undisturbed.

At the time of the British advance into Afghanistan in 1878, during the Second Afghan War, the Zakka Khel opposed the British advance and attacked their outposts. A force of 2500 British troops traversed their country, and the tribesmen made their submission. The Afridis of the Khyber Pass continued to give trouble during the progress of the Second Afghan War, so another force of 3750 British troops traversed their country, and after suffering some loss the tribesmen made their submission.

In 1897 suddenly Afridis rose, captured all the posts in the Khyber held by their own countrymen, and attacked the forts on the Samana Range near the city of Peshawar. Tirah Expedition of the British forces followed and negotiations for peace were then begun with the Afridis, who under the threat of another expedition into Tirah in the spring of 1898 at length agreed to pay the fines and to surrender the rifles demanded.

In the February 1908 the restlessness of the Zakka Khel again made a British expedition necessary, but the campaign was speedily ended, though in the following April he had again to proceed against the Mohmands, the situation being complicated by an incursion from Afghanistan.


Meat is an important part of their diet which they eat in the form of kabab (minced meat fried in oil), lamb curry, chicken curry, goat curry and much more. The hotels in Peshawar Namak Mandi Bazar represent the traditional food of Afridis, especially Lamb Karahi. In vegetable cuisine bindi (okra), rajma (kidney beans), dal (lentils) and sag (spinach) are notable. Their desserts include kheer (rice pudding), meenchai (sugared noodles).

List of notable Afridis

See also




  • Encyclopedia Iranica: AFRĪDĪ
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