Kanera, Makkal and Turkhel tribes

I shall stay with the Thal region in my next post, and now look at the Kanera, Makkal, and Turkhel tribes. Of the three tribes I am looking at, two of these, namely the Kanera and Turkhel, have spread across the Indus and are now found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. All the the Thal tribes so far looked at, not withstanding a variety of origin myths, generally are seen by themselves and others as Jats. However, with both the Kanera and Turkhel, have very strong alternate claims to Baloch and Pasthun backgrounds. I will leave however this question of origin open to the reader, but I simply repeat the point I have made in other posts, namely that identity is very fluid in this borderland region. These tribes can perhaps be better described as quasi-Jat, rather than Jat. The word quasi generally means apparently but not really; does aptly describes the status of these tribes, who as peasants of non Baloch or Pashtun origin, should be considered as Jat, but are not seen as so.


The Kanera claim to a branch of the Lashari Baluch, who according to their traditions, have migrated from the Makran region in southern Baluchistan. The Sindh Sagar Doab is home to several tribes of Baloch origin, such as the Waghra Magsi, so a Baloch origin cannot be ruled out. However, the Kanera are perceived to be Jats, and were recorded as such in 1911 Census of India. According to Kanera traditions, their ancestor married a Jat, and therefore his descendents have been perceived as such.

Historically, the Kanera were involved in the manufacture of mats from grass and leaves, making string, and generally working in grass and reeds. However, at the end of the 19th Century, the Kanera took to weaving and cultivation. Therefore, the claim of the Kanera to be a Jat clan is not universally accepted, and their customs are similar to tribal groupings found along the bank of the Indus such as the Jhabel and Mohana. Like many of Jat and quasi-Jat tribes, the Kanera are now sub-divided into clans which go by the Pashto appellation khel. The larger Kanera khels include Buqa Khel, Dilay Khel, Jamaal Khel, Kalu Khel, Belay Khel, Sidiqu Khel, Saleh Khel, Golay Khel, Rehman Khel and Hazoor Khel. Most Kanera are found in Layyah, Bhakkar and Dera Ismail Khan districts, with villages generally close to the Indus river.


The Makkal are also a quasi-Jat tribe, claiming Arab ancestry. Like the other two tribes described, the Makkal are were traditionally blacksmiths, who took to agriculture. According to Makkal tribal traditions, there ancestors were Arabs soldiers who arrived in Sindh in the early 8th Century. Over the centuries, they became landless, and took to to smithing. A word of caution, the Makkals must not be confused with the Makwals, who are entirely distinct. With an improvement in status in the late 19th Century, Makkals are no longer blacksmiths, most having taking to agriculture. They are found mainly in Layyah, Bhakkar and Bahawalpur District.


Like the Kanera, the Turkhel can also be seen as a tribe of quasi-Jat status. Late in the 19th Century British colonial ethnographers such as Denzel Ibbetson considered that Turkhels were a clan of Julahas (weavers), who took to agriculture. The name is said to mean family (khel in Pashto) of the loom (tur in Pashto), or more accurately the keepers of the loom, thereby alluding to their descent from the Julahas. However, unlike other hamsaya groups (see my post on 1911 Census of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) in the Mianwali region, by beginning of the 20th Century, the Turkhel had become landowners in the Marri Indus region of Mianwali. Surrounded by Niazi settlements, the Turkhel started to make a claim to Khattak Pashtun ancestry. According to their tribal traditions, their ancestors left the country near Akora in Nawshera District, and arriving in the hill country near Marri Indus. They now argue that the name comes from the Pashto word Tor meaning black and not Tur.

What can be said for some certainty is that the Turkhel are now in the process being assimilated into the Pashtun community of Isakhel.In terms of distribution, they are found in villages near the town of Marri Indus.


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