Tribes of Attock: Gheba and Khattar tribes

In this post, I shall concentrate on a number of tribes that are found largely in Attock Districtt, a region where Pothohari culture and language gives way to Pashtun cultural norms. The Indus River flows along the western boundary of the district for about 130 Kilometres, dividing the district from the three bordering districts of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa. As such, identification with a tribe, a common feature of Pashtun cultural traditions, is an important source of identity in this border region. The two tribes that I will look at, namely the Gheba, and Khattar, all claim a non-Pashtun origin, either tracing Rajput ancestry or claiming a Mughal identity. I would ask the read to read this post in conjunction with my post on the Jodhra and Alpial tribes. Sources used here include D. Turner’s “The Attock District: A Detailed and Comprehensive Survey Updating Col Gracroft’s Report”, (1891) and Col. C. Gracroft. “Report on the Races and Tribes of the Attock and Rawalpindi Districts”, (1868).

Gheba

The Gheba are also found in the District of Attock, and claim to be Mughal. In fact, the tribe is often referred to the Rawal Mughals of Kot Fateh Khan, which is their most important village.

The origin of the Ghebas, like that of many other tribes in Punjab, is obscure. They themselves claim a Mughal origin. Like the Jodhra and Alpial tribes, the Gheba arrived from eastern Punjab as a small warlike band, overpowering to the Jats, Gujars and Awans who preceded them and established their feudal control over the region. However, Gheba have a number of other origin stories. In one of these traditions, Gheba is simply a nickname applied to them because they live in the Gheb, the region around the town of Pindigheb. According to another one, they are connected to the the Sials of Jhangs and the Tiwanas of Shahpur. Rai Shankar Panwar is said to have had three sons, namely Teu, Seo and Gheo, from whom the Tiwanas, Sials and Ghebas respectively are descended.This assertion contradicts their claim to Mughal origin, and would give the Ghebas as of Pajput Panwar origin. After their arrival in Punjab, the Ghebas converted to Islam at the hands of the Sufi saint Baba Farid of Pakpattan, and eventually settled in Fatehjanj, expelling the Jodhras, and become effective rulers of the region.

According to the author of the 1907 Attock Gazetteer, the Gheba are really a branch of the Jodhra tribe who quarrelled with the others, and took the name Gheba, which till then had been simply a title used in the tribe. The fact that the town of Pindigheb was built, and is still held, by the Jodhras, and not by the Ghebas, lends some support to this statement. Most Gheba clame that they are a clan of Barlas Mughal (see my post of the Phaphras for more information on the Barlas), who get there name from Mirza Gheba Khan a distant cousin of the Mughal Emperor Babar, who came here with his army during the Mughal invasion of India in 15th century with Zaheeruddin Babar. Therefore it was the Ghebas who gave the area of Gheb its name, and not vice versa. A claim of Mughal origin has now been accepted, the family of the Sardars of Kot Fateh Khan play an important role in the politics of Attock District. Prior to the arrival of the Sikhs in early 19th Century, the Ghebas were effectively independent. They are now considered equal in rank with the Jodhras and Alpials, and intermarriage with the Alpials, Jodhras and Khattars is common.

Up to1825 they certainly occupied a position subordinate to the Jodhras of Pindigheb, who were responsible for the revenue of the Gheb. The later years of Sikh rule are the period of Gheba rise first to complete independence, then to equality with the Jodhras. Rae Mohamed Khan of Kot was the first chief to refuse Jodhra overlorship and founded a principality in Fatehjang. The 1907 gazetteer says the following about Rea Mohamed:

“He was a man of much power and energy, so influential that he stood to the Sikhs in the relation of an ally rather than a subject, and so turbulent that the record of his violence and crimes remains”

It was his successor Fatteh Khan, who was the real founder of the Ghebas principality of Kot. Fatteh Khan had started off as owning 13 entire villages, about two-thirds of eight other hereditary villages, and in addition shares in several other villages, which he bought or in other ways acquired. This new consolidated estate, covered much of the country under the west corner of the Khairi Murat. In 1848, the Punjab was conquered by the British, and the Kot Estate came under there direct control. However its worth pointing out that Kot estate was always called the Kot Sarkar under the British, and the administration is the sarkar, while officials of the Government are known but as English officials.” Fatteh Khan died in 1894, when his property with his jagir passed to his brother’s grandson, Mahomed A li Khan, from who the present Sardars of Kot claim descent. Other important Gheba families include the Ghebas of Malal, Dhurnal, and Shahr Rai Sadullah. The three branches of the tribe are Rawal, Bhandial and Silial. The Kot, Dhurnal and Shahr Rai Sadullah families are Rawals. The family of Malal is Bhandial, and the Manjia familyis Sihal. Another important Gheba family is that of Mari. This family calls itself Bhandial, from Rai Bhandi Beg, there ancestor.

Like other tribes of this region, the Gheba are further sub-divided into three main muhis (clans), the Rawal, Bhandial and Sihal. The Sardars of Kot Fateh Khan belong to the Rawal branch of the family, and current Sardar is Sher Ali Khan. The Ghebas are found mainly in the western portion of the Fateh Jang Tehsil of Attock District, where they occupy solid block of villages reaching to the Kala Chita on the north, to Fateh Jang and Sagar to the east, and almost to the Sil river in the south. There main villages are Kot Fateh Khan, Manjia, Dhurnal, Gullial, Malal, Mari, Shahr Rai Saidullah, Sikhwal and Dhari-Rai-Ditta all in Fatehjang Tehsil of Attock District.

 

Khattar

 
The Khattar are perhaps the most interesting in terms of their exact origin. According to the traditions of the tribe, the Khattar were an Arab tribe that enetered in Spain with Tariq ibn Ziyad. The head of the tribe, Abu Al-Khattar was said to be a popular governor of al-Andalusia, Spain. After the downfall of Muslim rule in Spain, the tribe left and moved to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, India and north west of Pakistan. The bulk of the tribe is now found in the in Attock and Rawalpindi districts. In due course, the Khattars split up into two major sections, the ‘Kala’ (Black) and ‘Chitta’ (White); of which the Kala Khattars were mostly of mixed Muslim and Hindu population whereas the Chitta section were almost entirely Muslims, and married extensively with various Afghan, Turkish and Kashmiri tribes. The Hayat family of Wah village, from which some of the most notable Khattars have descended in recent times, are from the ‘Chitta’ Khattars, though Wah village itself was founded much later c 17th century, originally as ‘Jalal Sar’ village, renamed ‘Wah’ by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, and a pleasure garden was later built here by the Emperor Shah Jehangir. A small of Khattar also claim descent from Qutub Shah, the supposed ancestor of the Awan tribe, which would give the Khattar an Alawi Arab ancestry.
Other theories of their descent include:

“ The Khattars are generally credited with a Hindu origin,from Khatris but they are divided in belief as to their descent .Some admit Hindu origin , while those who deny it claim an Arab descent , alleging they are closely connected with Awans . ”

“ In order to meet the generally accepted belief that they were originally Hindus , even those who claim a Mussalman origin admit that while at Bagh Nilab they became Hindu and were reconverted ”

“ Khattar wedding rites used to closely resemble those of Hindus , Brahmans even being present , but they are now solemnised according to strict Muhammadan rules . ”

A further claim is that the Khattars are of Turkic ancestry; which is based on two factors: (a) supposed physical features and temperament (b) their later inter-marriages with Pakhtun/Afghan tribes living mainly in North-West Pakistan, in the Attock and Hazara regions. However, this theory neglects the Khattars’ actual and close genealogical links to various neighbouring tribes and blood kin, of Attock (Pakistan) and nearby areas, such as the Ghebas, Jodhras etc. This confusion, as to the origin, is not unique to the Khattars, in a region where many tribes, have multiple theories as to their origin.

The Khattars now occupy a stretch of land, known as Khattar, on both sides of the Kala Chita Range, and runs in a narrow strip east and west from the Indus, and across the district, in Rawalpindi, where they own, fourteen villages. They own twenty nine villages in Attock Tehsil, forty-three in Fateh Jang Tehsil, and a fair number in Pindigheb Tehsil. Their main villages in Attock District include Dhrek, Bahtar, Bhagowi, Kot Shadi, Thatha , Kutbal and Pind Sultan. The town Wah, as already mentioned, was historically an Khattar settlement. In Rawalpindi District, there villages are mostly in the Kharora Circle, in the present Taxila Tehsil, and include Dhok Phor, Pind Nosheri, Garhi Sikander and Usman Khattar. The Khattar are largely a class of feudal landlords, never really forming a majority of the population in their villages, leaving cultivation to groups they consider inferior.

 

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