Mirwais Khan’s Effective Movement to Liberate Afghanistan During the Early 18th Century



Abdul Hai Habibi


Many political, military, scientific and literary figures have been recorded in the history of Afghanistan and among them Mirwais Khan Hotak stands firm amidst the ranks of eminent people in the country. We consider him to be a genius but he was neither an important king nor a world conqueror, or a great scholar. Neither was he a great writer. But he possessed the political aptitude of great kings, the bravery of intrepid warriors, knowledge of great thinkers, a fiery tongue, brilliant oratory skills, and a a deep-rooted spirituality.

In short we can say that Mirwais Khan was an effective leader who rose among the people and through his erudition had an effective influence on his people. Such leaders are sympathetic toward the needs of the people due to the fact that they do not deceive people, their words are respected, and people are ready to make all king of sacrifices which the leader may request from his followers. Mirwais Khan was a personality who had all these sage qualities.

We see the spirit of leadership in members of Mirwais Khan’s family among his ancestors. They were a leading Pashtun family in Zabul and his mother was the daughter of an important leader of the Tukhi people. He was raised in a family which was set to nurture an efficacious leader.

Mirwais did not envision people on the basis of tribalism and treated all Afghans with equality and decency. His spiritual fervor was so effective that not only Pashtuns followed him but all Afghans respected his words and deeds. The Durrrani, Ghalji, Baluch and Hazara all followed his national movement to free Afghanistan from the influence of aliens.

 Entrusted with excellent humanistic qualities he did not differentiate people and worked for the benefit and independence of all Afghans. He established the seeds of a nationalistic movement in Arghandab, as a result of which, thirty years later, Ahmad Shah Baba set up a free and great nation in the middle of Asia. It is said his mother, Nazo, always encouraged him to forge ahead and accomplish important tasks. The liberation of the nation was a task which Mirwais, based on his mother’s advice, managed to undertake to free Afghanistan from the yoke of foreign domination.

Mirwais had a vast political outlook. He managed to balance his political ambitions between two great powers of the time, the Iranian and Indian kingdoms. The Safavids and the Timurids of India, during that period, ruled over all of India and Iran.

Mirwais had deeply studied the moves of the Asfahan court. He was aware of the mental and spiritual weakness of the Safavi king, Hussain. He knew the courtiers of the Safavi kingdom well. He was also aware that the Helmand and Arghandab valleys were the cradle of great warriors and how important the region was with respect to its economic and geographical features. He managed to maintain good ties with the Delhi and Asfahan courts in order to be effective in his leadership and ensure that the nation may not suffer from rivalry between the two powers. Once he figured out he had empowered the people to the extent they could hold against the foreign invaders he emerged as a strong military leader and he portrayed his excellence in three different facets:

As a capable guide and kind elder people listened to his guidance. He was a brave war leader who managed to defeat the Safavi forces in several battles.

He was a shrewd politician who was cognizant of his position in establishing a strong state in Central Asia. Mirwais was aware of several strong Afghan sultanates that had been established in the region in the past. The Safavids, Ghaznavids and Timurids had managed to establish great empires here and he was aware that the land had historical and economic endowment and conditions existed which could be used to influence the Indian and Iranian political mistrust to set up a liberation movement in the country and once again revive the might of emperors such as Sultan Mahmud, Yaqub Lyce and Mohammad Ghori.

Mirwais Khan’s bravery and political astuteness and other characteristics are praiseworthy but I consider his spirituality as the most important facet of his leadership. He managed to bring together a split and colonized nation, created trust among the people and made them so strong that they were able to challenge and face one of the most powerful empire in Asia.

Mirwais was aware of the importance of unity among his people as foreign powers had established tribal and ethnic discord among the citizens. They used tribalism to eschew their sinister gains. Strong political leaders were made powerless as a result of disunity among the masses. Mirwais Khan’s greatness was that he managed to unite and bring together a splintered nation. During the time he was attempting to start his liberation movement in Kandahar he gathered several national councils of the people where people from different facets of society gathered to decide how they could free themselves from the yoke of Safavi slavery and how to negate the effects of their strong army in Kandahar.

The councils decided how to conduct the war? Who was going to fight? How. would they provide provisions to the fighters? And whether the movement had religious validity?

The people had so much trust and political will among themselves that no one reported the holding of the national councils to the Safavids, which took over several years. Mirwais Khan’s resolve was so strong that not a single informer or spy surfaced during this period in Kandahar to inform, Gurgin, the Safavi governor, of any conspiracy against the Iranians. To disseminate such unity in a split and divided nation was a major achievement of Mirwais Khan.

Here we will undertake a comparative study of Mirwais Khan’s movement with the heavy-handed spiritual and religious undertaking by Pir-e Roshan against the Dehli throne. In order to annihilate the national movement the Delhi throne used religious fervor against Pir-e Roshan and created the religious faction of Akhund Darweza, to counter Pir-e Roshan’s freedom movement, by another Pashtun tribe. Even though Pir-e Roshan was a brave warrior who wanted independence for his people, but he pursued a mystic propaganda campaign.

However, Mirwais Khan’s movement was based on sound political measures and sound propaganda and it was for this reason he was successful in his campaign to oust foreign influence among his people ending up in the emancipation of the country.

Mirwais Khan’s political maneuvers took a turn when he realized the deterioration in Indian affairs and the weakness of the Timuri kings in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan. He went to Iran to study the affairs at the Safavi court then he went to conduct the pilgrimage in Mecca and on his way he evaluated the Osmani empire’s might in Iraq and Arabia. He took into consideration the strength of the Safavi government and how much power he had if he were to engage with the Safavi court? Based on his studies he found that the situation inside the Safavi court was extremely chaotic as a result of infighting among the inner circles of the court and that they would not be able to conduct a large-scale military campaign from Isfahan to Kandahar. In addition the Safavids were unable to convince another foreign country to come to their aid.

After a century of bondage Mirwais managed to forge a national movement in Kandahar resulting in the establishment of an independent government and after his death the Hotak sultanate managed to extend its influence all the way to Isfahan and later, with the aid of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the authority of the Afghans spread all the way to Delhi.

Mirwais is thus considered to be a promoter of Afghanistan’s independence in the annals of its history.[1]




















[1]Erfan Magazine, Vol. 5, pp. 8-10. 1969.