ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Tribal Revolts in a Precarious Frontier

The Limits of Empire: Sub-imperialism and Pukhtun Resistance in the North-West Frontier edited by Sameetah Agha, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan Private Limited, 2020; pp xvii + 231, price not indicated.

Pukhtun resistance to external inter­vention has acquired many characteristics of a dominant narrative. The Soviet invasion and retreat from Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 was its longest external military intervention and ended in failure. The United States (US) is now on the verge of ending its longest external military intervention after two decades in Afghanistan and there is failure written all over this enterprise too. These late 20th and early 21st century developments focus interest on older histories, and in particular, on the second half of the 19th century as an expanding British imperialism displaced the Sikh kingdom and now had a direct interface with Afghanistan. In each of these three historical conjunctures—the British, the Soviet, and the American—the frontier areas that today comprise the Pakistan–­Afghanistan border zone have played a major role in establishing the narrative of Pukhtun resistance.

This book centres around one particular episode of such resistance in 1897, when local Pukhtun tribes revolted against the British colonial administration along the North-west frontier with Afghanistan. The geography of that insurrection is largely the areas covered by the administrative territories of North and South Waziristan, Khyber and Swat, all falling in or adjoining what was till recently termed the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and familiar to those who have followed recent events relating to the Pakistani and ­Afghan Taliban.

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Updated On : 10th Jul, 2021

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