Nawab's Palace, Upper Dir, Pakistan
Nawab's fort in Dir town. These days empty, except birds and wind rushing through empty quarters. February 2011, Pakistan.
Throughout the 19th century the Khans of Dir effectively controlled only upper Dir and their attempts to dominate lower Dir and even lower Swat were strongly resisted. A notable opponent was the famous Umra Khan of Jandool, a bitter enemy of British hegemony. In 1895 he intervened in the struggle for the succession to the Mehtar of Chitral and besieged the British Political Agent. After some hesitation Khan Mohammad Sharif of Dir assisted the 10,000 strong British relief force and was duly rewarded. During the withdrawal of the relief force he met the Political Agent Malakand at Janbhatai Kandao.
The resulting treaty recognized the Khan as ruler of both upper and lower Dir and also lower Swat. British protection was guaranteed provided he refrained from contact with all foreign rulers, especially with the A mir of Afghanistan.
In lieu of his right to charge tolls he received an annual subsidy of Rupees 10,000 and an additional grant of Rupees 15,000 to pay for a corps of levies to protect postal services, troop relief's and other traffic with Chitral.
Further assistance was provided to build forts or levy posts between Chakdarra and Lowarai which are still in use.
Finally, after a visit to the Viceroy in Calcutta Mohammad Sharif was awarded the title of' Nawab.
Mohammad Sharif proved his loyalty to the British during the Malakand rising of 1897, dying in 1904. Both he and his successors, Aurangzeb 1904-1925 and Shah Jehan 1925-1960, were however deeply reactionary autocrats opposing all forms of social and economic development and especially suspicious of any subject who sought a modern education.
The Nawabs' attitudes and policy were in marked contrast with those of the Wali of Swat, the first of whom had regained lower Swat from Dir and obtained British recognition in 1917. As a result and to this day, Dir remains poorer, less developed, less liberal in religion and politics and less stablethan its better known neighbour.
After Partition in 1947 Nawab Shah Jehan made his three sons governors of different parts of the state; Mohammad Shah Kisro taking upper Dir, Shahabuddin Khan governing Munda and Samar Bagh in the south-west and Mohammad Shah administering Balambat and Maidan (tehsil Lalqila). In Maidan the people tired of Mohammad Shah's oppressive rule and in particular his demands for forced labour.
They broke out in revolt in 1960 killing 200 of the Nawab's men including its commander. This attracted unfavourable notice in the press and General Yahya, Field Marshal Ayub Khan's successor as Pakistan's Head of State, exiled Nawab Shah Jehan to Islamabad where he died in 1968. He was replaced by Mohammad Shah Kisro who left the business of government to the Political Agent until 1969 when he too was removed along with the Wali of Swat and other traditional rulers whose territories were then formally annexed into Pakistan.