The Durrani dynasty
The commander of the Shah's 4,000-man Afghan bodyguard was Ahmad
Khan Abdali, who returned to Qandahar where he was elected king (shah)
by a tribal council. He adopted the title Durr-i Durran ("Pearl
of Pearls"). Supported by most tribal leaders, Ahmad Shah Durrani
extended Afghan control from Meshed to Kashmir and Delhi, from the
Amu River to the Arabian Sea. The Durrani was the second greatest
Muslim empire in the second half of the 18th century, surpassed in
size only by the Ottoman.
Ahmad Shah died in 1772 and was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah,
who received but nominal homage from the tribal chieftains. Much
of his reign was spent in quelling their rebellions. Because of
this opposition, Timur shifted his capital from Qandahar to Kabul
After the death of Timur in 1793, his fifth son, Zaman, seized
the throne with the help of Sardar Payenda Khan, a chief of the
Barakzay. Zaman then turned to India with the object of repeating
the exploits of Ahmad Shah. This alarmed the British, who induced Fath
'Ali Shah of Persia to bring pressure upon the Afghan king and divert
his attention from India. The shah went a step further, helping Mahmud,
governor of Herat and a brother of Zaman, with men and money and
encouraging him to advance on Qandahar. Mahmud, assisted by his
vizier, Fath Khan Barakzay, eldest son of Sardar Payenda Khan,
and by Fath 'Ali Shah, took Qandahar and advanced on Kabul. Zaman,
in India, hurried back to Afghanistan. There he was handed over
to Mahmud, blinded, and imprisoned (1800). The Durrani Empire had
begun to disintegrate after 1798, when Zaman Shah appointed a Sikh,
Ranjit Singh, as governor of Lahore.
Shah Mahmud left affairs of state to Fath Khan. Some of the chiefs
who had grievances against the King or his ministers joined forces
and invited Zaman's brother Shah Shoja' to Kabul. The intrigue
was successful. Shah Shoja' occupied the capital, and Mahmud sued
The new king, Shah Shoja', ascended the throne in 1803. The chiefs
had become powerful and unruly, and the outlying provinces were
asserting their independence. The Sikhs of the Punjab were encroaching
upon Afghan territories from the east, while the Persians were threatening
from the west.
Napoleon, then at the zenith of his power in Europe, proposed to
Alexander I of Russia a combined invasion of India. A British mission,
headed by Mountstuart Elphinstone, met Shah Shoja' at Peshawar to
discuss mutual defense against this threat, which never developed.
A treaty of friendship was concluded (June 7, 1809), the shah
promising to oppose the passage of foreign troops through his
dominions. Shortly after the mission left Peshawar news was received
that Kabul had been occupied by the forces of Mahmud and Fath Khan.
Shah Shoja''s troops were routed, and he withdrew from Afghanistan
and found asylum with the British at Ludhiana in 1815.
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