Of the early history of the district nothing can be stated with any certainty beyond the fact that its inhabitants were Hindus, and that before the Christian era the country formed an integral portion of the Graeco-Bactrian Empire of Kabul and the Punjab. This is amply testified by relics of antiquity, which, have from time to time been discovered in the district, and have been discussed by General Cunningham at pages 25 to 33, Vol. XIV of his Archaeological Survey Report, and at pages 84 to 87 of his Ancient Geography of India.
The best known are the Akra mounds lying nine miles south west of Edwardesabad. There is a picturesque, but rather highly coloured account of them in Edwardes "Year on the Frontier," Volume I, pages 335 to 341. These mounds now consist of several rounded eminences, each covered with potsherds, stones and rubbish of sorts. The highest rises abruptly about 250 feet above the level of the country immediately surrounding it and covers an area of 33 acres. No ruins exist on it, and the only traces of masonry to be found are at the northern end where tunnelling has exposed portions of arches and brick walls. The kiln bricks found are all very large. A shaft sunk to about 40 feet in 1868-69 at the southern extremity of the mound only resulted in the exhumation of a few bones. The stratum pierced was clay. This hillock and its more insignificant neighbours are gradually but very slowly disappearing, their materials having been in request for generations past as manure. Judging from the quantities of chips of bone found, the chief mound must have been utilized for some long period as a common sepulchre by the inhabitants round about. It is the bone-earth (phosphate of lime) which makes Akra so valuable to the cultivator. Sir Robert Egerton, when Financial commissioner, visited the mounds, and at his suggestion they were declared Government property. The villagers are allowed to excavate as formerly, but are expected to bring in antiquities when found. The popular tradition ascribes the earliest occupations of Akra to Hindus to whom succeeded Greeks, Indo-Grecians and Indo-Scythians. Subsequently Hindus colonized the place calling it Sat Ram, and remained in possession until Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni destroyed it and them. Coins and other antiquities establish the settlement here of Hindus, and of races acquainted with Greek art, also of Muhammadans in later times. Thus four years ago, a villager brought in an inscribed stone he had turned up, when ploughing below the chief mound. It is now in the Lahore museum, but has disintegrated from exposure to the air. All that General Cunningham and the Sanskrit Professor at St. Petersburg could pronounce about it was, that the inscription was in ancient Sanskrit and had it been better preserved and more perfect, it "would have been invaluable." Again small moulded Buddhist (?) images are constantly laid bare here after rain. They are usually terra-cotta, but are sometimes of slate, sandstone, or soapstone. The coins found are most copper and of many sorts. Among coins lately obtained at Akra are several Graeco Bactrian copper coins of Eukratides, Philoxenes, Menander and Apollodotus; but the majority found are of the Barbaric kings, Azas, Mayas, Wema Kadphises, Kanerki, and Hwerki; coins of the Brahman kings of Kabul, Samanta Deva and Syalpati, and of the Ghaznavide kings, Sabuktagin and Mahmud are also found together with a few later Musalman coins up to Iltitmish (Altamash). Probably the place was gradually abandoned after Mahmud's raid. The most valuable antiquities are small cut cornelians and agates, apparently the stones of Greek signet rings. The following figures are beautifully engraved on some of them, a helmeted head, a horse, a bull, two cocks, etc. They are clearly of Greek design. A small mound similar to those at Akra exists at Islamnagar and another at the Tochi outpost. There are few others, but their size is very insignificant.
The ruins of Til Kafir-Kot lie a few miles to the south of the debauchment of the river Kurram into the Indus, upon a spur of the Khissor hills, which ere enter the Isakhel tahsil from the neighbouring district of Dera Ismail Khan. They occupy a commanding situation  immediately overlooking one of the channels of the Indus. The outer walls composed of immense blocks of stone, some 6 feet by 3 wide and 3 deep, with the exposed side smoothly chiselled are of great strength. In the centre are the remains of several Hindu temples or sanctuaries, the domes of which are very perfect, with steps leading up to them. The carving, representing idols and other designs, both inside and outside, is in a good state of preservation. No pottery, bones, or coins, are believed to have been yet found among these ruins.
For some years past the Indus has, during the rains been encroaching on the Mianwali plain, and has on several occasions laid bare, and then engulfed masses of stone, at a depth of some 10 or 15 feet below the level surface of the thal. In 1868, the river retired before it had quite washed away the remains it had exposed and Mr. Priestley, on examination, found at Rokri "a number of heads, apparently cast in some kind of plaster, and one mutilated figure of the trunk of a human body made in similar material, also a quantity of copper coins, fragments of pottery, ivory, etc." The ruins discovered consisted of portions of two circular walls composed of blocks of stone, and large well-shapen burnt bricks, over which was a layer of white plaster, many fragments of which were found profusely ornamented with thin gold and ornamented scroll work. The bottom of these circular walls is about 15 feet below the present surface of the plain. Mr. Priestley considers that the statues, which have clear cut and well shapen features, are suggestive rather of Greek than of Hindu cut.
Some figures of the same type as those at Akra have been recently obtained. Mr. Dames obtained an engraved crystal seal bearing a well-cut head of Greek type.
In Mianwali we have at Mari a picturesque Hindu ruin crowning the gypsum hill there locally called Maniot, on which the "Kalabagh Diamonds" are found. Its centre building now serves as a Hindu temple. The ruins themselves have once been extensive.
The temples are very similar in style to those at Kafir-Kot Til Raja, but larger and better preserved in two cases. The massive fortifications are however what make Kafir-Kot Til Raja chiefly remarkable. The stone used in building the temples both at Kafir-Kot and at Mari is a kind of travertine full of petrifactions of leaves, sticks, grass, etc. etc. It is said to be found in the neighbourhood of Khewra in the Salt Range.
The above, together with two sentry-box-like buildings, supposed to be "dolmens", near Nammal, and several massive looking tombs (?) constructed of large blocks of dressed stone in the Salt Range, comprise all the antiquities above ground in the district. There can be no doubt many remain concealed beneath the surface which accident alone will reveal. Thus the encroachments of the Indus, and even of the Kuram near Isakhel, often expose portions of ancient masonry arches and wells. The only other antiquity worth mentioning is a monster "bauli" at Van Bhachran said to have been built by order of Sher Shah. It is in very good preservation, and is similar to those in the Shahpur district.
Within historical times, Bannu has never been a theatre for great events, nor have its inhabitants ever played a conspicuous part in Indian history. The secret of its insignificance was that. It lies off all the great caravan routes between Hindustan and Kabul. True, the valley has been occasionally traversed by conquering armies from the west; and Masson, and others, have written of it as being a "highway" between India and Kabul. But in point of fact such armies first debouched upon what is now British territory either by the Khaibar or the Kuram route, which latter commences at the head of the Miranzai Valley in the Kohat district. Thus Timur Lang (Tamerlane) when in 1398 he marched via Bannu and Dang Kot on the Indus into the Panjab, most probably came by this Kuram "route," and a century later (1505) when Babar ravaged Bannu, his army had advanced by the Khaibar Pass to Kohat and thence to Bannu. It therefore seems erroneous to write of Bannu as being a "highway" between India and Kabul. Of the five trans-Indus districts, it is really the only one from which no great route leads westwards. These routes are the Khaibar, the Kuram, the Gomal, (Gwalari) and the Bolan, and they respectively appertain to Peshawar, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan and Sindh. The Dera Ghazi Khan district, besides being indirectly connected with the Bolan, has two important passes of its own, the Sakhi Sarwar and the Chachar, one or both of which promise soon to become valuable trade routes. Under the circumstances it appears only reasonable to attribute the historical unimportance of Bannu to its secludedness. If so, research into its past can have nothing more than a local interest, and it can only be profitable to inquire when and how the allocation of the tribes now settled in the district was effected. Mahmud of Ghazni is said to have ravaged the district, expelling its Hindu inhabitants, and reducing the country to a desert. Thus there was no one to oppose the settlement of immigrant tribes from across the border.
Before going into details it will be well to give a general account of the series of Afghan immigrations into this district. The order of descent was as follows:
The first to settle were thus the Bannudzais or Bannuchis. Their previous home had been in the mountains now held by the Darwesh Khel Wazirs, with head-quarters in Shawal. Sweeping down thence they soon conquered the country lying between the Kuram and Tochi rivers, and once firmly established, devoted themselves to agricultural pursuits. Their subsequent expansion was small, and only extended to their present possessions on the left bank of the Kuram. Weak Khatak communities were already settled there, but were gradually supplanted by the more numerous Bannuchis, whose pressure was irresistible. As soon as their conquests were secured to them, the new colonists seem to have parcelled out the country in a loose way amongst themselves, each group of families receiving once for all the share to which it was entitled by ancestral right.  It must not be supposed they first held by the wesh or communal tenure of the Marwats. The sons of their spiritual guide, a Sayad named Sheikh Shah Muhammad Ruhani, whose descendants now own the Sadat Tappa, have the credit of having effected the partition, and are said to have been so strictly honest in this work that every one was satisfied. They however reserved the best lands for themselves, as was only natural, considering their superior honesty and sanctity. For the next three hundred years the history of the Bannuchis is a blank. So much is clear that first the Khataks, and subsequently the Marwats, were at chronic feud with them, and that the Marwats were strong enough to check all attempts at expansion eastward of the fens of Ghoriwal; also that the fertility of the valley and the superstitious character of its inhabitants attracted to it persons calling themselves holy Sayads and leaned doctors, and that all such were welcomed and given land; also that many of the old inhabitants remained as "hamsayahs" or dependants of their conquerors, many of whom being indifferent to miscegenation, in the course of generations lost much of their purity of descent from their common progenitors, Shitak and his wife Bannu. Thus the Bannuchis became the hybrid race they now are. Nevertheless each of the numerous clans, into which they still divide themselves, preserves to this day its table of descent from Shitak. Eight pages of the Hayat-i-Afghani are taken up with those tables, but no one probably, except perhaps the learned author, has ever taken the trouble to study them. Besides the true Bannudzais, the so-called descendants of Shitak, the hamsayah group and the priestly and learned classes, all of whom are now loosely styled Bannuchis, there are several other dominant families, sprung from later colonists, who are also included in the collective term. In fact "Bannuchi" in its broadest sense now means all Muhammadans, and by a stretch even Hindus long domiciled within the limits of the irrigated tracts originally occupied by the Bannudzais. But locally and strictly the term is only applied to those claiming descent from Shitak. On the decay and disruption of the Moghal empire, bands of adventurers settled themselves on unoccupied land, and taking part with one or other of the factions into which the Bannuchis were split up gradually obtained a footing. The most notable case of the sort is that of the Mughal Khels of Ghoriwal, Yusafzai group, who conquered territory for themselves seven generations ago and still preserve in speech and physiognomy proof of their origin. Later on, during and immediately subsequent to the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah adventurers from the Durrani armies, by inter-marriage with Bannuchis or less honourable means, secured here and there plots of land and even states for themselves. From the death of Timur Shah (1793) the influx of outsider, except as hamsayahs into the Bannu valley may be said to have come to an end. Stormy times followed his decease. The Wazirs had appeared on the scene, and, greedy for land, were annexing many a fair outlying field from the Bannuchis. Then the Sikh visitations commenced (1823-1845) and continued until annexation. In such troublous times the valley had few attractions for enterprising foreigners.
The Bannuchis must have been settled down for nearly two centuries before the Niazai irruption into Marwat took place. The Niazais are Lodis, and occupied the hills about Salghar which are now held by the Suleman Khels, until a feud with the Ghilzais compelled them to migrate elsewhere. Marching south by east, the expelled tribe found a temporary resting place in Tank. There the Niazais Lived for several generations occupying themselves as traders and carriers, as do their kinsmen the Lohani Pawandahs in the present day. At length towards the close of the fifteenth century, numbers spread north into the plain now known as Marwat, and squatted there as graziers, and perhaps too as cultivators, on the banks of the Kuram and Gambila, some fifteen miles below the Bannuchi Settlements. There they lived in peace for about fifty years, when the Marwat Lohanis, a younger branch of the Lodi group, swarmed into the country after them, defeated them in battle, and drove them across the Kurram at Tang Darra in the valley beyond which they found a final home. At the time of the Niazai irruption, Marwat seems to have been almost uninhabited except by a sprinkling of pastoral Jats; but the bank of the Indus apparently supported a considerable Jat and Awan population. The most important sections of the expelled Niazais were the Isakhel, Mushwanis, and a portion of the Sarhangs. The first named took root in the south of their new country and shortly developed into agriculturists; the second settled farther to the north round about Kamar Mushani, and seem for a time to have led a pastoral life; while the majority of the Sarhangs, after drifting about for several generations, permanently established themselves cis-Indus, on the destruction of the Ghakar stronghold of Muazam Nagar by one of Ahmad Shah's lieutenants. That event occurred about 1748, and with it terminated the long connection of the Ghakars with Mianwali. They seem to have been dominant in the northern parts of the country even before the emperor Akbar presented it in jagir to two of their chiefs. During the civil commotions of Jehangir's reign, the Niazais are said to have driven the Ghakars across the Salt Range, and though in the following reign the latter recovered their position, still their hold on the country was precarious, and came to an end about the middle of the last century as stated above. The remains of Muazam Nagar, their local capital, were visible on the left high bank of the Indus about six miles south of new Mianwali until a few years back, when the site was eroded by the river. The Niazais thus established themselves in Isakhel about 270 years ago, but their Sarhang branch did not finally obtain its present possessions in Mianwali until nearly 150 years later. The acquisition of their cis-Indus possessions was necessarily gradual, the country having a settled though weak government, and being inhabited by Awans and Jats.
Closely following on the Niazais came, as already stated, the Marwat immigration. Driven from Shalgarh, they too had first settled in Tank alongside of their Niazai brethren. Both clans acknowledge Lodi as their common progenitor, and whilst in Tank there was amity between them. Time went on, and the Niazais spread into Marwat, then a nameless sandy plain. Several more generations passed before the Marwats, taking advantage of internal dissensions amongst the Niazais, swarmed northward, drove their kinsmen east of Tang Darra, and erecting their black tents on the banks of the Kuram and Gambila, squatted there as graziers. For some time they mainly confined themselves to pastoral pursuits. By degrees, as their numbers increased, groups of families went forth from the central settlements to seek new homes for themselves about the plain, but each within the rather vague limits of the allotment of the section to which it belonged. Such groups in turn became centres from which other migrations took place. Thus in process of time the whole plain became occupied, and a large proportion of the Marwats settled down into agriculturists, each community holding and cultivating its lands according to the wesh tenure. During Mughal times, the Marwats, being little interfered with, and being strong and united enough to defy encroachments by surrounding tribes, enjoyed the singular good fortune of being left to themselves, ad thus developed and worked out their ancient communal institutions. Meanwhile the Mughal Empire, which had long been declining, received its death-blow, so far at least as its Indus provinces were concerned, from Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1756; and soon after the whole of what now is the Bannu district was incorporated into the newly risen kingdom of Kabul. Marwat was never regularly occupied, but in good years, if the required amount of tribute was not forthcoming, a force was marched into it and exacted what it could. During such visitations the material loss was not great, as those who led a pastoral nomadic life retired with their flocks and herds to the hills, and those who tilled the soil either remained and compounded with the royal tax-gatherers or fled to the hills. Thus beyond the partial destruction of his crops, no Marwat lost much, as the stay of the Kabul troops was never long, and the burning of his house only gave him the extra trouble of procuring a few ox-loads of reeds from the marsh and twigs from the jungle, and running up a hut with them.
The fourth and last great wave of colonists from the west was that of the Darwesh Khel Wazirs. The tribe is divided into two great sections, the Utmanzai's and the Ahmadzai's, and has for many centuries occupied the hills between Thal in Miranzai, and the Gabar mountain. Until about one hundred years ago their camps only descended occasionally into the plain during the cold season, and always clung to the mouths of the passes leading up into their hills. Latterly their visits became annual; and between 1750 and 1775 the Jani Khel and Bakka Khel sections of the Utmanzai branch, seized the Miri grazing lands, lying between the Tochi (Gambila) and the hills. The Muhammad Khels and Ahmadzai clan next took possession of the stony ground at the mouth of the Kuram Pass, and soon after other Ahmadzai's began to occupy the Thal beyond the left bank of the Kuram, driving off the Khattak and Marwat grazing camps they found there. Still the visits of those savage highlanders only lasted during the cold months, and no great alarm was caused. Years went by. The strength of the Duran hold on the country began to wane, and by about 1818 Bannu had become practically free. A short period of semi-independence followed, and finally the Sikh domination was established. Taking advantage of the general distraction, the united Darwesh Khel's commenced systematic encroachments on Marwats, Khattaks and Bannuchis alike, and on occasion sold their aid to one or other of the rival parties in the country. On one occasion they crossed the Kuram to attack old Lakki, the head-quarters of the Marwats, but were routed and pursued as far as Latambar. After that they confined their operations to the north bank of the Kuram, and extended their hold north and east to within a few miles of Latammar and Shinwa, both Khattak villages. Once the Bannuchis became alive to their common danger, their walled villages and united front were sufficient to make good the defence of all but their outlying fields in the Daud Shah, Surani, and Jhandu Khel tappas. Both sides too learnt that peace is more profitable than war, and now and again swore a truce, during which friendly intercourse was maintained. Thus in 1826-27, when Masson paid Bannu proper a visit, be found Bannuchis and Wazirs "on a good understanding" together.
Two more Afghan tribes require mention, the Bitannis and the Bhangi Khel Khattaks. The former occupy the eastern and southern slopes of the hills between the Gabar mountain and the Gomal valley; and possess some small hamlets on the Marwat border. They have only appeared as permanent squatters inside British territory within the last sixty or seventy years, and their cultivation consists mostly of patches of stony land, near the mouths of the different passes leading into the hills from Marwat. The latter are a strong united, little section of the great Khattak tribe, and seized or spread into the hilly country north of Kalabagh known as Bhangi Khel about four hundred years ago.
Of non-Afghan tribes the only important one is that of the Awans of Pakhar in Mianwali. They have been almost the sole occupants of that extensive tract for at least six hundred years, and may perhaps have resided there since the Arab invasions of the seventh century, but as to whether they originally came from Arabia, as they claim to have done, is more than doubtful. Of the many sub-divisions of the Pakhar Awans, those of the Achhrals and Darals are most numerous. Previous to the decline and extinction of Ghakar authority in Mianwali, the Awan possessions extended westward of the Salt Range. But the advancing Niazai tide compelled them to retire before it, and for upwards of one hundred years past the mountain barrier, which runs from Sakesar to Kalabagh, has here abruptly marked the limits of Pathan expansion to the east, and Awan contraction to the west. To the south the Mianwali Thal had no allurements for the invading colonists, and up to the close of the last century, hardly a fixed settlement was to be found in it, or in the alluvial bed of the Indus west of it. Until then the Thal was but a great prairie, a frequent grazing ground for wandering bands of Jat shepherds. With the advent of Sikh domination came more settled times. Here and there a well was sunk or pond excavated, round which a few huts were erected and a permanent grazing centre thus created. In the bed of the Indus groups of Jat families had been drifting about for centuries. They too now began to take root, as organized communities settled in one particular locality. Their numbers were largely augmented by the addition of new immigrants from the west. A Biloch (Pathan) clan became dominant about Piplan, and a Biloch family settled near it at Dab from Shahpur.
Having now followed the several tribes from their previous resting places to their present homes, their connection with the outer world has to be noticed. How the Mughals ruled the trans-Indus portion of the district is not known. No forts containing foreign soldiery seem ever to have been established in their time; nor does any governor or revenue-collector appear to have ever resided amongst the Bannuchis. This is surprising as they were a civilized community possessing a highly developed system of canal irrigation and tillage, at least so far back as the reign of Akbar, if not a century earlier; for Babar in 1505 observed. "the Bangash river (Kuram) runs through the Bannu territory, and by means of it chiefly is the country cultivated." Elsewhere population was sparse, and mainly pastoral, hence forts and governors were not required. The probability is that, as in later times, the people were allowed the luxury of self-government provided they paid a fixed annual amount of tribute - for Bannuchis grain or cash, and for others so many sheep, goats and camels, and perhaps also horses and men for service. When payment was withheld a force would come and levy what it could. That unfortunate prince Dara Shah, son of Shah Jahan, is said to have once visited the valley when en route to Kabul and the largest canal on the left bank of the Kuram, Shahjoya (probably King's Son), is said to have been enlarged and extended under his auspices. Cis-Indus, an open country and less warlike races made rule easy. Accordingly we find that Ghakar feudatories of the great Mughal held Sway there until towards the middle of the last century, and until the Durani invasions swept away for ever, the last vestige of royal authority in those parts.
There still survive in Marwat a few old white-beards, who can tell strange stories of Nadir Shah and his nameless deeds. They remember to have talked in their youth with fellow clansmen who had marched to the sack of Delhi under the banner of that pitiless conqueror. Thus the modern history of Bannu may be said to date from the Durani invasions of India. Nadir Shah's great invasion took place in 1738. In that year a portion of his army entered Bannu by the valley of Dawar, and by its atrocities so cowed the Bannuchis and Marwats as to extract a heavy tribute from them. Ten years later a Durani army under one of Ahmad Shah's generals entered the valley by the same route; and crossing the Indus at Kalabagh drove the Ghakars who still ruled in the cis-Indus tracts of this district, owing nominal allegiance to the emperor of Delhi, out of the country, and razed Muazam Nagar, their stronghold, to the ground. For the next seventy years, Ahmad Shah and his successors to the throne of the newly created kingdom of Kabul maintained a precarious hold on its eastern provinces, amongst which was this district, collecting tribute in the western valley by an army sent periodically to extort it at the sword's point and in the eastern through local chiefs, to whom a large share was remitted as the price of their good will. But for those latter, too, the presence of royal troops was often required to coerce them and their clansmen into obedience. As the king's authority grew weaker, that of his vassals in his eastern or winter Indus provinces grew stronger, until one by one each declared himself independent and commenced to make war on his neighbours, only to fall on easy prey a few years later to the devouring Sikh.
In the general scramble for territory which commenced early in this century amongst these quondam vassals, but now independent princes, Nawab Hafiz Ahmad Khan of Mankera managed to annex Isakhel and part of the cis-Indus tract as well; but in 1821 he resigned the latter to the Sikhs, after standing a short siege in his fortress of Mankera, prudently declining further contest with Ranjit Singh, "the lion of the Panjab." With a keen eye for his own aggrandisement and coming events, this prudent Nawab had, three or four years before his withdrawal to trans-Indus, taken advantage of the distracted state of Marwat to assist one of the two factions into which that country was divided. The "black" or Abezarite party had lately gained a decided superiority over the "white" or Nawazite party, which in its distress was unpatriotic enough to call in foreign aid. The Nawab despatched his troops, accompanied by a revenue-collector named Diwan Manak Rai, and with their assistance the "whites" overthrew the "blacks" in a pitched battle at a place called Lagharwah, between new Lakki and Tang Darra, on which the wily Diwan informed both that his master had ordered him to take possession of the country for himself. From that date Marwat lost its independence: and for the next four years the Nawab's troops each spring, when the crops were ripe, ravaged the lands of the "blacks" and extorted a large share of the produce from the "whites". On one occasion the Diwan had the temerity to advance to Akra in Bannu valley, and requisition the Maliks or village headmen for supplies and tribute; but they shut themselves up in their villages, and defied him and his master, on which the disappointed Diwan had the discretion to retire, vowing future vengeance.
The Nawab annexed Isakhel in 1818, and overran Marwat in the following year, but was not left long to enjoy the fruits of either conquest by the insatiable Ranjit Singh, who had no sooner gained the Indus for a frontier, than he determined to advance it to the Suleman Range itself. In 1823 he crossed the Indus at the head of a large force, marched through Isakhel and Marwat without opposition, and pushed on to the outskirts of Bannu. After a stay of a month or two, he retired without attempting to plant a garrison in the country at all. For the next twelve or thirteen years the troops of the Dera Nawab and of Maharaja Ranjit Singh harried the Marwat plain alternately, until, in 1836, the Nawabs short-lived semi-independence was finally extinguished, and the Sikhs had it all to themselves. The Marwats never offered any combined resistance to the Sikhs, but on each visitation either fled to the hills, carrying their flocks and herds with them, or remained and paid what they could of the kalang (arbitrary money) and grain assessment put on each village or tappa. Resistance would have been useless, as their villages were mere collections of huts constructed of twigs, osiers, and reeds, either open or encircled with a thorn hedge.
Not so the Bannuchis, who from 1823 to 1845 were every second or third year invaded by a large Sikh army, which never entered their valley without fear and trembling; and although it generally succeeded in squeezing out of them a considerable revenue, never quitted it without having suffered severe loss at the hands of some stout rebel. Thus on one occasion Malik Dilasa Khan, head of the Daud Shah Tappa stood a siege of several days in his mud fort, and repulsed the Sikhs after inflecting upon them a loss of over two hundred men. Now the Bannuchis as a tribe were a nation of cowards compared with the Marwats; but they had nearly four hundred compact villages, each a fort in itself surrounded by a thick mud wall, strengthened with numerous towers behind which they fought well. Added to this they were adepts at night assassination, and on the entrance of the Sikhs into their little pandemonium, they by common consent suspended their own feuds for the time, called their Waziri foes "brothers," and attacked with one accord the Kafir (infidel) enemy, whenever they could with safety to themselves. From first to last no attempt was made to occupy the valley permanently, and in open Marwat even it was not until 1844 that a fort was erected, a Sikh garrison located in it and the country consigned to the tender mercies of a kardar or revenue-collector, the celebrated Fateh Khan Tiwana.
It was far otherwise in the eastern valley whore no serious opposition had ever been experienced by the Sikhs. Their connection with the cis-Indus portion of that valley commenced towards the close of the reign of Timur Shah, the feeble son and successor of Ahmad Shah the celebrated conqueror of Delhi and destroyer of the Marhattas. Before Timur Shah's death, which occurred in 1793, the Sikh troops had on several occasions overrun the greater part of Mianwali, and levied contributions and tribute from its villages; but it was not until after the fall of Mankera (1822) that it was completely annexed and settled. The trans-Indus portion, that is Isakhel, continued subject to the Nawab of Dera until 1836, when it was formally incorporated into the Sikh kingdom. But for the ten or twelve years preceding that event, the Nawab's sovereignty was more shadow than substance; for in their expeditions to Marwat and Bannu, the Sikhs used to march through Isakhel whenever they required it as a highway, and treated the Nawab and his government with scant courtesy.
Soon after the close of the first Sikh war, the council of Regency, which had been appointed, under the control of a British resident, to administer the Punjab during the minority of the Maharaja Dalip Singh, drew the attention of their adviser, the late Sir Henry Lawrence, to what they were pleased to term the "outstanding revenue" of Bannu. After due inquiry into the state of affairs in that quarter, the Resident sanctioned the despatch of a strong Sikh force, accompanied by a British officer, to compel payment, if necessary, but if possible "to conciliate the Bannuchis; to subdue them by a peaceful and just treaty; and reduce the nominal revenue, which was never paid, to a moderate tribute in acknowledgement of sovereignty." The British officer selected to accompany the force was the late Sir Herbert Edwardes, then a subaltern. But as the cold season had well nigh come to an end his army crossed the Indus, he, after a short stay of six weeks in the valley, retraced his steps to Lahore, arriving at that capital in May 1847. Although but little revenue had been collected, the Expedition was by no means barren of important results, as a thorough reconnaissance of the country bad been made, discipline and obedience had been forced on an unruly soldiery, and a suspicious people had learnt to place confidence in the authority and good faith of an Englishman. In the cold weather of the following year (1847-48) Lieutenant Edwardes returned, and crossing the Kuram at Lakki, marched up its left bank into the Waziri Thal, where he was joined by a column from Peshawar, under Lieutenant Taylor. The junction being effected, the two officers pitched their camp at Jhandu Khel in Bannu proper. By that time all the chief Bannuchi Maliks had come in and tendered their submission, and were with the camp busy watching the course of events and each other. But the Bannuchi priesthood at first remained sullenly aloof, awaiting the action of the Wazir jirga (representative council). After some wavering the Waziris too submitted, and so the Sayads and Ulama became penitent, and promised allegiance to the young Maharaja. Lieutenant Edwardes' next step was to commence a broad high road right through the heart of the valley to the open Marwat country beyond, and to select a good site for a crown fort, which should command the heads of as many canals as possible. Having chosen his site, he laid out the lines of his fort, and allotted a portion of the work to each of his Sikh regiments.
Hitherto the Bannuchi peasantry had been incredulous that the occupation of their valley was seriously intended; but as day by day the walls of the fort rose higher and higher, they became disillusioned, and felt that their days of freedom were numbered. This thought goaded some of the most bigoted to desperation, and plots for a general insurrection, supported by an invasion from Dawar began to be agitated. The old tactics of way-laying stragglers beyond the camp and shooting sentries in dark nights, which had the secret approval of the priesthood, were resorted to, and Lieutenant Edwardes himself twice narrowly escaped falling a victim to the assassin's dagger. Meantime a rough revenue survey was going steadily on, and the outer walls of the fort continued to grow higher and higher, until it seemed safe to launch the audacious order that the walls of the four hundred strongholds of the valley should be pulled down by the very hands which had erected, defended and kept them in repair for the last five and twenty years. Forth went the order, "Throw down to the ground the walls within fifteen days, or I shall punish you," and down went the walls. The Bannuchis thus riveted their own chains, and proved themselves loyal subjects of the Maharaja, but for their loyalty all the more contemptible. It was now spring time, and Lieutenant Edwardes had still to visit Marwat and tracts south of it, so he handed over charge to Lieutenant Taylor. At first, Bannuchis and Wazirs were constant in their attendance on their new Sahib, anxious to ingratiate themselves with him; and their new Sahib was working day and night trying to make the yoke of subjection sit as lightly as possible on them. It seemed, indeed, as if the change from wild un-restraint to orderly rule had been accepted by the people more as a boon, for which their forefathers had sighed in vain, than as a sad necessity.
The dream of peace was of a sudden rudely broken. The murder of Messrs. Vans Agnew and Anderson at Multan was the signal for a general uprising of the Sikh soldiery, to whom the new order of things was particularly galling. Diwan Mulraj raised the standard of rebellion, and the Panjab was ablaze. Acting under instructions from Lieutenant Edwardes, who had on the outbreak of the storm boldly marched to attack the Diwan, Lieutenant Taylor placed Fateh Khan Tiwana, in command at Dalipgarh, and started off to Multan to assist his chief in his abortive effort to besiege that stronghold with too disaffected troops and raw country levies. When the news of the rebellion of the Diwan, and of the risings of Sikh soldiery in different parts of the Panjab which immediately followed it, reached Dalipgarh, its Sikh garrison laid siege to the inner fort, in which Fateh Khan Tawana and his Muhammadan levies bad shut themselves up. After holding out for ten days, Fateh Khan, finding that further resistance was impossible, as his supply of water had failed, caused the gates to be opened, and rushed out sword in hand on the enemy, by whom he was immediately cut to pieces. After sacking the fort, the Sikh marched off with a number of captive local chiefs who had thrown in their lot with ours, to join their brethren in arms on the Jhelum, only to add their quota of slain to the number who fell under the well directed fire of our guns at Gujrat. On their departure Muhammad Azim Khan, a son of Dost Muhammad Khan, the Amir of Kabul, came down and occupied the empty fort. His advent only increased the anarchy which prevailed, for he was not strong enough to coerce the people into submission, and the chiefs who had invited him down were in a weak minority, and found that they were generally looked upon with suspicion.
Meanwhile the Lakki fort built four years before to overawe the Marwats by the unfortunate Fateh Khan, whose death has just been related, was in the hands of a portion of the rebel Sikh garrison, and remained so for some months, until Major Taylor having meantime achieved his majority, was enabled to return from Multan. Advancing by Isakhel, he invested the fort, which capitulated after a siege of a few weeks. He then pushed on for Dilipgarh as the new crown fort was called, from which Muhammad Azim Khan and his Afghans retired, without risking a fight. Within ten days after the final overthrow of the Sikhs at Gujrat, 21st February 1849, the Bannu valley was quietly re-occupied, and the Bannuchis after having experienced in the space of a few months the sweets and bitters of freedom, of Barakzai and English rule, welcomed Major Taylor back as a deliverer.
The following account of the events of 1857 is taken from the Panjab Mutiny Report:
At the two stations of Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan, in this district, there were located two regiments of Panjab Infantry, two of Panjab Cavalry, two Panjab Batteries, one Sikh Infantry regiment, one very weak police Battalion, and 180 police horse. Many of these troops were instantly ordered away to Peshawar, Jhelum, &c., and for two days, until the arrival of the 3rd Sikh infantry from Dera Ismail Khan, the station of Bannu was guarded only by a battery of Punjab Artillery and the inhabitants of the country, "an experiment," says Captain Coxe, Deputy Commissioner, "which it might have been dangerous to protract." The rapid march of the troops caused a temporary panic amongst the traders of Bannu. Captain Coxe closed the gates and talked the people out of their fears. A fresh cause of anxiety was caused by the arrival of the suspected 39th Native Infantry from Jhelum. Captain Coxe felt their presence a source of imminent danger until 600 or 700 Multani horse had been raised and collected at Dera Ismail Khan. The 39th were quietly disarmed on the 14th of July without the presence of other troops. Three days before this, Captain Renny, Commanding the 3rd Sikh Infantry, informed the Deputy Commissioner of a plot among the Hindustanis of his regiment, 113 in number, to murder all their officers. These 113 men ere disarmed the same evening, and were subsequently dismissed from the service. The plot could not be brought home to them though there is little doubt it had been laid. Another conspiracy was reported amongst the 39th Native infantry at Dera Ismail Khan with the object of seizing the fort. Timely information saved it.
When the news of the mutiny of the portion of the 9th Irregular Cavalry reached Captain Coxe, he marched to the Indus with a party of Multani horse, and travelling 60 miles in 17 hours, raised all the country to act against them if requisite, and sent Mr. Cowan, Extra Assistant Commissioner, to follow them up. His force, co-operating with Captain Hackin's party, was instrumental in effecting their destruction. The frontier tribes were turbulent during this period as is their wont, but the presence of a moveable column sent by the Chief Commissioner restrained them from ravaging our territory.
The Leiah district remained very tranquil. Only one or two slight punishments were inflicted for offences connected with the mutiny. Much anxiety was caused at one time by the arrival of a wing of the 17th Irregular Cavalry under Captain Hackin, but it remained firm. When the Khurral insurrection broke out in September, Captain Hackin marched against the rebels, leaving at Leiah 40 of his men who had fallen under suspicion. The day before he marched news reached Leiah that the whole of the 9th Irregular Cavalry had mutinied at Mianwali. Captain Fendall says, "I certainly at first thought it was a deep-laid scheme for raising the whole country, that the 9th Irregular Cavalry were to appear before Dera Ismail Khan; bejoined by the 39th Native Infantry, come on to Leiah, pick up the wing of the 17th Light Cavalry, go towards Gugera, coalescing with the tribes, and march on to Multan (where there were two suspected regiments of Native infantry). It was feasible, and would have temporarily lost us the lower Punjab." But this dreaded junction did no take place. The news proved to be an exaggeration. The mutineers of the 9th Irregular Cavalry, who, strange to say, were all men of the Cis-Sutlej states were only 30 in number, and were entirely destroyed in a desperate fight in which Mr. Thomson, the Extra Assistant of Leiah, was very dangerously wounded. His gallant conduct in the most spirited little battle was conspicuous.
At the annexation of the Punjab in 1849, the trans-Indus portions of the present districts of Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan were formed into one district, under the latter name, with headquarters at Dalipnagar, now Edwardesabad. Major Taylor thus became the first Deputy Commissioner of all this district except Mianwali, which became a sub-division of the late Leiah district.
On January 1st, 1861, the old Leiah division was broken up, and the Derajat division formed with Bannu for its most northern district. Previously the trans-Indus portion of the new district comprising the tahsils of Bannu, Marwat, and Isakhel, had belonged to the Dera Ismail Khan district, with Edwardesabad, then Dalip Nagar, as its head-quarters and the cis-Indus portion, comprising of the sub-division of Kachhi or Mianwali, to the old Leiah district. In 1862 Pakhar, a tract lying along the eastern base of the Salt Range, and the Mianwali-Thal villages of Harnoli and Wichwin were added to Bannu, whilst the eighteen villages of the Nurpur Ilaka were taken from it, and annexed to Shahpur. Since then only one change of importance has been made, viz.. in 1875, Mullazai and a strip adjoining up to the water-shed of the Bitanni Range, until then a part of Marwat were transferred to the Dera Ismail Khan district. In 1874 Dhulla Azmat and seven other villages were transferred from Mianwali to Isakhel.
Until the commencement of 1861, when Bannu was erected into a separate district, the border administration absorbed most of the Deputy Commissioner's time. Still a strong and just rule was enough in itself to largely promote the expansion of cultivation and the rapid development of natural resources. During the greater part of the incumbency of Major Taylor, the first Deputy Commissioner, the Umarzai Wazirs, were in rebellion; yet he found time, amidst the cares of his other duties, to enlarge and extend the Kachkot canal, and commence the reclamation of the Nar tracts, which until then had been debatable jungle land, claimed alike by Marwat and Bannuchis. This jungle was divided into blocks of from 50 to 500 acres each, and given to local chiefs and Pathan officers, who had been useful to him and Major Edwardes in the stormy times of 1847-49.
The next Deputy Commissioner was Major John Nicholson, from 1852 to the cold weather of 1855; and he, during a three-and-a-half years' incumbency, chastised the Umarzais, completed his predecessor's Nar reclamation schemes, partially reclaimed another waste tract called Landidak, and made a first Summary Settlement of the Bannu Pargana. His administration though severe was popular, and during all but the first year of it, the border was peaceful, and crime of all sorts was reduced to a minimum. The value of his strong rule and "English Justice" was seen at the time of the Mutiny troubles, for during them, with the exception of some petty border disturbances, Bannu remained profoundly tranquil; and the Niazai Pathans and Awans under their respective chiefs enlisted in numbers and did good service for us, both locally and at Peshawar, and in the neighbourhood of Delhi. Throughout the whole of that dark time too Captain Coxe, the Deputy Commissioner, was carrying out the second Summary Settlements of trans-Indus Bannu, and the country was making great strides in peaceful improvement.
With the opening of 1861, Bannu became a separate district, and since then nothing has occurred to seriously retard its general progress towards a fair share of prosperity. It is true that border disturbances have now and again broken out, but their effect has always been very local. It is true, too, that between 1868 and 1871 partial depression and hardship was experienced from a series of bad years, which culminated in 1869-70. But the drought only affected un-irrigated uplands, and during it all who cultivated canal irrigated and even alluvial Indus lands were highly prosperous. Thus those drought years brought great gain to a good half of the peasantry of the district, and were by no means an unmixed evil. Now, for the last few years preceding 1877-78, the accident of the season has reversed the tables. The un-irrigated uplands have borne bumper crops, prices have fallen very low, and the incomes of those who gained by the 1868-71 drought have fallen correspondingly.
Below is a list of officers who have acted as Deputy Commissioners since A.D. 1861. Those who held temporary charge for periods of only three months and under are not mentioned.
|Name of Deputy Commissioner||From||To|
|Captain Munro||1st January 1861||22nd December 1861|
|Captain Smyly||23rd December 1861||2nd November 1862|
|Major Urmston||3rd November 1862||15th January 1866|
|Captain Sandeman||16th January 1866||24th April 1866|
|Major Minchin||26th April 1866||28th August 1866|
|Major Birch||29th August 1866||20th November 1867|
|Major Munro||19th January 1868||1st June 1868|
|Major C.V. Jenkins||1st August 1868||21st December 1869|
|Mr. S.S. Thorburn||22nd December 1869||27th May 1870|
|Captain R.T. Hare||28th March 1870||9th March 1871|
|Major J.W.H. Johnstone||10th March 1871||19th December 1874|
|Mr. H.B. Heckett||4th February 1875||14th February 1877|
|Major J.W.H. Johnstone||15th February 1877||24th March 1878|
|Mr. R. Udny||25th March 1878||22nd August 1882|
|Mr. H.C.T. Robinson||23rd August 1882||28th May 1883|
|Mr. M. L. Dames||29th May 1883||Is still in Charge|
A list of officers who have held continuous charge of the Mianwali sub-division for six months and more since 1863 is given below. The special use of this and the above list is, that peasants have a habit of referring to dates of old cases by only naming the officer in charge at the time, but whether his incumbency over district or sub-division was ten years or twenty years before, the said peasant can seldom say, "I won the land when Coccus,  (Coxe,) was Dipati," (Deputy Commissioner) is all that the Bannuchi can often tell you, so a knowledge of the exact period of each officers consulship will facilitate work:
|Name of Officer in Charge||Year||Name of Officer in Charge||Year|
|Captain Smyly||1863||Mr. Tolbort||1872|
|Mr. Cowan||1864 & 65||Mr. Benton||1873|
|Captain Sandeman||1865||Captain Roberts||1874|
|Mr. Moore||1866 & 67||Mr. Jenkyns||1875 & 76|
|Mr. Priestley||1868||Pundit Suraj Kaul||1877|
|Mr. Ogilvie||1869||Mr. Homan||1881 & still in Charge|
|Lieutenant Bartholomew||1870 (5 months)|
|Mr. Thorburn||1870 & 71|
The following interesting sketch of the condition of the district at annexation, and of the progress made since then is taken from Mr. Thorburn's Settlement Report:
"At annexation Bannu proper was divided into twenty-one tappas or circles, each loosely ruled over by a tappa malik or chief, and each a little semi-independent state in itself. Amongst these twenty-one chiefs were two primi inter pares who wore recognized as the respective heads of the two great factions to one or other of which every Bannuchi belonged. In each tappa again, were from ten to thirty or more separate walled and towered enclosures, within which resided the descendants of the founders (or their supplanters,) of what I must call for want of a better term the "village," and their dependants. These latter, whether owning land or not, were and are known as hamsayahs. The walls and towers had all been lately partially dismantled, but were still sufficiently high for purposes of defence against musketry fire. In every "village" one man was recognized as malik, subordinate to the tappa malik, and all the dues paid to either were, as a rule, divided by the Maliks amongst those of their immediate kinsmen who supported them. The limits of both tappa and "village" were those of the holdings of men resident at the time within them, and wore consequently subject to occasional variations. Though might was right, the intense bigotry and superstition  of the people subjected their impulses in a great measure to the guidance of their Ulama; the general law of the land may be said to have been sharia corrected by assassination. All Bannuchis lived by the plough and spade, save the despised Hindus who had a monopoly of all trading and banking. Cultivation was fairly skilful and general, except on the confines of two hostile villages, where the peasant could only sow and reap at the risk of being shot from the boundary watch tower of the adjoining village. Notwithstanding the perpetual feuds of individuals and communities inter se, prescription and the necessity of a modus vivendi had established a common custom between "villages" and even tappas respecting canal irrigation, and this custom, though broken at times by civil commotion or other causes, always in the end re-established itself.
To the north and west of Bannu proper were the Darwesh Khel Wazirs, who from contact with the civilized Bannuchis, and from the pressure of their own increasing numbers were already passing from the pastoral nomadic to the settled agricultural state. Still these Wazirs were at best three-quarters savages, living in black tents, kezhdi, or slight booths of matting and grass, clothed according to the season in coarse woollen garments or sheepskin, and filthily dirty in their habits. South of the Wazirs and Bannuchis were the Marwats, who, though they had suffered evenly from the grinding exactions of Sikh domination and their own dissensions, were still a fine, united, and mainly agricultural race. A considerable minority of those resident near the hills still lived in tents, and led a pastoral life, but with such exceptions the whole tribe was agricultural, living in sectional communities each on its own allotment and each strictly governed by its own board of elders. Most families resided in wattled booths surrounded by thorn hedges, and it was not until after the mutiny that such frail structures began to be replaced by mud-walled and rafter-roofed huts. Now going on to Isakhel, we find that at annexation the various communities there, with the exception of some of the Khataks, were well housed, thriving agriculturists, possessing flocks and herds as well, and more land than they could utilize. At the time much of the bed of the Indus was a jungle of Shisham trees and tiger grass, in which the sport-loving Niazis of both banks used to have great drives after pig, hog-deer, and other game. Here and there the jungle had been cleared and settled on by a small compact group of families, half graziers, half cultivators. Across the Indus in Mianwali the social state of its inhabitants was much as in Isakhel, excepting that in the south, cultivation was more backward, population being very sparse and a roving pastoral life being easier than that of the settled cultivator.
To contrast the difference between 1850 and 1877 in a few words, I may say that since the former year cultivation has more than doubled, population has increased 20 per cent. Seven thousand nomadic and mostly pastoral Wazirs have grown into 14,000, holding 60,000 acres of cultivated land, litigation has increased to such an extent that out of every one hundred heads of families nine indulge once a year in a law suit, criminal statistics show that crime has fallen to the level of an orderly cis-Indus district like Shahpur, the land revenue has grown from Rs 3,80,559 in 1854 to Rs. 4,35,523, although the incidence per cultivated acre has fallen from Rs. 1-6-11 to 0-12-2. Instead of one high road of sixty miles in length and destitute of bridges, there are now 300 miles of high roads with scores of masonry bridges on them, and finally, instead of a restless suspicious population, there is now a quiet law-abiding trustful people the great mass of which, I honestly believe, thoroughly loyal."
Kafir-Kot is 2,194 feet above the sea level.
The first authentic mention of the Bannuchis occurs in Babar's "Memoirs". He includes the whole of the western valley, i.e., the present tahsil of Bannu and Marwat, as "Bannu territory," and says "of the Afghan tribes, the Kerani, the Kivi, the Sur, the Isakhel and Niazai cultivate the ground in this country." the three first are Bannuchi clans, viz., the Kerani are the Mirakhels and Ismailkhels, the Sur are the Suranis, and the Kivi are the Niris of today. The mention of the Isakhel, as though they were distinct from the Niazais, shows at least that then, as now, they were the most distinguished section of their tribe. Babar also establishes the interesting fact that when he came (1505) the Niazais were settlers in what now is Marwat.
Pathan tribes, however barbarous, seem generally to divide new acquisitions on some established equitable principle, e.g., ancestral shares or number of families or mouths (khola) in each Khel. The tracts seized by Waziri clans from forty to a hundred years ago were also divided, and the Haramtala estate granted to the thieving Dhanna and Wurgaro Bittanis in 1866 has been divided by them amongst themselves according to ancestral shares.
The affix "Sahib" is often omitted owing to ignorance, not disrespect.
As an instance in
the present day I may relate the following circumstances:
Nicholson, when Deputy Commissioner, hung a murderer, and had the body buried in a corner of what is now my bungalow compound. The dead man's friends, presumably after Nicholson had left Bannu, built a tomb over the grave and lit diwahs over it every Thursday evening; in short made the man a martyr, and the grave a place of pilgrimage. For many years the tomb was left undisturbed though in the line of the servants' houses. At last a late owner of the bungalow himself dismantled the tomb and built over it. Such was the position when I bought the bungalow. Some time after I happened to go into the hut erected over the grave, and there I found the tomb partially restored, and a number of diwahs round it. The servant occupant said he had seen two snakes in the hut, and supposing them to be the guardians of the grave, had renewed its superstructure, and that the people were in the habit of coming and salaming at it.