Afghan–Sikh Wars

The Afghan–Sikh wars were a series of wars between the Islamic Durrani Empire (centred in present-day Afghanistan), and the Sikh Empire (located in the Punjab region). The conflict had its origins stemming from the days of the Dal Khalsa.

Afghan-Sikh Wars
DateFirst Phase: November 1751 – May 1765
Second Phase: December 1766 – 1799
Third Phase: 1800 – 1837
Result Sikh victory [1]
Durrani Empire (1751-1826)
Emirate of Afghanistan (1823-1837)
Afghan tribesmen (1751-1837)
Khalsa (1751-1837)
Dal Khalsa (1748-1765)
Misldar Army (1765-1800)
Sikh Empire (1800-1837)
Sikh Khalsa Army (1799-1837)
Commanders and leaders
Ahmed Shah Durrani
Timur Shah Durrani
Mir Mannu
Shah Zaman
Fateh Khan
Dost Muhammad Khan
Nawab Muzaffar Khan  

Azim Khan
Syed Akbar Shah  
Sultan Mohammad Shah
Akbar Khan
Akali Baba Deep Singh  
Nawab Kapur Singh
Sardar Tara Singh Ghaiba & Badesha Sardars
Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia
Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgharia
Sardar Hari Singh Bhangi
Sardar Charat Singh
Sardar Maha Singh
Baba Ala Singh
Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab
Misr Diwan Chand
Jarnail Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa  
Sher Singh Sandhanwalia
Kanwar Nau Nihal Singh
Sardar Sham Singh
Sardar Chattar Singh
Sardar Sher Singh
Kharak Singh
Mahan Singh Mirpuri
Akali Phula Singh  
Akali Sadhu Singh  
Akali Naina Singh
Sardar Lehna Singh
Sardar Ranjodh Singh
Jean-Francois Allard
Jean-Baptiste Ventura
Claude Auguste Court


The Sikh Confederacy had effectively achieved independence from the Mughal Empire in 1716, and expanded at its expense in the following decades, despite the Sikh holocaust of 1746. The Afsharid Persian emperor Nader Shah's invasion of the Mughal Empire (1738–40) dealt a heavy blow to the Mughals, but after Nader's death in 1747, the Durrani Empire (roughly covering modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) declared its independence from Persia. Four years later, this new Afghan state came into conflict with the Sikh alliance.

Battle of Attock

This battle started with the Battle of Attock, also known as the Battle of Chuch or the Battle of Haidru. This was the significant victory of the Sikhs over the Afghans. In the battle's aftermath, Sikhs seized control of Attock District. After his defeat at Attock, Fatteh Khan Barakzai, the vizier of Kabul, fought off an attempt by Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, the ruler of Persia, and his son Ali Mirza to capture the Durrani province of Herat.

Battle of Multan

The Battle of Multan was the second battle in the Afghan–Sikh wars. It lasted from March 1818 to 2 June 1818.[2] This battle ended the Durrani influence in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, and led to the Sikhs holding the city of Peshawar.

Battle of Shopian

The Battle of Shopian was different from the first two battles, due to it taking place in the Kashmir region, more specifically Shopian. This was the third battle in the Afghan–Sikh wars and the third Sikh victory. This battle included the 1819 Kashmir expedition, which led to Kashmir being annexed to the Sikh Empire.[3] After taking Srinagar, the Sikh army faced no major opposition in conquering Kashmir. The Sikh Empire had controlled all of Kashmir.[4]

Battle of Nowshera

The Battle of Nowshera wasn't fought by the Durranis, but by a Pashtun force with support of the Durranis. This was the 4th battle in the Afghan–Sikh wars and 4th Sikh victory.[5] After this, the Sikhs again came in possession of Peshawar, along with the whole Khyber Pass. With this victory, Maharaja Ranjit Singh planned to eventually push further west and take the Afghan capital of Kabul itself, which he failed.

Battle of Jamrud

The Battle of Jamrud was the 5th and foremost battle within the Afghan–Sikh wars. The Afghans had been losing their territories to Sikhs over the preceding years due to conflicts against Persia, and had seen their territory shrink with the loss of the Punjab region, Multan, Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The loss of Peshawar was the most important as the inhabitants of the region included fellow Pashtuns and the city was the considered the second capital of Afghans, so they set to reclaim it.[6]

The result of the battle is disputed amongst historians. Some contend the failure of the Afghans to take the fort as a victory for the Sikhs.[7] Whereas, some simply state an Afghan victory,[8] while another source states an Afghan victory due to the killing of Sikh leader Hari Singh Nalwa.[9] James Norris, Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M International University, states neither side could claim victory.[10]

See also


  1. Abubakar Siddique. The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hurst. p. 45. ISBN 9781849044998.
  2. Jaques 2006, p. 81
  3. Chopra 1928, p. 26
  4. Chopra 1928, p. 26
  5. Ganda Singh (1986) Maharaja Ranjit Singh: First Death Centenary Memorial. Nirmal Publishers
  6. The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Land Warfare: An Illustrated World View, by Byron Farwell Published by W.W. Norton, 2001. ISBN 0-393-04770-9, ISBN 978-0-393-04770-7.
  7. Bikrama Jit Hasrat, Life and times of Ranjit Singh, 137;"The doubtful Sikh victory at Jamrud in 1837 had made it clear to Ranjit Singh that policy of hatred and repression in the northwestern frontier so far pursued had failed in its objective."
    Paddy Docherty, The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion (Faber and Faber, 2007), 186–187.
    India and the North-West Frontier: The First Afghan War, Edward Ingram, Great Powers and Little Wars: The Limits of Power, ed. A. Hamish Ion and Elizabeth Jane Errington, (Praeger Publishers, 1993), 44; "The second was Peshawar, which controlled the entry to the Khyber Pass and had been seized in 1834 by Ranjit Singh from Dost Mohammed, Who tried in 1837 to get it back but lost his chance at the Battle of Jamrud."
  8. Jeffery J. Roberts, The Origins of Conflict in Afghanistan, 4;"In 1837 Dost's son, Akbar Khan, led an Afghan army to victory at Jamrud. Akbar, however, did not follow up his success with an advance to Peshawar, and the city remained in Sikh hands."
    Zalmay Ahmad Gulzad, The history of the delimitation of the Durand Line development of the Afghan State (1838-1898), (University of Wisconsin--Madison), 62;"1837 they fought a pitched battle at Jamrud in which the Afghan forces were victorious."
    Frank Clements, Conflict in Afghanistan: A Historical Encyclopedia, (ABC-CLIO, 2003), 74; "He also defeated the Sikhs at the Battle of Jamrud in 1837 and took on himself the title of "Commander of the Faithful."
  9. Gurbachan Singh Nayyar, The Campaigns of General Hari Singh Nalwa, (Punjabi University, 1995), 57.
  10. James A. Norris, First Afghan War: 1838-42, (Cambridge University Press), 109;"At the battle of Jamrud neither side could honestly claim a victory, but the Sikhs suffered severely at the hands of the Afghan horsemen, and they lost one of their king's favorite generals, Hari Singh."

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