‘Study of history broadens vision’

Historian and poet Arshad Karim Shalmani talks about tribal history

The study of history is of paramount importance as it expands a reader’s horizon and broadens his vision, says Arshad Karim Shalmani, a historian and a poet.

Shalmani was born in Thana area of Malakand district in 1970. Thana area is known for its high literacy rate as compared to the rest of the province. Shalmani did his BEd and MA in Pashto literature from the University of Peshawar and later took up teaching. He has several poetry and history books to his credit. He is currently writing a Pashto book: Tareekhi Leekani ao da aghe serhani (Historical writings and their analysis based on research).

He has also authored a book titled: Angazay (Echoes), and another titled: Shlamani, Yawa Serhana (Shalmani: A research). Angazay is a book of poetry mostly on romantic and spiritual themes. His book on the Shlamani tribe not only discusses the tribe’s history, but also contains detailed information on the history of Pashtuns and various theories about their origins.

“It is generally believed that historians too can become biased or promote falsehoods. Correcting and pointing the errors historians have made is an important job,” he says.

“Many historians have made mistakes in their writings, partly because certain books contain material received in the oral tradition and not based on research,” he says.

Discussing some such errors, he says, “Some authors including Major Raverty, claimed that Khushal Khan Khattak had married a girl from Khans’ family of Thana but in fact that was not a family of local Khans of Thana.”

He also rejects the claim by some historians that Winston S Churchill had fought in the Malakand campaign of 1895. Churchill, he says, was in fact a correspondent for Daily Telegraph in the Malakand Field Force.

“Several names and titles for areas in Pakhtun-inhabited regions are derived from Hebrew, such as Shalman, Maurya, Anbar (Swabi district), etc.”

Discussing legends about the history of Pashtuns, Shalmani says that Prophet Yaqoob (peace be upon him) had 12 sons from whom 12 families descended. “Two of those families are lost to history. It is believed that they are the ancestors of Pashtuns or Pakhtuns.”

“Several names and titles for areas in Pakhtun-inhabited regions are derived from Hebrew. These include Shalman, Maurya, Anbar (Swabi district), Kabul and Khost (Afghanistan), Karakar (Buner), etc,” Shalmani says.

About his unpublished work, he says that besides the book on history, he is working on another book on spiritual poetry.

Shalmani is also a member of the board of South Asia Composite Heritage, a research-based magazine run by the Institute for Social Democracy based in New Delhi, India. He also has contributed research articles to various local magazines including Uduyyana Today, Nazar and Ranra.

About the origin of Shalmani tribe, he says: “The Shalmani tribe is also known as Sulemani as they hail from Koh-e-Suleman area of Syria. Shalmani tribesmen living in Hazara division are known as Sulemanis.”

“There are number of areas named after Shalman or Shalmani tribe. For example, an area in Parachinar (Kurram tribal district) is named after Shalmani and there is a kind mulberry tree called ‘Shalmani Shahtoot’ in Chakesar and Martong areas of Shangla district. Also, there is Shalman valley located in Khyber district bordering Afghanistan,” he says.

The writer is a journalist and a PhD scholar. He tweets @peoplefriendly

‘Study of history broadens vision’: Arshad Karim Shalmani