Pakistan is a fascinating country with a wealth of culture and tradition. In terms of the British Empire, though, it’s also the location of the famous North-West Frontier, where Brits battled locals for a very, very long time in a very, very long series of military encounters.
Because it’s such a long, complex story, and because many Brits already know something about our military involvement with Pakistan, and because this book is supposed to focus on the lesser-known events, this will be only a brief summary of what happened.
Britain gradually gained control of the different sections of territory that now make up Pakistan. For instance, in 1843, Sir Charles Napier invaded and took over Sindh after victory at the Battle of Miani.
The First Sikh War ran from 1845–46 and saw bitter fighting between East India Company forces and the forces of the Sikh Empire. The result was a victory for the company, but only after a series of tough encounters. Then in 1848 the Second Sikh War broke out. In November, Sikh forces won something of a victory at the Battle of Ramnagar. The Battle of Chillianwala in January 1849 was a bitter encounter that led to heavy losses on both sides, but ended in something of a draw. Finally, things began to go the way of the British forces. The Battle of Gujrat was fought in February and by the end of March the war was over and the Punjab was annexed.
In the north-west, a series of engagements, conflicts and rebellions ran pretty much continuously from when we started pushing into the area after the annexation of the Punjab and began taking chunks of territory that had previously been Afghan, until the time we left. There are so many of these military confrontations that it’s impossible to list them all here, so some examples will have to do to give a taste of what went on in Britain’s almost unending attempts to subdue the area.
In 1863, for example, the Umbeyla Campaign targeted Pashtuns and Bunerwals. After the initial attack got bogged down against local resistance, reinforcements were sent in and the force made it through to Malka and burned it.
Or there was the Hazara Expedition of 1888, which ended with the village of Pokal being destroyed.
Or there was our conquest of Hunza and Nagar in 1891.
Or the Chitral Expedition of 1895, which was dispatched to relieve British forces surrounded and besieged in a fort in Chitral.
Or in 1897, the Malakand Campaign, launched as a result of local hostility to the line we had decided to draw between Afghanistan and British-controlled territory. Winston Churchill himself was present at the Siege of Malakand.
The same year there was the Tirah Campaign.
Or what about the operation in the Tochi region in 1914–15? Or the assorted campaigns in Waziristan that followed the Third Afghan War of 1919? Or Pink’s War of 1925 in which we bombed Waziri tribesman? Or the fighting again in Waziristan in 1936–39? Pakistan became independent in 1947.