Afghan presidential handover – a historical perspective

Last week I wrote a historical perspective for the BBC Persian Service on the handover of power in Afghanistan from President Karzai to his successor, Ashraf Ghani. Here is a translation of the article:

A Harmless handover

In the week of the Afghan presidential inauguration, Bijan Omrani looks at previous handovers of power in Afghanistan.

No-one would deny that the process of finding a successor to Hamid Karzai as Afghan president has not been easy. A delay of over three months between the second presidential poll and the inauguration; an assassination attempt on the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah; accusations of vast electoral fraud involving over one million votes appearing from nowhere; and weeks of protracted negotiations about power-sharing and whether to reveal the numerical result of the poll: all of this has led to widespread dissatisfaction and even fear within Afghanistan and the international community.

Yet, for those who feel this way about the 2014 Afghan presidential poll, it pays to stand back for a moment and take a longer view of Afghanistan’s history. In Afghanistan, the handover of power has never been easy, and a look at what has happened in the past might make one more sanguine about the present.

Spare a thought, for example, for Zaman Shah. He ruled Afghanistan from 1793-1800, the third king on the Afghan throne since the country was established in 1747. In the mid-18th century, Afghanistan had been a formidable empire, reaching down to the Indian Ocean in Baluchistan, and also including the Punjab and Kashmir. But by Zaman Shah’s time the country was breaking up. He had relied on various Afghan chiefs to help him secure the throne and keep his kingdom together, but caught up in bitter tribal rivalries, he started to execute the chiefs who had helped him and replace them with members of his own clan. In 1800, his former allies decided that he had to be replaced. Instead of using negotiation or the ballot box, they blinded him, piercing his eyes with a needle. One of his brothers was put on the throne in his place, and Zaman Shah later fled to British India, where he lived on a British Government pension until 1844.

He might have been relieved to have been spared the sight of what went on in Afghan politics in the first half of the 19th century. A host of royal princes – brothers and half-brothers – manipulated by powerful tribal interests struggled bitterly for control of Kabul. Five kings were deposed, two of whom managed even to regain power for short periods. One of them, Shah Shuja, was put back on the throne by a British occupying army in 1839 during the First Afghan War, only to be assassinated shortly after their withdrawal in 1842. He was gunned down by a party of riflemen after being lured out of his Kabul stronghold, the Bala Hissar. Shot through the head, his body was stripped of the mass of jewels he always wore in public, and was then thrown into a ditch.

After a further prolonged period of civil war in the 1860s which saw another struggle between members of the royal family, with no fewer than three people claiming the throne in as many years, the British were again responsible for the loss of two Afghan kings in the 1870s. Fearing Russian interference, they invaded in 1878. Sher Ali Khan, a king who had worked hard to reunify the country after the earlier civil war, fled Kabul and died in Mazar-i Sharif, probably of despair. His son, Yaqub Khan, took the throne in February 1879, but abdicated in October that year after being unable to stop Kabul rioters massacring the members of a British diplomatic mission in the city. Surrendering to the British, he complained “I would rather be a grass-cutter in your camp than king of Afghanistan.”

It was little better in the 20th century. King Habibullah (1901-1919) was assassinated on a hunting expedition by an unknown killer, shot through the ear whilst alone in his tent. His successor, King Amanullah, who had forced through wide ranging social reforms including the education and unveiling of women, was overthrown in a revolution in 1929 by outraged traditionalists. Having fled Kabul in a Rolls-Royce, his role as king was later taken by a bandit chief nicknamed Bacha-i Saqao, “the son of the water carrier”. A member of the royal family, Nadir Shah, managed to rally resistance, capture and execute him by firing squad later in the year, taking over the throne. However, Nadir himself was assassinated by conspirators in 1933. He was attacked by a number of trusted servants outside the royal harem, shot three times and stabbed with daggers.

Although the Afghan monarchy was abolished in 1973 (again, thanks to a coup where one of the king’s uncles, Mohammed Daoud, took over executive power as president and prime minister whilst the then king, Zahir Shah, was out of the country), the violence still continued. Daoud, along with most of his family, was murdered in a communist coup in 1978. Nur Mohammed Taraki, who became president shortly afterwards, was killed in September 1979 after falling out with one of his former political allies, Hafizullah Amin. After gunmen under Amin’s orders failed to assassinate him, he was captured and smothered to death with a pillow in the presidential palace. Amin himself, as Afghanistan spiralled out of control, was ordered to be killed by the Soviet government who thought that his bad government was giving communism a bad name. After failed attempts to poison him, he was killed by Soviet Special Forces when they stormed his residence in December 1979.

The 2014 presidential election and handover of power from Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani has hardly been a smooth or painless process. However, in a country where there is little tradition of executive power being transferred peacefully, and where the building of stable state institutions to allow such peaceful handovers has been deeply disrupted by decades of foreign interference, the sight of a well-ordered and amicable presidential inauguration on Monday can only give one hope. This week’s presidential handover, which has been based on the ballot box and negotiation, is a vast improvement on what has happened before.

 

Forgotten memorial: the Afghan Church in Mumbai, monument to two Anglo-Afghan Wars

The first two British wars in Afghanistan (1838-42 and 1878-80) are even today still very present in the public consciousness. Commentators, looking forward to this year’s coalition withdrawal from Afghanistan still talk darkly of the disastrous British retreat from Kabul in 1842, and Afghans still remember with pride their trouncing of the British at the Battle of Maiwand near Kandahar in 1880.

Yet, despite this awareness of the two campaigns and the continuing relevance of them to the current situation, it is curious that in Britain there are few physical memorials to them. Aside from the Maiwand Lion in the Forbury Gardens in Reading which commemorates the terrible losses suffered by the Berkshire Regiment in the battle, there is not much more to be found than a discrete scattering of plaques and inscriptions.

Nevertheless, there is one grand monument dedicated to those of the occupying armies who fell in the first two Afghan Wars. However, it stands not in Britain but in India. The Church of St John the Evangelist, which is located in the Naval cantonment (Navy Nagar) in Colaba, South Mumbai, is better known as the Afghan Church. In the aftermath of the First Afghan War in 1843, the East India Company commissioned the church to be built as a memorial to those of the British and Company Armies who died in the war in Afghanistan. The work was begun in 1847 and the church was consecrated in 1858, although the 60-metre high bell tower was not completed until 1865.

Bell tower of the Afghan Church

As architecture, the church is particularly significant as a trailblazer for the Gothic style which is the hallmark of South Bombay in buildings such as the Victoria Railway Terminus and the High Court. It is a collaboration between Henry Conybeare and the architect of Keble College William Butterfield, who provided much of the interior decoration such as the reredos, the floor tiling and the memorials for the first Afghan War.

Memorial plaque to the First Afghan War

Whilst one might appreciate the austere grandeur of the church, it is the memorials to the two Afghan Wars which really seize the attention. Needless to say, they are focused on the western officers who fell on the campaigns and there is little acknowledgement of the mass of Indian soldiers or Afghans who perished (though the Afghans do have a monument in Kabul to the Victory of Maiwand). Nevertheless, to see the array of even just these names brings the historic conflicts much closer to home.

Memorial to officers who fell in the First Afghan War, north side of sanctuary

Behind each of the names is a story – I have picked out one from the plaque below to retell here:

Detail of memorial tablet on the north side of the sanctuary showing the name of Captain John Woodburn

Captain John Woodburn of the 44th Bombay Native Infantry had distinguished himself fighting against insurgents during 1841. During this time, he had been based in Kandahar, and was involved in a notable action to contain rebels around Gereskh: on July 3rd, his force of infantry confronted a force of 6000 men under a dissenting chief, Aktar Khan, and although outnumbered by the rebels he was able to put them to flight after a pitched battle on the banks of the Helmand River. The fact that such actions were necessary was a sign of Afghanistan’s essential instability under occupation. As the situation deteriorated towards the end of the year, Woodburn was detailed to march with a small detachment of 130 men from Kandahar to Kabul. On 2nd November the small column fell into difficulty outside the city of Ghazni. Sir John Kaye, the great historian of the First Afghan War, takes up the account:

“[Outside Ghazni] they were attacked by swarms of Afghans, through whom, with consummate gallantry and skill, Woodburn fought his way to the little fort of Syedabad. The place was occupied by a man supposed to be friendly to us; and the English officer, surrounded as he was by the enemy, gladly accepted his offer of protection. But there was no safety within the fort. For a day and a night he held his position against a besieging enemy, and nobly he defended himself. But his ammunition fell short; and then there came tidings of the success of the insurgents at Caubul. On this, the chief admitted parties of the enemy into the towers of his own Harem, which overlooked the court-yard, in which the Sepoys were quartered. Then the massacre commenced. Many of the Sepoys were killed on the spot. Others threw themselves over the walls, and were shot down outside the fort. Woodburn himself, with a few of his men, took post in a tower of their own court, and for some hours they gallantly defended themselves. But they fell at last. The enemy burnt them out; and massacred them almost to a man.”

 

Memorial to the officers who fell in the Second Afghan War 1878-1880

The church also possesses some of the colours – much decayed – which were carried by various regiments in the Second Afghan War.

Plaque below regimental colours near the west door

The colours hang in glass cases under the tower:

Regimental colours

The church is a cool and welcome retreat from the chaos of contemporary Mumbai. However, there is an unfortunate air of obscurity about the place. The stonework of the sanctuary is crumbling, and a fine dust of chipped limestone covers parts of the brightly-tiled floor. The regular congregation, I understand, is in the region of 25. The caretaker proudly showed me a photograph of the Prince of Wales visiting the Church last year. However, given the historic importance of the Church and its continuing relevance with 12 years of a modern British presence in Afghanistan, it would be fitting for the Church to be better known and better connected with Britain. Such memorials should be as visible as possible, calling us to think carefully about the question of foreign intervention and its price.

View of the nave of the Afghan Church

More photographs:

Altar and sanctuary of the Afghan Church with Butterfield's tilework. Names of the fallen of the First Afghan War are on the walls to either side.

Memorial to Lt Francis Stanyer on the East Wall with Butterfield's tilework. Also commemorated on the East wall are Major Sidney Waudby and Major Richard le Poer Trench of the 19th Bombay Native Infantry

Plaque set in the floor of the sanctuary. It reads "In memory of Henry Francis Brooke, late Adjutant General of the Bombay Army, who was appointed to the command of the Second Infantry Brigade at Candahar in March 1880, and fell during the sortie against Deh Khoda on the 16th of August while nobly endeavouring to save the life of Captain G.M. Cruickshank, a wounded comrade."

A rather worn plaque in Latin on the altar steps commemorating the Reverend G. Piggot, the founder of the church. The text states that he was buried at sea "sub undis sepultus" whilst returning to Britain.

Further detail of the First Afghan War memorial, north wall of the sanctuary

View of the nave from the west door beneath the tower

Ahmed Rashid: “If they just talk to ordinary people, the Taliban will change…”

Further to my earlier post on Ahmed Rashid’s SOAS speech on Friday, there is another statement Rashid made which deserves to be questioned further. He suggested that there was an essential flexibility in the Taliban’s ideology, and that it would be softened if and when the Taliban spent more time talking to ordinary people. Should they spend more time speaking to ordinary people, the Taliban would understand their needs better and consequently moderate their behaviour and approach to governing any areas they hold, be more accommodating of modernity, and be more inclined to making a peace settlement.

There are two comments one should make in response to this striking idea:

1. The Taliban are, by Rashid’s own reckoning, a natural movement arising from the Pashtun peoples in the south of Afghanistan and the Tribal Areas (albeit stimulated and supported by external agents). If they ultimately are of the people, would they not since their emergence as a force in the mid-1990s already have had some little time to get to know their own people and understand their needs? Perhaps not. Kate Clark and Christine Roehrs, in her excellent analysis of the Taverna du Liban bombing of Kabul last week on the Afghanistan Analysis Network, points out that the Taliban’s main occupation seems to be the killing of rather than listening to Afghan civilians. In a recent UNAMA report, the Taliban were found to be responsible for 74% of civilian casualties in 2013, most of them Afghans, including “government officials, mullahs or tribal leaders judged to be pro-government, women activists or alleged spies”, i.e. people trying to get on and live ordinary lives.

2. Is it really the case that a movement whose tenets are held to come from a divine revelation going to moderate them for the exigencies of modern life? What substance does the movement have if it forsakes these notions?

Ahmed Rashid: Afghanistan and Pakistan after the Western pullout

Speaking last night at a joint SOAS/Pakistan Society lecture, the author Ahmed Rashid painted a predictably gloomy picture of the future for Afghanistan, and even more so for Pakistan. Although there was much in his analysis which seems to make sense, some of his observations about the current state of play were surprising and call for further comment.

The danger to Afghanistan at this juncture is perfectly clear. The political institutions have remained half-baked and prone to corruption. The President, Hamid Karzai, has been reluctant to prevent a culture of bribery and criminality in the highest echelons of the Afghan state. He has proved to be a vacillating leader, interested in leaving a legacy but not sure what it should be, or how to go about it. The legitimacy of the Kabul government amongst the people is not strong. The withdrawal of Western forces threatens the Afghan economy – much of the employment has been dependent on the presence of foreign institutions and aid donors, and without it many educated Afghans will be jobless. No significant economy beyond this field has developed over the last 12 years. The army and police forces are not reliable to enforce security or unity. The absence of Western forces will allow the Taliban or other actors to take over the government in the south and east of the country. Extremist movements, such as Laskhar-i Taiba, which were originally associated with Pakistan, are now operating more freely in Afghanistan and linking together with similar Central Asian movements. The neighbouring powers are not yet deeply involved in the conflict, but should one choose to enter the fray, then a conflagration involving Russia, Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and India in Afghanistan is certainly not impossible.

There is as great a danger for Pakistan. The absence of a visible enemy – the West – on Afghan soil could encourage the extremist movements to be more ambitious in bringing about their objectives of an Islamic state in the region and the overthrow of the current government in Pakistan. Terrorism in Pakistan has recently been on the increase, with indiscriminate bombings and the murder of senior officials calculated to demoralise the population. The region has not come to terms with the fact that the West will be withdrawing from the region shortly, and that the age of “Fixing Failed States” is coming to an end. Rather than the elites of the region looking to the West to bail them out and support them whilst they themselves refuse to solve the underlying problems and stand on their own two feet is a fair and important comment. Indeed, the West itself, wearied by intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Libya, is perhaps not questioning itself about the consequences of losing interest in intervention – greater repression and the development of new dictatorships are the likely results.

Thus far, the analysis seems good. However, some of Rashid’s other statements, as I said earlier, were surprising:

1. He said that the question of a military transition was relatively unimportant. What matters over the next four months is an election which is seen to be free and fair. A government legitimised by the democratic process was a necessity for any future negotiation with the Taliban. If the next election is rigged or seen to be without legitimacy, that might act as the catalyst for a new civil war which could be worse than that of the 1990s and spiral into regional conflict.

2. He suggested that the US withdrawal would cause the “peace party” within the Afghan Taliban to swell. The Taliban were now more understanding of the needs of a modern state and government than they had been in the 1990s. They were reconciled to allowing cosmopolitan and relatively free cities, recognising that they were necessary drivers of economic growth and prosperity. Indeed, the older generation of the Afghan Taliban who had lived through the Jihad of the 1980s and the Civil War of the 1990s, followed by the post 2001 exile were eager to come to a settlement and return to a peaceful existence.

3. Pakistan had lost interest in the old doctrine of “Strategic Depth” – a Great Game style notion, whereby they would be the de facto ruler of the south of Afghanistan up to the Hindu Kush (including Kabul, Ghazni and Kandahar), and call on this territory in the event of any major conflict with India. Pakistan had lost any interest in attempting to govern in Afghanistan or project its hegemony there. This, indeed, was confirmed by a representative of the Pakistan High Commission who was also present.

4. He also suggested that, although this was difficult to verify by concrete research, many of the ordinary inhabitants of FATA (the tribal areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (the former North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan) actually welcomed the use of drone strikes against extremist militant leaders who had caused much misery in these areas over the last few years.

One might append a few comments to these points:

1. It seems strange to put democratic elections ahead of the question of a secure military handover. Without the apparatus of security, no state in Afghanistan is going to be able to preserve itself against the many players who wish to overthrow or disregard it. A successful democratic election is hardly going to overawe extremists or external actors who do not consider an election – free and fair or otherwise – as a means of legitimating a government.

2. It seems incredible that the Taliban is going to allow a free cosmopolitanism in the Afghan cities – it would be completely against its essence. One only has to look at the vile and idiotic bombing of the Taverna du Liban in Kabul yesterday to see this. The Taliban is in essence an outgrowth of the historic conflict between the conservative countryside and the cosmopolitan cities in Afghanistan, and if the Taliban forsakes this idea it forsakes one of the very basic tenets of its identity.

3. Perhaps this is in truth the case, but if so it would be a change of policy overturning hundreds of years of geo-politics. The regional power based in the Indian subcontinent has always tried to control Afghanistan up to the Hindu Kush.

4. Perhaps the ordinary people of FATA do welcome drone strikes against militant leaders, but one wishes it were easier to understand their wishes. I asked Rashid whether Pakistan’s new-found interest in seeing an independent and stable Afghanistan extended to offering a negotiated settlement of the troubled question of the “Durand Line” – the outdated frontier established by the British in 1893 which is one of the basic generators of instability in the FATA Tribal Region as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan (see my articles here and here) – but unfortunately, according to Rashid, there is no particular interest in dealing with this fundamental problem. As I relate in my articles, the British who set up the line in the 1890s foresaw that it was basically ungovernable and that hot pursuit would have to be allowed to maintain its security – i.e. that something along the lines of drone strikes would happen sooner or later. A frontier constituted in such a way is hardly the basis for generating modern and secure states.

Regardless of these points, we should consider what Rashid says about the end of the era of Western intervention, especially in the region. The West may have behaved carelessly or criminally in many respects, but their presence has provided a scapegoat for enemies and a support to a fragile order. In the West’s absence, more extreme forms of government could well develop, and it is necessary to ask if the moral ease which the West gains from refusing to interfere in affairs which it considers not its own is ultimately the right option, both in terms of moral as well as practical correctness.

 

 

Afghanistan Revealed – Royal endorsement

Afghanistan Revealed, a compendium of essays on Afghan history, society and culture, which was originally published in a Kindle edition earlier in the year, has just been released as a hardback book by the publisher Pen and Sword, along with a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales.

The work has received a number of endorsements, for example from Con Coughlin, the Defence Editor of the Daily Telegraph:
‘Afghanistan Revealed is an illuminating collection of essays which go right to the heart of the issues that have afflicted this wonderful country for decades. The book is essential reading for anyone who seeks to acquire a more profound understanding of the complex web of challenges which have confronted and often confounded the world s leading politicians, soldiers and policy-makers for a decade or more.’

Copies may be purchased via Amazon through this link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1848327544/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d3_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1P31GZ9BT6XQ5TJQ26MP&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=455344027&pf_rd_i=468294

Discovered? The site of one Alexander the Great’s Central Asian Massacres…

Reading the first volume of Christoph Baumer’s excellent new History of Central Asia, I was excited to see a recent development in an ancient mystery: the question of Alexander the Great’s massacre of the Branchidae.

The story is one of the most unpleasant deeds in Alexander’s conquest of Central Asia. Its beginning lies, however, many generations beforehand. The clan of the Branchidae were the keepers of an ancient shrine of Apollo at Didyma. Located on the south-eastern coast of Asia Minor, it was on the territory of the trading city of Miletus. In 493 BC, when Darius was embarking on his conquest of the Greeks, the Branchidae willingly gave up the temple to the Persian King, who desecrated and burnt it. In return for their compliance, and to prevent them from any attack by their fellow Greeks, the Branchidae were safely resettled in a new town somewhere beyond the Oxus, in the far territory of the Persian Empire.

When Alexander was making his conquest of the Persian Empire in 334 BC, he visited the ruins of the shrine and had it reconsecrated. Then, four years later, when he had marched into Central Asia and crossed the River Oxus, he was astonished to find the distant city where the Branchidae had been settled. For their part, they were delighted to see him. Although they now spoke the local languages as well as Greek, they maintained their ancient Greek customs, and they thought that they would be protected on account of their Greek identity. Yet, some of Alexander’s troops from Miletus were not so sanguine. Some, but by no means all, remembered the betrayal, and wished to take revenge. Since the Milesians were dissenting amongst themselves, Alexander ordered them to desist, and said that he would treat them has he himself saw fit.

The historian Quintus Curtius Rufus continues the story:

“The next day, having met the Branchidae, he ordered them to go with him, and when they had reached the city, he himself entered the gate with a light-armed company. The phalanx was ordered to surround the walls, and, when a signal was given, to plunder the city – a hideout for traitors – and to slaughter them to the last man. The inhabitants were unarmed, and everywhere there was butchery; neither their common language, nor prayers, nor olive branches held out to the attackers were able to prevent the cruelty. At length, so that the walls could be pulled down, their foundations were undermined, so that no even the slightest trace of the city would remain. Moreover, their woods and their sacred groves were not only cut down, but also utterly uprooted, so that, nothing but a vast and sterile desert wilderness would be left behind.”

This deed has been a constant source of horror. Even in the ancient world, it caused unease. Curtius himself said: “If this revenge had been brought against the original authors of the betrayal, it would have been just, and not at all cruel; now, however, people who had never even seen Miletus, were now being compelled to pay for the sins of their forebears.” W.W. Tarn, one of the 20th century’s great admirers of Alexander, tried to argue that the massacre never took place.

However, according to Baumer, a site fitting the description of the Branchidae’s settlement has now been located. The ruins of a fort, Talashkan I, are in the correct position, between the city of Termez on the Oxus and the “Iron Gates” Mountain Passes. A round settlement, with 15 defensive towers, it was built at the start of the 5th century BC, and during the time of Alexander’s conquest burnt down and completely destroyed. It deserves further investigation, but perhaps the site of one of Alexander’s worst crimes has just been found.

Afghanistan Revealed… e-book out on Amazon

Congratulations to Caroline Richards and Jules Stewart on accomplishing the publication of Afghanistan Revealed, a new e-book designed to introduce the long-term history, cultural and political background of Afghanistan. Contributors include Ahmed Rashid, Clare Lockhart of the Institute of State effectiveness, and David Loyn of the BBC; I myself contributed a chapter on Afghan history.

The book was launched last Friday at RUSI in a gathering addressed by General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, and the veteran BBC correspondent Sandy Gall. The proceeds of the work go to support the excellent Afghan Appeal Fund which helps to establish schools in Afghanistan. An interview with Caroline Richards, the charity’s founder, and more about the book is in this article in the Telegraph. The book is published by Crux Publishing.

Celebrating Christmas in Kabul, 1833…

An article in yesterday’s Guardian by Huma Qureshi on how Muslims in Britian celebrate Christmas today put me in mind of an account of how Christians celebrated Christmas in Afghanistan, but 180 years. It comes from a British traveller, Charles Masson, who lived in Kabul in the 1830s in the decade before Britain’s first invasion of Afghanistan in 1838. Masson was an extraordinary character: a wanderer, scholar, deserter from the army, amateur archaeologist who uncovered the earliest traces of the Silk Road and Alexander the Great’s empire in Afghanistan, as well as reluctant spy and first outspoken critic of western involvement in Afghanistan; he deserves to be much better known today (I have written a biographical article on him here). However, his account of the Armenian Christians in Kabul in those years (there was a substantial population there in those times) reminds one that happy co-existence and mingling of religions was something that belongs not just to our own times. Masson’s account also makes us ask how things could have gone so badly wrong…

“The Christian is respectfully called a ‘kitabi,’ or ‘one of the book.’ The dissolute Vizier [prime minister] Fateh Khan, when, occasionally, an Armenian Christian presented himself, desiring to become a convert to Islam, was wont to inquire what he had found deficient in his own religion that he wished to change it? And would remark, that persons who possessed a book, and would adopt a new faith, were scoundrels, actuated by love of gain, or other interested motive…

“Living with the Armenians of the city, I witnessed every day the terms of equality on which they dwelt amongst their Mahomedan neighbours. The Armenian followed the Mahommedan corpse to its place of burial; the Mahomedan showed the same mark of respect to the deceased of the Armenian community. They mutually attended each others’ weddings, and participated in the little matters which spring up in society. The Armenian presented gifts on Id Noh Roz, or the Mahomedan New Year’s Day; he received them on his own Christmas day. If it happened that a Mahomedan had married an Armenian female who was lost to the Church of the Cross, I found that the Armenians had retaliated, and brought Mahomedan females into their families, and inducted them into their faith. An Armenian, in conversation with the present head of the Wais family said, that some person had called him a Kafir or infidel. The reply was, ‘he that calls you a Kafir is a Kafir himself.’”

[From A Narrative of various journeys in Baluchistan, Afghanistan and the Punjab including a residence in those countries from 1826 to 1838, published in London by Richard Bentley]