JALĀLĀBĀD, a city, a valley, and an administrative unit of fluctuating scope within the Afghan state structure. The city is located in eastern Afghanistan at latitude 34°25′28″ N, longitude 70°26′53″ E, at 1,885 feet above sea level in the north-central portion of an elongated oval valley that stretches approximately 80 miles east to west and an average of about 30 miles north to south in the province of Nangrahār in eastern Afghanistan (Adamec, pp. 284-300). Jalālābād district is one of twenty districts of Nangrahār province, of which Jalālābād city is the capital. Today Nangrahār Province is bounded by the Ḵaybar Agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the east, the Korram Agency of FATA in the southeast, and its remaining boundaries are shared with the Afghan provinces of Paktiā in the south, Logar in the southwest, Kabul in the west, and Laḡmān and Konār in the north. The main water body of the Jalā-lābād region is the Kābol River that enters from Laḡmān and is joined by its primary tributary the Sorḵrud/Sorḵāb River approximately four miles west of Jalālābād city. After flowing through the northern outskirts of Jalālābād city the Kābol River continues its prevailing easterly course through the Hindu Kush (q.v.) mountain range, streaming north of the Khyber (Ḵaybar) Pass before debouching near Warsak in the Peshawar valley (Adamec, pp. 338-39).

The city of Jalālābād is strategically situated near the western entrance of the Khyber Pass and as such the locality has been an important dimension in and significantly effected by a large set of economic, cultural, and political relations between Central and South Asia. Jalālābād assumes particular significance in the context of the historic relations between the cultural groups oriented towards and the political economies revolving around Kabul and Peshawar, the former approximately 73 miles to the west and the latter approximately 69 miles to the east of Jalālābād as the crow flies; the most direct road between Kabul and Peshawar passing through Jalālābād was estimated at 170 miles during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80, q.v.). At present there are four main roads between Jalālābād and Kabul, and from north to south; they are (all but the first merge and diverge in Jagdalak): the road completed in 1960 that runs through the Ḡāru Gorge (Tangi-e Ḡāru) and tunnel; the road through the Latahband Pass; the road via the Ḵord Kābol Pass and Botḵāk; and the road via Tezin, Ḵāk-e Jabār, and Begrāmi. The primary channel of communication between Jalālābād and Peshawar is the Khyber main road via Dakka, Torḵam, Landi Kotal, ʿAli Masjed, and Jamrud, while secondary routes include those through the Tartāra and Ābsuna passes. While connected to and meditating relations between Kabul and Peshawar, in general terms, Jalālābād appears economically more oriented towards Peshawar, but more politically connected to Kabul.

From approximately the third century B.C.E., the Jalālā-bād area was exposed to Hellenist and Buddhist influences (L. Dupree, 1980, pp. 282-95). This ancient encounter between two surging global forces involved significant local cultural influences, and this interaction led to the emergence of the Gandharan civilization (see GANDAHARA) that prospered in the midst of continuing cultural and political influences emanating from the wider Indian, Iranian, and Chinese worlds (e.g., under the Kushans during the first centuries C.E.; see http://depts.washington .edu/ebmp/index.php; http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/themes/asianafricanman/budscrolls.html). Archeological and textual data reveal the cultural synthesis characterizing Gandhara, which had flourished between approximately the first and seventh centuries C.E. The Chinese Buddhist travelers Fa-hsien in the fifth century and Hsuang-tsang in the seventh century record a number of sites of Buddhist pilgrimage, worship, and cultural production in the Jalālābād region (N. Dupree, 1971, pp. 215-17). Hadda, located approximately seven miles south of Jalālābād city, was particularly renowned for shrines said to contain part of the skull bone, a tooth, some hair, and the staff of the Buddha (N. Dupree, loc. cit.). A significant volume of the artistic and archeological remains from this period was extracted and exported from stuppas, topes, and mounds of various sorts by Europeans in the 19th century. The French Archeological Delegation to Afghanistan excavated Hadda in the 1920s and a Japanese team worked at a proximate site in Lalma in the 1960s (N. Dupree, 1971, p. 219; L. Dupree, 1980, p. 306; Ball, I, pp. 116-18). Much of Hadda’s archeological heritage was lost as a result of Soviet aerial bombardment in the 1980s.

On his first excursion from Kabul into India in 1505, Ẓahir-al-Din Bābor, the founder of the Mughal Empire described Nangarhār and noted the differences between the Nangarhār and Kabul region in terms of climate, plants, trees, animals, birds, and people and their customs (Bābor, fols. 132a-33a, tr. Beveridge, pp. 207-10, tr. Thackston, III, pp. 271-375). The Mughal Emperor Jalāl-al-Din Akbar (r. 963-1014/1556-605; q.v.) simultaneously transformed and integrated the localities of Jalālābād and Attak, the latter being where the royal Grand Trunk road to Delhi and Bengal crossed the Indus (MacGregor, p. 295). Further Mughal investment in the region came in 1019/1610 when Akbar’s son and successor, Nur-al-Din Jahāngir (r. 1014-37/1605-27; q.v.) built gardens at Nimla at approximately twenty five miles southwest of Jalālābād city (N. Dupree, 1971, pp. 227-28). During the reign Jahāngir’s son, Shah Jahān (r. 1037-68 /1628-57), ʿAli-Mardān Khan, the governor of Kabul built a bridge over the Sorḵrud River, with an inscription on the bridge commemorating its building. The bridge is described as being of brickwork and masonry, having one arch, spanning sixty feet, and standing thirty feet above the river (Lal, p. 207; Moorcroft et al, II, p. 370). Shah Jahān and ʿAli-Mardān Khan are responsible for the construction of two bridges in Jal-ālābād valley, one bridge to the east of Peshawar (Habib, Notes to Sheets 1-A and 1-B, p. 3), and the Kabul covered bazaar, which was destroyed by General Pollock and the British “army of retribution” in 1842 (Burnes, I, p. 145; Norris, p. 415).

Jalālābād region figured prominently in the first Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42; q.v.; N. Dupree, 1975, passim; Norris, pp. 361-419). The final remnants of the decimated British army of the Indus, in full and fatal retreat, made their last stand about thirty miles from Jalālābād city at the village Gandamak on the morning of 2 Ḏu’l-ḥejja 1257/13 January 1842 (N. Dupree, 1967, p. 74; L. Dupree, 1976, pp. 523-24). The sole survivor of the entire force of roughly 15,530 that had set out from the Kabul cantonment to Peshawar a week earlier (approximately 690 British soldiers, 2,840 Indian soldiers, and 12,000 camp followers), Dr. William Brydon, arrived in Jalālābād city that evening. A British force commanded by General Sale had fallen under siege in the city the previous day and remained in that condition until being relieved by General Pollock’s army in April 1842 (Sale, passim; Sale in Stocquelor, pp. 215-21). In October 1842, General Pollock left Kabul for Peshawar, en route destroying General Sale’s fortifications in Jalālābād (Norris, p. 416).

During the second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80), the British established Fort Sale on the western outskirts of Jalālābād city. The treaty signed between Moḥammad Yaʿqub Khan (r. 1296/1879) and the British at the village Gandamak (4 Jomādā II 1296/26 May 1879; M. J. Hanifi, passim; for the text of treaty, see Hurewitz, II, pp. 417-19) during the second British invasion imposed humiliating terms which provoked a rebellion that culminated in Yaʿqub Khan’s abdication and subsidized refuge in India. Upon his accession to a now heavily British-subsidized (S. M. Hanifi, pp. 255-98, passim) emirate of Kabul in 1880, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān (r. 1280-1319/1880-1901) acquiesced to the Gandamak treaty terms with the sole exception that the British representative in Kabul be an Indian Muslim, not a European.

ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān built a garden complex in Jalālābād but devoted proportionally less attention to that city and region than the rulers preceding and succeeding him in Kabul. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān instead used material and political resources to suppress revolts in Afghan Turkestan, the Hazārajāt (q.v.), Kāferstān (which was renamed Nurestān) and in the south and east of Afghanistan. The second British occupation of Jalālābād resulted in the first publicized photographs of the city (Khan, pp. 107, 111) and its inhabitants, and the publication of a handbook in the gazetteer tradition that lists or briefly describes the resources, revenue, administration, demography, and history of the city and region (Jenkyns). In this report Jalālā-bād’s demography is notable for the numeric preponderance of Hindus among the approximately 2,000 permanent residents of the city. The region itself produced an array of fruits and nuts (pomegranates, melons, and walnuts), many prized strains of rice, wheat (the Gandamak variety being particularly celebrated), and some so-called cash crops including cotton, opium, silk, and tobacco, the quality of which did not particularly impress British Indian officials. Good crops of sugar cane were grown along the Sorḵrud River (Jenkyns, p. 9; Vigne, pp. 231-34); the Jalālābād region continues to be recognized for a variety of brown sugar (gora in Pashto), which in lumped form is well-known and highly valued in Kabul and Peshawar.

In the late 19th century Jalālābād was populated by a number of ethnic and tribal groups, among whom Paṧtuns (Ḡalzi particularly, but also Ḵugiānis, Mohmands, Ṣāfis, Šenwāris, and others) appear to be most numerous among a large constellation of sedentary and nomadic communities including populations of Arabs, Dehqāns, Hindus, Moḡols, Tājiks, Kashmiris, Parāčas, Qezelbāš, and sayyids (Jenkyns, pp. i-xvi). Colonial authorities viewed the nomadic Kučis as the distinguishing element of the region’s demography. The British occupation report also indicates nearly all Ḡalzi villages remitted their revenue directly to Kabul, not to or through the local provincial government in Jalālābād.

The near tropical climate of the area attracts an influx of winter residents, including Kučis and other nomadic and semi-nomadic people, which swells the population of Jalālābād (Burnes, I, pp. 122-23). Jalālābād has long-served along with Peshawar as a winter retreat for the Kabul elite (Bosworth, p. 237; Jenkyns, p. 3). Amir Ḥabib-Allāh (r. 1901-19, q.v.) built a palace, Serāj-al-ʿEmārāt (Bell, pp. 163-64), in the center of the city, but it was ransacked during the revolts leading up to the abdication of Ḥabib-Allāh’s son and successor, Amir Amān-Allāh (r. 1919-29, q.v.; N. Dupree, 1971, pp. 212-13). Ḥabib-Allāh, Amān-Allāh, and Amān-Allāh’s wife Ṯorayyā are buried on the grounds of a golf course that Ḥabib-Allāh constructed in Jalālābād (Gregorian, p. 201) in a mausoleum facing the remains of Serāj-al-ʿEmārāt.

The Jalālābād medical school was founded in 1963 (Seraj). Until the 1980s the Jalālābād region’s many shrines were sites of pilgrimage for Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. The shrine of Miān ʿAli at ʿAli Buqān was notable for the popular belief that it cured insanity; and the week-long Waisak festival held each April at Solṭānpur that celebrated Guru Nanāk’s generation of the local springs attracted Hindus and Sikhs from all over Afghanistan and south Asia, who came to visit the temple there (N. Dupree, 1971, pp. 227-28). The United States’ ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes most particularly the bombardment of the Tora Bora mountains in the southern portion of Nangrahār province, has introduced significant levels of depleted uranium into eastern Afghanistan (Project Censored) in addition to causing significant damage to the region’s ancient and sophisticated irrigation system through subterranean channels (kārēz/qanāt). Jalālābād city, with an estimated population of 96,000 in 2002, is presently the seat of a Provincial Reconstruction Team under the International Security and Assistance Force umbrella in Afghanistan.


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(Shah Mahmoud Hanifi)

Originally Published: December 15, 2008

Last Updated: April 10, 2012

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