BĀBORĪ (or Bābor, Bābar; sing. Bāboray), a Paṧtūn tribe originally from the Solaymān mountains, now widely dispersed. Its principal territory lies in Pakistan on the border between the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan, extending over the Solaymān mountains into the Dērajāt foothills around Chaudhwan, where certain lineages are said to have been domiciled since the fourteenth century (H. A. Rose, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Lahore, 1919, repr. Lahore, 1978, II, p. 31). Estimates of the tribe’s strength at the end of the nineteenth century differ greatly; H. Raverty suggested a total of 6-7,000 families (Notes on Afghanistan and Part of Baluchistan, London, 1880-88, repr. Lahore, 1976, p. 328), which seems excessive, whereas the British Indian General Staff reckoned 700 fighting men, a figure implying a much lower total of only about 4-5,000 persons (A Dictionary of the Pathan Tribes on the North-West Frontier of India, Calcutta, 1899, p. 25).
Reports from the late eighteenth century onward give evidence of the tribe’s participation in long-range trade between Central Asia and India (H. Raverty, op. cit., p. 329; M. Elphinstone, An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, London, 1815, repr. Graz, 1969, p. 377). Commercial incentives stimulated an influx of Bāborī into the Peshawar district (D. Ibbetson, Panjab Castes, Lahore, 1916, repr. New Delhi, 1981, Lahore, 1982, p. 73) and above all into certain parts of Afghanistan, where they found openings in the annual gathering of asafetida gum (heng) and the trade in sheep and sheep skin jackets (pūstīn) (Baluchistan through the Ages, 1906, repr. Quetta, 1979, II, p. 49). In this connection, there is a reference in Moḥammad Ḥayāt Khan’s work (Afghanistan and its Inhabitants, tr. from the “Hayat-i-Afghan” by H. Priestley, Lahore, 1874, repr. Lahore, 1981, p. 80) to the presence of some 500 Bāborī families scattered over the country, in the Arḡandāb, Lōgar, and Konar valleys, at Qandahār, and around Kābol. What happened to these settlements in later times is not known. There is a village named Bāborī in the province of Nangrahār (M. H. Nāḥeż, ed., Qāmūs-e joḡrāfīāʾī-e Afḡānestān I, Kabul, 1335 Š./1956, p. 189), but the name does not necessarily prove a connection. The nomadic survey of 1357 Š./1978 recorded fewer than one thousand Bāborī families (280 nomadic, 695 semi-nomadic), all in other parts of Afghanistan. Most of them live north of Qaysār (Fāryāb province) and around Šeberḡān (Jawzjān province) during the winter and in the upper Morḡāb region during the summer. Smaller groups live in the Dašt-e Aṛčī in the district of Qaṭagān, around Balḵ, along the middle course of the Harīrūd, and in the Helmand valley (D. Balland and A. de Benoist, Nomades et semi-nomades d’Afghanistan (forthcoming). On the Bāborī of Fāryāb, see also Gazetteer of Afghanistan IV, Graz, 1979, p. 291). There are mentions of the following Bāborī lineages in Afghanistan: Ḡōrḵēl (also Ḡōrīzī, which may be a variant form), Ebrāhīmḵēl, Malaḵēl, ʿOmrānḵēl. Only the first and second of these (the first in the forms Ḡōryāḵēl or Ḡōrāḵēl) have been recorded as also present in Pakistan (Ḥayāt Khan, op. cit., p. 77. Šēr Moḥammad Khan, Tawārīḵ-e ḵᵛoršīd-e jahān, Lahore, 1311/1894, p. 180. H. A. Rose, Glossary II, p. 31).
The Bāborī are treated by genealogists as a section of the Šērānī tribe. They are in fact the latter’s neighbors in Pakistan, but so distinct that neither has any sense of common tribal solidarity; the Bāborī even collaborated with a British punitive expedition against the Šērānī in 1853 (Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India, 1910, repr. Quetta, 1979, III, p. 179). The Bāborī of Afghanistan never speak of such a kinship. They simply describe themselves as Paṧtūn and are almost wholly Pashtophone.
Bibliography: Given in the text.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 19, 2011
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Vol. III, Fasc. 3, p. 323