Negotiations with the tribes of Waziristan 1849-1914-the British experience

Beattie, Hugh (2011). Negotiations with the tribes of Waziristan 1849-1914-the British experience. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 39(4) pp. 571–587.



In the nineteenth century the independent Waziristan tribes usually relied on jirgas— assemblies of adult men—to resolve conflicts, and manage relations with other groups. Particularly in the period from 1849 to 1914, rather than simply subduing them by military means, the British usually had to manipulate and manage the tribes as best they could. This meant negotiating with them through these jirgas. Among the problems they encountered were, firstly, factionalism, which meant that the tribes often received mixed messages from the local officials. Secondly, nikkat, the ideology of sharing between the different tribes and sections, made it difficult to target rewards or punishments on particular groups. Thirdly, the tribes’ decentralised political organisation and ethos of equality meant that they had no leaders or rulers through whom they could be controlled. One of the lessons of the British experience in Waziristan is that negotiations should be conducted directly and not through intermediaries. Others are that as many different shades of opinion and sources of influence as possible should be involved, and that knowledge of the culture of those with whom is negotiating is indispensable.

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