Administrative System Of Swat

Situated in the North-West Frontier Province of British India and later Pakistan, Swat State has the distinction of not being imposed by an imperial power or an individual but was founded in 1915 by jarga of a section of the right bank Swat Valley after doing away with the rule of the Nawab of Dir over their areas. The youngest of the Princely States of India and dependent upon British Indian Government and later Pakistan for currency, post and telegraph, and foreign affairs and later on electricity as well, Swat State was internally independent. It had “its own laws, its own system of justice, army, police and administration, budget and taxes,”1 and also its own flag with an emblem-of-a fort in golden green background.

Swat State was probably the only governmental machine in the contemporary world which was run without superfluity of paper work, opined by Martin Moore. Originator of the administrative system of the State was Abdul Jabbar Shah, the first ruler of the State 0915-1917), which was modified, developed and refined by his successors at the seat of the State, namely Miangul Abdul Wadud who ruled from 1917 till 1949 and Miangul Jahanzeb who ruled from 1949 till the merger of the State in 1969.

This article deals only with the administrative system of the State in respect of the reign of Miangul Abdul Wadud and Miangul Jahanzeb (1917-1969) for we have no detailed information about the administrative system in respect of Abdul Jabbar Shah’s reign (1915-1917).

1 Civil Administration

The State being founded by the jarga of a portion of Swat, the jarga had the power to install and depose the Ruler, which it practically exercised in the installation and removal of Abdul Jabbar Shah and also in the installation of Miangul Abdul Wadud. Abdul Wadud, however, gradually made himself a complete autocrat and also made the office hereditary. And the rule of primogeniture was followed in succession to the seat.

1.1 The Ruler

The administrative hierarchy comprised the Ruler on the top and Tahsildar at the bottom. Official title of the Ruler was Wali. The Ruler was the supreme head of the State, possessing all powers, and the virtual head of all the departments. The Pakistani Government got signed the Government of Swat (Interim Constitution) Act, 1954, by the then Ruler of the State under which the Ruler became bound to constitute an Advisory Council, with fifteen elected members and ten members nominated by him. However, no Chief Minister was imposed upon him, who would hold all the powers, as was in the case of the other Princely States; and the Ruler, according to himself, “was President of the Council, Chief Minister, and Ruler. After the constitution of the Advisory Council too, in actual practice, the Ruler’s will was the law.

Being transformed into an over centralised State and complete autocracy, the Rulers maintained the centralised political pattern without having to vest absolute local power in any single hierarchy of officers, and by requiring frequent consultations by telephone, they systematically balanced the persons in authority in anyone area against each other. The Ruler’s own position, however, was such that his authority was neither “balanced’ or otherwise curtailed by any other formally constituted body.

1.2 Secretariat

During Abdul Wadud’s reign, at first there was no such arrangement. Then there was a Secretary, who was responsible for the correspondences with the British Government. He also performed other functions asked for by the Ruler. Later on, however, the Ruler had a Chief Secretary and a Private Secretary in the Secretariat at the Capital. The former maintained correspondence with the British Government and later with the Government of Pakistan. He had also to perform such other duties assigned by the Ruler. The Private Secretary maintained correspondence of the private nature of the Ruler and also performed other functions asked for by the Ruler.

Later posts of Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary cum Information Officer were also created. They were to assist the Private Secretary in his duties relating to a number of departments. Besides, a post of Assistant Secretary was created in the office of the Chief Secretary to assist him in his duties; and there was also a head of the Judicial Department in the Secretariat, at first called Hakim Ala, then Hakim Ala Daftar-e-Hizur, and later Mashir.

1.3 Wali Ahad

Being converted into a monarchy, the Ruler had a Wali Ahad (heir apparent). The heir apparent performed duties of the Ruler in his absence. His status was next to the Ruler within the State. In order to provide the heir apparent with some administrative work and experience, he was entrusted with some responsibilities. He had no authority to discharge or dismiss an official in presence of the Ruler, but had the power on assuming the duties of the Ruler in his absence. He, however, was not authorised to make appointment of any personnel.

1.4 Administrative Officials

At first the highest administrative official at the centre were the Wazir and Sipah Salar (Commander-in Chief). In 1940 the post of Wazir-e-Azam (Prime Minister) was created but was abrogated shortly in 1943, and new posts and designations were created. These were the posts of Wazir-e-Mulk (Minister of State), Wazir-e-Mal (Revenue Minister) and Sipah Salar (Commander-in Chief). These officials assisted the Ruler in the administration of the State. They were in charge, of their respective departments and were also assigned with duties of the supervision of various sub-divisions, i.e. Tahsils of the State, and so were in charge of their respective administrative areas “for speedy and good administrative purposes.

The administrative posts were not permanent, but depended upon the sweet will of the Ruler who made frequent changes, i.e, he created the posts of Mashirs (Advisors) then they were elevated to Wazirs (Ministers); they were again substituted by Mashirs but again the posts of Wazirs, Naib Wazirs and Mashirs are found.10 There were also some other officials at the centre. These were the highest officials of the State, having different areas under their jurisdictions. They had their offices at capital, were subordinate to the Ruler and heir apparent but answerable only to the former, and held both original and appellate jurisdiction.

1.5 Administrative Division

Swat State was administratively divided into a number of administrative units called Hakimis and Tahsils. The administrative divisions were largely tribal in nature and were run directly by the Central authority at Saidu Sharif11 but through the Tehsildars and Hakims.

The officer in charge of a Tahsil was Tahsildar. Tahsil was the smallest administrative unit of the State and the Tahsildar its administrative-cum-judicial-cum-executive-cum–financial officer. Whereas, Hakimi was somewhat larger unit and the Hakim was its administrative-cum-judicial-cum-executive-cum-financial officer. The Hakims were superior in rank and status to the Tahsildars.

Like all other officials and servants, the Tahsildars and Hakims were appointed by the Ruler and were answerable to him. They held their posts at his goodwill and were frequently transferred. Like the Ruler, the Tahsildars and Hakims had multiple responsibilities in their jurisdictions. They had to perform the administrative, executive, judicial and financial duties; and also a number of other duties like visiting the construction works, signing deeds of property deals and Nikahnamas, and so forth.

1.6 Secret Service

There was neither formal secret service nor a need for it was felt, but in fact the Rulers kept their informers, who, on the whole, had neither good reputation nor any access to the elite circle and intelligentsia.

Although at first the traditional lashkar system was kept intact along with the State forces due to the exigency of the time it was gradually done away completely with and numbers of the forces were increased.

2. Organisational Structure

The Ruler was the supreme head of the armed forces, and the Sipah Salar held the immediate command under him. The Sipah Salar “was also assigned judicial and administrative duties.

Organization of the armed forces was such that at the head of fifteen soldiers was an officer called Jamadar, five Jamadars were under a Subidar, five Subidars under a Subidar Major and two Subidar Majors under a Captain. Prior to 1957 the Captain was called Kaman Afsar. Above them were two Naib Salars and one Sipah Salar, whose position was of the Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief. All of them were under the Ruler, who held the supreme authority and could order mobilisation of the forces. The Ruler had, moreover, the authority to appoint, promote and discharge men of all ranks, from an ordinary soldier up to Sipah Salar, according to his own discretion.

2.2 Types of the Armed Forces

Armed forces of the State comprised of two types of soldiers i.e. Regular and Reserve, The Regular forces received remuneration while the Reserve did not even on active service. The Regular forces were at first comprised of infantry and cavalry only but later on artillery, machine gun, signal and personal bodyguard of the Ruler were added to. Cavalry was the efficient and most effective part of the State armed forces in the early years of the State, but when neither menace from the neighbouring States nor fear of revolt in the far flung areas remained and the road transport developed, owing to which cavalry became less useful, at first it was reduced in number and later on was completely done away with, in 1950s.

A part of the Regular army was called Bahar Ardal. The artillery consisted of a few guns and canons of the old styles with a few mortars. The machine-guns were few in number at the centre for whose use and maintenance trained soldiers were employed. The signal was called shisha. Trained and experienced persons served this department who had to accompany the forces on expedition. A modern band was also part of the army.

The personal bodyguards of Miangul Jahanzeb were called Ardal-e-Hizur. Unlike the army soldiers and officers they received uniform, foot wear and cooked meal from the State.16 Service in the Wali’s bodyguard was considered more prestigious. Usually, men from the privileged families were employed in the bodyguard contingent.

2.3 Duties of the Armed Forces

Main duty of the armed forces was fighting in defense of the State, but they performed other duties as well while at peace, e.g. construction of roads, schools and bridges. Because they “needed to be put to some task or otherwise they would become soft. The public works were “no hardship on them: they served for two months a year, divided up in shorter stretches of ten days at a time, so that their cultivated fields would not suffer, nor their other work, and their families would not suffer from any long absences on their part. Moreover, they needed to see their officers, and be under discipline now and again.

2.4 Qalas and Thanas (Tanras), and their Forces

Qalas(forts) were constructed throughout the State for the maintenance of law and order. Each fort was under the command of an officer Subidar or Jamadar who had soldiers, commonly known as Qalawals, under him in the fort. All of them were required to live in the fort with their families. Every fort had a telephone and also a scribe for writing the reports of the day to day happenings. The fort institution was multi-purpose and multi-faceted. The highest officials of this department were four Majors and one Commander. Each Major was in charge of several forts and was responsible for the efficiency of his subordinate officials.

Later on the forts were gradually replaced with Thanas. Difference between the fort and the Thana was that the sepoys posted in the fort were known as Qalawals and the officers were Jamadars and Subidars; whereas sepoys and officer of the Thanas were called police and Thanidars, respectively. However, Thanidars did not head all the Thanas. Moreover, buildings of the Thanas were mostly comprised of two rooms while the forts were huge buildings with family quarters. Above all the Thanas did not serve all the purposes served by the fort.

3 Financial Administrations

Like other states, affairs of Swat State too could not be run successfully without adequate financial resources and a sound finance system. Originator of Swat State’s financial administration too was Abdul Jabbar Shah.

3.1 Administrative Hierarchy

The Ruler was the supreme head also of the finance department. He was the final authority of financial awards and no disbursement can be made without his prior approval. Like civil administration, the administrative hierarchy in respect of finances comprised the Ruler on the top and the Tahsildar at the bottom. At each Tahsil there was, however, a special clerk known as Sub-Daftar Mirza. He had to realise the State’s dues of the ijara from the Ijaradars; to submit the accounts in the Revenue Minister’s office at the Centre and to keep accounts of the State revenue of the Tahsil.

At first, there was no Revenue Minister but later on Revenue Minister was appointed to head the department who was called Wazir-e-Mal and was later on replaced with Mashir-e-Mal (Revenue Advisor). He administered the department on behalf of the Ruler and also held judicial, executive and administrative functions and authority. In financial matters, he was assisted by a treasurer and a small staff at the Centre.

In the later reign of Miangul Abdul Wadud the heir apparent, Miangul Jahanzeb, used to check the accounts daily. It was, however, the Ruler himself, during Jahanzeb’s reign, who used to check daily, early in the morning, the record and statements of the revenue department presented to him by the Treasury Officer called Muhtamim Khazana. The Revenue Minister and later Revenue Advisor has been kept aloof from knowing the factual position of the total amount in the exchequer; and the actual heads where and how it was spent.

3.2 Sources of the Revenue

Main source of the State revenue was ushar, but in actual practice the State received 13.33% at the gross produce of the land at the threshing ground in the name of ushar. In March 1969, the rate however was set at One tenth. In addition to ushar on crops, taxes/ushar was taken upon milk cows and buffaloes, herds of goats and sheep, orchards, bee-hives, and vegetables.

All the above mentioned taxes were not collected by the State itself, but were auctioned and granted to the highest bidders, known as Ijaraga /ljaradar/Ushri, for the particular crop of the season, in case of ushar and for the year in case of the particular area.

The auctions were made by the Wazir-e-Mal through the Tahsildars. Only politically powerful persons made the bids. If they collected more they retained the excess, but if the collection was less they had to make up the difference. The Ijaradar was required to pay the amount of grain/ghee/honey or the price thereof just after the collection season was over; that was why it was made obligatory for the concerned authorities to give the auctions to the financially well off persons, otherwise they themselves will have to pay the sum of the ijara.

Import and export duties (also called octroi); haysiyyat tax, road tax, motor vehicle and tanga fee, income from the contracts of the forests, salt and ghee, duty on bonds and fines for different crimes were also sources of the State income. Besides, there were the stamp papers, arms license fees, telephone fees, manshiyat tax (the supply of alcohol, poppy and charas were given on contract), rent and income of the confiscated property, cattle’s fare tax; mines (among which the emerald mines were the major and prominent one), income from the State owned Swat Hotel, and grant from the Government of Pakistan were the other sources of the State revenue.

Taxation was heavy, which is aptly analysed by Barth by stating that revenue of the State depended on the taxing of the fruits of private activities: tithe on agricultural production, fees on the extraction of timber, tolls on imports and exports, and license fees on various activities. A thorough analysis of other sources of the State revenue not mentioned by Barth also confirms the statement of ‘taxing of the fruits of private activities.

3.3 Expenditure of the Revenue

The State’s income received from the different means and sources in the Tahsils were transmitted to the Central Exchequer after the disbursement of the payments and expenditures to be made at the Tahsil along with a return of income and expenditure.

The State revenue had been disbursed and spent on administration (later on along with the Privy Purse), armed forces, police, magazine factory, education, health department, roads and bridges, irrigation, muwajibs, press and publication, donations in Pakistani-funds, malakana and relief, telephone department, jail, transport for public welfare, royalty of forests, expenditures of the Advisory Council, Government’s buildings, royalty of mines and committee of the retired servants. There was no audit of the State’s income and expenditures by any department or autonomous body.

4. Judicial Administrations

Like other administrative spheres, Swat State had its unique status in respect of its judicial system.

4.1 Qazis, Shariat, judicial Hierarchy, and their Status

Qazis were appointed, claims Miangul Abdul Wadud, all over the State on the village, Tahsil and Hakimi levels to decide the cases and the litigants may not suffer travelling long distances to the courts. The Tahsil Qazi had not only to deal with the Tahsil level cases but also acted as a court of appeal for the decisions of the village Qazi. The Qazi attached with every Hakim acted as higher court of appeal. On the top was a court at the capital of the State, comprising of a Chief Qazi and other learned scholars of Islamic jurisprudence, which adjudged serious cases and worked as a Supreme Court of Islamic Jurisprudence and the highest court of appeal.

However, the judicial hierarchy comprised the Ruler on the top and Tahsildar at the bottom. The Qazis could not take cognizance of the disputes unless referred to them by Tahsildar, Hakim, Mashir, Wazir, Heir Apparent, and the Ruler or other officials. Even the Commander-in-Chief held judicial powers and duties. A new department known as Mehkama-e-Munsifan was established later on. The munsifs were also entrusted with judicial power. Their panel usually had to visit the spot and had either to give their own judgment or had to report the position to the Ruler or heir apparent.

It should not be taken, as is commonly believed, that Shariat was the Supreme Law and that all the people were bound to follow and decide their cases accordingly in the Qazi courts.

There was no separation of power in respect of the State officials. Administrative, executive, fiscal and judicial powers and functions were vested at a time in the hands of the State officials and the Ruler, but the Qazis did not possess any sort of administrative, executive, fiscal and real judicial powers and functions. The Qazi courts were subservient to the Administrative cum Judicial officers and Islamic Laws to the regional ‘Codes of Conduct,’ and both were subordinate to the orders of the Rulers.

There were fines for all kinds of offences, i.e. murders, thefts, adultery, and so forth. Strict Islamic rules and laws were seldom followed. All the fines were fixed by the local jargas in the Codes of Conduct or by the Rulers.

It is noteworthy that procedural uniformity did not exist in filing petitions and their dispensation. Petitions has been filed to a variety of the State officials, e.g. Tahsildar, Hakim, Hakim Ala, Naib Mashir, Mashir, Wazirs, Sipah Salar, Wali Ahad and the Wali. Petitions and applications on the ordinary paper and letters from abroad has also been entertained. All the related official “instructions, correspondence, orders, and so forth has been done on the back of the papers on which petitions has been filed.

However, the final decisions and verdicts have been given on stamp papers to those in whose favour the cases have been decided. The verdicts of decisions have been usually brief, stating names of the petitioner(s) and the respondent(s), contentions of the parties and the reason for the decision in favour of the one party, written in Pukhtu which was the official language of the State.33 These have also been recorded in the State registers as official copies.

Besides, “some of the shortcomings of the Western judicial system-technicality, delay, and high cost”35 were not known ever.

4.2 Free Litigation, and Quick Decisions

In Swat State not only procedures of litigation were simple but also the cases were decided quickly in one or two hearings and the decisions were properly implemented as well. Moreover, there was no court fee.

The people were safe from the pull and drag of lengthy litigation and the verdicts had been brief and properly implemented but germs of favouritism and corruption were present from the outset. Not only the State officials having judicial powers but the Qazis were also not free from bribes, personal motives and interests.

The practice continued throughout and more so in the later years. The Rulers did not take firm action for the elimination of bribery and corruption for their own reasons.

Although the Rulers themselves were free from bribery, but they had to serve their own other interests. Fredrik Barth, a Norwegian anthropologist, points out that “the Wali’s account emphasizes the settlement of cases as the most essential function of the Ruler.”

But, Barth observes that “the settlement of cases was the most important way in which the State sought to regulate local level politics, and thereby secure its own survival in the context of deep and powerful political processes generated on the village level.

5. Rules and Regulations

Being aware of the intricacy of the situation, Miangul Abdul Wadud adopted a unique strategy. He did not frame a constitution and uniform laws of his own, but asked the local jargas to frame rules and regulations for their respective areas. These rules were strictly enforced and people would abide by them. The rules thus framed were called Dasturul Amal (Code of Conduct). The Codes of Conduct thus framed by the jargas for their respective localities of the Swat State were not uniform.

Side by side, the Ruler issued orders and implemented his commandments at his’ own will. These orders were sometimes contrary to the existing Codes of Conduct, but the jargas had been asked to pass and make these orders their Codes of Conduct in future.

The Ruler issued, and conveyed his orders and commandments, during Miangul Abdul Wadud’s reign, mostly telephonically. Miangul Jahanzeb too issued and conveyed his orders telephonically to the administrative personnel but his decrees meant for the common people were issued also in written form.

The rules and regulations framed by the jargas and decrees issued by the Rulers have been implemented but fear and favour, and discretion and discrimination has been observed though not frequently.


Miangul Abdul Wadud and Miangul Jahanzeb were not the originators of the administrative system of Swat State but the preceding ruler Abdul Jabbar Shah. They, however, raised the super structure upon the foundation laid by Abdul Jabbar Shah. They made developments and modifications therein and transformed the raw structure into a somewhat organized one.

In the administrative apparatus, all the appointment promotions, and dismissals rested with the rulers. There was complete autocracy and absolutism during Abdul Wadud and Jahanzeb’s entire reign. Both of them, however, were energetic and hard working, and, on the whole, ruled firmly and benevolently. They personally supervised all the affairs of the State and administration keenly and minutely, and held daily courts save the holidays. They kept themselves informed of all the matters and cases, great or small. People, influential an ordinary, had an access to them in the office, but in a visible discriminative way, especially in Jahanzeb’s case.

The administrative hierarchy, from top to bottom, on the whole, worked quickly and effectively and so stands unique, at least among the Princely States. Direct appointments on the posts of Tahsildars, Hakims, Mashirs, Wazirs and the similar other officials had not been made during Jahanzeb’s reign. On the whole, they were promoted from the clerks of the Ruler’s secretariat stage wise, but in some cases the promotions had been given rapidly.

The technique adopted by Abdul Wadud to honour the local tribal traditions and aspirations, to a greater extent, in the formulation of rules, regulations and administrative machinery worked well and successfully. The contemporary British reports had endorsed the success and effectiveness of the rules and penal codes introduced and implemented in Swat State.

The collective local responsibility of either surrendering the culprits or to pay the fine imposed in case the culprits and offenders were not known or not pointed out by the people of the concerned place, was an effective measure and tool for tracing the culprits and offenders and also for minimising the offences, thefts and other unwanted acts of such natures. It should be noted that in the early years of Abdul Wadud’s rule, the thieves were to be shot dead on the spot or where ever they were to be found.

Like civil administration, the military organisation of the State exhibited its own features. The financial system too had its own unique features under Abdul Wadud and Jahanzeb. The Ruler was the State’s exchequer. No officer, even the Wazir-e-Mal or Mashir-e-Mal, was entitled to draw a single rupee from the State treasury, except with the approval and signature of the Ruler. There was no limitation on the Ruler in disbursement from the State exchequer and there was no audit of him. In a sense the State and private revenue and income of the Ruler, especially during Abdul Wadud’s reign, was considered one and the same and so had been used in the same manner. Taxation was heavy, which was no doubt based on taxing the fruits of the private activities.

The judicial system of Swat State was not Islamic in its essence as is commonly believed. It was a synthesis of the traditional codes, Islamic norms compatible with the traditional codes, and the commands, orders and words of the Ruler. The Ruler had the final authority and supremacy and the traditional codes held secondary status. Islamic law was subservient to both of them. The Ruler was neither bound to the Codes of Conduct nor Shariat. The system, however, was an effective one. The trials were quick and cheap, and the judgments were properly implemented. The cases were usually decided on first hearing or at the latest on the second.

Fredrik Barth nicely observes that the overall administrative system of the Swat State:

Represented a new and emergent structure, that its organization was not simply copied and introduced from elsewhere . . . . Here, it is sufficient to point to the absence of any neighbouring states with a similar organization. Certainly, most or perhaps all of the elements can be found represented in various organizations in the larger region: the bodyguard pattern shared with Dir, the tax auctioning known from Moghul India, the Tahsil divisions and officers of British India, the Islamic institution of ushur (ushar), etc. Abdul Jabbar Shah’s procedure for the swift creation of a popular Army may have been innovative-at least it was unknown to the Badshah . . . but it may well have been an introduction from Amb. But the essential structure of Swat State, which assured its survival, did not emulate the pattern of any other state: not the pluralistic and coercive Khanate of Dir . . . the intricate centralized feudalism of Chitral . . . the ritual absolutism of Hunza . . . or the colonial bureaucracy of British India.