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The Ghilji (Pashto: غلجيGhəljī), Persian: غل‌زایی‎), Ghilzai (غلزی) or Gharzai (غرزی), are the largest Pashtun tribal confederacy.[1]

The Ghilji at various times became rulers of present Afghanistan region and were the most dominant Pashtun confederacy from c. 1000 AD until 1747 AD, when power shifted to the Durranis.[2][better source needed]

Ghilzai Pashtun

The Ghilji Lilizai tribes are also settled in Balochistan[3] ' Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Hazara Division in Pakistan. Many of the migrating Kochi people of Afghanistan belong to the Ghilji confederacy.[1] Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the current President of Afghanistan, also belongs to the Ghilji tribe.

From 1709 to 1738, the Ghilji ruled the Hotak Empire based first in Kandahar, Afghanistan and later, from 1722–1728, in Isfahan, Persia.[4][5] The founder of the Hotak Empire was Mirwais Hotak. Another famous Ghilji from the 18th century was Azad Khan Afghan, who rose to power from 1752 to 1757 in western Iran.


Etymologically the word Ghilji is derived from ghar-zai (غرزی), meaning "born of mountain".[6]

Descent, origin, and historyEdit

The most plausible theory suggests that the Ghilji descended from the Khalaj people,[7][8][9], who later formed dynasties like khalji dynasty in india.[10]

The German orientalist Bernard Dorn, in volume 2 of his book "The History of Afghans" which is mainly based on Tārīkh-e Khān Jahānī wa Makhzan-e Afghānī (تاریخ خان جهانی ومخزن افغانی) of Nimat Allah al-Harawi, supports the Ghilji descent from Bibi Mato, daughter of Shaykh Beṭ Nīkə (the folkloric leader or ancestor of all Bettani), in the following words:

"To Ghilzye, who belongs to the Matis, God Almighty granted three sons, Ibrahim, Toor(Toran) and Poor(Boran). Ibrahim had two sons Haijub and Shabak. Haijub had thirteen sons, Sulaimankhel, Alikhail, Omerkhail, Karikhail, Hameerkhail, Paroki, Varaki, Chani, Donyar and Tanokhel also known as Tanoli. Sahbak had two sons, Bujikhail and Ismailkhail. Toor(Toran), Ghilzye's son, had three sons, Tarakai, Bakhtu, and Andar."[11]

Hotak dynastyEdit

In the beginning of the 18th century, the Ghilji revolted against their Persian rulers, established themselves under Mir Wais as independent rulers at Kandahar and overrun Persia.[10] When the Hotak tribe, under the leadership of Mirwais Hotak and Nasher Khan of the Ghaznavid revolted against the Safavids in 1709, the Ghilji came into conflicts with their western neighbors. Mir Wais, an influential Afghan tribal leader and founder of the Hotak dynasty, had visited the Persian court and studied their military weaknesses. The Afghan tribes rankled under the ruling Shia Safavids because of their continued attempts to convert the Pashtuns from Sunni to Shiaism[5]

Princely State of Amb (Tanawal)Edit

Amb (princely state) also known as Tanawal was a princely state of the former British Indian Empire ruled over by chiefs of the Tanoli (TanoKhel)[12][13] tribe from Ghilji Pashtun descent.

Ghilji location and economyEdit

Ghilji in AfghanistanEdit

Tents of Afghan nomads in Badghis Province who are known in Pashto language as Kuchans. They migrate from region to region depending on the season.[1] Early peasant farming villages came into existence in Afghanistan about 7,000 years ago.[14]
Photograph of a group of Afghan chieftains (Ghilzais) taken at Kabul in Afghanistan by John Burke in 1879–80

In Afghanistan the Ghilji are scattered all over the country but mainly settled around the regions between Zabul and Kabul provinces. The Afghan province of Paktika is considered to be a heartland of the Ghilji tribe. Ghilji sub-tribes in Paktika include the Kharoti, especially in the Sar Hawza and Urgon districts, the Andar and the largest single Ghilji sub-tribe, the Suleimankhel, who are the majority in northern and western areas of Paktika such as; Katawaz. After the great Ghilji rebellion in 1885–1886, led by Alam Khan Nasher, many members of the Ghilji tribe, such as; the Kharoti sub-tribe and particularly the Nasher clan were exiled from Loya Paktia (Paktia, Paktika and Khost) to Kunduz in the north by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan due to political reasons.[15]

See alsoEdit


• ^ Book "Al-Afghan Tanoli" written by Ghulam Nabi Khan.

  1. ^ a b c "Khaljies are Afghan". Abdul Hai Habibi. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Ghilzai Afghans". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  3. ^ Frye, R.N. (1999). "GHALZAY". Encyclopaedia of Islam (CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 ed.). Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV.
  4. ^ Malleson, George Bruce (1878). History of Afghanistan, from the Earliest Period to the Outbreak of the War of 1878. London: p. 227. ISBN 1402172788. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  5. ^ a b Ewans, Martin (2002). Afghanistan : a short history of its people and politics (1st ed.). New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-050507-9.
  6. ^ Morgenstierne, G. (1999). "AFGHĀN". Encyclopaedia of Islam (CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 ed.). Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV.
  7. ^ Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier Province, H. A. Rose, p. 241
  8. ^ At the Court of Amîr: A Narrative, by John Alfred Gray, p. 203.
  9. ^ [1] Archived June 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b Ibbetson, D. (1883), Punjab Castes: reprint of the chapter on the races, castes and tribes of the people in the report on the Punjab census of 1881, Simla, pp. 64
  11. ^ Dorn, B 1836, The history of Afghans, Oriental, page.49
  12. ^ Syed Murad Ali,"Tarikh-e-Tanawaliyan"(Urdu), Pub. Lahore, 1975, pp.84
  13. ^ Ghulam Nabi Khan"Alafghan Tanoli"(Urdu), Pub. Rawalpindi, 2001, pp.244
  14. ^ Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1970). An Historical Guide to Afghanistan. First Edition. Kabul: Afghan Air Authority, Afghan Tourist Organization. p. 492. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  15. ^ Title The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers Peter Tomsen, PublicAffairs, 2011