Abdur Rahman Khan, "the Iron Amir," 1880-1901
As far as British interests were concerned, Abdur Rahman answered theirprayers: a forceful, intelligent leader capable of welding his divided peopleinto a state; and he was willing to accept limitations to his power imposed byBritish control of his country's foreign affairs and the British buffer statepolicy. His twenty-one-year reign was marked by efforts to modernize andestablish control of the kingdom, whose boundaries were delineated by the twoempires bordering it. Abdur Rahman turned his considerable energies to whatevolved into the creation of the modern state of Afghanistan.
He achieved this consolidation of Afghanistan in three ways. He suppressedvarious rebellions and followed up his victories with harsh punishment,execution, and deportation. He broke the stronghold of Pashtun tribes byforcibly transplanting them. He transplanted his most powerful Pashtun enemies,the Ghilzai, and other tribes from southern and south-central Afghanistan toareas north of the Hindu Kush with predominantly non-Pashtun populations.Finally, he created a system of provincial governorates different from oldtribal boundaries. Provincial governors had a great deal of power in localmatters, and an army was placed at their disposal to enforce tax collection andsuppress dissent. Abdur Rahman kept a close eye on these governors, however, bycreating an effective intelligence system. During his reign, tribal organizationbegan to erode as provincial government officials allowed land to change handsoutside the traditional clan and tribal limits.
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