The Khyber Pass has a famous name in both Indian and British Imperial history. The gateway to the lawless mountains of the North-West Frontier, inhabited by the fierce and ruthless Pathan tribespeople; would-be foreign conquerers have been carrying on ( or more often been carried off) the Khyber ever since Dr Brydon rode down it as the sole survivor of a 16,000 strong British army that had set out from Kabul in Afghanistan in 1842. The perennial fighting around the Khyber is once more in the news, so this history by a former Reuters journalist could not be more topical. Jules Stewart concentrates on the story of the Khyber Rifles, the unit raised by the British from the ranks of the Pathan tribesmen themselves. The creation in 1878 of the local British political officer, Sir Robert Warburton, the Rifles had a chequered history during Britain’s largely fruitless attempts to subdue the tribesmen of the N orth-West Frontier. Disbanded after the third Afghan War in 1919, the Rifles were revived in the Second World War, only to be taken over by the new Muslim state of Pakistan in 1948. Today they have new duties: attempting to stop the flow of drugs and stem the influence of Al Quaeda terrorists, and Stewart’s book tells that story too.
The story of the infamous Khyber Pass, as seen through the campaigns of the Khyber Rifles the unit raised by the British in 1878 from Pathan tribesmen that today fights for Pakistan against drugs traffickers and Al Quaeda. Highly topical.
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