During the British rule, Pir Pagaro declared his community “Hur” (free from British slavery). The British tried to crush the uprising and that started an armed resistance by Hurs. Ultimately the British passed the infamous law “Hur Act” where the entire Hur community was declared criminals and were ordered to be shot to death on sight.
The Hurs cannot be said to have been defeated as they continued their struggle even after the hanging of the Pir Sahib, right up to the time of the independence of Pakistan, Pakistan having acquired the status of an independent country. The British were forced by Hurs and a number of other movements to leave the ‘Jewel in the British Crown’. Pir Pagaro Sayyed Sibghatullah Shah was hanged on March 20, 1943 and the British left Pakistan in four years’ time on 14th of August 1947. Long after the end of British rule, Pir Pagaro’s two sons, who were in British custody in England, were released and came back to lead their community. Sindh was a province in the newly independent Pakistan. The sons of Sibghatullah Shah Shaheed were brought to Pakistan in December 1951 after long negotiations. The elder son, Pir Sikandar Shah, Shah Mardan Shah, became the new Pir in February 1952. Shah Mardan Shah II is the current Pir Pagaro.
Hurs in the 1965 War
In 1965 war of India and Pakistan, the Southern desert sector was a mere sideshow to the major battles fought in the Punjab and in Kashmir. However the Indians had placed two divisions in the desert with the aim of tying down Pakistani troops.
Facing a shortage of troops and unable to divert any substantial forces from the Punjab and Kashmir sectors (where the main Indian thrust has come), the commander of the Pakistan Rangers, Brigadier Khuda Dad Khan, turned to local help. Hurs volunteered in droves. Given only basic training and light weapons, the Hurs nevertheless gave a fine account of themselves in the conflict. Fighting alongside Rangers and regular army units (known collectively as the Desert Force), the Hurs used their knowledge of the desert to good effect and helped to blunt the Indian offensive. But, perhaps their most famous (and militarily important) action was the capture of the Indian fort of Kishangarh, a feature located several kilometers inside India.
Persecution of Hurs by Bhutto Government
In 1972 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the president and then the prime minister of Pakistan. Under his government, the Government of Sindh started a crackdown on Hurs. Matters got worst when four prominent fakirs were gunned down by police. Their photos appeared in the newspapers as dacoits gunned down by police in armed combat.This happened despite the fact that Sindhies considered Hurs as Sindh’s heroes and the historic Bhutto family personally respected Pir Pagaro. In the general elections of 1977, Pir Pagaro decided to break the tradition of not becoming involved in power politics and ran for the seat of parliament from Mr. Bhuttos hometown of Larkana. This was a symbolic gesture of protest but Pir Pagaro was arrested. This saw a bloody clash of Hurs and government leaving hundreds of Hurs and government officials dead.
Creation of Hur Force
In 1977 coup which overthrew Mr. Bhutto, the newly empowered dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was looking for some foothold in Sindh, restored the status of Hurs in Pakistan Army. He also appointed a famous Sindhi civil servant Mr. Bashir Ahmed Siddiqui as the Inspector General of Sindh to face the growing problem of dacoits, especially Paro Chandio. Mr. Siddiqui formed a militia called Hur Force out of Hurs. This saw the death of 1965 war hero Faqir Jamal Mangrio by the hand of Paro Chandio but also saw the death of Paro Chandio by the hand of I.G. Siddiqui himself.
Persecution of Hurs by Benazir’s Government
In 1988, President Zia-ul-Haq died in an air crash and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s daughter Benazir Bhutto was elected as Prime Minister. Benazir Bhutto’s government decided to replace the Hur Force with a new force called Magsi Force, consisting of militants from the tribe of Mir Nadir Ali Magsi, a rival of Hurs. Benazir Bhutto encouraged and supported clash between forces and after bloody clashes the Hur Force was weakened substantially.
The capture of the Kishangarh in Rajasthan State India took place during the 1965 War between India and Pakistan. Its capture was one of the most important actions of the Desert Theater in that war and one of the finest examples of the use of local militia in the history of the Sub-Continent.
The outpost is around 11 kilometers (Lat 27.871 N,Lon 70.563 E) inside Indian territory, in the so called Jaisalmer Bulge. It is a small mud Structure 70 by 60 meters across. It sits 22 km east of the town of Tanot towards the International border. It also sits on the only road linking any part of Rajasthan with the Pakistani city of Rahim Yar Khan.
The Desert Sector was a mere sideshow in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. Both sides had little experience in desert fighting at the time, and moreover the main industrial, and economic heartland of Pakistan and India were to the north. As a result when war came the Indians main effort would be against Lahore and Sialkot in the Punjab. However the Indians left some forces in the region with the aim of launching local offensives. Pakistani army troops in the region were already very stretched, having to defend a sector nearly a thousand km in length. To counteract this effort, the commander Pakistan Army Rangers asked the local people for help.
The Hurs were and are the main tribe living in this area. A proud and fierce people, the Hurs had given the British a difficult time. They had rebelled during World War II against British rule . At the time of the 1965 War the spiritual leader of the Hur was the Pir Pagaro.
The Hurs had earlier not joined the Pakistan Army in any numbers, however with the coming of war, thousands volunteered to fight against the Indians. The Hurs were (due to constraints of finances as well as time) given only basic training and armed with light weapons such as machine guns and assault rifles. The militia was placed under the Pakistani military and para-military forces operating in the sector (known collectively as the “Desert Force”). The Hur militia was commanded by the Faqir Jamal Mangrio.
The war began on 6 September 1965 and the hostilities in this sector commenced on September the 8th. Initially the Desert Force and the Hur was placed in a defensive role, a role for which they were well suited as it turned out. The Hur were familiar with the terrain and the local area and possessed many essential desert survival skills which their opponents (and indeed their comrades in the Pakistan Army) did not. Fighting as mainly light infantry, the Hur inflicted many casualties on the Indian forces as they entered Sindh. The Hurs were also employed as skirmishers, harassing the Indians LOC, a task they often undertook on camels. As the battle wore on the Hurs and the Desert Force were increasingly used to attack and capture Indian villages inside Rajasthan. It was in this vein that an assault on Kishangarh fort was launched. The attack surprised the Indians and the fort was carried after several days of bitter fighting.
The use of the Desert Force and the Hurs established a break in the traditions of the Pakistani army. While the Pakistani Army (and its predecessor the British Indian Army) had often used local auxiliaries for scouting and other durties, this was the first time that irregular forces were used on such a wide scale. The capture of this fort gave Pakistan several bargaining chips during the subsequent Tashkent Conference.
Local people have found large amounts of wood in the bed of the Chotiari Reservoir, Sanghar district, after the water level in the reservoir reached dead level. Elders of the area believe that the big trees which are visible now in the reservoir once constituted the historic Makhi Forest, which was a hideout for the Hur Tahreek fighters before the Partition.
“It was the center of the Hur resistance movement against the British rule (over India) under the command of Pir Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, a spiritual leader,” said 65-year-old president of the Hur Historical Society Sanghar, Mir Nizamani.
He told The News that before the Chotiari reservoir was built the place was known as the Baqar Lake, a cluster of several freshwater lakes, and the Makhi forest used to be near it.
He provided details that when the British army in retaliation bombed a village, Jadoopur, still located at a sand dune in the middle of the reservoir, killing some people, including a woman, the Hur fighters had to change their strategy. They made a cut in the major Nara Canal, due to which water inundated a wide area and most of the travel routes were blocked. It was the year 1942-43, the Hur fighters led by Rahim Hingoro hid in the Makhi forest, he added.
The reason to adopt this strategy was that most of the villages inhabited by the resistance fighters or their supporters were located at sand dunes and these artificial floods would not allow the British forces to harm the residents, Nizamani said. He added that the cut in the Nara Canal inundated the forest area and turned it into a number of water lakes.
Moreover, he said that since the Hur elders were either killed on the battlefield or put into concentration camps with their entire families by the British government, remaining families in the area migrated to other areas. By the time the concentration camps were abolished and the people languishing in those camps were released, the Hur population was scattered to different locations. “And nobody knew where the Makhi forest had gone,” Nizamani added.