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Khyber Pass
Mountain passes of Afghanistan
The Khyber Railway.
With a Pakistan Railways HGS 2-8-0 at front and rear a charter train climbs the Khyber Pass through a series of zig-zags to gain height.
An advertisement card from 1910 depicting Khaiber Pass.

The Khyber Pass, (also spelled Khaiber or Khaybar; ) (altitude: ) is a mountain pass that links Pakistanmarker and Afghanistanmarker.

Throughout history it has been an important trade route between Central Asia and South Asia and a strategic military location. The summit of the Khyber Pass is inside Pakistan at Landi Kotalmarker and it cuts through the northeastern part of the Safed Koh mountains which themselves are a far southeastern extension of the Hindu Kushmarker range.


In some versions of the Aryan migration theory, the Indo-Aryans migrated to India via the Khyber Pass. Recorded invasions through the Khyber begin with the conquests of Darius I and Alexander the Great and also include later Muslim invasions of South Asia, culminating with the establishment of the Mughul Empire from 1526. The British invaded Afghanistanmarker from India and fought three Afghan Wars in 1839-42, 1878-80, and 1919. George Molesworth, a member of the British force of 1919, summarised: "Every stone in the Khyber has been soaked in blood." Rudyard Kipling called it "a sword cut through the mountains."

the north of the Khyber Pass lies the country of the Mullagoris. To the south is Afridi Tirah, while the inhabitants of villages in the Pass itself are Afridi clansmen. Throughout the centuries the Pashtun clans, particularly the Afridis and the Afghan Shinwaris, have regarded the Pass as their own preserve and have levied a toll on travellers for safe conduct. Since this has long been their main source of income, resistance to challenges to the Shinwaris' authority has often been fierce.

For strategic reasons, after the First World War the Britishmarker built a heavily engineered railway through the Pass. The Khyber Pass Railway from Jamrudmarker, near Peshawarmarker, to the Afghanmarker border near Landi Kotalmarker was opened in 1925.

The Pass became widely known to thousands of Westerners and Japanese who traveled it in the days of the Hippie trail, taking a bus or car from Kabulmarker to the Afghan border. At the Pakistani frontier post travelers were advised not to wander away from the road, this being the barely controlled Federally Administered Tribal Areasmarker. Then, after customs formalities, a quick daylight drive through the Pass was made. Monuments left by British Army units, as well as hillside forts, could be viewed from the highway.

The area of the Khyber Pass has been connected with a counterfeit arms industry, making various types of weapons known to gun collectors as Khyber Pass Copies, using local steel and blacksmiths' forges.

Current conflicts

During current war in Afghanistan, the Khyber Pass has been a major route for resupplying NATOmarker forces in the Afghan theater of conflict. Recognizing this, the Taliban attempted to choke off the route in late 2008 and early 2009, bringing the Taliban into conflict with the Pakistani government.

In February of 2009, a bridge 15 miles northwest of Peshawarmarker was blown up by militants presumably sympathetic to or sponsored by the Taliban. While it was not considered to be a major strategic blow to the allied war effort, it invigorated efforts to secure additional supply routes, some of which may ultimately run through Iran. However, the current general consensus is that the new supply route will pass through various central Asian republics to the north of Afghanistan.

Conquerors & Generals

The following are names of famous Generals that have crossed the Khyber Pass mostly in conquest of Indiamarker except for Chandragupta Maurya, King of the Mauryan Empire and Ranjit Singh, emperor of the Sikhs. Chandragupta Maurya seized power, drove Alexander's successors out of India, and ruled from the Khyber to Bengal.

See also

Further reading

  • Molesworth, Lt-Gen. G.N., Afghanistan 1919 (Asia Publishing House, 1962). This book describes in detail the author's passage (Prince Albert's)|Somerset Light Infantry]].
  • Victor Bayley CIE CBE. "Permanent Way through the Khyber", Jarrolds (1934). In an article illustrated with photos, the author describes the construction of the railway. The book was reprinted in 1998 by Gyan Publishing House, India as Adventure through Khyber in a breach of copyright.
  • In "Sorrow Rides a Fast Horse" by Dorothy Gilman Butters (Ladies Home Journal, September, 1962) a mother, grief-stricken from the death of her husband, takes her two children on a whirl-wind trip around the world. In the Khyber Pass, her family and their elderly guide are captured by bandits. They don't want just the money, the food and the donkeys. They want the woman and the children. The guide says sadly “It must by your qismat—your fate—to stop here.” She says harshly, “My qismat? Tell this man I must travel like the wind—that is my qismat. Tell him that Sorrow rides behind me on a fast horse—if he listens closely, he may hear the hoof beats. Tell him that if he captures me, he will capture Sorrow as well—because where I go Sorrow goes and where I stop, Sorrow will stop.” The bandits confer. Their leader finally makes a statement. The guide translates: “He says it has been a hard year, with many people dead in their village. Sheep have sickened and died. He says they do not wish for more Sorrow. If Sorrow follows behind you then you must leave these mountains at once. You must not stop even to sleep.” To ensure their prompt departure, the bandits guide them through the Khyber Pass.



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