Sher Ali Khan

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Sher Ali Khan
شیر علی خان
Emir of Afghanistan
Amir Sher Ali Khan in 1869
Emir of Afghanistan
Reign9 June 1863 – 21 February 1879
PredecessorDost Mohammad Khan
SuccessorMohammad Yaqub Khan
Kabul, Emirate of Afghanistan
Died21 February 1879 (age 53 or 54)
Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan
SpouseMirmon Ayesha
Sher Ali Khan Barakzai
DynastyBarakzai dynasty
FatherDost Mohammed Khan
MotherBibi Khadija Begum[1]
ReligionSunni Islam

Sher Ali Khan (Persian: شیر علی خان; c. 1825 – 21 February 1879) was Amir of Afghanistan from 1863 to 1866 and from 1868 until his death in 1879. He was one of the sons of Dost Mohammed Khan,[2] founder of the Barakzai dynasty in Afghanistan.


Sher Ali Khan was born into a Pashtun Barakzai family, Initially he seized power when his father died, but was quickly ousted by his older brother, Mohammad Afzal Khan. Internecine warfare followed until Sher Ali Khan defeated his brother and regained the title of Emir.


Sher Ali Khan's reign as Amir is often remembered for his attempts at reforming Barakzai rule in Afghanistan. Changes brought during the period of Sher Ali Khan's rule include the creation of governmental posts, military reform, the introduction of the first postal service in Afghanistan and the first attempts of an Afghan leader at promoting the Pashto language.

Sher Ali Khan tried to limit the power of the Barakzai sardars.[3] He didn't allow his sons to administer provinces and instead appointed governors loyal to him.[4] He also had a council of 12 members to advise him on matters of state. He created various ministerial offices like Prime Minister (Sadr-i Azam/صدر اعظم), minister of finance, minister of the interior, minister of war, minister of foreign affairs, and minister of the treasury.[4]

Under Sher Ali Khan's reign, Afghanistan was divided into 5 provinces: Kabul, Herat, Afghan Turkestan, Kandahar, and Farah.[5] Formerly Farah had been subject to Herat, but instead he made it a separate province and gave it to his cousin, Sardar Mohammad Afzal (not to be confused with Mohammad Afzal Khan).

During his reign, Sher Ali Khan embarked on a project to modernise his armed forces, standardising uniforms and equipment. After being gifted a battery of mountain guns and several howitzers by the British in 1868, Sher Ali realised the potential of breech-loading artillery and was determined to modernise Afghanistan's arsenal. Whilst his early attempts failed, Sher Ali's craftsmen had soon established new workshops at the Bala Hissar Arsenal and began to produce four to five modern breechloaders each month. Despite his successes in producing relatively modern weapons and equipment, a lack of competent officers and poor discipline meant the new cannons were quickly captured by the British during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. British forces captured more than 250 guns from the Afghans during their campaign.[6]

Sher Ali Khan's rule was hindered by pressure from both the British Empire and the Russian Empire, though Sher Ali Khan attempted to keep Afghanistan neutral during their conflict. His neutrality resulted in Afghanistan being invaded by the British which started the Second Anglo-Afghan War. This war resulted in a British victory and a devastating loss to Afghanistan as Sher Ali Khan was forced to give away a large amount of territory to British India including the city of Quetta. In 1878, the fragile neutrality fell apart with Sher Ali Khan's resisting of British demands for Afghanistan to accept a permanent envoy in Kabul. The British viewing this as confirmation of Sher Ali Khan's inclination towards Russia, gathered their forces and marched on Kabul. Sher Ali Khan opted to leave Kabul in order to seek political and military aid from the Russian Empire. He died in Mazar-e Sharif trying to reach the Russian border, leaving the throne to his son Mohammad Yaqub Khan.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vogelsang, Willem (2002). "16-War with Britain". The Afghans. London: Wiley-Blackwell, John Wiley & SOns, Ltd, UK. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-4051-8243-0.
  2. ^ Dupree, Louis (1997). Afghanistan (2nd ed.). Oxford Pakistan Paperbacks. p. 403. ISBN 978-0-19-577634-8.
  3. ^ "Afghanistan, A Study in Internal Political Developments, 1880-1896 – Kakar History Foundation". Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  4. ^ a b Bizhan, Nematullah (14 August 2017). Aid Paradoxes in Afghanistan: Building and Undermining the State. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-69265-6.
  5. ^ "Government and Society in Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir Abd Al-Rahman Khan – Kakar History Foundation". Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  6. ^ Jenzen-Jones, N.R.; Shanley, Jack (2021). "Hubris or haplessness? The modernisation and loss of Afghanistan's artillery, 1869–79". Journal of the Ordnance Society. 28: 90–96.

External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by Barakzai dynasty
Emir of Afghanistan

9 June 1863 – 1866
Succeeded by
Preceded by Barakzai dynasty
Emir of Afghanistan

7 October 1868 – 21 February 1879
Succeeded by