15. Retaking Peshawar
General Nalwa could never be free from fighting the Pathans and Mughals of Afghanistan. Yar Mohd Khan, who had been appointed Governor of Peshawar, was the brother of the king of Afghanistan. He became disloyal to the Sikh raj and joined his brother, which necessitated sending another Sikh expedition to Peshawar. The Sikh army built a pontoon bridge over the river Attock and challenged the Pathans. At the height of the battle, a contingent of Pathans cut the bridge. When Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and Akali Phoola Singh reached the scene, they found the bridge washed away. They could hear the fighting on the other side of the river. They had no other choice but to take the great risk of crossing the flooded river on horseback. The battle, however, had been won by Nalwa by the time the Maharaja reached there. The major battle for retaking Peshawar still lay ahead. Thousands of soldiers and Mujahideens (religious zealots) had gathered there to stop the Sikhs from reaching Peshawar. A bloody battle was fought, where both sides were determined to win at any cost. The Mughals and Pathans found the Sikh sword too strong and beat a hasty retreat to Kabul. The Sikhs again took over Peshawar, although they paid a very high price for it. They lost their general Akali Phoola Singh who was shot by a Pathan hiding behind a rock when he was forcing his opponents to retreat. In another uprising of a local Nawab in 1824, Sardar Hari Singh was severely injured. One of the boulders, exploded by the retreating enemy, hit him and he rolled down the hill. However, an urgent and timely search saved his life. The king of Kabul made yet another attempt to take over Peshawar. A Syad, after returning from Mecca, went to Kabul. He told the king that God had advised him to take over Peshawar. Another attack on Peshawar was therefore organized by them. The Sikhs proved to be too powerful to be ousted and Syad was defeated and killed in May of 1831. The remaining army returned to Kabul leaving the Khalsa to rule Peshawar. Sardar Nalwa was given an award of 50,000 rupees for winning the battle. Under an agreement with Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, a local Burkzace was appointed Governor. In 1834, the Maharaja decided to annex Peshawar and make it a part of Punjab, as every local Governor appointed there had rejoined Kabul once the Sikh army left. Nalwa was appointed as the Governor of Peshawar. The annexation of Peshawar enraged Dost Mohd, the King of Kabul. He sent a very large, well equipped army to take Peshawar back from the Sikhs. General Hari Singh was the commander-in-chief of the defending Sikh army. Though fewer in numbers, the Sikhs organized a defense and counterattack so brilliantly that the larger Kabul army was disarrayed and defeated. Dost Mohd was able to save his life by running away at night.
The Khalsa Raj was thus established over all the areas of the present Pakistan, Kashmir, and Punjab up to the West of Satlej.