HC Deb 08 July 1880 vol 253 cc1902-4

asked the Secretary of State for India, If there is any truth in the statement in the Cabul correspondence of the "Times" of July 5th, viz: that, a gathering of tribesmen having taken place in a village, General Hills, formerly Governor of Cabul, despatched a cavalry brigade with orders to disperse them, and "to give the best account of them possible;" and that, on the approach of the cavalry, these people took to flight, but nevertheless they were pursued for six miles, and two hundred of them were killed; and, if the facts are at all as represented by the "Times" correspondent, whether there is not so much appearance that the officers concerned have acted in contravention of the orders of the Secretary of State prohibiting unnecessary and vindictive attacks on and slaughter of Afghans, as to render an immediate inquiry necessary?


I must point out, in the first place, to the hon. Gentleman that the extracts which he has read conveyed generally an accurate idea of what has taken place in the neighbourhood of Cabul. I am unwilling to take up the time of the House by reading very long documents in reply to the hon. Gentleman's Question; but when the character of our officers is attacked it is necessary that I should put the House in possession of the exact facts upon which the attack is founded. The account of the affair to which the hon. Gentleman refers is given in The Times of last Monday in the following words:— On learning that the Ghazni Field Force was returning from Char-Asiab towards this place on the 26th ult., the whole of the tribal gatherings which had collected in the Logar Valley with hostile intentions dispersed to Zurmat, Charwar, Maidan, and Wardak. The Logaris themselves had steadfastly refused to join them. Three days ago, however, the political officer, Colonel Euan Smith, learnt that under the influence of Sirdar Mahomed Hassan Khan, the late Governor of Jellalabad, the Zurmat men had again collected to the number of 800 or 900 at the large village of Padkhow, where they had been joined by the above Sirdar. It was further learnt that in this new movement Sirdars Hassim Khan and Abdullah Khan, whose flight from Cabul was noticed last week, had joined. Those latter Sirdars had sent into Logar offering large rewards for men and arms, and requesting the people to assemble and await their arrival. They promised to bring a large following from the vicinity of Khoord Cabul, and stated that they would be joined by 12,000 men from Maidan. As the collection at Padkhow, therefore, seemed likely to become the nucleus of a large gathering, it was determined to break it up at once. Accordingly, General Hills ordered a cavalry brigade, under General Palliser, to reconnoitre early on the 1st inst. towards Padkhow, directing that officer, if he found the enemy, to give the best account of them possible. The brigade consisted of the 1st and 2nd Punjab Cavalry and the 19th Bengal Lancers. On arriving at Padkhow it was found that the enemy had taken flight. They were overtaken about three miles off, trying to reach the shelter of the hills. They numbered some 800, and had been deserted, as usual, by their leaders. When they found that escape was impossible, they stood at bay and died bravely. The pursuit was continued for six miles, and 200 of them were killed. Thus, while the statement in The Times is that the gathering fled on the approach of the troops, the fact is that an engagement occurred before the enemy were broken. The telegram which I received on the 7th of July from the Viceroy of India gives a somewhat different account of the affair. It is as follows:— Yours, 6th. Pacts about Padkhow fight as follow:—On 1st July General Hills hearing of gathering near his camp at Zargun Shahr, sent out Palliser with 550 cavalry to disperse it. Palliser found the enemy 1,500 strong near Padkhow. Our cavalry attacked and broke them, pursuing some miles, and killing over 200. Our loss, three killed, Captain Barrow and 24 men wounded. Enemy were Zurmatees. Stewart thinks fight will have excellent effect. Gatherings numerous and excited greatly by private letter of negotiation with Abdurrahman. It is necessary for military security and supply not to allow ourselves to be hemmed in, and Hills was right in dispersing the Zurmatees. The House will see that it is impossible, as long as our Forces remain at Cabul, to permit armed gatherings of the Afghan Tribes of this kind to be held in the neighbourhood. Strict orders have been issued that no unnecessary military demonstrations should be made during the stay of our troops in Afghanistan.