HC Deb 26 May 1908 vol 189 cc934-7
MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is now in a position to state the precise objects of the Mohmand expedition; when those objects are likely to be attained; and what terms have been offered to the tribes against whom we are fighting.

MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

I beg also to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India what are precisely the offences alleged against the Mohmands; and what are the dates of those offences upon which the Secretary of State authorised a punitive invasion of a neighbouring State and the destruction of the food supplies of the people.

SIR H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)

May I also ask the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can make any statement for the information of the House regarding the raids on British territory which have led to the present punitive expedition against the Mohmands, and whether there are any special causes for the unrest among these hill-men which would account for their recent conduct?


On the night of 24th March two villages in the area under the direct administration of the Government of India beyond the limits of tribal territory, were attacked by Mohmands, two Hindus being killed; and on the night of 30th March a third village in our territory was raided, a Hindu being carried off. By the middle of April the gathering of armed Mohmands on the border had increased to a force estimated at 5,000 men, led by influential Mullahs. In order to protect our villages from attack, it became necessary to strengthen selected posts between Shabkadr and Abazai. On the 19th, 20th, and 21st April the Mohmands fired on patrols in our territory, killing and wounding British subjects; and on the night of the 21st they invaded our territory, fired into the village of Shankargarh, also into our camps, and cut telephone and telegraph wires. On the night of the 22nd they attacked all our military posts, raided two villages, and attempted to destroy the bridge of boats over the Kabul River near Peshawar. The next day the Government of India were authorised by His Majesty's Government to take such military action as they might consider necessary, subject to the principles of the policy laid down by His Majesty's Government on the occasion of the Zakka Khel expedition, that no steps were to be taken leading towards permanent occupation or extension of our responsibility in tribal territory. On 24th April, British troops under General Willcocks attacked the Mohmand forces in the positions they had taken up on our border, and put them to flight. The force of the Mohmands engaged was estimated at 4,000 men. Efforts were made by our officers to induce a jirgah representing the tribes to come in and effect a settlement, but this was unsuccessful. The tribes were allowed until 10th May to send in their jirgah; they failed to do so, and sent insulting replies. On 13th May General Willcocks was ordered to advance with instructions that the object of his expedition was punitive, and that he should let it be widely known that the Government had no intention to interfere with the status quo as regards the position of the tribes. The punitive operations have so far been carried out successfully by General Willcocks. It is hoped that in a few days these operations will be concluded and the British forces withdrawn. No special grievances are known to exist, and none have been made known by the tribes. The general cause of the outbreak is, presumably, religious excitement, due to the disappointment felt by the fanatical Mullahs at the speedy settlement arrived at with the Zakka Khel, extinguishing their expectation of the outbreak of a holy war. The terms to be offered to the tribes must depend in each case on the attitude of the tribe concerned. The tribes have been informed, as I have explained, that there is no intention of disturbing their relations with the British Government. Our anticipation is that a settlement somewhat similar to that with the Zakka Khel may be arrived at.


asked whether the attention of the hon. Gentleman had been called to a telegram in The Times of that day stating that on 24th May an emissary arrived from the tribesmen asking for terms, that General Willcocks refused to see the emissary, and whether this action was taken with the knowledge and the sanction of the Secretary of State.


I have seen the telegram in The Times. Of course I have no means of confirming or of denying the details given in it. The information we have is to the effect that certain portions of the Mohmand tribe endeavoured to enter into negotiations with General Willcocks, that some sections of the tribesmen have been successful, and that other sections have not been successful.


Is it in accordance with the instructions of the Government that the troops destroyed the food supplies that were required for the inhabitants after the soldiers had run away?


The instructions given to General Willcocks were the same as those that were given in regard to the Zakka Khel expedition.

* MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)

Can the country of the Mohmands in any sense be described as a neighbouring State?


I do not think that I should so describe it.


Is it a fact that in the Zakka Khel country the troops burned the crops?


I think that I have answered that Question already.


If the troops did not burn the crops in the Zakka Khel country and they are now burning the crops in the Mohmand country, can the instructions be said to be identical? Is that a "method of barbarism"?


Has the Hindoo—a British subject—who was carried off been rescued?


was understood to reply that he had no information as to this.