Ahmad Shah Durranis the first king of Afghanistan, role in the history of the region is never well evaluated. None of the many historians ever bothered to place him within his proper historical and socio-political perspective. The reason why Ahmad Shahs merit was never recognized was his rise at a time when the Indian and Persian empires were disintegrating and the alien invaders from the West were scrambling into fill the vacuum. Whatever Ahmad Shah accomplished benefited the alien invaders and his achievements were eclipsed by the volatility of the time.
Ahmad Shah was a conqueror, a great administrative genius, but his successors were not gifted with his qualities. The inability of his successors even to hold on to his accomplishments manifestly contributed to his relative obscurity. Their lack of administrative and governing potential was exploited by the British colonialists to further their sinister designs. They, on one hand banked upon his victories against the Indian rulers annihilating a people weakened by his armies. On the other hand, they manipulated the weakened heir to Ahmad Shah to let them use a Afghanistan as a buffer zone against the Russians in the Great Game.
People a great majority of them, interested in the history of Afghanistan view Ahmad Shah as a great conquer; a general who channelised formidable jingoism of the savage Afghans to play havoc with northern India. Not many, however, have been able to appreciate the services of the great king rendered while governing, at the uneasiness of times, the most unpredictable of people and the most confounding of land.
He surged the tide of fortune as all great men in human history did. The times he lived in were most opportune for the great man make history. But the way he maneuvered to reach the zenith of Pakhtun history needed quite an extraordinary mind to use circumstances to his advantage.
Ahmad Shah was a soldier in the persian army of Nadir Shah Afshar who had adopted a reconciliation stance towards the Afghans knowing he could not afford indefinite rivalry with them. He gave precedence to Abdales over Ghilzais due to their superior fighting capabilities. Ahmad Shah progressed from a Yasawal (personal servant) to the rank of the commander of the Abdali regiment. Quite a few writers believe that the death of Nadir Shah Afshar at the hands of the Qizalbash soldiers was an act of jealousy. They are critical of Ahmad Shahs growing importance. This seems to be a remote conclusion. The Qizalbash must had been wary of growing Afghan influence, and Ahmad Shahs significance and relevance must be seen as part of it. So it was a matter of group jealousy with personal jealousy put in for good measure. But the every growing prestige of this young man was sufficient testament to his diplomatic skill and personal charisma.
The death of the mentor didn't end the career of the young man. He not only showed great honor and loyalty by providing security to the family of the late king but convened a Jirga another testimony of his ingenuity. Not only this, he also sent letters to different tribal elders on his way to attend the Jirga. This prior communication must have had an effect upon the elders who readily accepted him as their leader. Ahmad Shah may have won the hearts of the jingoistic Pakhtuns through military skill and 5000 strong army, but by communicating with them, leader prior to the Jirga, he must had been able to dispel the misgivings of the Afghan leaders. They must have got the implicit message that the young general was no tyrant but simply considering himself worthy enough to become first among the equals. And this must have been the reason for his accession to throne as the first king of Afghanistan in October, 1747, near the tomb of Shaikh Surkh, adjacent to Nadir Abad Fort.
It was not awe but humility that made Haji Jamal Khan Muhammad Zai abdicate his claim to leadership. Thus making a way for Ahmad Shah to become a king more easily. Pir Sabir Shah, the spiritual guide of the time, showered his praise for the young Ahmad Shah by declaring him Dar-e-Durran (pearl of the pearls) not because that he was a militia giant but for his humanity a definite quality of statesman.
Ahmad Shah fought like a soldier but ruled like a statesman giving a sense of participation to his fellows. His council of nine ministers had always been at his side and he even advised his successors to keep the institution alive. But it was never meant to be. They were neither intelligent nor fortunate enough to put to good use their available resources.
Ahmad Shah Durrani was greatly skilled in managing human resources for his advantage. He always honored the tribal traditions of the Pakhtuns. All the tribes were ruled by the men of their choice in his reign, and he never tried to interfere into the affairs of internal administration of the allied tribes. He organized a special force with men from all tribes in commanding positions. The Durranis were placed at the top.
When Ahmad Shah made advanced on Peshawar after conquering Kabul, he interfered negligibly in the affairs of the tribes of this land. The Afridis and Shinwaris remained the toll collectors and Ahmad Shah refrained from posing any threat to their autonomy and authority. These were the traits of a statesman who brought the area from Swat to Balochistan under his command. The rest of our present day NWFP was under his rule by December 1747.
He not only rewarded his own race but also respected worthy enemies of other stocks. His courtesy to Mir Muneer, the governor of Lahore, is an ample proof of his manliness and grace.
There were many Pakhtun tribes who didn't pay homage to him but he never pressed them hard to do so. The Khattaks of Lanri, living in the mountains were never forced to submit. And when they aided him against the Marhattas, he duly rewarded them.
Above all these merits was his quality to rever the pious, Pir Sabir Shahs love for Ahmad Shah is well known. He sacrificed his life defending the honor of the king. But this was not because of the over powering personality of Ahmad Shah. It was in fact, due to his allegiance, and devotion to the pious. His fondness for Mian Muhammad Umar of Chamkani is known to all.
Although these acts endeared him to his fellowmen, one must not jump to the conclusion that these were simply acts of statesmanship: Gimmicks of political Shrewdness. These were in fact, expressions of great piety. His suffice influences can be easily traced in his style of governance. His consultative attitude towards his fellowmen can not be easily found in other men of his time. His conquests and subsequent bestowal of the conquered land upon the worthy among the defeated also indicates his greatness and selflessness a great desire to rule judiciously.