Jesting is ingrained in our impulses. To overcome embarrassment, ridiculous jokes are sketched up against those whom we can’t beat down in the battlefield. For instance, Sikh and Pushton warriors are lampooned with preposterous jokes, proving them dupes in a bizarre attempt to counter the onslaught which they let loose on the Subcontinent. ‘Sikha Shahi’ and ‘Nadir Shahi’ terms are commonly used in our colloquy. When Muhammad Shah Rangila was on the Mughal throne, Nadir Shah Durrani devastated Hindustan. According to historians, the assailants, after a month long mugging, melted the ornaments of gold and silver to shape them into bricks for easy transport. Apart from the world famous diamond Koh-i-Noor, worth of the wealth then carted to Iran could today be estimated no less than 156 billion dollars. Besides ravaging and looting, Nadir Shah allowed his soldiers to massacre local men and rape women at will. Lahori Gate, Kabali Gate and Faiz Bazaar of Delhi were littered with dead bodies. Later, this worst defeat was countered by declaring Nadir Shah a fool of first water.

A towering humorist of our age, Shafiq-ur-Rehman has ridiculed Nadir Shah in ‘Tuzk-e-Nadiri’. Other writers have also shown their penmanship in this genre and introduced the term, ‘Nadir Shahi’. When today some nonsensical decree is issued, we tend to say, ‘What a Nadir Shahi diktat it is!’

Our humorists have come up with eccentric rationale for jesting. For instance when Nadir Shah decided to invade Hindustan, he asked his courtiers to validate the intended invasion. One courtier said, ‘We will say that we came to meet an aunt of Nadir Shah who lives in Bhai Pheru, and our intention was not to raid Hindustan.’ Another adviser came up the sage rationale, ‘We attacked because all except us had attacked Hindustan.’ A third one put in his validation that Hindustan was not attacked for a long time. Wasn’t this justification enough?

As ‘Sikha Shahi’ term was coined to ridicule Sikhs, ‘Nadir Shahi’ term also hit the then available airwaves to scorn Nadir Shah Durrani. A factionary tale of Nadir Shah’s justice is related in this concern:

“The king (Nadir Shah) was holding his court for the provision of prompt and cheap justice when some persons brought a man in his presence, pleading, ‘Your Grace, this person is the killer of our brother. Dispense us Justice by awarding him capital punishment’. Nadir Shah assured them that they would get justice, and this killer would be hanged before the sunset. When the proceedings of the case started, the claimants told the court that their brother was a thief by profession. Last night, in an attempt to break into a house when he skipped over the wall, a dislodged brick hit his head, and he breathed his last on the spot. The person arrested, they told the king, was the owner of the house. He, according to the claimants, had committed a criminal negligence. Had he got the bricks lay firmly, their brother would not have died. Nadir Shah Durrani, agreeing to their point, ordered to hang him. Before the conviction, the criminal beseeched, ‘Your Honor, I respect the verdict but I have not built my own house. It was a mason who laid the bricks. Therefore, it will be unjust to punish me for the mistake of someone else’. Nadir Shah agreed to his reasoning too. He ordered to nab the mason. The mason was also a smart fellow. To save his neck, he put in the logic that the dislodging of the brick means that mortar was substandard. If so, it was the fault of the laborer. At this, the laborer was searched, apprehended and was presented before the court. But he too had certain reasoning: ‘Your Honor, if the mortar was watery, it is not my fault. When the house was being built and we were at work, a ravishingly beautiful girl, Sitra happened to pass by the way. Her dazzling red dress caught my eyes and diverted my attention; and I kept on looking at her.’ Nadir Shah, nodding that she was the real culprit, ordered her arrest. When that ravishing beauty was presented before the king, she put in thus, ‘My Lord, I don’t like to wear such alluring dress, but it is fault of the dyer who dyed my dress in such stunning color.’ Nadir Shah, deeming the argument convincing enough, ordered the arrest of the dyer. The dyer said, ‘I am a humble worker. I bought colorant from a grocery store. Now if the grocer gave me such bright colorant, it is not my mistake. The punishment must go to the grocer.’ In short, the grocer was arrested and presented before the court. The grocer, being an artless fellow, couldn’t pass the buck. So, he was held responsible for the death of the thief who was hit by a loose brick. He was about to be convicted when a new problem surfaced. His neck was too slim to be put in the noose for hanging. In the meantime, the sun was just touching the horizon, and the king had promised to punish the killer before the evening. The making of a new noose would consume the day. At this, Nadir Shah taking a glance of the mob for prompt and cheap justice, ordered to hang anyone whose neck is fit in the noose.”

Definitely, it is a fiction coined and fabricated by our humorist. But when I see ‘Nadir Shahi verdicts’ around us, and the criterion of justice is just the ‘fitting of noose on a proper neck’, I have no doubt that we are living in Nadir Shahi era. There are many instances of such ‘Nadir Shahi justice’, but at present I would like to cite one which relates to another gallant from the same tribe, General (r) Asad Durrani.

When he published his book, ‘The Spy Chronicles’, we were told that he was called to question in the GHQ, and a Court of Inquiry was also formed for further investigations. But when he went to the court for the exclusion of his name from the ECL, we came to know that he was just called for a cup of tea and jolly gossip.


The writer is Lahore based Journalist.