1902 Encyclopedia > Afghanistan > Afghanistan - Trade

(Part 13)

(13) Afghanistan - Trade

TRADE – Practically, there are no navigable rivers in Afghanistan, nor does there exist any wheeled carriage. Hence goods are carried on beats of burden, chiefly camels, along roads which often lie through close and craggy defiles, and narrow stony valleys among bare mountains, or over waste plains. Though from time immemorial the larger part of the products of India destined for western Asia and Europe has been exported by sea, yet at one time valuable caravans of these products, with the same destination used to traverse these rugged Afghan roads.

The great trade routes are the following: -

There is also a route from eastern Turkistan by Chitral to Jalalabad, or to Peshawar by Dir; but is doubtful how far there is any present traffic by it.

Towards Sind the chief exports from or through Afghanistan are wool, horses, silk, fruit, madder, and assafoetida. The staple of local production exported from Kandahar is dried fruit. The horse trade in this direction is chiefly carried on by the syads of Pishin, Kakars, Bakhtiyaris, and Biluchis. The Syads also do, or did, dabble largely in slave-dealing. The Hazaras furnished the largest part of the victims.

Burne’s early anticipatin of a large traffic in wool from the regions west of the Indus has been amply verified, for the trade has for many years been of growing importance; and in 1871-72, 2,000,000 lb were shipped from Karachi. The importation to Sind is chiefly in the hands of Shikarpur merchants. Indeed, nearly all the trade from southern Afghanistan is managed by Hindus. That between Mesh’hed, Herat, and Kandahar is carried on by Persians, who bring down silk, arms, turquoises, horses, carpets, &c., and take back wool, skins, and woolen fabrics.

The chief imports by Peshawar from India into Afghanistan are cotton, woolen, and silk goods; from England, coarse country cloths, sugar and indigo, Benares brocades, gold thread and lace, scarves, leather, groceries, and drugs. The exports are raw silk and silk fabrics of Bokhara, gold and silver wire (Russian), horses, almonds and raisins, and fruits generally, furs (including dressed fox skins and sheep skins), and bullion.

The trade with India was thus estimated in 1862: -

Exports to India Imports from India Totals

By Peshawar. £156,513 £120,643 £277,156
By Ghawalari Pass 130,000 164,000 294,000
By Bolan Pass 31,870 18,892 50,762
----------- ----------- ------------
£318,383 £303,535 £621,918

But this omits some passes, and the Bolan exports do not include the large item of wool which enters Sin further south.

A relic of the old times of Asiatic trade has come down to our day in the habits of the class of Lohani Afghan traders commonly called Povindahs, who send their lives in carrying on traffic between India, Khorasan, and Bokhara, by means of their strings of camels and ponies, banded in large armed caravans, in order to restrict those recurring exactions that would render trade impossible. Bullying, fighting, evading, or bribing, they battle their way twice a year between Bokhara and the Indus. Their summer pastures are in the highlands of Ghazni and kala’t-iGhilzai. In the autumn they descend the Sulimani passes. At the Indus, in these days, they have to deposit all lweapons; but once across that, they are in security. They lave their families and their camels in the Panjab plains, and take their goods by rail to all the gangetic cities, or by boat and steamer to Karachi and Bombay. Even in Asam or in distant Rangoon the Povindah is to be seen, pre-eminent by stature and by lofty air, not less than by rough locks and filthy clothes. In March they rejoin their families, and move up again to the Ghilzai highlands, sending on caravans anew to Kabul, Bokhara, Kandahar, and Herat, the whole returning in time to accompany the tribe down the passes in the autumn. The Povindah trade by all the passes is now estimated to reach 1,500,000 pounds in value annually.

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Afghanistan - Table of Contents

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