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Ahmad Shah (1724-1773), founder of the Durrani dynasty in Afghanistan, was the son of Sammaun-Khan, hereditary chief of the Abdali tribe. While still a boy Ahmad fell into the hands of the hostile tribe of Ghilzais , by whom he was kept prisoner at Kandahar. In March 1738 he was rescued by Nadir Shah, who soon afterwards gave him the command of a body of cavalry composed chiefly of Abdalis. On the assassination of Nadir in 1747, Ahmad, having failed in an attempt to seize the Persian treasures, retreated to Afghanistan, where he easily persuaded the native tribes to assert their independence and accept him as their sovereign. He was crowned at Kandahar in October 1747, and about the same time he changed the name of his tribe to Durrani.
Two things may be said to have contributed greatly to the consolidation of his power. He interfered as little as possible with the independence of the different tribes, demanding from each only its due proportion of tribute and military service; and he kept his army constantly engaged in brilliant schemes of foreign conquest. Being possessed of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, and being fortunate enough to intercept a consignment of treasure on its way to the shah of Persia, he had all the advantages which great wealth can give.
He first crossed the Indus River in 1748, when he took Lahore; and in 1751, after a feeble resistance on the part of the Muslim viceroy, he became master of the entire Punjab. In 1750 he took Nishapur, and in 1752 subdued Kashmir. His great expedition to Delhi was undertaken in 1756 in order to avenge himself on the Mughal empire for the recapture of Lahore.
Ahmad entered Delhi with his army in triumph, and for more than a month the city was given over to pillage. The shah himself added to his wives a princess of the imperial family, and bestowed another upon his son Timur Shah, whom he made governor of the Punjab and Sirhind. As his viceroy in Delhi he left a Rohilla chief in whom he had all confidence, but scarcely had he crossed the Indus when the Muslim wazir drove the chief from the city, killed the Great Mogul and set another prince of the family, a tool of his own, upon the throne. The Maratha chiefs availed themselves of these circumstances to endeavour to possess themselves of the whole country, and Ahmad was compelled more than once to cross the Indus in order to protect his territory from them and the Sikhs, who were constantly attacking his garrisons.
In 1758 the Marathas obtained possession of the Punjab, but on the 6th of January 1761 they were totally routed by Ahmad in the great battle of Panipat. In a later expedition he inflicted a severe defeat upon the Sikhs, but had to hasten westward immediately afterwards in order to quell an insurrection in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the Sikhs again rose, and Ahmad was now forced to abandon all hope of retaining the command of the Punjab.
After lengthened suffering from a terrible disease, said to have been cancer in the face, he died in 1773, leaving to his son Timur Shah the kingdom he had founded.
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