Bannú, or Our Afghan Frontier


Bannú, or Our Afghan Frontier is an account of Bannu District in British India (located in present-day northwestern Pakistan). The Bannu Valley was seized by the East India Company in 1848 and the district formed in 1861. The author, Septimus Smet Thorburn, was an official in the Indian Civil Service and the settlement officer in the district. The book is in two parts. Part one, consisting of six chapters, covers the geography, history, and administrative system of Bannu, with emphasis on British rule and its interaction with local traditions, customs, and patterns of authority and land tenure and ownership. Part two, which comprises the bulk of the book, deals with customs and folklore. It includes an introductory chapter entitled “Social Life, Customs, Beliefs and Superstitions of the Peasantry,” and separate chapters devoted to “Popular Stories, Ballads and Riddles” and “Pashto Proverbs Translated into English.” The final chapter gives the texts of the same proverbs—406 in all—in Pushto. The stories, ballads, and riddles are brief—generally a few paragraphs—and are classed in five categories: humorous and moral, comic and jocular, fables, Marwat ballads (relating to the Pushto Marwat tribe living in Bannu), and riddles. The proverbs are grouped according to the topics to which they relate, for example, begging, boasting, bravery, and so forth, and for many of the proverbs a brief explanation is given of its meaning and application. A short appendix deals with the complicated system of land allotments in the different tappas (traditional subdivisions) of the Bannu region. The book includes a map of the Bannu District with an inset map showing its relationship to the neighboring parts of Afghanistan and the regions of Waziristan, Kashmir, and the Punjab.

Last updated: July 28, 2017