Chitral Scouts

Chitral Scouts

Band Party of Chitral Scouts
Active 1903-Present
Country Pakistan
Branch Frontier Corps
Type Paramilitary
Garrison/HQ Drosh Cantonment
Engagements Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 [1]
Kargil War [2]

The Chitral Scouts (CS) (Urdu: چترال سکاوٹس), also known as Chitral levies, originally raised in 1903 as the militia of the princely state of Chitral, is now a unit of the federally controlled Frontier Corps of Pakistan. Recruited mostly from the Chitral and Kalash Valleys areas along the western borders and led by officers from the Pakistan Army. The Frontier Corps of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa falls under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. Its headquarters is at Chitral town, and it is commanded by a Colonel of the Pakistan Army.

The Chitral Scouts have seven wings, each headed by army officers with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel or Major. Its role is to keep guard over Pakistan's western borders in peace-time and to assist the civil administration in maintaining law and order in the district of Chitral.


The Chitral Scouts were raised in 1903 in the princely state of Chitral on an initiative by the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston. The word Scouts meant that the force was a militia, not part of the British Indian Army, and it was under the command of a Chief of Chitral, but with a British attached officer. The objective of the force was to provide soldiers for the defense of India's North-West Frontier in case of invasion.[3] The corps had an initial strength of 1,200 men [4] and aimed to recruit the trained cragsmen of Chitral, that is, experienced mountaineers.[5] They were provided with Martini–Henry and Snider–Enfield rifels, ten rounds per rifle per Scout was the first line of ammunition. Pay and allowances of the Scouts were shared by the Political Agent and the Mehtar of Chitral Shuja ul-Mulk, who was also installed as the Honorary Commandant.

On raising, the initial batch of Scouts mostly from Upper Chitral were given extensive training-in-drill for which the drill instructors from the regular British Army unit stationed at Chitral were borrowed. Firing was the main thrill of the recruits, the air was informal, with polo being a major attraction in the evening when the Scouts would show their prowess.[6]

Third Afghan War 1919

Further information: Third Anglo-Afghan War

The war itself was not focused on the Chitral sector, however Afghanistan had much more chances of success here in Chitral than anywhere else. Afghanistan had kept its word during the Great War of 1914-1918, but then the chain of events inside Afghanistan necessitated the launching of a Jihad by Kabul, which it did in summer of 1919 with great dexterity and achieved stunning results in the Waziristan sector. Amir Amanullah broke his relations with British India because it had delayed in accepting his kinship and more so politically to have public support. The Mehtar of Chitral also received one such firman from Ammanullah on 8 May 1919, however Shuja ul-Mulk rejected the offer and kept his side of the pact with the British intact. Consequently, Chitral prepared itself for an attack.

Initial Afghan movement started from 12 May onwards, they captured Arandu and soon the Scouts positioned at Galapach were over ran by 600 strong Afghans. The Scouts retreated to Mirkhani, Afghans were certainly moving forward with an aim to capture the Mirkhani and close the Lawari Pass.[7]

Clash at Mirkhani

On 14 May 1919, Major N.F Reilly along with two companies of Chitral Scouts arrived at Mirkhani from Drosh. The retreating scouts were also harnessed and together these three companies put up a courageous fight on the Galapach position and reoccupied it. Afghan strength at Arandu was estimated to be over 600 supported by four artillery guns and a large tribal lashkar.[8]

Battle of Birkot

Almost an entire British Garrison at Chitral was present at the Battle of Birkot, a small town in the Afghan province of Asmar where the bulk of the Afghan were concentrated. Battle opened up on the 23rd of May at 0700 hours, Chitral Scouts carried out the advance and by 1400 hours the Afghans started retreating from Arandu. After the action the Afghans started reinforcing themselves thus the political administration at Chitral very wisely decided to retreat back into its own areas.

On 3 June 1919 the armistice was signed between British India and the Afghan Government. However the situation at Chitral remained precarious with Afghan General Wakil Khan planning to move into Chitral. The situation in Chitral started coming back to normalcy after signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi on 8 August 1919, thus ending the conflict from which the Chitral Scouts emerged as victors.

Orders, awards and decorations

Three scouts were awarded with post humous award of Indian Order of Merit, one with Military Cross, one with Distinguished Service Order and two each with Indian Distinguished Service Medal and the title of Khan Sahib. Unlike the North Waziristan Militia, and South Waziristan Militia along with the Khyber Rifels where mass defection took place, there was not even one defecting among the rank of Chitral Scouts.[9] In recognition of his loyalty and faithfulness Shuja ul-Mulk was Knighted,[10] given the title of His Highness [11] and a right of having a salute of 11 guns.[12]

Chitral State Scouts 1942-1956

In 1942 the last of British soldier left Chitral, as they were required at more important places due to swinging fortunes of the Second Great War. In the same year the nomenclature of Chitral Scouts was changed to Chitral State Scouts and was placed under the Frontier Corps administrative control.[13]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1947

At the time of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the Chitral Scouts were still a force under the control of the ruler of Chitral. With the Gilgit Scouts, the Chitral Scouts played a leading role in the conflict and secured the Baltistan territory for Pakistan.[14]

The 3rd June 1947 plan had left no option to the Princely States but to choose either between India or Pakistan. Mehtar Muzaffar ul-Mulk had good relations with Quaid-e-Azam and thus Chitral acceded to Pakistan in August 1947.[15]

Tension over Kashmir had already escalated and Muzaffar-ul-Mulk declared jihad for the liberation of Kashmir and sent his Bodyguards to fight alongside the Chitral Scouts, under the command of Mata ul-Mulk. Colonel Mata reached Skardu via the Deosai plains, adopting and circumnavigating the Indian held Tsari Pass and thus descending upon the Skardu city and laying siege. On 19 June the besieged commander Lieutenant Colonel Thapa sent his emissary with a white flag to Colonel Mata, accepting surrender terms under Geneva Convention.[16]

Chitral Scouts 1956

In 1956 the Chitral State Scouts were reverted back to the identity of Chitral Scouts, for the reason that Pakistan became a republic and from dominion status and all the Princely States were amalgamated into the One Unit.[17]

Kargil War

Further information: Kargil War

The Chitral Scouts also saw service in the Kargil War of May–July 1999. For the Kargil operation, Pakistan army launched forces exclusively from the Northern Light Infantry. These included 5, 6, 8 and 12 NLI battalions in full strength and elements of 3, 4, 7 and 11 NLI with the Chitral and Bajaur Scouts employed for logistic support.[18]


  1. Jammu and Kashmir War, 1947-1948: Political and Military Perspective, by Kuldip Singh Bajwa, Har-Anand Publications, 2004, pp. 157-158.
  2. Zar Alam Khan Rizakhail, Recruitment centre’s shifting opposed, in Dawn News dated September 25, 2003, at
  3. Ian Sumner, The Indian Army 1914-1947 (Osprey Publishing, 2001), p. 57
  4. B. S. Nijjar, "History of the United Panjab," Atlantic Publishers 1992, p. 163
  5. Amanullah Khan, Gilgit Baltistan, a disputed territory or a fossil of intrigues? (1999), p. 66
  6. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. p. 27.
  7. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. pp. 31–33.
  8. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. p. 33.
  9. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. pp. 33–36.
  10. The London Gazette. London: Thomas Newcomb Publishing. 1919. p. 110.
  11. Chohan, Amar Singh. The Gilgit Agency, 1877-1935. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 209.
  12. Gurdon, B.E.M (1937). The Himalayan Journal Vol.09. The Himalayan Club.
  13. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. p. 41.
  14. Behera Navnita Chadha, Demystifying Kashmir (ISBN 8131708462), p. 182
  15. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. p. 41.
  16. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. pp. 44–46.
  17. Cheema, Aamir Mushtaq (2014). An Illustrated History of the Chitral Scouts (1903-2014). War Studies. p. 49.
  18. "Ode of remembrance: The Kargil war". 6 August 2013.
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