Ko-i-staun foot soldiery in summer costume
Artist: Carrick, Robert C (fl. mid-19th century), after R
Medium: Lithograph, coloured
This lithograph is taken from plate 12 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray. This Kohistani is Mir Alam, formerly one of a band of noted robbers on the road to Turkestan, north-west of Begram. Rattray wrote: "Coistaun has always been remarkable for the war-like character of its inhabitants, who average some forty thousand families famous for the efficiency and excellence of their Pyadas (foot-soldiery). As light infantry they are unrivalled, and from their numbers and determined courage, are of considerable importance in the event of any revolution in which they may take part."
The robber chief Hassan secretly and daringly accosted the British envoy William McNaghten and offered to bring him Dost Mohammmed's head in return for a large amount of money. Although this offer was hastily turned down, Hassan and his men were later enrolled among the infantry escort of Rattray's brother. Giving up their precarious livelihood, they became most efficient soldiers.
Mir Alam carries a 'juzzail', a type of large heavy rifle. Afghan snipers were expert marksmen and their juzzails fired roughened bullets, long iron nails or even pebbles over a range of some 250 metres. The Afghans could fling the large rifles across their shoulders as if they were feathers and spring nimbly from rock to rock. They loved to decorate their rifles: Rattray writes of finding one adorned with human teeth.