Shah Zaman again reached Lahore and on 24th November 1798 he sent a detachment of 10,000 troops to Amritsar. Bhatti and Dhillon Jat rulers Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Sardar Sahib Singh Bhangi the head of 500 horses were patrolling the Lahore road about 13 km from Amritsar. They sighted the Afghans and instantly engaged their advancing party in a bloody fight. Meanwhile some jat sardars from Amritsar with 2,000 men joined them. About 500 men were killed on each side, and the Afghans were driven back to Lahore.

Dal Singh, maternal uncle of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s father, had plundered his 2,000 camels laden with fresh and dry fruits in the village of Talwandi Musa Khan, 11 km north-east of Gujranwala. He had also captured 50 horses, 70 camels, 16 mules, and many shawls. The Kasur ruler, Nazimuddin aligned himself with Shah Zaman fought Sikh at Kot Lakhpat, 15 kms from Lahore. And on 21 December 1798, Ranjit Singh and Dal Singh fought with a Durrani contingent. This again went led to a stalemate.

Shah Zaman’s prime minister, Wafadar Khan, sent an agent Neki Singh to Amritsar on 22 December 1798, to negotiate with the Sikhs for peace. Neki Singh gave two pairs of shawls and three sarpeches to Ranjit Singh and one pair of shawls to Kang Jat ruler Sardar Tara Singh Ghaiba Of Dallewalia. These chiefs gave to Neki Singh for the Shah seven bows and seven quivers full of fine arrows. At the time of the departure of Neki Singh, Ranjit Singh and Sahib Singh Bhangi granted khilats and Rs. 500 in cash to Neki Singh. Kasur ruler wanted Durrani help against the Sikhs, but Shah wanted peace. On 3rd Jan 1799 news reached Shah Zaman that Prince Mahmud of Herat has revolted. Shah Zaman gave doshala to all Sikh Vakils and told that he leaves this country (Punjab) to you (Sikhs). When the Shah reached Gujranwala, Ranjit Singh’s men delivered all those articles of food and fodder to the Shah.

Shah’s 12 guns (cannons) were lying on dry sandy banks of Jhelum and torrential rain and high current led the guns to be swept away. Shah Zaman without guns reached Peshawar on 30 January 1799. From there he sent a maraslah under his own signatures to Ranjit Singh asking him to extricate his twelve guns from river Jhelum as soon as possible and send them to him at Peshawar and he would be granted governorship of Lahore province! Ranjit Singh dragged out eight guns in the beginning of March 1799, and sent them to the Shah at Peshawar, explaining that the remaining four guns were lying in deeper waters under a very strong current, and could not be taken out. The Shah was pleased. He sent a khilat for Ranjit Singh, in recognition of his service, with a firman permitting him to capture Lahore!

Shah Zaman did not control any part of Punjab nor Sikhs paid him any tribute hence he could not give governorship to anyone. However, he by virtue of being Ahmad Shah Abdali’s grandson he claimed Punjab and by giving the governorship to someone he could claim his protégé ruled Punjab! Ranjit Singh, 18 years of age showed courage and diplomacy beyond his age. This was a big morale boast for the young chief. Later that year, eminent Muslims of Lahore invited Ranjit Singh to come and rule Lahore. Two years later in 1801, Mahmud Shah blinded and deposed Shah Zaman who sought refuge in Punjab. Maharaja Ranjit Singh welcomed him like of fellow ruler & gave him a monthly allowance of Rs 1500.

References :-

  • Hari Ram Gupta – History of the Sikhs Vol. V The Sikh Lion of Lahore (Maharaja Ranjit Singh,1799-1839)
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