10 APRIL 1880, Page 7


THERE is one possible policy in Afghanistan which the Liberal Government will be able to consider without pre- judice, which is in itself just and right, and which will enable

the country to escape easily from an untenable position. There is strong reason to believe that the attachment to Yakoob Khan, especially among the Sirdars of Eastern Afghanistan, is much deeper than in England, bemused as the country has been by Lord Lytton's telegrams, is at all generally supposed. The Birders formerly consulted by General Roberts all ex- pressed a wish for the Ameer's restoration, and when they had, as they thought, recovered Cabul they elected his son Moose

Khan, a mere child, to the throne, from a conviction that his name would be, on the whole, the best rallying standard for the clans. They were right, for the gathering of which Ghuznee is the centre is again formidable, though the Kohistanees are inclined, failing Yakoob, to attach themselves to Abdurrahman. On Wednesday, again, the correspondent of the Daily News tele- graphs that the Birders collected in the Maiden, with whom General Roberts has opened communications, have repeated the request for a Restoration, which becomes therefore the first condition of permanent peace. As Yakoob Khan is not only legitimate Ameer, according to Afghan ideas, being the one of the reigning House to whom the whole Douranee Empire- sub- mitted, but is also the Ameer recognised by ourselves, his rule is the one Englishmen should desire, unless his return should be prohibited by overwhelming reasons.

We are assured on excellent authority that such reasons do not exist. There were, at one time, supposed to be two,— namely, Yakoob Khan's unfriendliness to the British, and his complicity in the murder of the Resident; but neither of them is real. We are assured that when the evidence before the Indian Government on the latter point comes to be considered by impartial minds, it will be found that Yakoob Khan pro- posed to give Cavagnari a final guarantee,—namely, a guard of picked Afghans, selected from each Sirdar's personal following, and sworn to his defence, and that this guard was declined ; and that on the day of the massacre Yakoob Khan proposed to throw himself into the Residency, and was surrounded by the armed Sirdars, to prevent him by force from carrying out his resolution. He ought, no doubt, to have burst through ; but his attendants had disappeared, and hesitation is not always the equivalent of treachery, though it raises a natural suspicion of it. He himself declares most solemnly that he intended to carry out the Treaty, which was entirely to his own interest, though he approved neither the territorial cessions, which he fiercely resisted, nor the despatch of a Resident to Cabul, which he declared would occasion

trouble. He gave way at last, however, like his un- happy father, who, as has been discovered since his death, though utterly disapproving the proposal, was so far from finally rejecting it, that he forwarded funds to Lahore to purchase the European hangings and furniture necessary, in his judgment, to make the Residency fit for the splendid re- ception of an English Envoy. As to the unfriendliness, it does not exist. Yakoob Khan's belief, expressed before and after his abdication, is that, on the whole, the English are the safest allies he can have, and that they will as traders and consuls be welcome guests everywhere except at Cabul.

During his captivity in General Roberts's camp, he was, no doubt, sullen and recalcitrant ; and there was reason enough for that attitude of mind. He threw himself, Asiatic fashion, on our hospitality as a guest, and was as much astonished as outraged to find himself regarded and treated as a prisoner. He tried to depart, and was then so strictly guarded that, in his vexation and despair, he insisted on abdication. There never was a worse breach of faith or a grosser violation of the ordinary ideas of Asia than his arrest, even if he were guilty—and in his own eyes he was guilty of nothing worse than shilly-shallying—and if he had sworn enmity to his captors, he would only have been to blame for want of statesmanlike self-control. It is not so, however. He is still aware that the English are his best allies, and his captors have long since convinced themselves that the stories of his failing powers are purely imaginary.

Why should not Yakoob Khan be restored, the Treaty of Gundamuk cancelled by consent, and a new Treaty made with him, containing any terms which the Govern- ment, after its two years of experience, deems essential Those terms might include a joint obligation to keep the Passes open and quiet, which at present we are only doing by regular subsidies to the tribes—we only hire, in fact, Lord Beaconsfield's "gates of India "—the admission of Consuls for commercial purposes throughout the Douranee kingdom, Herat included, except Cabul ; the protection of the Sibi Rail- way, under the authority of the Wali of Candahar, who must be subordinate to the Ameer, but not necessarily removable, and who is a distinct partisan in feeling of Yakoob Khan ; and if needful, a legal right to despatch troops to Candahar when in- dispensable for the maintenance of the Treaty, the indispensa- bleness to be decided by the Government of India. That would be an honourable and an impressive Treaty, and there is strong reason to believe that Yakoob Khan would not only sign it, but keep it, and with a little aid in money only drive back Abdurrahman, whose forces would melt away before the pretensions of an acknowledged Ameer, with no Englishmen lording it over his capital and palace. There is no retroces- sion before Afghans in such a policy, nothing but a Restora- tion demanded by the simplest principles of equity, and an agreement on the only base which can be made firm without the constant employment of armies, and without such an excitement in India, that native recruiting officers conceal the decorations which reveal that they are enlisting for the frontier.

The new Government will, of course, have to decide after it has seen all official information, and will, we do not doubt, decide judiciously ; but the course we have suggested will, we believe, be found by far the easiest, while it will have for Liberals this great recommendation,—it undoes a wrong which ought never to have been perpetrated. Even if we could accept the view of Afghan policy accepted by the Tories, we still could not regard the transportation of Yakoob Khan as anything but an offence against the recognised principles of justice. He was a Sovereign recognised by ourselves, an ally who had made heavy concessions to our policy, and his arrest and deportation without charge or trial was as great an outrage as Napoleon's seizure of the Spanish Bourbons. If he had been steeped in English blood to the lips, he ought to have been set free of the British camp—which he entered under the- strongest; of safe-conducts, the General's consent to receive him—before he was arrested, and it is now as well ascertained as any such fact can be, that the massacre was as deadly a blow to him as to the British Government.