30 OCTOBER 1880, Page 6


WE have no means as yet—Friday afternoon—of knowing whether the rumour of an insurrection in Cabal and of the murder of Abdurrahman Khan is true or not. Judging on priniti facie evidence, we should say it was true, but the evidence is too imperfect for a definite opinion. The Calcutta correspondent of the Times, telegraphing on Thursday, denies the story ; but he acknowledges that nothing is known of affairs in Cabul beyond the 16th inst., a fortnight ago,—that is, in such matters, a century. It is certain that the Commissioner of Peshawur has ascertained that natives believe the rumour, that the Viceroy acknowledges a suspension of informa- tion from Cabul, and that the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, a journal which has the sense to employ Persian news- writers, thinks the story substantially correct. The first infor- mation of the murder of Sir Louis Ca,vagnari was received in the same way, and any Persian or Hindoo dealer in the Qabul Bazaar who had business relations with Peshawur would have no difficulty in sending the facts through the Khyber to his correspondent. He would not exaggerate either, though, as his object would be to enable his friend to sweep the bazaar of certain Afghan goods, he might send away his messenger too early, and before the ultimate result of the straggle had declared itself. As to the meaning of the revolt, it can have but one, if it has occurred at all, namely, that the national party in Cabal, enraged at Abdurrahman's friendliness to the British, have put him to death, and intend either to raise Moosa

Khan, Yakoob's son, to the throne, or, still more probably, to elect Ayoub Khan, the only Barukhzye who has defeated the white Infidel in the open field. He has always had a strong party in Cabul, he has not given personal offence to the Sirdars, and he may very easily have purchased the "party of Ghuzni," which has not submitted to the Ameer. Of course, the scene being Afghanistan, the first object would be to assassinate Abdurrahman; and it has all along been stated, with curious persistency, that the Ameer, for reasons not given, is unpopular with his personal guard, the men who accompanied him from Balkh. In a revolt of the kind their fidelity would be everything, and if he has been murdered, it has failed.

We must wait for the facts, and as yet the only fact is a disturbance so serious as to suspend communication between Cabul and Peshawur ; but we should like our readers to reflect for a moment on what the rumour, if true—and it may easily be true—would mean. It would mean that the error of the Government in remaining in Candahar six months after General Roberts had given them the opportunity of retiring, was about to involve a fourth Afghan campaign, of the same exhausting and utterly sterile kind. If we were out of Canda- har, Afghan revolts would matter no more to us than South- American wars. It would be nothing to us which Barukhzye ruled or how he ruled, whether he was elected by acclaim, or whether he became sovereign through the "natural selection" demonstrated by killing all his competitors. The Afghans cannot attack us, and are no more to us than any other clans beyond our frontier who prefer to settle dynastic disputes, like European Legitimists in Spain or Portugal, by the sword. If Abdurrahman kills Ayoub, so much the better ; and if Ayoub kills Abdurrahman, where is the harm to us ? Ayoub does not hate Englishmen worse than the Sultan, nor was Lieutenant Maclaine a person we were more bound to avenge than Mr. Ogle, but we have not declared war on Mr. Ogle's account. We could have refused, if that were thought wise, to recognise Ayoub, and shut the Passes against him, and then have waited until the next revolt had brought up somebody else. As, however, we have, in the teeth of common- ssnse, political morality, and our own interests, chosen to remain in Candahar, we may now have to wage another costly campaign. The first idea of any nationalist Ameer, and especially of Ayoub, must be to recover Candahar ; and as we cannot retreat before menace, we must wait attack, defeat the enemy, and in all human probability drive him from his throne, before we can be even approximately safe. That operation will cost us five millions, five thousand European soldiers, wounded, invalided, or sent to hospital, and continued disaffection in our Sepoy Army. And what do we gain by it all ? Our opponents in this controversy are never tired of accusing the Liberals of sentimentality and fanaticism ; but in this instance, though Liberals hate buccaneering, even for " Imperial " objects, they are defending the policy of hard, unsentimental sense. They ask, with Bismarck, why English bones are to be broken and English sovereigns wasted, in order that one barbarian may rule instead of another on a valueless bit of the Central- Asian plateau. There never was such folly since Napoleon III. invaded Mexico, to enable the Latin race to strengthen itself against some future aggression from their Anglo-Saxon neigh- bours. Ayoub Khan is a Russian nominee ? So they said Abdurrahman Khan was ; and he is, according to this story, murdered,—as Ayoub also will be, if he shows a desire to play into the hands of any Infidel whatsoever. If we are to conquer Afghanistan in the interest of Europe and civilisation, well and good, though Europe might find more profitable work ; tut to conquer it in order to substitute one Afghan for another, or one " friendly " to England for one friendly to Russia, is childish waste of power. Whichever he is, he will either hate all wearers of the hat with impartial and implacable malignity, or he will be killed for not hating them enough. Of all British delusions, the most absurd and the most ruinous is that Mahommedans of Central Asia can be induced to love one set of white-faced Christians better than another, or regard any of them in any light but that in which Kurds regard Armenians or Greeks,—as people to be shot down, plundered, or expelled, as may be most convenient for the day.