Also spelled GILZAI, GHILZAI, or GHALJAI, one of the largest of the
Pashto-speaking tribes in Afghanistan, whose traditional territory
extended from Ghazni and Kalat-i-Ghilzai eastward into the Indus Valley.
They are reputed to be descended at least in part from the Khalaj
or Khilji Turks, who entered Afghanistan in the 10th century. The
Lodi, who established a dynasty on the throne of Delhi in Hindustan
(1450-1526), were a branch of the Ghilzay, and in the early 18th century Mir
Vais Khan, a Ghilzay chieftain, captured Kandahar and established
an independent kingdom there (1709-15). From this capital his son
Mahmud conquered Persia.
Some of the Ghilzay had long been nomadic merchants, buying goods
in India, where they wintered, and in summer transporting these
by camel caravan for sale or barter in Afghanistan. In the late
19th century Afghan nomads began to enter the central mountains
of Afghanistan, and several summer trading camps were established
in the western mountains. Also, former stockbreeding nomads, who
had always obtained grain and other necessities from villagers along
their route, increased their trading activities. Some acquired land
and, in summer, moved from one tenant-cultivated property to another.
In eastern Afghanistan many Ghilzay have become settled cultivators.
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