The Awans of were also amongst those the British considered to be "Martial Race", Tribes & groups designated by the British as "martial race".

Lord Roberts who served as C-in-C of the British Indian army from 1885-1893 enunciated the theory of martial races. During this period the British were suspicious of the Russian advance towards India and Roberts wanted to create an efficient army to face the Russians in case of an invasion by the latter. According to him the most suitable persons for army were available in the north-west part of India, and he wanted that recruitment should be confined to that area only. He justified his theory on the ground that people in some region had become unfit to bear arms because of the softening and deteriorating effects of long years of peace and sense of security in those regions.[1] The British recruited army heavily from Naushera for service in the colonial army, and as such, the Awans of this area also formed an important part of the British Indian Army, serving with distinction during World Wars I and II. Of all the Muslim groups recruited by the British, proportionally, the Awans produced the greatest number of recruits during the First and Second World Wars. Contemporary historians, namely Professor Ian Talbot and Professor Tan Tai Yong, have authored works that cite the Awans (amongst other tribes) as being looked upon as a martial race by not only the British, but neighbouring tribes as well.

Sir Michael O'Dwyer, Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab Province (British India) joined the Indian service as Magistrate, Civil Judge, Superintendent of the Jail,and Treasury Officer. In 1885, he was posted first to Shahpur, Pakistan in Punjab. Writing about the tribes of Salt Range, he writes; "Of these perhaps the most interesting were the Awans of the Salt Range................It occurred to Wilson and me, who spent much time among them and every year had to send hundreds of them to prison for violent breaches of the peace, that it would be for their good and ours to open a career for the young" bloods" in the Army. A new battalion was then being raised. We induced the Commandant to come down to the great Horse Fair in 1888 or 1889, and persuaded the AWAN greybeards to bring in some hundreds of their young men- preferably the wilder spirits. Recruiting caught on like wild-fire, and in twenty years the Awan soldier had made his name and was to be found in nearly every Mohammedan company or squadron recruited in the Punjab. The material benefits were of no small value to a poor and frugal tribe; but they valued even more the increased izzat (honour) which military service confers in the Punjab. In the Great War nearly every fit man of military age came forward from these Awan villages, and an inspiring sight was to see the batches of young recruits escorted for miles on their way by their mothers, wives, and sisters, singing songs of the brave deeds of their forefathers and urging the young men to emulate them."[2]

After the Independence of pakistan, the army of Pakistan also heavily recruits Awans from Salt Range. Awans occupy the highest ranks of the Pakistani Army.[3] The late Lieutenant Colonel Qazi Iqbal Ahmad, late Lieutenant Colonel Qazi Iftikhar Ahmad, late Lieutenant Colonel Qazi Altaf Hussain, Late Major Qazi Zahoor ul Haq, Retired Major General Qazi Shafiq Ahmad, and many other senior officers of Pakistan Army belonged to this area.


  1. Lord Roberts, Forty-one years in India (London: 1897), p. 383.
  2. India as I knew it, 1885-1925, by Sir Michael O'Dwyer p.41.