At this juncture Payanda Khan, the prime minister, finding the moment opportune for dethroning the puppet whom he found less flexible than he had reckoned, entered into a league with Shuja-ul-Mulk (the brother of Zaman) to set him on the throne. The plot, however, was discovered to Zaman, who forthwith executed Payanda Khan and his fellow conspirators. On this Fath Khan, the son of Payanda, went over to the side of Mahmud, and, with aid derived from Persia, seized upon Kandahar and installed Mahmud there. Zaman, forsaken by his supporters, sent an army for the recovery of Kandahar, but it deserted to Mahmud, who, thus strengthened, marched against Kabul, defeated and captured Zaman, and put out his eyes The blind monarch ultimately proceeded to Ludhiana, and there became a pensioner of the British Government.
Having established himself at Kabul, Mahmud next seized Peshawar from Shuja-ul-Mulk, who fled at his approach dreading the vengeance of Fath Khan This occurred at the commencement of the present century, and was followed immediately by a rising of the Ghilzars to contest the government with Mahmud They were defeated by Fath Khan, but revolted again in the following year, and suffering a second defeat subsided into quiet. Meanwhile Mahmud had returned to Kabul, and he had no sooner turned his back on Peshawar, than Shuja, collecting his supporters and a considerable force, marched against him, and in 1803 - the year the East India Company took Dehli - captured Kabul and imprisoned Mahmud. Whilst this was enacting at Kabul, the Cajar King of Persia made an attempt to seize on Herat, but his governor of Khurasan, who led the expedition, was defeated. Following this, the Government of India, apprehensive of the meditated invasion of India by Napoleon in co-operation with Alexander of Russia, decided on opening relations with Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk, and despatched Elphinstone's Mission to Peshawar, where the British envoy met the Durrani Sovereign and concluded a treaty. This occurred in 1809, and marks the first dealings of the British with the Afghans.
It is curious to note the difference in the opinion then formed of this people, and that which is now held of them after an acquaintance of just seventy years The fine, hospitable, courteous, and chivahous Afghan of that day, is to-day the proud, fickle, blustering, and treacherous intriguer in whom there is no faith, and to rely on whose word is to court disaster Truly the latter - proved by dear-bought experience on more than one occasion - is not short of the mark.
Following this memorable transaction at Peshawar, Fath Khan, deserting his allegiance to Shuja and pursuing the ambition of his father, plotted the restoration of Mahmud He effected his escape from prison and junction with himself at Kandahar, and then, as Wazir, marched with his protege against Kabul. Shuja was defeated and forced to fly the country, and, after many hardships and perilous adventures, finally joined his brother Zaman at Ludhiana, where he also became a pensioner of the Indian Government - of the East India Company.
With the re-estabhshment of Mahmud at Kabul with Fath Khan as his prime minister, the affairs of the government underwent a remarkable change. The minister was king, and the king was a pampered debauchee Fath Khan now had the game he had been playing for in his own hands. He knew the character of his people well, and took care to make himself popular with them by open-handed liberality and the forms of hospitality common to the country. Meanwhile he was not neglectful of his own interests, and the necessity of strengthening his position; and these ends he secured by distributing the most important of the local and provincial governments amongst his own sons and adherents. The popularity and power now acquired by Fath Khan did not escape the notice of Mahmud, and he became jealous of his Wazir. The time, however, was not opportune for an open rupture with so powerful a servant, and the mistrustful king bided his time. The Persians had for some time been meddling and intriguing in the affairs of Herat, and, in 1816, had got possession of the place Fath Khan was sent to clear them out, which, with his usual good fortune, he did very promptly and effectually. His success, however, only increased the enmity of Mahmud, and roused the jealousy of his son Kamran.
In 1818, on some trivial pretence, he was made a prisoner by Mahmud and handed over to Kamran, who, to prevent further chance of the more than suspected schemes of the Wazir growing to maturity, deprived him of sight by thrusting a red-hot pin into his eyes - an act of barbarity, which, it is said, the savage young prince committed with his own hands On this, all the Barakzar chiefs - brothers and sons of Fath Khan - rose in revolt, and Mahmud was driven from Kabul by Dost Muhammad Khan. The fugitive made a stand at Ghazni, but unable to resist the impetuosity of his pursuer, continued his flight to Herat; but, before doing so, Mahmud and Kamran vented their hatred of the helpless prisoner in their hands by putting him to death with the most horrible tortures. The murder of Fath Khan raised a storm of vengeance, which sealed the doom of the Saddozai Fath Khan sacrificed his life in the game he played for, but it was not lost, his family took it up, and with the sympathy of the whole nation won it. The Barakzai came into power under Dost Muhammad, who, in 1826, established himself at Kabul, whilst his brother Sherdil held Kandahar.
And thus ended the Durrani Empire. It rose up by accident, and went down by misrule, after enduring just three score and ten years. The vigorous reign of its founder, Ahmad Shah, was a period of ambition, conquest, and plunder The feeble reign of his successor was one of pleasure, paralysis, and decline. And the unstable reigns of the succeeding competitors, Zaman, Shuja, and Mahmud, were a period of anarchy and discord, of treachery and torture, of convulsions and death With such a career no empire could be expected to endure The Afghan, who, with mushroom growth, rose into the position of the ruling race, possessed none of the qualities requisite to the situation. But recently reclaimed from a wild nomadic life, still illiterate and unpolished, he failed to attach to his interests the copartners in the soil, to conciliate his compatriots, and to secure their loyalty and support. He stood alone amid the various races which composed the nation over which he had acquired the dominion; and he fought out his quarrels amongst his own people. His relations with his neighbours were vicarious and unreliable, and he had neither the countenance nor the support of either the Paramount Power of the East or of that of the West.