At the turn of the 18th century in the village of Sharakpur, just across the Ravi near Lahore, was born to an Arain farmer Channu a child he named Dina. A strong farming lad, his father suggested that he join the army. Here starts the amazing story of Dina Arain. The career of this man, whose guile remains unparalleled, changed in dramatic ways. Within a few years he started calling himself Dina Beg, further adjusting it to Adina. The Turkish influence over names in those days meant that after a name the word ‘Beg’ had to be inserted if one was to pretend that one belonged to a refined family.

The word ‘Adina’ has a biblical Hebrew origin, for this was the name of the bravest warrior in the army of King David having the strength of 30 men.

Thus we see this Arain farmer from Sharakpur settle finally for the name Adina Beg Khan, the word ‘Khan’ being the last inclusion so as to be seen as a leader.

The next move of Dina Arain was to get appointed the ‘patwari’ of the Kang area village in the Lohian area, near Sultanpur Lodhi, and in this position – within a year - he managed to consolidate his hold over a number of villages and large swathes of land. Within two years the entire Kang area was owned by him. His guile and ruthlessness knew no bounds, and very soon he managed to collect his own small Arain army.

Dina Arain then concentrated his attention on Lahore, where he became the favourite of the Governor of Lahore, Nawab Zakariya Khan. Every weekend he would send fruit baskets and gifts and praise the ruler for his wisdom, and would request that he be allowed to listen in on his ‘wise’ decisions. Adina Beg Khan had arrived, for the Governor appointed him the ‘Hakam’ of Sultanpur Lodhi.

The appointment was not without reason. After the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739, the Sikhs had started asserting themselves to gain power and he was asked to crush them. Here we see the guile of Adina at its best. He converted adversity into an opportunity. Instead of suppressing the Sikhs, he encouraged them to organize under his influence and keep their strength ‘invisible’.

At Lahore he kept reporting that the Sikhs were no longer a threat. Beneath the peace much more was stirring, and the Lahore Governor got wise to the guile of the man.

Under pressure from Nawab Zakariya Khan, he was forced to drive them out of his territory. That Adina did with amazing ruthlessness, but in return refused to pay the money due to the Lahore government. He was invited to Lahore and arrested and subjected to torture.

On being set free after a year, he again bounced back by winning favour with the son of the Governor, Shah Nawaz Khan, after months of gifts and praise. He was, surprisingly, appointed Deputy Nazim under Shah Nawaz Khan. The time for a change had to be waited out, and Dina Arain of Sharakpur did that very well. Those who wait, never wait in vain.

After Zakariya Khan’s death on July 1, 1745, his two sons, Yahya Khan and Shah Nawaz Khan contested the succession. Dina Arain’s time had arrived. Adina Beg maintained good relations with both, showering both with gifts and praise.

Eventually Shah Nawaz Khan captured Lahore and immediately appointed Adina Beg chief of Jalandhar Doab. Dina Arain’s wait was over, for he again joined the power game.

Meanwhile, Nadir Shah died on June 19, 1747, and Ahmad Shah Durrani became ruler of Kabul and Qandahar. Shah Nawaz Khan heeded Adina Beg’s advice by inviting the Durrani king to attack Punjab. At the same time he warned the government at Delhi about the Durrani’s invasion.

As Ahmad Shah advanced into the country, Shah Nawaz Khan fled towards Delhi. Mu`in ul-Mulk, also known as Mir Mannu, son of Qamarud Din, the chief Wazir of the Delhi king, succeeded in checking the invader at Manupur, near Sirhind.

Adina Beg Khan, in an amazing and skillful ‘double switch’, joined hands with Mu`in ul-Mulk in the middle of the battle and was wounded. Mu`in ul-Mulk became Governor of Lahore, with Kaura Mall as his Diwan and Adina Beg Khan as Faujdar of the Jalandhar Doab as before.

His wealth multiplied very quickly and he became a force to be reckoned with. In what was then seen as a bizarre move he called on his old Sikh connections and formed an alliance. Very soon they became a force to be reckoned with.

As the Sikhs again started plundering the country, Ahmad Shah Durrani launched upon his third incursion into the Punjab in December 1751, this time forcing Mu`in ul-Mulk to surrender. Mu`in remained the Governor, but this time on Durrani’s behalf.

As the Sikh got out of hand, the Governor of Lahore and the forces of Adina Beg directed their energies towards quelling the Sikhs. On the festival of Hola Mohalla in March 1753, Adina Beg fell upon Sikh pilgrims at Anandpur killing a large number of them. The Sikhs retaliated by plundering villages in the Jalandhar and Bari Doabs.

But then the guile of Adina Beg went into overdrive. His new strategy was to come to terms with the Sikhs and he assigned some of the revenue of his territory to the Sikhs and admitted several of them, including Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, into his army. On the quiet Adina Beg Khan was preparing for much bigger ventures.

Mu`in ul-Mulk died on Nov 3, 1753, and during the period his widow, Murad Begum, also known as Mughlani Begum, assumed power, Adina Beg assumed independent authority in the Doab, extending his influence up to Sirhind in March 1755. He turned his attention towards Delhi, and after winning favour in the court, the Emperor of Delhi bestowed on him the title of Zafar Jarig Khan. The ruler of Kangra accepted his over lordship. In May 1756, he was appointed Governor of Lahore and Multan by the Mughal government of Delhi on payment of an annual tribute of 30 lakh of rupees.

The time to act against Adina Beg had come, and Ahmad Shah Durrani came to Mughlani Begum’s help and Adina Beg took refuge in the Sivalik hills. (The role of Mughlani Begum has been best described by my senior Rafiq Dogar in his book ‘Mughlani Begum’).

But again the guile of the man was such that the Afghans reappointed him Faujdar of the Jalandhar Doab. The time for Adina Beg to resort to yet another classic double game had arrived.

During Taimur Shah’s governorship (1757-58), Adina Beg began to look around for allies with a view to expelling the Afghans. The Sikhs and Adina Beg’s troops joined hands yet again and defeated the Afghans at Mahalpur, in Hoshiarpur district.

Adina Beg expressed his gratitude to the Sikhs by presenting a sum of a thousand rupees as homage to the Guru Granth Sahib and rupees 150,000 as protection money for the Jalandhar Doab.

Keeping up appearances with the Sikh sardars, he secretly wished to weaken their power. Here we the Sharakpur Arain play a classic double ‘pinzer’ move with amazing skill and guile. He invited the Marathas, who had taken Delhi, to come to Punjab, offering them Rs100,000 a day as long as the battle continued.

It was an offer that could not be refused. In a parallel secret move, he persuaded the Sikhs to help the Marathas against the Afghans. The Marathas led by Raghunath Rao, accompanied by the forces of the Sikhs as well as those of Adina Beg Khan, entered Lahore in April 1758. Dina Arain had made it to the top.

Adina Beg Khan, alias Dina Arain of Sharakpur, got the Governorship of the Punjab in 1758 at a promised cost of 75 lakh rupees a year to be paid to the Marathas. The Punjab had now three masters: the Mughals, the Afghans and the Marathas, but in reality only two Adina Beg Khan and the Sikhs.

But then the man from Sharakpur wanted complete power. He immediately resumed his campaign against the Sikhs, increasing his armed strength and hiring a thousand woodcutters to clear up the forests in which the Sikhs would seek refuge in times of stress. His plan was a complete massacre.

He laid siege to the Sikh fort of Ram Rauni at Amritsar. Before the Sikhs rallied to confront him, Adina Beg Khan alias Dina Arain died of a colic attack at Batala on Sept 10, 1758. He was buried at Khanpur, just over a mile northwest of Hoshiarpur. Thus came to an end the saga of, probably, the most skillful player in Lahore and Punjab after the fall of the Mughals and the rise of the Sikhs.