“Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with time,” diplomat and politician Niccolo Machiavelli said. Throughout the annals of history, we find people who, owing to circumstances, have changed their stance and had even switched allegiances.Some may call it expediency and some may call it betrayal while still others may term this as a smart choice. The fact is that whatever one may chose to call it in retrospect; the person who is faced with tough choices makes a decision to the best of his/ her abilities and plays the hand that is dealt by destiny. One of such people is Ali Mardan Khan. His father Ganj Ali Khan was respected and honoured by Shah Abbas of Persia so much so that the Shah bestowed him with the title of Baba (father) and made him governor of Kandahar. Before proceeding further it is pertinent to understand the importance of Kandahar. Kandahar was an area of great strategic significance and remained a bone of contention between not only the Safavids and the Mughals but the past other ruling empires of the region as well. Kandahar was important to Mughals because it connected India with Persia and was a gateway to Central Asia, Middle East and the Persian Gulf. To secure their rule over India, Mughals had to control it. The Persians on the other hand considered Kandahar as a part of their empire particularly since the reign of Shah Tehmasap. Commanding Kandahar was also essential for realizing the dream of the expansion of the Safavid Empire. Thus the control of Kandahar became a tennis game between the two empires in which the ball was of course, Kandahar.Ganj Ali Khan ruled Kandahar for six years until his death in 1624AD. After his demise, Shah Abb?s appointed Ali Mardan Khan as governor and honoured him with the appellation of B?b?-ye s?ni (‘the second father’) in 1624. Ali-Mardan Khan governed the regions under his control from Kandahar. In 1629 Shah Safi ascended the Persian throne. Keeping in line with the traditions of emperors, the Shah after gaining power started eliminating his rivals. During his reign differences also developed between him and Ali Mardan Khan.Ali-Mardan Khan’s brother-in-law, Mirzleb Ordubdi, a chief minister of Shah Abbas and Shah Safi, along with his relatives and family members, were to be put to death on the orders of Shah Safi some time before Ali-Mardan Khan escaped the situation. The conspiracies of the Safavid Court widened the distance between the two and Shah Safi grew more suspicious of Ali Mardan Khan with every passing day. Things came to a point when Ali Mardan Khan had to send his eldest son to the court as an assurance of his loyalty. Even that couldn’t dispel the Shah’s reservations and he ordered the death of Ali Mardan Khan. In view of these deteriorating circumstances, Ali Mardan Khan decided to approach the Timurid Dynasty that was ruling Hindustan. Both Safavid and Mughal chronicles have mentioned prominently the surrender of Kandahar by Ali Mardan Khan. These narrations paint a starkly different picture and provide different explanations of the reasons and consequences of this decision, one side condemning and the other eulogizing his actions. One thing that is common in both narratives is that Ali Mardan Khan feared for his life and didn’t trust Shah Safi. This explanation seems plausible because his father was a revered figure and fiercely loyal to the Safavids. Ali Mardan khan himself was devoted to his Persian srulers. He handed over Kandahar after nine years of Shah Safi’s rule and during this time he remained unwavering in his loyalties. So his decision stemmed more out of self preservation rather than greed or treachery or lack of courage. As General Erwin Rommel has said,But courage which goes against military expediency is stupidity, or, if it is insisted upon by a commander, irresponsibility. The Governor of Kabul, Saeed Khan played a vital role in arranging the matters between the Mughals and Ali Mardan khan. He conveyed the understanding to ShahJahan that if Ali Mardan Khan is given due regard and respect, he would surrender Kandahar. ShahJahan heartily accepted this proposal and showered Ali Mardan khan with such rewards and regard that he remained Mughal Empire’s loyal subject till his last breath.A small anecdote from ShahJahanNama in this respect is of interest as it shows that even the messengers of Ali Mardan Khan were treated exceptionally well. Mullah Saleh Kamboh writes, “Ali Mardan Khan’s servant Khandan Quli Khan brought the memorandum of his master. Sire bestowed the twelve persons who accompanied him with khillat (robe of honour) and four thousand rupees and permitted them to commence back home as per their request and gave Khandan Quli Khan ivory palanquin along with gold bridle in addition to a sable cape for Ali Mardan Khan.”On 23 Shaawal AH, 1047/9 March 1638 AD, Ali Mardan Khan ordered a Khutba (An address read from the steps of the pulpit in Mosques, offering glory to Allah, praising Mohammed SAW and his descendants, and the ruling monarch.) to be recited in honour of Shah Jahan and the local coinage to be embellished with the inscription of his name. On that day Kandahar finally came under the Mughal control and that too without any bloodshed. Not only was Ali Mardan Khan given a warm reception by the Mughal court but he was also given a central role in the affairs of the Empire. As he belonged to a colder region, it was decided that he would be given the Subedari (governorship) of Kashmir. About his reception in the Mughal court Sayed Muhammad Latif (Lahore: its History, Architectural Remains and Antiquities, p.53)“Under orders of His Majesty, Mot’amid Khan, Mir Bakhshi, or Master of Ordinance and Tarbeiat Khan, the second Bakshi, having received Ali Mardan Khan up to the gate of Khas -o- Am introduced him to the Emperor’s audience. The Khan having paid his obeisance, offered His Majesty a nazar (homage) of one thousand gold mohrs, and was honoured with a Khillat, consisting of silk and embroidered clothes, a jewelled turban with aigrette, a jewelled dagger, shield and sword. He was created an Amir with the rank of 6000 personnel, and received two horses with embroidered saddles and four elephants with silver housings, one of the elephants named Koh Shikan being remarkable for its large size. The Haveli of Itemad -ud-daula was made over to him for residence. Moreover, from the date of his leaving Candahar the day of his arrival at Lahore, all the expenses of the way, which amounted to ten lakh rupees, were paid by the State Treasury. Twenty thousand rupees were also bestowed on his servants. As he had come from a fertile a cool country, the Emperor was pleased to appoint him to the governorship of Kashmir. Ali Beg his son in law and Abdullah Beg and Ismail Beg, his sons, were bestowed with high ranks in the State”According to Encyclopædia Iranica, “Ali Mardan Khan rose to the highest rank in the hierarchy of Mughal nobles, namely a rank of 7,000 ‘infantry’ and 7,000 ‘cavalry’ with 5,000 of the latter being of the grade of do-aspa and se-aspa with his annual stipend amounting to 30 lakhs (each lakh being equivalent to 100,00 rupees). On this occasion he was also distinguished with the title of Amir al-Omar?”In 1056 AH (1664 AD), ShahJahan sent a letter of reverence to the Emperor of Persia along with valuable gifts of around two lakh rupees and secured safe return of Ali Mardan’s son. Thus Ali Mardan Khan’s decision to join forces with the Mughal Empire proved advantageous for both parties. In lieu of all this benevolence Mughals not only acquired full control of Kandahar but also got the services of a very capable General, engineer and a governor. Ali Mardan Khan got the reward and regard that he deserved and subsequently rose to the highest ranks in the Mughal court. He fought many a battles and remained victorious. He was an expert architecture and many a unique buildings in Hindustan are attributed to him. The remains of his monumental constructions can still be seen in Lahore, Kashmir, Peshawar and Kabul. Many a modifications in the Mughal irrigation system are credited to him. Naulakha Garden in Lahore, canals of Delhi and Bansli Madhupur, canal for carrying water to Shalamar Garden and a number of other constructions were carried out under his watch. In all these edifices characteristics of the traditional Iranian Kashikari (mosaic work), traditional architectural features of Kandahar and ancient Hindustani architecture are prominent. Encyclopedia Iranica describes his architectural genius in the following words.“Besides political history, Ali Mardan Khan’s name is closely associated with the construction of several buildings. In the province of Kerman, the cistern of the Ganj-Ali Khan complex bears the name of Ali-Mardan Khan. During his governorship, he restored the old fortifications of Kandahar and founded a new fort on the summit of the Mount Laka, which commanded the outer fortifications of the city. His most distinctive work, however, is a canal which brought water from the R?vi River to the suburbs of old Lahore, contributing to the construction of the most prominent garden of Mughal history, the Šalamar Garden of Lahore. Apparently a neighborhood and a bridge in Kabul also bear the name of Ali Mardan Khan. Within the city of New Delhi, Ali Mardan Khan resided in one of the largest palaces belonging to the great Mughal nobles (idem, p. 182). In addition, he had ordered his mansion in Peshawar as well as a sheltered bazaar in the city to be built based on the architecture of Iran, Shah Jahan became so enamored with this Bazzar that he ordered the building of its replica in Jahanabad (Kanbu, II, p. 391). The tomb of Ali Mardan Khan’s mother, where he too was later buried, must have also been constructed upon his order.”About Shalamar Garden and the canal constructed by him in Lahore, Maulvi Zakaullah Dehlvi writes in Tareekh e Hindustan (History of Hindustan. Vol. 7 pg.282);“The Padshah (Emperor) was reverently informed that the Shalamar Garden in Lahore has been completed. Its construction was commissioned in the 14th year of Jaloos (14th year of ShahJahan’s ascension to the throne). Its supervision was given to Khalil Ullah Khan. It was completed in one year, four months and five days at the cost of six lakh rupees. The Emperor visited on 7th Sha’aban and was greatly pleased. The garden had three levels. The first level was named Farah Baksh (refreshing) and the second was named Faiz Baksh (plenteous). Exceptionally unique buildings, ponds and watercourses were constructed. There was no need for marquees and tents whenever Padshah used to come here on his visits to Lahore. The canal which was constructed under the supervision of Ali Mardan Khan at the cost of One Lakh rupees, increased his stature in the Emperor’s eyes, brought thriving greenery and increased the lushness of the Royal Gardens. Shalimar’s refreshing garden was made plentiful. But its water wasn’t enough for the city. One Lakh Rupees more were granted to Mullah Aalaulmulk to widen the source and breadth of the canal so that this fountain of goodness may carry on eternally. It is written in Padshahnama that due to the folly and incompetence of the agents Fifty Thousand Rupees out of this money were spent in the repair of the earlier canal. Eventually at the discretion of Mullah Aalaulmulk, five Kuroh (almost two miles) of the original canal that Ali Mardan Khan got dug was retained while Thirty Kuroh canal was additionally constructed. Now the water flows unhindered in the garden.”Ali Mardan Khan passed away in the summer of 1067 AH following a pandemic in the Subcontinent. Maulvi Zakaullah Dehlvi has narrated his passing in Tareekh e Hindustan.“Amir Ul umraa (lord of the lords) caught dysentery. He left for Kashmir with the approval of the Emperor. The weather conditions of that place suited him. Due to weakness he boarded a boat at Machi Warrah and had barely reached Tharo that on 12TH Rajab 1067 he passed away.”He was held in such high regard by the Mughals that his family continued to receive the Mughal patronage even after his death. His sons were given important positions. Following his demise ‘Sodhra’ was renamed Ebrahim Abad after his son Ebrahim.Ali Mardan khan had constructed a magnificent mausoleum for his mother. As per his will, he was buried in this tomb close to his mother. The edifice was famous far and wide for its imposing height. It was surrounded by many exceptional buildings, gardens and porticoes. There were numerous latticed balconies, courtyard and fountains. The buildings were adorned with glazed tile work of such quality that the likes of it could only be seen in Masjid Wazir Khan.Kanhaeya lal Hindi in his book Tareekh e Lahore (pg. 260) has described this building;“The real tomb of Nawab Ali Mardan Khan is considered as having three storeys. One storey is the basement. The basement is quite spacious. It has three stone graves. The ceiling is moulded and dome shaped. As we move out of the basement there is an octagonal brick podium and the dome. It has eight sides and eight magnificent arches. In the times of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh this splendid tomb was used as a magazine which was under the charge of Gulab Singh Bhindoya”.He further narrates on the page 261 of the same book;“In the first storey of this tomb, slabs of red stone and Sang e Akbari were affixed that were removed stone heartedly by the Sikhs. As one moves up along the staircase of the first storey, one could move all around the inside of the dome. In every side there are splendid windows with seats and in the centre there is the glorious dome. When one goes to the last ceiling, seven sided stunning smaller domes meet the eye and in the centre there is the main grand dome. None other could hold a candle to the grace and glory of this tomb. Its majesty is unsurpassable. In fact there is no other tomb higher than this one in the whole of Lahore. Now the British Government has renovated this tomb according to the book so that it could withstand any earthquake. The steps have been constructed and the basement has been cleaned as well”.During the fall of Mughal Empire, the destruction of Lahore was on a rise. Along with the city this mausoleum was plundered so brutally that the pages of history are still wet with tears shed for this once glorious creation. The brick sellers ripped the bricks from the boundary wall. Rest was taken care of during the Sikh Rule by Sardar Gulab Singh Bhindoya. He pulled down a number of inimitable buildings within the boundary wall and used the material thus obtained to construct buildings of the garrison. Time is unforgiving and one can’t even find remnants of this garrison.The British have also played their part in marring the beautiful face of the cultural heritage and destroying the historical buildings of Lahore. Two major injustices were done. First the demolition of Mohallah Dara Shikoh and second the destruction of the great and antique historical buildings for the construction of Lahore Railway Station and expansion of the Railway System. A railway track was laid in the middle of the compound of the of Noor Jahan’s tomb. Naulakha garden was decimated as it was surrounded by the Railway station. Platform No.1 and a workshop ate up mosques of the ShahJahan Era and for Railway store the tomb of Ali Mardan Khan was sacrificed. With the passage of time, we are now at a point where the majority of the citizens of Lahore aren’t even aware of the tomb of Ali Mardan khan behind the high walls of the Railway store. Aside from the main gateway and the domed building of the actual tomb, the once glorious porches and other inimitable buildings have lost even their remnants. What little is left is engulfed by the huge stores of the railways.At present, there are two approaches to the mausoleum of Ali Mardan Khan. The first one is from Grand Trunk Road as we come down from the Garrhi Shaho Bridge, crossing the Engineering University, we reach Chowk Singh Pura. On the right side, there is the main vegetable market. After Partition, there were many ruins of castles and havelis in this place that have now become a part of the dust of this market.