Copyright: SemiMyth Enterntainment LLC - artwork by Daniel Fabro Gomes
Askari Mirza was the second youngest son of Mughal Emperor Babur. As such, it was unlikely that he would ever become the heir-apparent, leave alone emperor. He was far from the traditional "heir and a spare" that most Kings kept for succession, so as a loyal son and a brave prince, he fought on the front lines from a young age.
His father had him at a young age leading the battle of Ghagra. With the Ottoman cannon generals under his command, they dealt a crushing blow to the Lodhi / Bengal Sultanate alliance, allowing the Mughals to dominate the Gangetic Plain.
When Babur passed on, as expected, Humayun took the throne. However, everyone else seemed unsatisfied with this conclusion. Babur had asked Humayun on his deathbed to be kind to his brothers; this probably ended up being his initial undoing.
Hindal, the youngest, was the first to rebel but was eventually brought back by his mother, Dildar Khatun. After that, Kamran, the second oldest, did not fully rebel per se, but he refused to come to the aid of his brothers when the nightmare of the mighty Sher Shah Suri and his forces at the gates of the Mughal Empire came true.
Askari chose to side by Kamran. Potentially because of Kamran's ploys, combined with military might, and Sher Shah's excellent leadership, Humayun and his forces were decimated by the Afghans. Kamran, who was comfortably away from the battlefront at his court in Kabul, once again failed his brothers and decided against giving refuge to Humayun.
No Empire was left for Humayun, and he was now a man on the run. As fate would have it, although Kamran did not let Humayun in, he did welcome Askari and Hindal with open arms. Hindal, refusing to have the khutba read in Kamran's name, was put under house arrest. Askari Mirza was well aware of the consequences of swearing allegiance to Kamran. His first task to prove his loyalty would be to hunt down Humayun.
Whilst Askari set off, Humayun and his forces were retreating through Sindh. Jan Bahadur, an old loyal officer to Humayun at Kamran's court, tipped off Bairam Khan, Humayun's right-hand man, of Askari's approaching force. Humayun expedited his retreat towards Safavid Qandahar. Whilst he himself was not captured, Askari ensured that the infant Akbar and his caretaker party were escorted back to Kabul.
This allowed Askari and Kamran considerable leverage over Humayun, a blessing and a curse, for Akbar was naturally far safer in Mughal Zenankhana than at the mercy of other empires.
Years passed, and after several efforts, Humayun and Bairam Khan convinced the Safavids to lend them a cavalry of 10,000 strong to take back the Mughal throne. In exchange, Humayun was to give the Safavids Qandahar when all was said and done.
Askari Mirza tried to hold the fort at Qandahar in the face of Humayun's assault. However, the city fell within fourteen days. Imprisoned after the defeat, he was spared the blinding punishment meted out to Kamran, and was allowed to go for Hajj. Askari died on the way, as did his brother.
Empires rise and fall, as do kings. And, like each story, supporting characters are critical to the complete picture. When we speak of history, there is a world beyond good and bad, winners and losers, glory and humiliation - it is this world we must explore!