Aurangzeb followed a forward policy out of political and economic considerations. The turbulent Muslim Tribes were always a source danger and trouble to the Mughals. They were attracted by the riches of the Punjab and their poverty forced them to attack India time and again.
To begin with, Aurangzeb tried to silence them by payments of money. However, "even political pensions were not always effective in securing obedience." In 1667, the Yusufzais revolted under their Leader, Bhagu. They crossed the Attock River and invaded the Hazara District. Some of them plundered and destroyed the districts of Attock and Peshawar. But their rising was suppressed within the next few months.
In 1672, the Afridis revolted under Akmal Khan. He not only crowned himself as king but also called upon all the Pathans to wage a holy war against the Mughals. He inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mughals at Ali Masjid. Although some of the Mughal Officers escaped, yet they lost everything else. The victory enhanced the prestige of Akmal Khan and he got more recruits. "This whole of the Pathan Land from Attock to Kandhar" rose in arms.
The Afridis were joined by the Khattaks under their Leader Khush-hal-Khan. The latter "became the leading spirit of the national rising and inspired the tribesmen with his pen and sword alike." In February 1674, the Afghans attacked the Mughal Forces under Shujaat Khan and the latter was killed in the battlefield.
Aurangzeb realised the gravity of the situation and took the matter into his own hands. He went to Hasan Abdal in July, 1674, and was able to control the situation by diplomacy and force of arms. Many Afghans were bought over by means of presents, Jagirs, pensions and offices. Amir Khan, the Mughal Governor of Afghanistan, also followed a conciliatory policy towards the people.
Thus Aurangzeb was able to rehabilitate its position in the North-West Frontier "by following the policy of paying subsidies or by setting up one clan against another-or to use his own metaphor, breaking two bones by knocking them together. Khush-hal Khan continued the struggle till he was betrayed by his own son into the hands of the Mughals. As a captive, Khush- hal boasted thus: "I am he who has sorely wounded Aruang's heart. Khaiber's pass have I made to the Mughals their dearest purchase."
Sir J. N. Sarkar refers to the effects of the frontier wars in these words: "Ruinous as the Afghan war was to the imperial finances; its political effect was even more harmful. It made the employment of the Afghans in the ensuing Rajput war impossible, though the Afghans were just the class of soldiers who could have won victory in that rugged and barren country.
Moreover, it relieved the pressure on Shivaji by draining the Deccan of the best Mughal Troops for the service on the North-West Frontier. The Maratha Chief took advantage of this division of his enemy's strength to sweep in a dazzling succession of triumphs through Galconda to the Karnatak and back again through Mysore and Bijapur to Raigarh, during the fifteen months following December 1675. It was the climax of his career: but the Afridis and the Khattaks made his unbroken success possible."