Before the advent of Islam, but after the Aryan migrations, several invasions and mass migrations of the Central Asian tribes named as the Sakas, Parthians, Kushans, Huns, and Gujjars took place in Punjab (and other parts of Pakistan). The last two tribes i.e. the Huns (White Huns/ Ephthalites) and Gujjars arrived in the 5th century AD when Hinduism had revived under the Gupta Empire but had not fully succeeded in crushing the influence of Buddhism. As the Gupta Empire collapsed under the impact of Hun invasions, it caused deep consternation among Brahmins in view of their failure to eliminate Buddhism while the Gupta power supporting them in this task had disappeared. Therefore, they began to make overtures to the new arrivals who were valiant, vigorous and warlike. They were offered the rank of Kshatriyas in the Hindu fold, a position only next to that of the Brahmins and confers the responsibility of rulership.
In the course of time, the leading groups of Huns were absorbed in the Hindu fold as Kshatriyas while Jats, who were the descendants of the remaining groups of Huns, occupied lower strata of society. But the present day Jats and Rajputs also include the descendants of the previous invaders..... the Sakas and the Kushans and even of earlier races.
Todd assigns a Scythian origin to the Rajputs. Scythians came to be known as Sakas in South Asia and were absorbed in the Hindu fold as Kshatriyas. Sakas, Yavannas (Greco-Bactrians), Pallavas (Parthians) ultimately became Kshatriyas. The Huns are known to have been regarded as one of the 36 clans of Rajputs. However, except for the Huns, all others had mostly adopted Buddhism mixed with their religions (like Saka sun-worship).
Almost 60% of the population of Punjab comprises of Rajputs and Jats and the various branches of their race such as Awans, Khokhars, Ghakkars, Khattars, Janjuas, Arains, Gujjars, etc. The Awans, Khokhars, and Khattars claim common ancestry from Qutb Shah who is said to have come from Ghazni with Mahmud Ghaznavi, but scholars hold the view that they were most probably converted by Qutb Shah during Mahmud Ghaznavi's reign and were not his descendants. This tendency of claiming foreign origin by some of the local tribes is not uncommon. Even admittedly Rajput tribes of famous ancestry such as the Khokhar, have begun to follow the example of claiming a connection with the Mughal conquerors of India or the Qureshi cousins of the Prophet.
A branch of the Wattu Rajputs of the Sutlej by an affection of peculiar sanctity, have in the course of a few generations become Bodies and now deny their Rajput and claim Qureshi origin. There is a Kharral family later settled in Bahawalpur who have begun to affect peculiar holiness and to marry only with each other and their next step will certainly be to claim Arab descent.
However, a significant number of Punjabi tribes are indeed descended from Afghan, Turkic, Arab, Mughal and Iranian Muslim invaders/migrants. Even those who are of local origins but claim foreign Muslim ancestry might have partial ancestry derived from them. But all in all, the foreign Muslim ancestry element among Punjabis does not exceed more than 20% of their population.
According to Thomson, Awans are a Jat race and were converted to Islam by Mahmud Ghaznavi. In several districts of Punjab, they are registered as Jats. Mr. Thomson in his Jehlum Settlement report adduces many strong reasons in support of his conclusion that the Awans are a Jat race who came from passes west of D.I.Khan. Griffin also agrees to the local Muslim origin of Awans while Cunningham holds that Janjuas and Awans are descended from Anu and calls them Anwan. Another scholar Wilson is the view that Awans are of indigenous Hindu/Buddhist/Pagan/Animist origin. In the genealogical tree of the Nawabs of Kalabagh, who are regarded heads of the Awans, there are found several native names such as Rai, Harkaran, etc.
As regards Gujjars, the well-known scholar Cunningham thinks that they are descended from Scythian (Saka) and Yue-Chi (Kushan) tribes who invaded Pakistan in the first century BC and in the first century AD respectively. Other scholars believe that they are descended from a Central Asian Turkic people called Kazars. Since the tribe migrated from the Caspian Sea which is called Bahr-e-Khizar it was named Khizar, Guzar, Gurjar, Gurjara or Gujjar. The name Hazara was given to the district by these Guzara tribes. The name Gujjar, according to another version, is derived from the words 'Gau' and 'Char' meaning cattle grazers.
Though Arains claim Iranian descent, they too are generally considered of Rajput origin, but Rajputs having Scythian-Kushan-Hun origins are indeed related to Iranians. According to the Punjab Gazetteer, the Arains of Sahiwal District themselves pointed out that they are Surajbansi Rajputs originally settled around Delhi. Arains of Ghaggar Valley say that they were Rajputs living on the Panjnad near Multan. Mr. Pursr writes that they are usually supposed to be Muslim Kambohs. the Jullander Arains themselves say that they are descended from Rai Chajju of Ujjain. Kambohs claim descent from Raja Karan who was related to him.
Similarly, Ranghars and Meos are described to be of Rajput/Jat origin who were converted to Islam during the time of Qutbuddin Aibak. Kahutas are a mixed Mughal and Rajput tribe. Khattars are related to Awans and Jats.
Khokhars are sometimes returned as Jats and sometimes as Rajputs. Col. Davis notes that many of the social customs of the Khokhars of Shahpur denote Hindu origin. Eastern Punjab Khokhars themselves claim Jat-Rajput origin. Only some of the West Punjab Khokhars claim Arab origin.
Gen. Cunningham identifies the Ghakkars with Gangaridae of Dionysius and holds them to be descendants of Yueti or Tokhari Scythians (Sakas).
In Pakistan, Rajput, and Jat tribes are so mixed up that it is difficult to distinguish one from the other at many places and in several cases. Some of the Rajput tribes are probably of Jat origin and vice versa. In southwest Punjab, the name Jat includes a most miscellaneous congeries of tribes of all sorts. Its significance tends to be occupational: to denote a body of cultivators or agriculturists. Even tribes which bear well-known Rajput names are often classified as Jats in Punjab. Anyway, the origin of both is the same as stated earlier.
Gen. Cunningham and Maj. Todd agree in considering the Jats of Indo-Scythian stock. Maj. Todd classifies Jats as one of the great Rajput tribes. They belong to one and the same stock.... they have been, for many centuries, so blended and so intermingled into one people that it is practically impossible to distinguish them as separate wholes. At present distinction is social rather ethnic. The same tribe Rajput in one district and Jat in another according to the position of local tribes. During the census, many of the Jats entered, as third heading, the name of the Rajput tribe from which they claim to have sprung.
The Jats in ancient times inhabited the whole valley of the Indus down to Sind. They now form a most numerous as well as the most important section of the agricultural population of Punjab.
Beyond Punjab, Jats are chiefly found in Sind where they form a mass of the population.
The main (Muslim) Rajput tribes of Punjab are Bhatti, Punwar, Chauhan, Minhas, Tiwana, Noon, Chib, Gheba, Jodhra, Janjua, Sial, and Wattu etc. While the important (Muslim) Jat tribes are: Bajwa, Chatta, Cheema, Randhawa, Ghammon, Buta, Kahlon, Gil, Sehota, Taror, Waraich, Summa, Wahla, Bhutta, Malhi, Sukhera, Alpials, Dahas, Langah, Ranghar, Meo, Awan, Khokhar, Ghakkar, etc. But some of these Rajput tribes are classified are Jats and vice versa.
Punjab has had its periods of prosperity and poverty in a regular cycle. Before the arrival of Muslims, Punjab along with the other regions/provinces of present-day Pakistan was leading a separate existence from that of India, and kingdoms based in its territories or in the NWFP often ruled over most of northern India. Kushan, Saka, Bactrian and Hun Kingdoms with their capitals at Peshawar, Taxila, and Sialkot respectively, ruled over large parts of northern India for centuries.