Faqir of Ipi
Faqir of Ipi (Mirza Ali Khan--his real name) was born in 1897 in a hamlet called Kurta (Maddi Khel) at a distance of about one kilometer from Khajuri Camp on the Bannu-Miranshah Road. He belonged to the famous Turi Khel clan of the Wazir tribe of North Waziristan Agency of Turi Khel: he came from Bangal Khel subsection of Maddi Khel section. He was a descendant of Musa Darwesh, commonly known as Musa Nikeh (Musa, the grandfather).
His father Sheikh Arsala Khan and grandfather Mohammad Ayaz Khan were highly religious men of the area. It was but natural that young Mirza Ali Khan bore a conspicuous religious stamp on his personality. Like other tribal children, Mirza Ali Khan got his early education in Arabic, Persian, Pushto and Urdu from his father and the village Mullah. He was twelve when his father died leaving a family of seven, consisting of his mother, three younger brothers and three sisters. After the death of the village Mullah, he moved to the nearby Daur country Hasso Khel and Haidar Khel- in pursuit of Knowledge. There Maulvi Manay Jan Daur and Maulvi Alam Khan IPI Daur Taught him.
Getting basic knowledge in teb (Homeopathy) and theology, Mirza Ali Khan went to Nurar Village in Bannu Tehsil, where he spent some years with Maulvi Gul Kheodad, a prominent leader of the Khilafat Movement. As his thirst for knowledge could not be quenched in those traditional local centers of learning, he continued his search for a true teacher and a guide. He went to various Khanqahs and madrassahs of contemporary saints and scholars of Peshawar, Kohat, Khost and Jalabad. It was at Jalabad that he became a Mureed of Sayed Hassan, commonly known as Naqib Sahib of Jalabad, a prominent Sufi and Gadi Nashin of the Qadariyya order in Afghanistan. Impressed by the piety and obedience of Mirza Ali Khan, Naqib Sahib bestowed upon him his robe of lieutenancy. Thus in the company of Naqib Sahib, Mirza Ali Khan reconstructed his religious and temporal thoughts and decided to go back to his native village.
In Afghanistan, Mirza Ali khan had the opportunity of meeting Qari Hayat-ud-Din alias Sherdad Bannuchi who had migrated to Afghanistan along with his family during the Hijrat Movement of 1920. Upon the requests of his friends, Mirza Ali Khan entered the wedlock with his daughter. He left Afghanistan along with his wife and returned to his native hamlet in Waziristan. On his arrival, some Daurs of village Ipi invited him to their village for permanent settlement. Mirza Ali Khan accepted the invitation and shifted with his family to Ipi. Inhabitants of Ipi gifted him a house and a mosque. He busied himself in imparting religious education and spiritual guidance to poor illiterate people. Hence, the mosque became a centre of knowledge in theology and blessing in spiritualism in Waziristan and the surrounding areas. It was after his arrival from Afghanistan that Mirza Ali Khan performed Hajj.
Waziristan was a chronic problem for the British administration in the Frontier province. It was but natural that after coming to Waziristan, Mirza Ali Khan could not remain unsusceptible and indifferent to politics at the provincial as well as all India level. His own approach to the Indian political cauldron was two pronged. In that he seemed bogged down in political duality, if not in character dichotomy, as his detractors would make us believe.
He could not help siding with the swarajist elements in the province. Most of them happened to be in the Congress camp, e.g., the Khudai Khidmatgars and the Jamiat-ul-Ulama. This extremist anti-British group, which was more in line with the Congress rather than with the Muslim League, easily gained the support of Mirza Ali Khan. The former gave him all out backing as long as he could mobilise his followers against the British Forces in Waziristan. This was one anti-British (Raj) and that of a freedom fighter who believed most in military power than in political solutions.
Another aspect of Mirza Ali Khan’s political life was that even when he supported Congress for its struggles for freedom, he seemed to the Congressites like a rank communalist. In all the religious and political brawls between Hindus and Muslims, he sided with his co-religious group for which he was accused of preaching communalism. In communal incidents like that of the Shaheed Ganj Mosque in Lahore, Nationalist leaders of the Frontier province like Abdul Ghaffar Khan adopted non-communalist stance and advocated Hindu-Muslim unity, whereas Mirza Ali Khan came out openly against what seemed to him as the Hindus hate for Muslims.
His contemporary critics, both Hindus and Muslims, could not understand the two conflicting stances of Mirza Ali Khan. While he supported the Congress movement despite his animosity towards Hindus in their communal tussle with Muslims, he stood firmly beside his co-religionists in defence of the Muslim rights and honour although he was not in favour of the Muslim League.
To ignite communal frenzy, and as bad luck would always have it in such circumstances, an incident took place that worsened further the communal tension between hindus and Muslims in the province. It engulfed the entire Bannu District and drew attention of Muslims and Hindus all over India. It involved the ruling Congress Party led by Doctor Khan Sahib and the opposition Muslim League led by Sardar Aurangzeb khan so much that the latter used the incident as a propaganda tool against the former in the Frontier Province.
The case of Islam Bibi
In March 1936, however, came the turning point in the Faqir's career. The incident was the trial case of the so-called 'Islam Bibi',the crisis was triggered by the conversion and marriage of a 15-year-old Hindu girl Ram Kori, named and known as Islam Bibi, to a Pashtun school teacher Syed Amir Noor Ali Shah of Bannu. A minor girl still, the British Resident of Waziristan and the Brigade Commander Bannu applied strong political pressure on the Torikhel and Madda Khel Waziris for the release of the girl. The next morning two companies of Tochi Scouts surrounded the village holding Islam Bibi, and a flight of fully armed RAF Audaxes circled overhead in a show of force. The tribal elders acceded to the Political Agent's plea to allow Islam Bibi to declare her decision in front of a Jirga comprising both sides. Before such a Jirga could be arranged, however, the Deputy Commissioner of Bannu, with the concurrence of the NWFP Government, somehow managed to whisk Islam Bibi and her parents away into the interior of the Punjab.
The school teacher was accused of abduction and arrested. The case reached the court in Bannu city 'amid a blaze of publicity.' The trial magistrate found no evidence to suggest that Islam Bibi left her home under compulsion. Noor Ali Shah's claim to the girl's custody was dismissed as he could not prove 'legal marriage'. He received two years imprisonment for abduction. This verdict proved the trigger for the Faqir. "In 1937, the tribesmen rose in rebellion against the British forces, in response to a call for jihad by the Faqir of Ipi, a tribal leader who exercised both religious and temporal powers. The tribal insurrection started after the British forces engineered the escape of a Hindu girl kidnapped by a young Pashtun and taken to Waziristan. The girl had reportedly converted to Islam and taken the name of Islam Bibi before marrying the boy. The British authorities somehow managed to whisk away the girl and the incident was taken as an unforgivable insult to the tribal elders. Fiercely hostile to British rule, the Faqir of Ipi whose real name was Mirza Ali Khan, made an impassioned call for holy war."
Pukhtoonistan and Faqir of Ipi
The emergence of Pakistan as an independent state revived the old question of the Durand Line which had not been clearly demarcated in certain areas. In July 1947, the Kabul Government sent a note to London, demanded that “the Pukhtoons and Baluchis should be given the choice to opt either for indepence or for a union with Afghanistan.”
Some of the Frontier nationalist leaders like Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his partymen who had fought against the Britishers as foreign intruders, showed no desire to become a part of the new state of Pakistan. On June 21,1947, Abdul Ghaffar Khan convened a party meeting at Bannu and the following resolution, called the Bannu resolution, was passed.
“A joint meeting of the Frontier Jirga (Frontier provincial committee), members of the Assembly, Commanders of the Khudai Khidmatgars and the Zalme Pukhtoon was held on the 21st of June, 1947 at Bunnu with Khan Amir Mohammad Khan in the chair. This joint session unanimously decided that here in this country (NWFP) an independent Government of all the Pukhtoons shall be established, the constitution of which will be based on Islamic principles of democracy, equality and social justice. This session appealed to all pakhdtoons to unite together on one platform to achieve this noble aim and not to bow before the power of anybody except that of the Pukhtoon.”
At a big public meeting the following day, Abdul Ghaffar Khan declared that the Frontier Congress would not take part in the proposed Referendum.
On 12thMay, 1948, the Faqir of Ipi published and issued an anti Pakistan poster from his headquarters in Gurwek. In that poster, he claimed that “Pakistan was a creation of the British and Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a British agent.” He further declared that he would start an operation against the Government of Pakistan.
On 15th June, Abdul Ghaffar khan was arrested near Bahader Khel when he was on his way to the southern districts. Charges of sedition and the planning to declare an independent Pukhtoonistan state in cooperation with the Faqir of Ipi were leveled against him. The next day he was put on a summary trial under section 40 of the Frontier crimes Regulations by the Deputy commissioner Kohat. On refusing to furnish security for good behaviour, he was sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment.
The Frontier government issued a long press communiqué charging that the Faqir of Ipi with a small group of hostile men, on June 15, (1948) started attacking a few posts in North Waziristan. The coincidence of this hostile action by the Faqir of Ipi with the appearance of Abdul Ghaffar Khan at Bannu, ostensibly on a propaganda tour, suggested a clear and close liaison between the two in their endeavour to foment unrest in the North West Frontier. Faridullah Shah, who had served as political Agent in North Waziristan Agency, strongly denied that there ever was any link between the two.
Whether or not Abdul Ghaffar Khan was guilty, remains open to research. The Faqir of Ipi, however, had already identified himself actively with the Afghan sponsored “Pukhtoonistan Movement”, and the Pakistan Government appeared to had some reason to believe that coordinated Indian and Afghan attacks were planned on the respective borders in the spring of 1948.
I.I. Chandrigar, the then Ambassador of Pakistan at Kabul, reported in May 1949, that “for a long time, the Faqir of Ipi had been aspiring to become the King of Waziristan, He, therefore, did not view with favour the establishment of Pakistan, as the establishment of this great Muslim State was bound to frustrate his ambitions. Afghan Government saw in him an ally, who would be useful in creating trouble for Pakistan and continued to help him with money, food-grains…arms and ammunitions. With the deterioration of relations between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, the Indian Embassy appeared on the scene and was believed to have helped the Faqir of Ipi with money. In the earlier part of the year, there was a four-pronged offensive strategy against Pakistan from the Afghan Government, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan his party in the North West Frontier Province, the Faqir of Ipi and the Government of India acting as instigators and suppliers of money through the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
On August 12, 1949 a number of Afridi tribesmen and their Sarishta party met at Tirah Bagh, the center of their homeland. The flag of “Independent Pukhtoonistan” approved by the “Pukhtoonistan National Assembly”(Tirah branch) published addressed to all the people of Pukhtoonistan, to the entire Muslim world and particularly to Afghanistan, to all Pukhtoons living abroad and to the United Nations Organization. Their proclamation ran as:
“We the Tira branch of the National Assembly of Pukhtoonistan, having formed the first nucleus of a free and democratic Muslim Government amidst the lofty mountains of Tirah, hereby express the hope that with the help of Almighty Allah and freedom loving Pukhtoons, this young plant will in a short time grow into a sturdy and fruitful tree, which will not only benefit Pukhtoonistan (from Chitral to Baluchistan and from Khyber and Bolan to the banks of Indus )but will also fulfill its obligation towards the progress and peace of the world.”
Over a broadcast from Radio Kabul, this proclamation was greeted with great enthusiasm in Afghanistan when the Government announced that it was extending immediate recognition and support. In the same month, a jirga of the different tribes of Wazirstan visited Kabul with the consent of the Faqir of Ipi. The jirga was assured by the Afghan authorities of all sorts of help.
In order to propagate the idea of Pukhtoonistan, the Faqir of Ipi published pushto pamphlets and a Pushto newspaper, “THE GHAZI” from Gurwek. Maulana Mohammad Waris Shah, Mulana Habib-ur-Rehman, Mulana Din Mohammad, Babu Kaji Khan, and Mohammad Zahir shah were on the editorial board of the paper. Following is a translation of the “GHAZI” dated 9th December, 1949:
“From August 15, 1947, when the British appointed Mr. Jinnah as the Governor – General of Pakistan, the Pir of Manki, Pir of Zakori, Doctor Khan Sahib, Abdul Ghaffar Khan and other prominent figures amongst Pukhtoons raised their voice for the introduction of Shariat and freedom for Pukhtoonistan. But against these demands, intending to bring Pukhtoons under slavery with the help of gold and bayonets, the so-called Islamic Government began to promote the religion of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani, and continued the enforcement of the British supremacy…. Pukhtoons are like one body and cannot be divided into two. Generosity and sense of honour is the heritage of Pukhtoons.
They also have the sharpest sword in their possession. Despite 14 years of continued bombardment by the Britishers the people of Waziristan did not accept slavery, being courageous, like the Faqir of Ipi who did not flee from the battlefield during the past 14 years. However two are the major defects (I) the introduction of man-made laws, and (II) encroachment upon the legal rights of Pukhtoons. We will either achieve freedom or will bring distruction for the whole of the country. Long live Pukhtoonistan, Long live Afghanistan.”
Meetings of various tribes of Waziristan, Khattaks, Marwats, Bhittanis, Turis and Bannuchis were held on January11, 12 and 15,1950 for the election of Pukhtoonistan National Assembly (Waziristan Branch) and its President. The Assembly thus elected unanimously decided to have the Faqir of Ipi as its first president. In that capacity the Faqir demanded the withdrawal of Pakistani forces from the Pukhtoon territories to free the land of seven million Pukhtoons, otherwise they will be themselves responsible for its consequences. He also appealed to the United Nations for recognition of Pukhtoonistan and requested the Afghan authorities for its publicity.
Under his presidentship there existed, as it was claimed, departments with several functions of the “state.” His departmental heads lived with him in Gurwek. The Faqir claimed control over an area of 5,0 00 square miles centering on Gurwek, but actually manage to assert his authority in considerably less than 500 square miles There is an evidence”, says Mazhar Ali Shah, “that the Faqir of Ipi used to receive one crore and thirty six lacs Afghanis as pay for Ahmadzai, Utmanzai, Mahsuds and Bhittanis followers and ten lacs annually for his own use from the Afghan Government.” He further says that “colonel Mohammad Hussain Khostwal and Mohammad Qarar Khostwal were Afghan agents who work as intermediaries for all money transactions of the Faqir with the Afghan Government. Zar Khan Tori Khel Haibati and Agha Jan Pipali Kabul Khel were his special messengers for a long time who used to shuttle between…. Gurwek and Kabul.”
In August 1951, a special delegation consisting of Malik Abdullah Khan Mada Khel, Malik Atta Mohammad Khan, Malik Behram, Malik Jani and Malik Badshah with a special message from the Faqir of Ipi visited Kabul and met with Muhammad Zahir Shah, the then King of Afghanistan, the late Sardar Daud khan and the ambassadors of India and Iran.
In 1954, Christopher Rand, a correspondent of the New York was able to interview the Faqir of Ipi at Gurwek. Shortly afterwads, two Soviet officials, Messre Alexovitch and Demrovitch, members of a Soviet technical mission at Kabul, called upon the Faqir of Ipi at his Gurwek headquarters.
Even in June 1941, the German and Italian agents had visited Gurwek and paid him 16, 000 Afghanis to carry out pro-Axis propaganda in the Frontier areas to creat trouble for the British.During World War II till as late as 1942, extensive efforts were made by Germany and Italy to ally with the Faqir and organise a full scale tribal uprising against the British. Support included money, weaponry and with propaganda. The assistance was limited because of the obvious difficulties in supply and communication. These efforts were followed up primarily by the Italians as the Germans believed a British defeat was inevitable at that stage. However with the advent of the USSR in the war, pressure was put on Afghanistan to halt German and Italian infiltration of the tribal areas.
In 1952-53, the flow of money to Gurwek from Afghan Government was greatly reduced due to some misunderstanding between the Faqir and the Pukhtoonistan leaders based in Kabul. However, through Faiz Mohammad, the Afghan Wali (Governor) of the Southern province, the subsidies were restored. The Faqir’s position was weakened when his close associate and principal lieutenant Khalifa Mehr Dil Khattak surrendered to Pakistani officials in Bannu in November 1954, bringing seventy followers with him.
On March 27, 1955 the Pakistani Government promulgated the ordinance creating “One Unit” in West Pakistan. The Afghan Government considered it as a move to destroy the identity of the Eastern Pukhtoons. The reaction culminated in an inflammatory speech by Afghan Prime Minister, Sardar Daud Khan, on March 28. The next day, Afghan mobs sacked Pakistani diplomatic mission building at Jalalabad and Kandahar and the Pak Embassy at Kabul. A retaliatory attack was made few days later on the Afghan Consulate at Peshawar. Pakistan clamped a blockade on Afghan Imports and exports. A Mahsud jirga in South Waziristan during a meeting of Maliks, claiming to represent 10,000 North Waziristan tribesmen ostentatiously asked permission to march on Kabul to avenge the national honour. During the time between 1956 and 1958, the tension was eased as Iskandar Mirza, the then President of Pakistan, exchanged state visits with Mohammad Zahir Shah.
It was reported in October, 1958 that the Faqir of Ipi who was the pivot of the so-called pukhtoonistan Movement has recently turned absolutely indifferent. If not openly hostile to Afghanistan, the reason being that the Afghans realized the futility of their monetary aid to him and stopped pating the tribes through him. He has discarded the so-called Pukhtoonistan Flag and has hoisted instead his own flag which is called “Faqiri Flag.” Maulvi Amir Saeed alias Jangi Mullah, and Maulvi Akbar Zaman Bannuchi, the close associates of the Faqir, distributed in the Hamzoni Dawar area the copies of newspaper “ THE AZAD PUKHTOON” published at Gurwek. The paper, inter alia, published the details of the Faqir’s tour to Wazirstan. “Amir-ul-Muslimeen (the Faqir) along with his lieutenants is on his tour to Waziristan. Presently his tour has good effects on the Bhittanis tribes as well as on other tribes. A number of old disputes were settled among the Wazirs, Mehsuds and Bhittanis. A large number of weapons and cash was collected for the Faqir’s exchequer in the Mehsud territory.” Though during his tour the Faqir remained silent about Pakistan, he never turned pro-Pakistani. After his tour to Waziristan, he hid himself in a cliffside cave at Gurwek and on 16th April, 1960, he died of asthma. His funeral prayer was attended by thousands of people and his funeral prayer was led by Maulvi Mir Rehman.