Faqir of Ipi; the forgotten hero of Waziristan

Rafiuddin Mehsud
Hailing from South Waziristan and graduated in Social sciences from GC University Lahore and member of Pildat Youth Parliament, Pakistan.

I still remember that when I was 10 years of age and studying in class three my grandfather was telling me the stories of the great heroes of Waziristan who fought the wars against British Raaj. Among those was Haji Mirza Ali khan which was famously known as faqir of Ipi.

Mirza Ali Khan was born in 1897 in Shankai Kairta, which is located near Khajuri Post in North Waziristan Agency. He was a prominent Pashtun leader who fought the war against British. His father was a religious man, named Arsala Khan. He first went to religious schools on the British side of the border, and eventually, to a place near Jalalabad, where he became a Murid (pupil) of the Naqib of Chaharbagh, at the time the most famous and influential religious leader in Afghanistan. In 1923 Mirza Ali Khan performed the Hajj in Mecca and thereafter settled down in the village of Ipi, situated near the British military road connecting Bannu and Razmak. He was also famous by the name of Haji sahib among the local people.

In 1936 a hindu girl namely Ram Kour from the village of Jhandu Khel Bannu, fell in love with one Amir Noor Ali Shah (also known as Amir Noor), a Sayyed from the same village. One day Ram Kour eloped with Amir Noor Ali Shah to village Puk Ismail Khel, Surrani, and took shelter at the house of Noor Ali Shah’s maternal uncle. They went to the village mosque and she embraced Islam at the hands of Moulvi Sakhi Din Shah. The girl converted to Islam and changed her name to Islam Bibi.

Islam Bibi’s mother approached the court and pled that her daughter was a minor and had been abducted. In this regard the local police arrested Noor Ali and court sentenced two years imprisonment to him. Court also handing over the Muslim converted girls to her Hindu family. The tribes protested against the handing over of a converted Muslim girl to a Hindu family.

Ipi Faqir
Ipi Faqir

On April 14, 1936, a jirga held near Mir Ali declared jihad against the British. Haji sahib travelled to South Waziristan Agency where he got the support of Mahsud tribesmen. He appointed Mehar Dil khan Mehsud as a Commander-in-Chief, which later leaded his mission against the British. The family of the boy started negotiation with the family of the girl but they dd not reached at any conclusion. After hearing the decision of the court the girl was handed over to the Bannu police and then the police handed over the girls to her mother. In large number about 2000 Muslims gather in front of the Deputy commissioner of Bannu and chanted the slogan against the government and the Britishers.

Local people under the leadership of Ipi, decided to get back the girl and take revenge from the government. The tribesmen demanded that the court decision is against the Islam and our culture and tradition Pashtunwali. Revenge or Badal is the main component of the Pashtun way of life for centuries “Pashtuwali”.

The enraged tribesmen mustered two large lashkars 10,000 strong and battled the Bannu Brigade, with heavy casualties on both sides. Widespread lawlessness erupted as tribesmen blocked roads, overran outposts and ambushed convoys. In 1936, the British launched an operation against a lone tribal, but could neither apprehend him nor kill him. The Faqir of Ipi laid down three conditions for calling off the jihad: First that Islam Bibi should be handed over to the Muslims, Second that the British should leave Waziristan,and third that all arrested tribesmen be released. However, the British did not agree and continued with their campaign.

In 1938, the Faqir of Ipi shifted to an isolated place in Gurwek. He continued his struggle against the British till his death in 1960. However, one wonder that like the great Pashtun nationalist and political leader Ghaffar khan which was famous by the name of frontier’s Ghandi, that why the great hero of Waziristan Faqir of Ipi is conspicuously absent from most Pakistani history books or, worse, is referred to in passing. Even in most of the Pakistani history books he was declared as rebel and against the birth of Pakistan.

It is a very big misperception tribal people always show their allergies and patriotism towards Pakistan and one such example was the 1947 when our army refused to fight in Kashmir then tribal people come forward and get free Kashmir Muslim from the cruel rule of Hindu. If our government and media can promote and remember the story of Bhagat Singh then why cannot remember the struggle and sacrifices of the tribal people against the British Raaj.