NWFP HISTORY 4: Faqir of Ipi’s uprising and the Frontier Congress

by Yasser Latif Hamdani

In response to the first three articles, an ANP activist who is quite clearly very confused about history attacked me calling me – get this- a Jamaat-e-Islami agent. I have been called many things- indeed I am supposed to be on the payroll of everyone from CIA to Mossad and even Indian RAW but Jamaat-e-Islami was definitely a first and I was caught off guard. Perhaps the poor fellow was not aware of the history of Jamaat-e-Islami’s vociferous opposition to Pakistan and Jinnah. Jamaat-e-Islami believed that Jinnah and Muslim League were of a “Kemalist” bent of mind and therefore too secular and too westernized to lead the Muslims. And Jamaat-e-Islami’s ideologues were not the only one to suggest that- in agreement with them were the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind, the Dar-ul-uloom Deoband and last but not the least “Khudai Khidmatgars” or the Red Shirts. So for the purposes of this discussion at least, the ANP should find itself in agreement with Jamaat-e-Islami’s angle in 1947.

Let us be clear on some fundamental issues: For the KK and diehard supporters of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, secularism and left-ism are afterthoughts. Their alliance with the Congress was based on a belief (not wholly justified) that the Congress stood for independence. Ghaffar Khan was socially conservative and economically/politically a votary of feudalism. To his credit he never claimed to be anything but a champion of Pushtun identity and Pushtun rights. A progressive he was not, standing instead of Pushtun customs and the status quo of Pushtun tribalism. It was only when the Pakistani state marked an decidedly “Islamic” course that Ghaffar Khan and his family began to associate with Nehruvian secularism and socialism, partly because of their role in the National Awami Party – a truly left wing progressive alliance in Pakistan- which included people from all sides of the 1947 political divide. One of the parties that merged into the NAP was Azad Pakistan Party of the renowned leftist Mian Iftikharuddin – who was a stalwart of the Pakistan Movement. Like any society, Pakistan was re-organizing and re-aligning politically and within the NAP, Ghaffar Khan and his family were arguably the most conservative.

An interesting chapter in the period immediately before the partition of India is of the association of Khan brothers with the insurgency mounted by Faqir of Ipi. The history of NWFP’s tribal areas is replete with a charismatic Pushtun horseman with Quran in one hand and sword in the other. The valiant Pushtuns had been fighting against the British for more than half a century and Faqir of Ipi was the latest of these great Mahdi-like figure (reference to Sudanese Mahdi 19th century) to raise the banner of Pushtun nationalism with its dangerous blend of Islamic Puritanism. The Frontier Congress had – perhaps without any knowledge of Nehru who would have shot down an idea of this kind- long backed Faqir of Ipi. Col. Shah Pasand Khan, former ADC to Amir Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan and a member of the Muslim League national guards, wrote to Jinnah on 8th July stating “firstly a few days ago I heard of Abdul Ghani, son of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who came to see the Faqir of Ipi in connection with the resolution passed at Bannu by the Congress in support of Pathanistan. Mr. Abdul Ghani crossed the border of British territory to meet Faqir of Ipi. Government authorities supported this move… I myself investigated the matter and found out that Faqir of Ipi was given 7 lakhs of rupees by Mr. Ghani to propagate for the Pathanistan… (Document 68 Jinnah Papers Volume III Pages 164-165).

In July Faqir of Ipi made his pronouncement. This announcement was reported by S M Rashid, a young Muslim Leaguer, in his letter dated 17th July as “Nobody is to participate in either Congress or Muslim League. Nobody is to violate the peace of the Hindus because have consented to pay the poll tax to me. Muslim Leaguers in this area (according to Shariat of Waziristan) are to be devoured by ..wolves. A reward of Rs. 4000 (Kabulis) for killing Habibullah Khan (a Leaguer) and special protection for the family of his killer”. Rashid went onto talk of about the Mullahs from Deoband on a special mission : “All these Mullahs are the true disciples of Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani… the second selves of Abul Kalam Azad and Hussain Ahmed Madani. The majority amongst them are the originators of the crusade of Waziristan… Khalifa-tul-Muslimeen Mir Hazar… Maulvi Khanmir Khan, Maulvi Qameruzzaman, Maulvi Sardar, Maulvi Mohd Zaman, Maulvi Mohd Rahim, Maulvi Mohd Din, Maulvi Abdul Razzaq Maulvi Raz Mohammad, Maulvi Mohd Din Shah, Maulvi Khawaja Mir and Maulvi Fazl Din.” (Enclosure No.1 to No. 181, Jinnah Papers Volume III, Pages 465-467). These Ulema were reinforcements from the Jamiat-Ulema Hind and Darul-uloom- Deoband to create insidious propaganda against Pakistan and the Muslim League.

Maulvi Abu Sulaiman, an 80 year old veteran spiritual leader from Waziristan wrote to Zafar Ahmad Ansari “While I was in Delhi, I received a call from the Frontier that Congress agents were touring Waziristan, doing propaganda against the Muslim League, had succeeded in converting the Faqir of Ipi to their point of view … I learnt that a deputation of the Frontier Jamiyaat-e-Ulama had already met the Faqir who thereupon became a staunch enemy of Pakistan taking the Muslim League to be the agents of the British, he now considers war against Pakistan as the greatest service of Islam. The government of Afghanistan is also a party to this conspiracy. Its Minister of Interior, Sardar Muhammad Farooq, called a special meeting of tribal representatives and persuaded them to support Pathanistan in combination with Afghanistan, Khan Brothers and the Faqir of Ipi. He even directed them to kill any opponent of Pathanistan. It was after the meeting of the Jamiyyat-e-Ulama deputation with Ipi that the latter ordered his general, Abdul Latif Khan, to attack Miran Shah.” ( No. 183, Jinnah Papers, Volume III, Page 471).

Reinforcing what he had written earlier, Sulaiman wrote again a week later informing Ansari of the activities of Faqir of Ipi and the Congress Party “On the night of 29th of Shabaan, the Faqir Sahib of Ipi without informing anyone left for Mount Shawal so as to pass the month of Ramadan in some secret place. It is his habit to remain hidden from his people for several months in a year. This creates an impression of piety… After Id, he intends to call a meeting of tribal representatives at Makin, a central town in the territory of the Mahsud tribe. His object at the meeting would be to convert Prince Fazluddin and his party to his own point of view- either by persuasion or by force… Prince Fazluddin is an old sympathizer of our party- Jamiat-e-Mujahidin Hind. He has great influence over the Mehsuds. But a large part of Mehsud tribes still belongs to Faqir of Ipi… The Agents of Afghanistan and the Congress are very busy here propagating the idea of Pathanistan… to fight Pathanistan we must take some precaution. We must not appoint to the Governorship of the Frontier any person belonging to this province. Some such person should be appointed Governor who can successfully fight the propaganda that the League is un-Islamic, agents of the English and centre of Qadianis, and that to fight it is the greatest service of Islam… to fight the propaganda of the Congress and its agents, a declaration of Islamic government is not so essential as the proclamation for the suppression of prostitution, gambling, and use of wine and other corrupt activities”. ( Note 229, Jinnah Papers Volume III Page 670-671).

There are several things to be noted here. One – Faqir of Ipi’s insurgency sounds remarkably similar to the insurgency mounted today by Behtullah Mehsud, the Tehreek-e-Taliban and Mangal Bagh etc. The same tribes and the same issue is being raised against the central government of Pakistan and it is member of the same Khan family in power in NWFP. Historically, Khan brothers allied themselves with the insurgency because to them the cause of Pushtun nationalism was supreme and it did not matter to them that the mix of Pushtun nationalism with firebrand Islamic Puritanism was a dangerous mix (and a mix that even Pakistan’s military employed to its advantage in the first Kashmir war in 1948, the Afghan War and the Kashmir insurgency in the 1990s). Pakistani state’s diversion (partially supported by the US and the CIA) of the Islamically charged Pushtun tribal nationalism to Godless Soviets and Hindu India has now died out and today, we find ourselves roughly in the same situation as the time of the Faqir of Ipi. That is not the subject of this article however. The objective of this piece is to show that despite all the tall claims of progressive and secular ideology, the ANP remains historically rooted in a conservative tribal ethos informed in a significant manner by the puritan faith of its people.

Here it is pertinent to revisit the issue of referendum. In the last piece I spoke of the hollow argument that referendum was not held on adult franchise and was thus not valid. I had pointed out that Congress owed its victory to the same franchise and therefore that argument was neither here nor there. I present now the figures of the 1946 elections which brought Congress to power so that they may be compared with the referendum figures for greater clarity:


Total Electorate : 604, 563

Total Votes for Congress + Jamiyat al Ulama : 160, 229 (26.53% of the total electorate) – Muslim votes in this total were 145, 119 which formed 27.6 % of the Muslim electorate.

Total Votes for Muslim League were : 146, 235 = 24.18% of the total electorate = 27.8% of the Muslim electorate.


Total Electorate, 578, 798

Total votes for Hindustan 2874= .501% of the electorate.

Total votes for Pakistan 289, 244 = 50.49% of the electorate

Thus the whole argument on which the process was criticized falls flat on its face. Muslim League had emerged as the party with largest popular vote even in 1945-1946 elections. Congress, Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and other Ulema parties together had barely crossed the League in election itself and in 1947 the Hindustan idea had no takers, even amongst those who supported the Congress and brought it to power in 1946. For a detailed discussion on the referendum, please visit parts 2 and 3.

NEXT: Bacha Khan and his legacy.



Filed under Pakistan

11 responses to “NWFP HISTORY 4: Faqir of Ipi’s uprising and the Frontier Congress

  1. The style adopted by the writer….in these series of essays…resembles the persons from that school of thoughts….they believe in blaming (those who disagree and oppose) more than arguments..biased and selective references,personal attacks…humiliating behaviour….one who claim of having research…they are balanced and not biased…and his attempt to relate that historical events to nowadays situations is amazing….ANP is the second most party targeted by the forces of destabilization in Pakistan…as Taliban etc…Interestingly not any League or jamat islami leader is threatened or being on the hitlist….
    Writer wish of being called a CIA agent cant be fulfilled….because league is now said to be an anti american party…whose leaders are publicaly disliked by President Bush….I personaly think that its not the time to have debate on differences in a way to humiliate someone…Those who oppose Pakistan and those who support…both are responsible for the current situations….both havent played their role properly…to prevent Pakistan…of being declared as a failed state or banana republic…come on present…any debate whether its right or wrong…which is of no help with the present should be left….my dear friend…

  2. YLH

    Aligram how long are ANP going to keep up this fraud of having a monopoly over the term “progressive”.

    I am surprised that you always want to deny the facts ie Jamaat e islami and ANP have had a similar stance in the past and both carried out abusive personalized campaigns against Pakistan and the Muslim League.

    Btw just like NAP was not KK the Muslim Leagues of today are not even the least bit related to the original Muslim League.

    I suggest you grow up and own up to ANP’s past instead of trying to claim the word “progressive” for a party that is feudal tribal and regressive ie ANP.

    Infact ANP is the equivalent of Jamaat e islami …except the central point of ANP is race.

  3. YLH

    Ps: and you are the kind of person who can’t argue with facts and responds with personal attacks.

    But that is to be expected. ANP used all the underhanded tricks to bring pressure on The News to keep these articles out of print. ANP does not believe in freedom of speech, democracy and other things. It is a racist and fascist party which masquerades as a “progressive” party which it is not.

  4. aliarqam

    Alaas….who could be blamed….U are a lawyer from the core…Its not your fault…mr handami ..or…readers can decide…Ur state of mind…Readers are irritated of your useless debate and clergic behaviour of issuing a Fatwaa against ANP…If we just agree to U…on that….but It is clear that…LEAGUE Will never be declared as progressive…from its begining to now….and today….but one thing U would agree to me…that readers are bored and no one commented on your piece of intellectualism….but dont be disappointed man….U are unveiling the hidden parts of history….applause for U

  5. YLH

    More personal attacks. Typical ANP nonsense…shoot the messenger instead of the message.

    So much for tall claims about being progressive.

    If progressive means pushtun racism I would rather league is never considered progressive.

    However Communist Party Of India supported Jinnah and the Pakistan movement for a reason. They understood that the unionists, the KK, the akalis, the jamaat e islami and other mullahs represented a reactionary and backward feudal and tribal order.
    I am glad to agree that Muslim League was not a progressive body but it was helluva lot more modern and forward looking than the Bacha Khans and other faces of Pushtun racism and tribalism.

  6. YLH

    And since when did you have the oracle and started making claims on behalf of all readers?

    I will keep telling the truth no matter how much ANP wallahs get riled up.

  7. Hossp

    Well Yassar,

    I too strongly object to your claim that ANP and the JI had the similar stance in the past.
    It is not true and your interpretation of the stance they took before the Partition is not only historically but factual wrong.

    The JI was not a political party before the partition. It opposed Pakistan on non political grounds. The KK opposed Pakistan on political grounds and followed a political creed that they had adopted some 30 years before the issue of Pakistan was placed before the voters in 1947. You may disagree with their political position but they followed their political philosophy and did not change overnight like the JI did after August 14.

    Neither have they ever cooperated with JI in any struggle which was not part of bringing democracy in Pakistan. The two instances which brought them together were FJ-Ayub Elections and the PNA movement. They were wrong in joining the PNA movement but by then the NAP leadership had already suffered years in Jail and an army action in Balochistan. The Baloch did not support the PNA movement and momentary opportunism by Wali Khan can’t place him or the ANP in the traitor category.

    Political parties make mistakes and take wrong turns and often are trapped in to webs built to counter their political positions. What we need to look for is where they are coming from and why they took a certain stand by analyzing the situation as best as we can.

    I am worried about the role the ANP is playing now in Pakistani politics. But again they have to save themselves from the onslaught of the most reactionary forces- Taliban and the Pak army- of the world. They are not willing to be annihilated like the left in Afghanistan allowed itself to be destroyed by making mistakes after mistakes.

    I really don’t want to debate this issue with you. I think you make honest efforts to learn the history and draw some conclusions that may not be accurate now but you will get the truth in your own time.

  8. aliarqam

    Hossp….I am agree to Your comments….

    “I think you make honest efforts to learn the history and draw some conclusions that may not be accurate now but you will get the truth in your own time.”
    In a PTV Drama On Eid…named
    “Eid Train”
    Moin Akhtar was playing a role of illiterate person
    who wants to send a letter to his wife….for Eid Greetings…He asks a person sitting in the same compartment whether he can write a letter….but he was grieving for his lost…LOTAA
    Moin Akhtar comments,
    “tumhein kia likhna ayegaa tumhare dimagh par to lota sawaar hai……”

    Handami Sb has the same case with ANP and Bacha Khan…..

  9. YLH


    You should read Hossp’s comments on part 3. Needless to say his views are closer to reality- much more than yours can ever be.

  10. Aliarqam

    And what about these comments….my dear friend….
    Meetha meetha
    Hupp Hupp….
    Karwaa karwaa
    tu tu….
    “Your can ever be”
    Debates and dialogues are to share views…
    Accusations and allegations….suit only in the court rooms…my intellectual friend….
    Ba Za’me Khud….

  11. YLH

    Some karwa is needed to balance out too much meetha.