The Faqir of Ipi of North Waziristan

Published: November 15, 2010

The writer is a retired brigadier who has served in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata asad.munir@tribune.com.pk

North Waziristan is in the media focus these days. Everyone is guessing as to when the much-awaited operation is going to be launched against militants in the said agency. In 1936, the British launched an operation against a lone tribal, but could neither apprehend him nor kill him. The tribal was the Faqir of Ipi. His real name was Mirza Ali Khan, a Tori Khel Wazir, born in 1897, near Khajuri in North Waziristan. In March 1936, in Jhandi Khel in Bannu, a young Hindu girl by the name of Ram Kori and a Syed Pashtun, Amir Noor Ali, fell in love and eloped. The girl converted to Islam and changed her name to Islam Bibi. The girl’s mother approached the court and pled that her daughter was a minor and had been abducted. As a result, Noor Ali was arrested and given two years imprisonment.

The tribes protested against the handing over of a converted Muslim girl to a Hindu family. On April 14, 1936, a jirga held near Mir Ali declared jihad against the British. It decided to raise a tribal lashkar, with the Faqir of Ipi as its chief. He travelled to South Waziristan to gain support of the Mehsud tribe. In November 1936, the British sent two brigades to carry out an operation at Khasura in the Dawar area. The British suffered heavy casualties due to tribal raids and the operation was abandoned after four days. The British persisted with operations in different areas. In April 1937, a British convoy was ambushed at Shaur Tangi, South Waziristan, in which 53 soldiers lost their lives, including seven officers.

The Faqir of Ipi laid down three conditions for calling off the jihad: that Islam Bibi should be handed over to the Muslims, that the British should leave Waziristan and 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. At the start of World War II, both the Germans and the Italians contacted him and provided him and his men weapons and funding. The main purpose of the Axis powers was to engage the British Indian Army in the tribal belt to prevent the Indian armed forces from being sent to the main war zone. In Gurwek, the Faqir created an independent state and continued with his raids against the British Army. After 1947, he did not recognise Pakistan and continued his war against the new nation’s army. He announced the creation of Pashtunistan and a tribal jirga, held in Razmak, appointed him as the first president of Pashtunistan. He never surrendered but his following progressively declined over the years and he died eventually in April 1960.

The Times of April 20,1960, in an obituary described him, as “a doughty and honourable opponent… a man of principle and saintliness… a redoubtable organiser of tribal warfare, many retired army officers and political agents, who served in the area, will hear the news with the tribute of wistful regret.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2010.

Reader Comments (27)

  • Nov 15, 2010 - 1:34AM

    So a minor girl married, and she was returned to her family, and because she had converted to Islam, the tribe declared jihad. He vanquished the “British” and is now remembered as some hero, or so it seems from your writing. So the message is that the Pakistan Army is the equivalent of the British and are doomed to failure so they better not go in? Recommend

  • Warrior
    Nov 15, 2010 - 1:35AM

    You make it sound like the soldiers fighting were Brits. They were locals fighting under a minuscule British officer corps and yes, most of the soldiers in that conflict were from the five districts that were and are used for the British/Pakistan Army (Rwp, Attock, Chakwal, Jehlum, Mianwali). Remember, the first political adventurer, Akbar Khan? He too fought in that war.

    Next time you try to make it sound like outside forces were beaten by the heroics of armed tribesmen, at least have the courage to accept that the bloated “martial classes” of northern Punjab, the slaves of the British empire, have never been able to beat armed tribesmen whether it be in the Waziristan of today or the Balochistan of the past 60 years. Today we see propaganda going on about Orakzai being “cleared of militants” when the entire Taliban leadership of the area is well and alive + the Turis have been blockaded by the holy army to pave way for the Haqqanis.

    Efforts at crafting narratives of foreign involvement as sole problem afflicting Afghanistan and the region (Soviets attacked, Amrika attacked, etc) can easily be identified as pure establishment effort to strengthen in the public’s view it’s goal of strategic depth.Recommend

  • Talha
    Nov 15, 2010 - 1:42AM

    Here we go, glorifying militants again. Gul Bahadur is a descendent of the Fakir of Ipi and a man who has links with intelligence agencies as well as terrorists.

    If the British wanted to get him, they would have but such people are easily to manipulate and use, hence him fighting for the British in WW2. Such people are nothing but goons that need to be dealt with a stick.

    But our weak government and security forces use such people for ‘strategic depth’.

    I cant believe such men are written about while our real heroes are sidelined.

    No wonder we are the state we are in.Recommend

  • Riazullah Khan
    Nov 15, 2010 - 5:10AM

    How many of you, knew The great Faqir?He fought British 3 division Army for 11 years.His name is not in history because he was a Pashtun.Ghazi Ilm Din murdered a man but he finds place in text books,but not Faqir Of Ipi.Many books has been written about him,mostly by foreigners.Its a brief account by Asad Munir,but good for people who never heard his name who as usual has come up with a conspiracy theory.Recommend

  • Bangash
    Nov 15, 2010 - 5:45AM

    Pashtun heroes are seldom mentioned in our history.I will name only few, who fought against the Mughuls,Sikhs and British,Umra khan,Kamal Malikdin Khel,Kamal of Mardan,Sartoor Mullah,Pir Roshan.I am sure these names are alien to most of you,The only plausible explanation for ignoring them, from the list of freedom fighters, is their Pashtun ethnic origin.Asad has not glorified Ipi,if you really want to know what he did to British Army,the number of casualties they suffered,his tactics,for raid and ambushes,please read books written by British.Tunnel Warfare,invented by Faqir Ipi,is part of Military Manuals.Asad sahib please write on other Pashtun heroes also. Recommend

  • Arif Mahmud
    Nov 15, 2010 - 5:55AM

    I do not see any attempt by the writer to glorify Faqir Api or his cuase. Asad Munir has dispassionately expressed facts of history. Those who have served in South Waziristan for some length of time, have a good idea of psyche of the tribes. A culture of fierce will of self governance and territorial integrity draws its strength from history of numerouse conflicts which are a folklore in the area. The understanding of this historic background is very relevant to analysing the current situation in that area. I have been following Asad Munir’s analysis for sometime now and consider him one of most authentic voice on this subject.Recommend

  • AFRIDI
    Nov 15, 2010 - 8:37AM

    Every Pashtun have history like this in his home. Its not Joke to turn around with Pashtun
    This guy is not only retired officer there are thousand of officer retried and active they think same way.Afghanistan is our native land………………..Long live Orignal Afghan Recommend

  • Awan
    Nov 15, 2010 - 9:03AM

    Well written. Informative and comprehensive pieceRecommend

  • yousaf Javed
    Nov 15, 2010 - 9:29AM

    I always considered myself to be a well read man,specially about the history of independence.How come i have never heard the name of such a great Pakistani?Why his name is never mentioned in the heroes who fought against the British in freedom struggle?.Can someone recommend any book or reference on Faqir of Ipi.Asad you should write another piece on his 11 years struggle,the battles he fought,and the tactics he used to avoid arrest.Does he have some similarities with the present day Osama?Recommend

  • Ch.Yousaf
    Nov 15, 2010 - 10:23AM

    As usual very informative ,but brief.One would like to know more about this great Faqir,about whom there is little material available.Recommend

  • Javed Wazir
    Nov 15, 2010 - 10:50AM

    $TALHA What glorification you are talking about?I think it was one of the most unbiased and accurate piece i have read about the great Faqir of Ipi.The British employed 40,000 troops,air,Artillery and all types of weapon available in the arsenal, to apprehend him,but they failed.Some Britisher were even convinced that the man had some spiritual powers.He was suggested by some to declare himself Imam Mehdi.Both Hitler and Mussolini knew his name and his exploits.One of his close relative Inam ullah Wazir was starved to death by the Taliban, in 2009, for his alleged links with the ISI. Asad has avoided mentioning miracles, believed by tribal, which he performed.If he was to be glorified the writer would have never mentioned his involvement with Pashtunistan Movement.Recommend

  • Azad
    Nov 15, 2010 - 11:29AM

    I read about him on a long time ago but wiki has more info and this article appears to have relied on info from wiki too. But unfortunately the author has not provided the reference. Please see this link.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FaqirofIpi

    It is hard to classify Faqir of Ipi as a freedom fighter. He had close relationship with Bacha Khan and it was Bacha Khan who kind of convinced him to stop his jihad against Pakistan. He died in 1960 and by the time he was not an active warrior. I don’t have the source now but I believe Bacha Khan also helped him get medical attention in Peshawar too.Recommend

  • Haris Masood Zuberi
    Nov 15, 2010 - 11:35AM

    Whatever the conclusions, he’s somewhat of a legendary figure and Brig Asad has narrated a historic episode with eloquence. In 1950s even the RPAF had taken part in the Ops against the Fakir of Ipi. Details can be found in several books.
    I’ve also learned that a couple of pilots had refused to bomb the area and were cornered for their stance. Luckily enough these pilots got a second chance to prove their patriotism in 1965 and won decorations.

    Drawing comparison with today is not as simple as it sounds. Recommend

  • Arifq
    Nov 15, 2010 - 12:06PM

    Faqir Ipi died peacefully in 1960, as per the writer. Will his descendents offer the same courtesy to their oppenents? Going by their recent track record, seems not. State of Pakistan needs to establish its writ or give these people their independence, i personally favor the latter with border fencing. Recommend

  • Course Mate
    Nov 15, 2010 - 1:46PM

    &Mr.AZADThe first time i heard the name of Faqir of Ipi,was in 1982.Asad Munir,then a young Major, gave us about one hour presentation on life of Faqir of Ipi.It was in so much of details,with accounts of all battles,the troops which participated.number of casualties and the tactical moves.At that time there was no internet and Wiki.He gave us the names of newspapers published by the Faqir,his contacts with Bacha Khan,Pir of Manki,Ghandi,Nehru and many other prominent politicians.He was so knowledgeable about the subject,having links with relatives of Ipi, during his service in Scouts that he did not need to consult Wiki. Recommend

  • Qadir El Eproos
    Nov 15, 2010 - 6:44PM

    My brother Nadir EL Edroos I can not help but to admire the height and depth of your genius mind and imagination.A piece on Faqir of Ipi is timed in a way to convey a coded message to Pak Army not to venture into North Waziristan,else u would meet the fate of British from the grandson of Ipi.Hope the American do not decode this message.Sorry for not prefixing your name with SYED,which i just forgot.Recommend

  • Aamir Ali
    Nov 15, 2010 - 8:01PM

    Faqir Ipi has no connection to what is going on in tribal areas today. Only a few fools compare Baitullah Mehsud to Faqir Ipi.Recommend

  • Ismail
    Nov 15, 2010 - 9:53PM

    &AZAD could you elaborate ,what all all has been taken from Wiki in this piece?Do you know how Wiki gets its information?Ordinary people contribute to this site, and you can never be sure about the authenticity of the substance.Most of the historical events i know of ,are not correctly narrated in Wiki.These are the opinion of people,mostly biased.Recommend

  • Nov 15, 2010 - 10:32PM

    If the Faqir of Ipi was so much against outsiders meddling in the affairs of Waziristan, how would he have reacted to the presence of Haqqanis of Afghanistan on the soil of Waziristan. Specially so in view of the fact that the Taliban have been credited with bombing of Jirgas of tribal leaders and elimination of hundreds of Tribal leaders.Recommend

  • faraz
    Nov 15, 2010 - 10:43PM

    Faqir of Ipi was an honourable man unlike the mercenaries who joined the British army to supress the lcoals. The same mercenaries saluted the Union Jack uptill the 13th August, 1947 and a day later started saluting the Pakistani/Indian flag. I cant agree with the religious inclinations of the Fakir, but his decision to take up arms against the imperialists is one of the proudest moments of our history. Recommend

  • Shah Faisal
    Nov 15, 2010 - 11:10PM

    I m proud being Pukhtoon(ethnic Afghan) . The only nation who embraced Islam in all. Lets know our histry, strength, wekneses, devotion to cause, embisiöns and many more. Lets step togethr to folow our true masharn(elders) to respect the Ulamae-haq and to think what we r doing tody. Respect to all our great heros like Faqir Ipi, Ajab khan Afridi and thousnds othrs who pasd away and thousands of those who r stil fightng in diffrent ways. Recommend

  • Javid Wazir
    Nov 16, 2010 - 5:58AM

    Taliban speak Pahto but are not Pashtuns.A mullah can never be a real Pashtun.Faqir of Ipi was an honorable man.At that time Ayub Khan,then a Brig ,was fighting against him,being the Razmak Brigade Commander.And the other dictator who destroyed pakistan the munafiq e Azam, Zia U Haq was fighting on another front in the service of the British.Recommend

  • Saeed Khan
    Nov 16, 2010 - 10:50AM

    Faqir of Ipi was a proud Pashtun.He was not a Talib.He never imposed Sharia,never beheaded people but followed the code of Pahtunwali.He was a freedom fighter and demanded the withdrawal of British from Waziristan.He demanded return of Islam Bibi not for any religious reasons,but it was in line with the Pashtunwali code.The Taliban only speak Pashto other wise they do not have any virtue,but only vices of Pashtuns.The great Faqir should be given his place in the history of freedom struggle.I would request people like Edroos and Talah to please read history,the real one ,not what you have read in the text books.Recommend

  • Husyn
    Nov 16, 2010 - 1:30PM

    A classic example of ignorance. One doesn’t cease to wonder what this clearly biased and slow writer wants to convey with this unimpressive and vague piece of writing: glorification of Jihad, bravery of the Pashtun or contemptuous hatred of British and the Pakistani successors of the Colonial power?Recommend

  • Bangash
    Nov 16, 2010 - 7:26PM

    &Husyn its an episode of history,narrated by the writer with eloquence.He has not given his own opinion,so what bias are you talking about?I have no doubt that you had never ever heard the name of the great Faqir of Ipi.British admired the bravery of Ipi,proved and acknowledged by the obituary by The Times.If you rethink about your comments, you may to find out ,who is the classic example of ignorance?Recommend

  • Bacha Khan
    Nov 16, 2010 - 9:39PM

    &HUSYN Are you kidding “A classic example of ignorance”.Who is ignorant?The one who is educating about history,or the one who has never heard about the Faqir?BIASED and SLOW,howcome he is biased,once he has not given his opinion?Which instrument did you use to gauge the speed of the writer?,Asad Munir Sahib we are proud of you,Just ignore these ignorant people from Punjab.Recommend

  • Omar Khan
    Dec 23, 2010 - 10:54AM

    Very informative. Specially the part about Faqir of Ipi being helped by Germans and Italians. I think that is the only thing applicable today. I mean back in the days the pashtuns had rifles the british had rifles, yet the pashtuns had the advantage of knowing the ground and perhaps being used to guerilla tactics. Today its all about drones and aerial bombardments. So one can’t claim that the Brave Pashtun will stand his ground – it would be foolish to do so.
    But the one thing that is still applicable today, is that the insurgency in Waziristan is being aided by foreign powers to achieve their goals whatever they maybe.

    Of course if you’re a Pashtun, you enjoy reading such articles that describe Pashtun bravery. I know I do ;)Recommend

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