The British Colonial Encounter with the Pukhtuns: An Appraisal of Faqir Ippi’s Struggle against the British Raj (1936-1947)
The North-West Frontier region of the British Empire in India during the Great Game was part of the ‘Ring Fence Strategy’, framed by the Raj against its adversaries and rivals in Central and South Asia. To protect her ‘Jewel in the Crown’- India, the British Raj made several moves in the strategically placed Pukhtun1 land. The Pukhtun populace, adherent to their centuries old code of conduct, Puḳhtūnwali, consistently resisted the British encroachment of their territory. Mirza Ali Khan, popularly known as Faqir Ippi, was one of the many freedom fighters who challenged the imperialist power in this region. Taking notice of Islam Bibi’s case, a Hindu Convert, Faqir Ippi mobilized the Pukhtuns of Waziristan in defying and fighting the British. He was a serious contestant to the British authority with his well-known fighting skills, effective planning and guerilla tactics in one of the most difficult terrains. The entire Tribal Belt, especially Waziristan, proved to be a ‘turbulent frontier’ for nearly eleven years, i.e. 1936-1947. This insurgency started bringing bad name to the crown and encouraging others to rise against the British. To contain and end Faqir Ippi’s resistance, Governor George Cunningham hired the locals to instigate and bribe his followers to rise and fight against him. The aim of this paper is a critical evaluation of the British strategy in this region and an appraisal of Faqir Ippi’s response and assessment of how successful he was in invigorating Pukhtun resistance to defend their motherland, using both colonial and local sources.