‘Religion’ & Violence [3 of 3]


After the army was able to control the situation that had arisen out of the Anti Ahmadiyya Movement in the early 1950s, a lengthy enquiry followed. This was presided by CJ Munir and Justice Kayani. During the enquiry, Ulema of different sects could not agree on a definition of a Muslim.
But Islamist extremist bigots continue to resurrect the anti-Ahmadiya and ant- Shia and anti-everything except anti-Wahhabi outrages, whenever they feel they need to revive their fortunes and revitalize their cadres. 



by Dr. Syed Ehtisham


One has to consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (MGA) of Qadian, now in the Indian Punjab, in the context of the prevailing conditions in India in mid and late 18th CE. Islam was under siege by Christian missionaries and Hindu revivalists. Punjab, which had been designated a battlefield by all comers and their Indian foes, had adopted a homogenous culture, in which mysticism and Sufism played a great part. In the census of 1881, men of religion had to run a vigorous campaign to persuade people to register as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Moulvis, naturally, had to work the hardest, as Muslims had not recovered from the depredations visited on their faith and places of worship by Ranjit Singh-he had converted the Shahi mosque in Lahore into Royal stables.

MGA was a learned man, and developed a thesis in defense of his religion. He developed a big following.

 He would not have merited even a footnote in history, if he had not had a ‘revelation’ that Jesus had not died on the cross, had in fact been rescued, helped to escape from Palestine and eventually arrived in Kashmir, and lived happily for a long time. It implied that he would appear again on earth. That was MGA himself, a Nabi, but not a Rasool – the former term denotes the status of one sent by god for guidance, renaissance as it were, the latter term the status of a messenger, with a new message.

The ‘revelation’ denied the mainstream Islamic belief that Jesus had been lifted off the cross and replaced by a look alike. It also belied the Christian belief that he had died, and rose from the grave three days later. (more…)


Khota Qabar & the story of a lost battle

balakotThe city of Balakot in the morning



by Mast Qalandar


I must have passed by this place countless times on my way to Abbottabad and back and was always intrigued by its name. Khota Qabar! Donkey’s grave, that is. Why, I wondered, so much reverence for a donkey? Khota Qabar:

Khota Qabar lies on the Karakoram Highway about 60 miles north of Islamabad and 7 miles short of Abbottabad. It is precisely where the road starts climbing into the mountains of Mansehra and onwards into the picturesque Kaghan valley and the Northern Areas. I always knew it as a place where truck drivers coming up from the planes stopped to cool their engines and top up the radiators with cold water from a nearby stream to ready their vehicles for the climb ahead. Because of the presence of truck drivers a couple of khokha restaurants have sprouted at this spot and are doing a thriving business.

It is so small a place that you won’t find it on any map of Pakistan. However, to my pleasant surprise, a Google search turned up the following information onKhota Qabar or Khote di Qabar: latitude 34.09; longitude 73.17; elevation 3,251 feet.

I was impressed — with Google, that is.

Like many other places and things in life I took this place for granted and never enquired how or why it came to be so named. But when I did – only recently – I uncovered a fascinating story behind it. A story of a man and his mission.

The story begins, of all the places, in Rai Breilley, a town in present day Uttar Pardesh, India (renowned for being the constituency of Nehru-Gandhi family), and ends in the mountains of Balakot, a town in the far North of Pakistan.

It is the story of a man named Syed Ahmed. He was born in Rai Brailey in 1786. He was a deeply religious man. His life mission was to usher in, once again, the glorious Islamic past. He wanted to establish an Islamic state on the pattern of the early caliphate, first, in the subcontinent and then, possibly, in the rest of the world. To achieve this he decided to wage a jihad against the “infidels” who ruled the subcontinent then. Thus, he became one of the earliest, if not the first, native Jihadi of the subcontinent.

This was the time when the Mughal rule in India had virtually ceased to exist. The Mughal Empire stretched barely beyond the modern city of Delhi. The dominant powers of the time were the British Empire, represented by the East India Company, which controlled most of the Northern India, the Marhatta Empire to the south, the Sikh Empire in the North-West and Kashmir, and hundreds of minor kings, maharajas and Nawabs in various parts of the land.

Syed Ahmed understood that it was not feasible to fight the British. They were better organized, better equipped and in firm control of most of Northern India. He, therefore, decided to emigrate to what is today NWFP in Pakistan and wage a jihad from there. After beating the Sikhs in the NWFP and Kashmir, he imagined, he could then take on the British.

His choice of NWFP as a launching pad for jihad was based on the assumptions that it was predominantly a Muslim area bordering on another Muslim state, Afghanistan; that its people had a reputation of being good warriors and that they were unhappy with the Sikh rule and ready to take up arms against them.


(Right) The stone plate depicting the final resting place of Shah Ismail Shaheed

Armed with these assumptions and total faith in his mission and trust in God, Syed Ahmed and his devotees left their homes and families (Syed Sahib left behind his two wives) and embarked on a difficult and circuitous journey to Peshawar via Sindh, Quetta, Qandhar and Kabul. Among his companions was also Shah Ismail, a grandson of Shah Waliullah of Delhi.

mazar-balakot-3(Left) Gravestone: Syed Ahmed Shaheed’s mazaar in Balakot

After reaching Peshawar, Syed Sahib tried to enter into alliances with the local chiefs and khans, often unreliable, to gain their support for his Jihad. He managed to raise an “army” of mujahideen who engaged in a few skirmishes with the Sikhs and also launched nighttime raids on a few towns, notably AkoRa Khattak and Hazro. But these skirmishes and raids did not yield any strategic gains.

Most narratives on the subject, at least the one’s I have perused, even though rich in trivia, are incoherent and terribly confusing. Cutting through the web of confusion, however, one finds that Syed Ahmed Brelvi, moving from place to place for 4-5 years in the Frontier province turned up at Balakot sometime in the first quarter of 1831. He was 46. In the process he also acquired a third wife, a young woman from Chitral, named Fatima.

Syed Sahib’s strategy was to defeat the Sikhs at Balakot and then march on to Kashmir next door. His starry-eyed optimism is evident from one of his last letters he wrote to the Nawab of Tonk in India, who, as a gesture of support and sympathy, was housing Syed Sahib’s two wives as guests on his estate. The letter was written on 25 April 1831 (translation and paraphrasing is mine):

“I am in the mountains of Pakhli (name of the area). The people here have welcomed us with warmth and hospitality and have given us a place to stay. They have also promised to support us in the jihad. For the time being I am camped in the town of Balakot, which is located in the Kunhar pass. The army of the infidels [kuffars] is camped not too far from us. Since Balakot is located at a secure place (surrounded by hills and bounded by the river), God willing, the infidels will not be able to reach us. Of course, we may choose to advance and enter into a battle at our own initiative. And this we intend to do in the next two or three days. With the help of God, we will be victorious. If we win this battle, and, God willing, we will, then we will occupy all the land alongside the Jehlum River including the kingdom of Kashmir. Please pray, day and night, for our victory.”

Obviously, Syed Sahib believed in and greatly relied upon divine help and miracles.

Hari Singh was the governor of Kashmir and NWFP at the time, representing Maharaja Ranjit Singh who sat in Lahore. He was a clever and ruthless administrator. His forces under the command of Sher Singh lay in wait for the mujahideen at Muzaffarabad. Their contingents had already moved to occupy the hilltop, known as Mitti Kot, overlooking the town of Balakot.

Syed Sahib, in his plans, expected the Sikhs to come down from their perch at Mitti Kot and attack the mujahideen. He, therefore, had the paddy fields, which lay between the town and the hills, flooded hoping that the advancing Sikhs would get mired in them and the Mujahideen could then pick them like sitting ducks — literally. But the Sikhs had their own plans. They did not move and waited, instead, for the mujahideen to make the first move.

The mujahideen obliged on May 6, 1831. It was a Friday. A bizarre incident occurred that morning that precipitated the battle. While the mujahideen were still having breakfast and, at the same time, keeping a wary eye on the movement of the enemy at Mitti Kot, one of them, Syed Chiragh Ali from Patiala, suddenly expressed a desire to eat kheer (rice pudding).

Since kheer was not on the menu that morning, Chiragh Ali fetched the necessary wherewithal and set about preparing kheer for himself. (It sounds bizarre, but as the Punjabi saying goes: shouq da koi mul naeen or fulfilling a whim has no price – nor a time.)

While Chiragh Ali was stirring the pot and nervously looking at the Sikhs on the hilltop, something came over him and he shouted, “There! I see a beautiful hoor (houri) dressed in red. She is calling me!” He threw away the ladle with which he was stirring the pot, and declared that he would eat only from the hands of the hoor. With this announcement he charged headlong at the hill, shouting Allah-o-Akbar. It all happened so suddenly that before anyone could realize what was happening, Chiragh Ali was in the middle of the paddy fields, struggling to run successfully in the mud. The Sikhs who must have been watching the scene with some amusement picked him in the sights of their rifles and shot him — dead in the mud. According to the narrative, Syed Chiragh Ali was the first martyr of the battle of Balakot.

What followed the shooting was total chaos and confusion. Syed Sahib, abandoning his earlier plan, ordered his men to attack. The mujahideen rushed forward and they, too, got mired in the muddy fields. The Sikhs then made their move. In a battle that lasted most of the day, amidst shouts of Allah-o-Akbar and Wahe guruji ka khalsa, wahe guruji ki fateh, Syed Ahmed and Shah Ismail were killed along with many mujahideen. The number of dead mujahideen varies, depending on the source one uses, from 300 to 1300. Whatever the numbers, however, the mujahideen had met their Waterloo at Balakot.

Nearly two centuries later, on October 6, 2005, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale shook and flattened the town of Balakot. Miraculously, however, it spared the graves of Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ismail Shaheed. Perhaps, as a reminder that miracles do happen but one cannot rely upon them!

What about Khota Qabar? Why was Khota Qabar so named?

On their way to Balkot the mujahideen camped somewhere near present day Abbottabad. The Sikhs, in order to choke the mujahideen’s supply lines, posted troops on the hills overlooking the road that led through a gorge to Abbottabad. The mujahideen, sensing the risk of sending convoys through the gorge, cleverly, hired the services of a donkey without a handler to carry their supplies. Yes. Just one donkey.

Even though the donkey has, for some reason, become a metaphor of stupidity in our part of the world, it is not stupid. One of the unique traits of the donkey is that once he carries a load to a destination he memorizes the route and does not need the help of a handler to go back to where he came from. Just a light kick in the back sends him trudging quietly to his destination. So, unknown to the Sikhs, this dutiful donkey trudged back and forth in the darkness of night carrying supplies to the mujhideen.

It wasn’t long before the Sikhs found out who the secret courier was. They shot him dead one night when he was carrying a load of goods through the gorge. The mujahideen mourned the loss of the donkey and honored him by burying him respectfully in a grave. The place came to be known as Khota Qabar. The grave may not have survived but the name did. Only a couple of years ago someone decided to change the name to Muslimabad!

But the people in the area still know the place by its old name. And so does Google!

The above story, except the part on Khota Qabar, which is anecdotal, is based on the following books:  1. Syed Ahmed Shaheed – Mujahid-e-kabir by Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 1981 2. Roedad-e-Mujahideen-e-Hind by Muhammad Khawas Khan, 1983

Photo Credits: Title photo by Ishtiaque, remaining by writer. Mast Qalandar is a Pakistani writer based in Islamabad.
This post first appeared in Adil Najam’s pakistaniat.comwebsite.



Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments PolicyWe also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults.  
 We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.


Two True Stories

While on his mission Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare, knew very well his plane was going to be terribly short of fuel, but he laid aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. 



by anonymous


Note for WoP readers: My friend Umair Ghani has mailed me two true stories. Could be that many amongst you have already read them, but many may not have. I am also the one who read it for the first time, though years ago I read about this Mafiosi boss Al Capone and later also saw the movie “Godfather” which was  filmed on his life. Marlon Brando played the Godfather’s role. It won awards as well. And now the stories… [Nayyar] (more…)

Published in: on 27/04/2009 at 10:17 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Linguistic Bigotry: The Great Debate – II

NeechaN di ashnai koloN faiz kisay nahiN paya
kikar te angoor chRahia har gosha zakhmaya

(No one can benefit from people with lowly mentality. If the grapes’s vine is wrapped on a ‘kikkar’ tree, every bunch [of grapes] is damaged)




[Response to Linguistic Bigotry]


by Dr. Manzur Ejaz and Omar Ali


One common characteristic among all kinds of bigots is their combination of ignorance and arrogance. A Pakistani-American physician, Dr. Arif Muslim proved this once more by saying that Punjabi language is “jaisai GhoRae, gadhe, billi aur Kuttae ki boli, waisae hi Punjabi boli.”

The emotional shock one feels is that this bigot is placing the great thinkers, linguists and poets of Punjabi language, Baba Farid, Guru Nanak, Shah Hussain,  Demodar Das, Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah, Mian Mohammad, Khawaja Farid and others, as well as a over a hundred million Punjabis, in the category of lowly animals. Whatever they wrote and whatever they speak everyday in millions of homes, turns out to be “GhoRae, gadhe, billi aur Kuttae ki boli.”

We should not make this an ethnic issue because the person who reported and protested the bigotry is an Urdu speaking physician himself. One can find such bigots among so-called educated Punjabis as well. In fact, these remarks would never be made in such a cavalier fashion if educated Punjabis had not encouraged and abetted such ignorance for decades. However, these remarks do demand a response to set the record straight. (more…)

Published in: on 26/04/2009 at 1:31 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,

Linguistic Bigotry: The Great Debate – I

NeechaN di ashnai koloN faiz kisay nahiN paya
kikar te angoor chRahia har gosha zakhmaya

(No one can benefit from people with lowly mentality. If the grapes’s vine is wrapped on a ‘kikkar’ tree, every bunch [of grapes] is damaged)





 Note for WoP readers: Dr. Syed Ehtisham is a writer and analyst who frequently contributes to one of my favorite website http://www.wichaar.com

 Dr. Syed Ehtisham circulated this note among APPNA’ e-mail lists. He did not name the person but according to investigation by Dr.Manzur Ejazthe said person was Dr. Arif Muslim and the Dr. outraged Dr. Ghazala Qazi who read Mian Mohammad’s verses for him:-

NeechaN di ashnai koloN faiz kisay nahiN paya
kikar te angoor chRahia har gosha zakhmaya

(No one can benefit from people with lowly mentality. If the grapes’s vine is wrapped on a ‘kikkar’ tree, every bunch [of grapes] is damaged)

And now the note from Dr. Syed Ehtisham…… (more…)

Published in: on 26/04/2009 at 12:53 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: