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Freedom fighter Akbar Khan’s grave needs govt attention

Freedom fighter Akbar Khan’s grave needs govt attention

KOHAT: A freedom fighter, Gul Akbar Khan – brother of gallant warrior Ajab Khan Afridi of Darra Adamkhel – who lies buried near the newly-constructed Jail Plaza, remains unrecognised due to the insensitivity and incompetence of the tehsil municipal administration, Kohat.

Accompanied by his brother Gul Akbar Afridi and two other companions Sultan Mir and Haider Shah, the legendary Ajab Khan Afridi had kidnapped Moli Elis, daughter of Major Elis, from his bungalow in the Kohat cantonment after killing his wife by mistake between the night of April 14 and 15, 1923. At that time tense wars were going on between the tribesmen and the British who wanted to subjugate them by force.

Due to several strikes by Ajab Khan Afridi group in the cantonment for looting arms from the cantonment stores then deputy commissioner, Kohat, Colonel Broos ordered action against the Bostikhel tribe. A regiment of Major Elis ransacked his (Ajab) house while male members were not present. Ajab was infuriated by the search by male soldiers and decided to kidnap him (Major Elis) in revenge.

On a dark night they entered the house of Major Elis. Lady Elis woke up by the noise of opening of the window and was murdered by Shehzada Khan Afridi.

Moli Elis who was reading in the adjacent room came running after listening screams of her mother. Ajab Khan thinking that he was Major Elis in the darkness bundled her up on his shoulders came to Jawaki in the Frontier Region of Kohat. When he reached a safe place he learnt that they had in fact kidnapped daughter of the Major. But as they could not release her there they moved to Darra Adamkhel and then Jawaki area in the Orakzai Agency.

They spent seven days in a cave where Molis was treated respectably, according to her memoirs.

A jirga of the elders and political administration was held after which Molis was handed over to the deputy commissioner and Major Elis on April 22, 1923.

The British were not able to capture Ajab Khan Afridi, his brother Shehzada Khan and escorts Haider Shah Afridi and Sultan Mir Afridi for their whole lives. But during a daring action in Darra Adamkhel the British army found Gul Akbar Khan Afridi and put him in the Kohat prison, located in the middle of the city.

He was sentenced to death and buried in the northern corner inside the jail, fearing disturbance by the people if his body was handed over to the relatives and buried outside.

Gul Akbar Afridi’s grave was left crumbling due to neglect of the TMA when a basement of Jail Plaza was dug over a decade ago. Later, when the issue was taken up with the officials concerned a protection wall was constructed on the affected southern side. Now instead of leaving an open space for construction of a monument and grills around it, a shop had been built on foot side of the grave.

The Maliks of Adamkhel Jawaki tribe, including Malik Omer Khan Afridi, Malik Naib Khan Afridi and Malik Ghulam Khan Afridi, had demanded of the provincial archaeology department to construct a monument for the towering figure at the grave site. A brief narrative of Gul Akbar Khan should also be written on the pillar erected there for the people who were unaware of Gul Akbar Khan’s sacrifices in the independence movement.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017

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