Balakot in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, it has become ‘world famous’ after the IAF precision air strike on the nearby Jaba top where Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azar had established training camps. This area is not only infamous for training of Taliban cadres preparing for infiltration into Afghanistan, but earlier was one of the launch pads for tribals invading the Kashmir Valley in 1947-48.
It is a place that was historically situated where the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh smashed the designs of Syed Ahmed Barelvi who was under the influence of fanatical Wahabi Sunni Islamic ideology. A deeply religious man, Barelvi was born in UP’s Rae-Bareli in 1786, he was an ardent admirer of the mughal ruler Aurangzeb and was greatly perturbed by the decline of the Mughals and rise of the “infidel rulers”, both Marathas and Sikhs. Syed Barelvi wanted to establish an islamic caliphate in the indian sub-continent and decided to wage jihad against the then rulers of north India. With total faith in his mission, he moved to Balakot to wage jihad against Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, whose kingdom included the NWFP and Kashmir.
Syed Barelvi thought that the muslims in that region, aided by the citizens of a muslim nation in the neighbourhood (Afghanistan) would support his mission of establishing an islamic state, overthrowing the Sikh rule. Syed Barelvi reached Balakot in 1831 when he was 46, he formed an army of Mujahideen forces, hoping to defeat Maharaja Ranjit Singh and then move into Kashmir. The Sikhs were aware of his plans and sent a force against Barelvi’s men in Balakot.
Syed Barelvi had conceived a trap for the Sikh forces, preparing marshy fields where he expected Sikh forces to get bogged down. However, the shrewd commander of the Sikh forces, Sher Singh, waited for Barelvi’s men to make the first move and fall into their own trap, which they did and were completely ensnared in the slush. Sikh forces then moved in and annihilated about 1300 Mujahideen in the day long battle. With the end of Syed Barelvi, the battle of Balakot also saw the end of Shah Ismail Saeed who came from a family influenced by Sheikh Sirhindi, the religious fanatic who had long persecuted the Sikhs. Maulana Mazood Azar considers Syed Barelvi as his hero and feels an emotional connection with Balakot where jihad inspired by the Wahabi Sunni ideology was first fought. The Indian Air Forces strike on Balakot is therefore doubly significant.