Need a history lesson, Babar Awan?

Published: October 19, 2010

Babar Awan has referred to the provincialg overnment as takht-e- Punjab

I am at a loss to understand law minister Babar Awan’s fixation on “takhte Lahore”, a reference to Emperor Ranjit Singh’s reign. Others have also hijacked this phrase and have started to use it indiscriminately while referring to the present Punjab government headed by Shahbaz Sharif. While others could have been excused for their obvious ignorance of Punjab’s history, the words are surprising coming from a supposedly well-read person. After all, the minister is a son of the soil, to use a cliche.

An empire as a gimmick

To ridicule the golden period of Punjabi history for petty score settling is appalling. Ranjit Singh’s era, apart for its military might, affluence and glorious conquests was an era of religious tolerance, reconciliation, and nation-building. It was in his time that people rose to commanding positions in the administration as well the army regardless of their faith. Biased Muslim historians have painted a distorted picture of his disrespect for Muslim faith and deliberate desecration of Muslim holy places. It is true that mosques were used as ammunition dumps and stables, but the fact is that history is stained with cases of religious places being abused. People like Babar Awan conveniently forget that Dai Anga’s mosque was used as the Railway Headquarters by the British for almost 60 years and the Punjab Governor House is built upon the tomb of a Mughal prince.

There were no forced conversions to Sikhism during Ranjit Singh’s era. On the other hand, hundreds and thousands of lower-caste Hindus were allured into conversion to Christianity during the British Raj. Very few people know that Guru Arjun Singh personally invited and escorted Mian Mir, a Muslim saint of the time, to lay the foundation of the Golden Temple. Even fewer people know-or would like to know-that Ranjit Singh, the Emperor, was summoned to Amritsar to appear before the court of the religious head of Sikhs, on the charge of desecrating the sanctity of a mosque. He appeared like a common man and was awarded the punishment of one hundred lashes, which was later remitted upon his assurance that he would refrain from repeating such actions in the future.

Have some respect

Next time when Babar Awan chooses to use this phrase, my advice would be to read and memorize this piece of history, the way he has boasted of memorizing Clause 6 of the constitution and narrates it to his protector for his own convenience.

As a proud Punjabi, I am personally offended by this oft-repeated phrase and am of the opinion that he should be asked to apologize to the entire Punjabi population.  I would like readers to ponder over this quote of Masson, a deserter from the British India Army who was to later become a political agent for the East India Company while stationed in Kabul:

At present, flushed by a series of victories, they (the Sikhs) have a zeal and buoyancy of spirit amounting to enthusiasm; and with the power of taking the most exemplary revenge, they have been still more lenient than the Mahomeddan were ever towards them.


Nadeem Akram

Former director Human Resources, Administration and Supply Chain Management and author of PCB Human Resources & Administrative Policy Manual

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    History and context are beyond those seeking buzz words and catch phrases.Recommend

  • faraz

    Perhaps we are the only nation in the world which glorifies foreign invaders, marauders and tribal thugs (ghori, ghaznavi, abdali, babur) and villifies the son of the soil who faught them. Our heros should be the local boys like Porus or Ranjit Singh. If Abdali can be our hero, then why not the British who faught Sikhs and Marhattas. How about naming our missle as “Wellington missile”, he was a much greater general than ghori, ghaznavi etc. Recommend

  • Manoj

    @faraz: Dear Faraz, The day your thought becomes common thougt of People in India and Pakistan, all problems between us will be resolved.

    We need to take pride in our common history, heritage and heros. We must understand that we all belong to same Indua velly Civilisation.

    Our common forfathers shown the world the light of Education, Takshila, Nalanda and VikramShila university of shining example of the same.Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    SatSri Akaal Nadeem,
    I am glad to witness another addition to ‘Takhte Lahore movement’ and fully understand the DAMAGE Babar Awan has caused to some of my Proud Punjabi brothers but you can always redeem this damage by penning down a Chaudry Nisar styled unconditional apology to Rajit Singh’s departed soul.Recommend

  • Think therefore

    Faraz I agree with you. The bulk of Pakistan’s active citizens are those who were brought up and taught in the ugly Zia era. Our world view has been systematically distorted to honour invaders and the blood shed they caused. This is sad indeed. Arab traders did trade in the 7th century but were not able to convert the local masses. This is a fact that Islam was forced upon a large part of the population in this area using the sword. All those saints that we harp about provided the most acceptable vessel for hindus to practice islam with their own dogmas of dance, urs, saint worship etc. etc.
    On the other hand Islam was spread peacfully in Java Sumatra and Malaya. We can see the clear difference today. We are intolerant blood thirsty bigots while they are inclusive, progressive and mercantile.Recommend

  • sarah.elahi

    I wish there were more writers willing to enlighten people about history-context is so important! Thanks for this.


  • lalit

    10/10. just like we in India hold Mughal king Akbar in the highest esteem as an Indian .faking foreign ancestory is the most inglorious of acts.Recommend

  • Mariam

    Why taking babar awan serious? Whatelse do we expect to gather from his bunch of lies. Recommend

  • imran khan

    punjabis are the jews of pakistan:attacked,ethnically cleansed in balochistan,maligned,abused & ridiculed in the media,portrayed as usurpers while the other ethnic groups use & abuse their resources.Recommend

  • parvez

    A nice lesson in history. The problem with the write up is that you connecting this with what Babar Awan says. It’s like trying to mix oil with water. Recommend

  • bashir

    dear faraz, the reason for naming our missiles as ghauri or any other is because of these personalities attitude, well being bestowed on us,their struggle and efforts for the poeple who were already muslims or became muslims later, from the clutches of their harsh rulers. they have been living hard and oppresed lives, which became prosperous with their invasion, which was truely in accordance to islamic spirit to liberate their brethern. Contrary to mulims conqueres, like british or any other they exploited muslims and thier heritage. They even still believe muslims to be the biggest danger for them.So u can’t correlate the british and muslim rulers in that sense. its indeed a matter of shame that we feel honor while glorifying non-muslim specially whose sole purpose was to loot our resourses but feel sorry for those who came to rescue us.Recommend

  • hu

    Great analysis and a much needed perspective on what is becoming a history that is further skewed by ignorance, distrust and religious dogma.

    My only criticism is with the article’s title; BA needs more than just a history lesson. Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Jaag Punjabi JaagRecommend

  • faraz

    Exactly which of these invaders liberated Muslims? I am strongly against all kinds of intolerance and repression whether it’s committed against a Muslim or a non-muslim. Ghaznvai didn’t come here to liberate anyone; he came here for loot and plunder, a fact acknowledged by the great Al-Beruni. After every conquest, most of the fighting men were killed and women and children were taken as slaves to be sold in the Ghazni market. As for liberating Muslims is concerned; one of his first battles took place at Multan against Muslims of Shia sect! Ghaznavi destroyed hundreds of temples including the famous Somnath temple; hasn’t our religion ordered us to respect holy places of all other religions? Weren’t we hurt when Babri mosque was demolished?

    Ghori empire was formed on the ruins of Ghaznavi empire, both can’t be the good guys! He also fought Khwarzemi Muslims. Ghori’s first campaign was against the Muslim rulers of Multan. Ghori conquered Lahore from Ghaznavids, through an alliance with local Hindu ruler. He also looted and destroyed temples and monasteries.

    Did you ever wonder why we mention a 17 year old kid as the conqueror of Sindh? Why don’t we talk about the person who sent him Sindh, who organized and financed the army for the invasion? Qasim was sent by his uncle and father-in-law, Hajjaj bin Yusuf to conquer Sindh. Hajjaj was the ruthless governor of Iraq. In his terrible reign, over a hundred thousand Muslims were killed and when he died, tens of thousands were recovered from his prisons. He attacked Mecca to crush the Al-Zubair revolt and during the battle, the Kabba was demolished!

    Abdali was a mercenary in Nadir Shah’s army and took part in his invasion of India. He is no doubt a hero for the pushtoons but it has nothing to do with Islam. (Pushtoons and Tajiks killed each other mercilessly in the 1990; both were Afghans, Muslims, Sunnis, Islamists and veterans of Afghan Jihad.) He fought Mughals and was defeated at battle of Sirhind. Abdali sacked Dehli and took boys and girls back to Afghanistan. Waris Shah, Mir Durd, Mir Taq Mir describe his ill deeds in their literary work. Abdali appointed Sikh chiefs in different states that he conquered. Both Abdali and Marhattas were fighting for the riches of the land, nobody was fighting for an ideology.

    If our hero can be a foreigner, then ill go for Duke of Wellington, the victor of Waterloo. Or Robert Clive, the clerk who defeated 40,000 strong Bengal army with mere 400 British troops.Recommend

  • Mariam

    I can see people are feeling proud of their ancestors, not matter if they were kafir. Recommend

  • Nadeem

    Before the advent of Islam all of our ancestors were kafirs!Recommend

  • faraz


    In the field of Physics, my hero is Einstein. So a muslim shouldnt be inspired by a physicist whose religion is not islam ? If an ancestor did some good work in his respective field, should we first inquire whether he was a muslim? And if he was a muslim, then whether he was a “true muslim”? Ghazali declared that Ibn-Sina and Al-Farabi are heretics, Al-Razi was an atheist; then why do we feel proud of these great scientists? Recommend

  • Nadeem


    Well said Faraz!

    @Mariam, btw he is not my ancestor or yours for that matter he is someone that every Punjabi should be proud of…and bbtw you missed the point of the entire blog :)-Recommend

  • Farhad


    Thank God someone had the combination of the required knowledge of history and courage to speak up on the subject. You are 100% correct in your assertion of Tolerance in the punjab during that period.Recommend

  • Nadeem


    Thank you for the compliment, Farhad!Recommend

  • Malik G Rasool

    You are right. I am fed up of Babar Awan’s use of word “Takht Lahore” and it only shows his inside illiteracy and lack of tolerance. I think it is only the PPP’s “Hath naah pounchay tho korhi” i.e. Grapes are sour. The PPP showed this when they imposed Governor’s Law in Punjab but could not buy any horses. Before this kind of behaviour was shown by Suleman Tasir and now they have given this duty to Babar Awan. I think Mr. Babar should have some respect for Punjabis and prove worthy of the post he holds. I think this post of Law Minister has become a joke since last Govt. of Musharaf which had Wasi Zafar as Law Minister who was openly abusing media persons. And this is the continuance of that era. Same character is shown by Law Minister of Punjab Mr. Sana Ullah Rana. This is a key portfolio but as there is lawlessness in Pakistan and there is no need of Law Ministers, so all govts. have appointed these kinds of personalities as their law ministers. Babar Awan please behave like a grown up person, and u should no that by repeating one phrase again and again you are only losing your honour.Recommend