May 11th, 2011
08:54 AM ET

The man who put Abbott in Abbottabad

Take a look at the man who made a name for Abbottabad, Pakistan. It's obviously not Osama bin Laden you see in the video above.

You see the man who literally made a name for the place - the man Abbottabad is named after - Sir James Abbott.

Abbott was, as you might have guessed, not a local but a Brit. He went to school with the likes of future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
In the mid-1800s, Captain Abbott and his 1,500 men successfully fought off 16,000 Sikh troops in the vicinity of the future Abbottabad.

Abbott befriended the local Hazaras, learned their language, their culture, their religion, even writing an ode to the town.

And when he left, Abbott is said to have spent all his money throwing a party that lasted three days and three nights.


soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Jack Alom

    Thank you for this enlightening tidbit. While reading about the capture of Bin Laden, I always wondered how a town in Pakistan was bestowed with an Anglo name. This article only answered my question partly though, I am still curious as to whether or not Abbott named the town Abbottabad or was the town's name altered to add the suffix abad ?

    May 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      My guess is abad means 'abode' so it is pretty much an automatic addition, like Youngs'town' or Charlotte'ville'.

      May 11, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply
      • Ankeet

        Mike, you are correct. 'abad' is probably a word with Urdu origin which means abode. In territories that were once upon a time in history invaded by Muslim warriors have towns with such names. I am from India and and India has many such towns Ahmed-abad, Hyder-abad, Jalal-abad etc (without the hyphen). The Persian mean of the word 'abad' is to cultivate or to Settle.

        May 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
      • garib

        A transliteration of 'Abad' is settlement or a place where a group of people gather.

        May 12, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Sathyavrath

      Wow, I am not sure which part of the world you come from but you comment spanks of naivette at best, ignorance or the local natives at its most benign.....The Indian Subcontient was governed by the British for more than 2 hundred years and unlike Pakistan that chose to Islamise itself after its independence, India still has a large Christian population and people of British descent that still there. Equally baffling are questions from Americans "how come India's former defense minister was named George Fernandez". Similarly,, Vivian Liegh, Queenie Watts, were born and brought up in Darjeeling and Calcutta. EngleBert Humpekink was born in Chennai, Cliff Richards was born in Lucknow/ The suffix "...abad" is similar to the European "Burg", "Ville" or even Shire. Abbottabad just means Abbot's Town, in Urdu or Persian. Here a few more examples. Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Allahabad, Ahmedabad, and so on.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:11 am | Reply
  2. Kagema Njogu

    Congrats Zakaria. I an an ardent fan of your works at CNN as much as I have been wondering the genesis of the name ABBOTTABAD. This exhibits incisive and world class journalism in you.

    Kagema- Kenya

    May 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  3. ObamaBinBadagin

    Do you think the Brits could be persuaded to re-colonize the place?

    May 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Reply
    • MikeHouston

      Yeah...If the Americans, Canadians, and Aussies can be persuaded to bail their behinds out if/when things go wrong.

      May 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  4. js

    Additional information:

    His actions led to the outbreak of the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War. He trained at the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Bengal artillery in 1823. In 1830 he took part in Sir John Keane's invasion of Afghanistan, and in 1842 was made assistant to the British Resident at Indore.

    In 1846 he became commissioner for settlement of the Punjab boundaries, before becoming Resident's assistant at Hazara in 1848. Soon after taking this post he accused Chatar Singh Atarivala, governor of Hazara, of plotting a Sikh uprising against the British. In August 1848, without any authority, he suppressed minor unrest in the Hazara Sikh Brigade, which he described as "the national rising of the Sikhs", by inciting Muslim peasants to destroy the Sikh Brigade. He then led a Muslim force against Hazara to expel Chatar Singh. During this action Commodore Canora, the artillery commander of Hazara, was killed by the Sikhs for supporting the British, and Abbott demanded retribution.

    Again acting without authority, he organized a jihad against the Sikhs, which provoked the Hazara revolt that led to the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War. He later published an account of his role in these events in "An Account of Personal Sandees at Hazara", and the city of Abbottobad, Pakistan, was named after him.

    May 11, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  5. Rafiq Kathwari

    Abbotabad...hmmm...near Islamabad, now to be renamed Costellobad.

    May 12, 2011 at 8:47 am | Reply
    • Baba

      Better name will be Osamabad . This will remind pakis for generations that their country was hiding Osama

      May 12, 2011 at 9:14 am | Reply
  6. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    Reagan put the CON in CONservative.

    May 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Reply
    • MikeHouston

      The three basic (and only) principles of the GOP:
      1. Greed is good.
      2. Everyman for himself
      3. Me first.

      May 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  7. RD

    Ah! The British....
    Only the Cruzaders did more to screw up the Mideast.
    The British come in at a close second.

    May 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  8. Luke Weyland

    Abbottabad – sounds like a very accurate critique of Australia's opposition leader
    just wondering, Is there any city called Gillardnobetter?

    May 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Reply
  9. MikeHouston

    Egyptians, Syrians(Arabs), Hebrews and Persians made a hash of the Mideast before (and ever since) recorded time
    began. Greeks, Romans, and Turks just kept the pot simmering until European Crusaders boiled the whole mess over.
    The British and French just spread the ugly mess all over the world. The name Abbottabad (Abbott'sville) is just a reflection of British Empirical arrogance and greed...what's so surprising about that name?

    May 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  10. ep to

    Funny how the picture shows him wearing a Sikh-like turban and what seems like that gay little knife that Sikhs run around with – considering he spent most of his time killing them.

    May 12, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Reply
  11. Sridhar Kalyan

    Typical of the British colonial mindset – to divide the local population and rule; it was easy in a land like India where there are many fault-lines on communal basis. This legacy is being widely practised till today, by the 'masters' in Pakistan and in India.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:16 am | Reply
  12. babar

    Abbottabad is named after Major James Abbott, who was the founder of this city. He was first commissioner of Hazara(which was a district then). He selected the that place for cantonment as it was strategically safe and climate was cold as well. So guys its Abbott(the name of the person)+abad(populated by).

    February 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Reply

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