Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan with Mahatma Gandhi
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan is a blanked-out politician of perfect finesse of South East Asia. He was born on 6 February 1890. Being a secular Muslim, he did not believe in religious cleavages. When we look back at history, almost every country in the world has gone through extraneous military control, colonization, monumental ferocity and bloodbath merely grounded on regional, religious or spiritual, ethnic, or racial contravene. And while most of the leaders, who have led such warfare and occupations, have been tearing and despotic, there have also been a few, very few, leaders who have gone against the status quo, and only believed in and flacked passive resistance. In the present times, when unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs and furiousness seek to arrogate inscrutable etyma in the high society, this King Khan's (Bacha Khan) didacticisms are to a greater extent germane than ever.
Khan strongly opposed the All-India Muslim League's demand for the partition of India. When the Indian National Congress declared its acceptance of the partition plan without consulting the Khudai Khidmatgar leaders, he felt very sad. After partition, he pledged allegiance to Pakistan and demanded an autonomous "Pashtunistan" administrative unit within the country, but he was frequently arrested by the Pakistani government between 1948 and 1954. The Khudai Khidmatgar was founded on a belief in the power of Gandhi's notion of Satyagraha, a form of active non-violence as captured in an oath. Ghaffar Khan forged a close, spiritual, and uninhibited friendship with Gandhi, the pioneer of non-violent mass civil disobedience in India. The two had a deep admiration towards each other and worked together closely till 1947.
Khan dedicated the majority of his life teaching his fellow Pukhtuns the value of tolerance. His main exertion often centered on their education, mannerism, self-respect, well-being and self-reliance. Though he lived a fairly long life, roughly one out of every three days of his life were spent in prison - eventually even surpassing the number of years the legendary Mandela had spent in jail. And this was mainly due to his activities towards the betterment of Pukhtuns, which worried both the religious leaders and British rulers, who speculated threats to their power in the subcontinent. His passion towards education, for both girls and boys, and the creation of schools in villages especially created quite a melee; his work was not seen as positive reinforcement but taken instead as 'rebellion' - an opposition. And, yet, despite being constantly persecuted, Bacha Khan incessantly defied their ill-intentions and retaliated with selfless devotion and preaching of nonviolence.
Bacha Khan, as he was lovingly known, was a towering figure in Indian and later Pakistani history. He was punished by the British for demanding freedom from foreign rule. After independence, he was punished in the new state of Pakistan for questioning its elites and their policies. The Frontier Gandhi had embraced the philosophy of non-violence. It accused Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan of disloyalty to Pakistan. It is a tragedy that this great freedom fighter spent more time in prison in the independent state of Pakistan than he had even under British rule. In the end, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was as disappointed with the reality of Pakistan as he had been unsupportive of the idea of Pakistan.
In the present times, when intolerance and violence seek to take deep roots in our society and country, Khan's teachings and life remain more relevant than ever before. He was a strong votary of the idea that change need not come from the barrel of the gun, it can start from within too. It is about time the world learns from the struggles of this great man. Abdul Ghaffar was the product of a particular society. If studied in this perspective, one can imagine that his mission was not easy, simple and indulgent, and that his achievements were much more significant than his contemporaries who had risen out of enlightened societies. Leaders normally stand out on the pedestal of their society. Those leaders are seldom born who raise their society from the ignominious depths of ignorance and obscurity to the heights of enlightenment and glory. Abdul Ghaffar Khan was one of this rare breed of leaders. He blew new life in the dormant people heretofore groaning under the burden of the worst type of feudalism. It was his stamina, struggles, patience, devotion and determined tolerance in the face of suffering that lifted Pukhtuns from the lowest level of serfdom to the high status of nationhood. That was the reason that not only the British and later Pakistani rulers opposed him tooth and nail, but also the feudal lords and parasitic clergy. Therefore, his name will glitter eternally through the pages of the world history.
Bacha Khan defied all their intentions with his selfless devotion and nonviolence. He was not considered for any title or reward by rulers--British as well as Pakistani. However, his own people gave him three titles--Fakhr-e-Afghan, Bacha Khan and the Frontier Gandhi--like the man himself a rare phenomenon in the political history of the sub-Continent. Bacha Khan always stressed the need of unity, brotherhood and peace. When upheavals bubbled in Bangladesh after the general elections of the-then Pakistan in 1970 because of mischievous and loathsome acts by Yahya Khan military junta, Bacha Khan offered his services for mediation. He was then in Kabul and proposed to the Pakistani regime that he would go back to Pakistan to lead a Jirga of a few elders from Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan to meet the Pakistan's majority party leader, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and settle the contravention through negotiations, but there was no response from them.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party and Qayum Khan of the Muslim League, supported by some Army officers, were determined to grab power, although the majority had voted for the Awami Leauge of Sheikh Mujib. Jamaat-e-Islami exploited the Urdu speaking community of Indian refugees and the Bangla-speaking Pakistanis formed al-Badr and al-Shams killing squads and carried out genocide murdering 3 million unarmed people, raping three hundred thousand of our sisters and mothers and displaced one millions of our people. When all these strategies failed to cow down Mujib, Pakistan Army launched an operation in the-then East Pakistan. What then happened is an open secret.
Bacha Khan repeated his proposal that Pakistan should not use force there and try to settle the matter through negotiations. During discussion, Bacha Khan mentioned that there were some selfish people who did not like peace in the country. He used to say "The selfish has no sight!" It means that selfish people are driven so rashly by their selfish designs that they do not see the gloom and doom ahead. He had spent 30 years of his life in prison, and fought against oppression, intolerance and violence for more than 70 years. Those leaders are seldom born who raise their society from the ignominious depths of ignorance and obscurity to the heights of enlightenment and glory. Abdul Ghaffar Khan was one of this rare breed of leaders. Bacha Khan was too big a stalwart of peace, non-violence and freedom movements to remain obscure forever. Although he had never personally held the reins of power, but when he died on January 20, 1988 national flags in three countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India were brought to half-mast to mourn his death, their mutual differences notwithstanding. Heads of all the three countries were present at different stages of his funeral.
Bacha Khan's legacy has also vital relevance for interfaith harmony and peace in today's world. "The present day world can only survive the mass production of nuclear weapons through non-violence," he said in 1983. Proposing a way out for the 21st century he said in an interview in 1985, just three years before his death, "Today's world is going in some strange direction. You see that the world is going towards destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in non-violence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until non-violence is practiced because non-violence is love and it stirs courage in people." Bacha Khan message has particular relevance in South Asia where he is recognized and respected as a consistent practitioner of non-violence, peaceful coexistence and interfaith harmony. His legacy can be a bridge for friendship among the countries of the region.
He was a man with no lust, no greed, no hatred, and no violence. His life was dedicated only for people's welfare irrespective of religions. He is truly the Light Bearers of this planet. He kept glowing from his true being. It is awe-inspiring to hear of a human that is still not living the life that the creator gave to us all in these troubled times. He was taller than six feet, but his heart was larger than his height. He is a very inspired and loving human that resounds with my heart.
His statements marked by firm determination or resolution condemning the brutal Pakistani forces and their local cohorts applied on our people; his deep love for the suffering people and to close off all atrocities to us in 1971 war in no time in Bangladesh which were relayed through Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, Akashbani Radio, BBC radio, VOA... almost on daily basis, are still ringing into my ears.
The writer is a political commentator
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