Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns

_Ghaffar Khan:  Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns_ by Rajmohan Gandhi
New Delhi:  Viking Penguin, 2004

(ix) Asfandyar Khan, eldest son of Badshah Khan's second son and a political activist

(38)  A mullah who had taught Ghaffar, when the boy was five or six, to recite the Qur'an could not explain its verses to Ghaffar because he himself did not know their meaning;  he knew, however, how to hit pupils.

(47)  Ghaffar Khan's sentiment for the Wigram brothers notwithstanding, he seems to have envisioned, as did the Haji of Turangzai, schools that would promote not only reform among the Pakhtuns - the ending of feuds and of wasteful expenditure on weddings and funerals - but also autonomy vis-a-vis the British.  These would be azad madrassas, independent Islamic schools.

(61)  To Ghaffar Khan he [Behram Khan] said, 'What the others are not doing, you should not do.  Sit comfortably at home.'  'If others stop offering namaaz', the son replied, 'would you want me to stop it too?' 'Of course not,' siad the father.  'Well, Father,' said Badshah Khan, 'My schools are like offering prayer.'

(84-85)  This commitment to nonviolence, which was new and significant in the public life of the Frontier province, did not however erase the facts that the KKs had emerged in direct consequence of the forceful crushing, led by Pakhtuns, of a non-Pakhtun attempt to seize the throne in Kabul.  In the words of a critical Pakistani admirer of Badshah Khan, 'a violent event in Kabul was celebrated in a nonviolent setting in Utmanzai, giving birth to a nonviolent movement.'

(86)  The 1930 salt defiance, which caught the world's imagination, was nowhere more resolute than in the Frontier.

(97)  The noticeable role of Pakhtun women in the 1930-31 movement (among the women addressing meetings were the sisters of the Khan brothers) was connected to that movement's nonviolence. 

(103)  The Khan brothers grew close also to the Bajaj family, hosts in Wardha to Gandhi and his guests, and to Mahadev Desai, Gandhi's secretary.  Desai drew the brothers out on their lives and soon produced, to the advantage of contemporaries and future researchers a valuable little book, _Two Servants of God_.

(120)  A remark made in Bannu revealed the relationship in Gandhi's mind between the spinning wheel and nonviolence.  'God whispered into my heart', said Gandhi, 'If you want to work through nonviolence, you have to proceed with small things.'  A week later, addressing Khudai Khidmatgars in the town of Tank in Dera Ismail Khan district, Gandhi offered an observation that would be quoted often in the future:

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

(158)  Besides cash and guns, the British used Islam.  The Raj's records, including, for example, the diaries of George Cunningham, who occupied key positions in the Frontier, are frank about the paid employment of religious leaders from the Settled Districts for influencing the tribal chiefs, in the name of Islam, against Russia, Germany and supposedly 'Hindu' movements for Indian independence.

(173)  In March and April peace committees were formed by KKs (and in some cases by Ahrars and Khaksars) all over the province, mainly to protect non-Muslims. Charged with involvement in rioting, thousands of Leaguers were arrested. [1947]

(190)  Recalling this interview in 1965, Badshah Khan said that he told Jinnah that if three conditions were met the Pathans could happily join Pakistan.  One, the terms had to be honourable.  Two, the Pathans of the Settled Districts and the tribal areas should have the right to opt out of Pakistan if the latter, after independence, stayed as a British dominion. Three, all matters concerning tribal people should be settled by the Pathans without the interference or domination of non-Pathans.

(203)  Mercifully the Frontier was spared large-scale communal riots in August and September, thanks in part to the role the KKs played.  'Despite their desertion by the [All-India Congress], the Khudai Khidmatgars still held strength in the province and ... protected the lives and property of the non-Muslims in the NWFP.' [1947]

(206)  Jinnah asked Badshan Khan to join the Muslim League.  Ghaffar Khan said he found it hard to join a body whose members had only recently looted the properties of Hindus and Sikhs.  'Surely there were exceptions - some who did not loot', Jinnah said.  ' Yes,' Badshah Khan agreed, 'those who did not get an opportunity.'

(229)  In less than a year, however on 9 May 1958, Dr Khan Sahib was knifed to death in the house in Lahore of his eldest son, Sadullah Khan, an engineer working for the government.  The assassin, apparently a speaker of Punjabi or Seraiki, found Dr Khan Sahib in the veranda, stabbed him near the groin, and ran.  He was chased by the seventy-six-year old victim, by two Alsatians in the house, and by a driver, and was caught, but old Dr Khan Sahib, struck in a vital artery, bled to his death.   Although after a trial the assassin was hanged, his motive and possible links to any others were never clearly brought out.

(240)  We may note here that a Pakhto song written by Ghani Khan, 'Ay zama watana ('O homeland mine), would become Afghanistan's national anthem.

(242)  The Prophet said, belief in God [means] to love one's own fellowmen...  My people are drowning before my eyes and to save them I shall grasp any helping hand, be it the hand of a Hind or an infidel.

I was called Hindu by those who used to pick crumbs from British tables.  [from Badshah Khan's Pakhtunistan Day speeches, 1965 - 1967]

(247)  On 24 November, addressing a joint session of both houses of Parliament, Ghaffar Khan was franker still:  'Your revenue is from taxes and duties on liquor.  You are forgetting Gandhi the way you forgot the Buddha.'

(248)  To India's Muslims, he recommended non-retaliation, in the name of the Qur'an:  'If you plant a slap after having been provoked by a slap, then what is the difference between the followers of the Qur'an and the evildoer?'

(251)  A gory struggle ensued and an independent Bangladesh emerged in 1971-72.  Yahya Khan resigned, Bhutto became the ruler of a truncated Pakistan, and the National Awami Party founded by Badshah Khan and led since 1967 by his son Wali Khan won a share of power in the NWFP and Balochistan.  Taizi claims that some tribal jirgahs called on Badshah Khan in Kabul, to fight for an independent Pakhtunistan if supplied with arms.  According to Taizi, neither Badshah Khan nor Zahir Shah encouraged them.

(252)  Earlier, Bhutto had crafted constitutional changes that made Islam Pakistan's state religion and stipulated that only a Muslim could be the nation's president or prime minister.

(254)  Badshah Khan saw through Zia's Islamism, which was far more glaring than that of Bhutto (who was hanged in 1979).  'Bandookwale namaazi ho gaye hain,' Ghaffar Khan noted:  'The men with guns have become the prayer experts.'

(257)  Afraid that Badshah Khan might die in Kabul, thereby giving the mujahedin a propaganda weapon, Karmal pressed India to accept the old man for treatment.  Indira was willing to oblige Karmal, but 'the highly pragmatic' Badshah Khan named his price:  a meeting with Brezhnev.  To Dixit [Indian ambassador to Kabul] he said:  'Send this message to Indira, and tell her I will only come if she gets me to meet Brezhnev.' [1982]

(258)  'That nation is great which rests its head upon death as a pillow.'  So Gandhi had written, way back in 1909, in _Hind Swaraj_.

(261)  In the summer of 1983, when he was in Pakistan, statements that he and Wali Khan made seemed to link the Soviet entry into Afghanistan to the facilities in the NWFP and Balochistan that Zia's Pakistan was giving to the USA.  Father and son and many other opposition leaders were arrested.  A house of the irrigation department in Khesghi, about eleven miles from Muhammad Naray, was turned into a sub-jail, and the ninety-three-year-old Badshah Khan was detained in it.

(268)  Writing seven years before Badshah Khan's death, the Swedish scholar Jansson identified four 'messages' from his life:  intense Pakhtun nationalism, moral and social reform, nonviolence, and Islam.

(272-273)  His Islam seemed to be of the most natural kind.  When, on his end-1934 arrest in Wardha, which occurred within days of a rare family reunion, he told Jamnalal Bajaj, 'What pleases God pleases me', and left smilingly with his captors, he gave expression to Islam's fundamental tenet of submission to God's will.  If acceptance of God's will is a matter of the heart rather than of the lips, then Badshah Khan's inner obedience over a long and hard lifetime makes him a true and exemplary Muslim.

We saw also that he was a courageous Muslim, unafraid to believe his own honest interpretation of scripture, and unafraid to question voices from Muslim platforms that he felt were using religion for politics or commerce.  Such voices criticized him several times during his long life, including when he and his older brother Jabbar went to Rev Wigram's school, when he started  his own schools, when, alongside Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians, he joined the fight for India's freedom, when he and his brother sent their children to the West for education, when he opposed India's division along religious lines, when he defended Hindus and Sikhs in the Frontier province, when he visited India in 1969-70, and when he opposed the Zia regime in Pakistan...

Again and again he insisted that the Prophet's chief demand of a Muslim was the service of fellow human beings.

(274)  His prison-going and political campaigns limited Ghaffar Khan's exertions for women's empowerment, but his honesty before the Frontier's women - 'Today we are the followers of custom and we oppress you' - was exceptional.

(275)  Noting that Ghaffar Khan 'practised Islam and nonviolence and showed that it was not only for the weak', [Mubarak] Awad started a network called Nonviolence International to promote social change and international peace....

Harold Gould, the American scholar... Ghaffar Khan's life has  a role in the 'radical rethinking by radical Islamists'....

(276)  In 1946, alluding to the potential for fanaticism in the Frontier region, he warned that 'a dangerous situation is fast developing in the tribal areas', and a year later he said, 'I feel it is my duty to warn you against future dangers so that I may justify myself before man and God on the Day of Judgment.'  This was a quintessentially Muslim thought from one whose directness invited charges of apostasy from those made uncomfortable by it.

The naturalness of his Islam, his directness, his rejection of violence and revenge, and his readiness to cooperate with non-Muslims add up to a valuable legacy for our angry times. This legacy may be of help to Muslims and non-Muslims today in the task of overcoming divides between Islam and the West  (and modernity), between Afghanistan and the subcontinent, between Islam and the subcontinent's Hindus, Sikhs and other non-Muslims.  His bridge-building life is a refutation of the clash-of-civilization theory.

But he was also a rock.  No force or threat could shake his stand for Pakhtun dignity, which at bottom was a stand for the freedom and dignity of every human being. The Pakhtuns between the Hindu Kush and the Indus were his first love but also his links to humankind, and we can, if we wish, hear him, even if we are west of that mountain range or east of that river.

(280)  Abdul Ghani Khan, _The Pathans:  a Sketch_  (Islamabad:  Pushto Adabi Society, 1990, p 45)

(283)  Fazal-ur-Rahim Marwat, "Ghani Khan",

(285)  Erland Jansson _India, Pakistan or Pakhtunistan?:  The Nationalist mOvements in the NWFP, 1937-47_  (Uppsala, Sweden:  University of Uppsala, 1981)

(286)  _Ethnicity, Islam and Nationalism:  Muslim Politics in the North-West Frontier Province 1937-47_  Sayed Wiqar Ali Shah (Pakistan:  Oxford Unviersity Press, 1999, p 92)

(287)  Abdul Wali Khan _ Facts Are Sacred_  (Peshawar:  Jaun Publishers, 1991, p 88)

(293)  Pyarelal, _Thrown to the Wolves:  Abdul Ghaffar_  (Calcutta:  Eastlight Book House, 1966, p 133

P S Ramu _Badshah Khan_ (Delhi:  SS Publishers, 1991, p 98-99)

Haribhau Joshi _Badshah Khan_  (Varanasi:  Nagari Prcharini Sabha, 1970)

(297)  Joan V Bondurant _Conquest of Violence:  The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict_  (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1958)

(299)  G L Puri _Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan:  A true Servant of Humanity_ (New Delhi:  Congress Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1985)

(300)  Sher Zaman Taizi _Bacha Khan in Afghanistan:  A Memoir_, June 2002

Mohammed Yunus _Frontier Speaks _ (Bombay, Hind Kitabs, 1947)

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