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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Great Freedom Fighter

Great Freedom Fighter

On January 20, 1988 a man of high countenance breathed his last at the age of 98, whose death sparked a wave of sorrow across the subcontenam.

This was the baby who took birth in the house of a feudal lord of Utmanzai, Charsadda, Behram Khan, in January 1890 and was named as Abdul Ghaffar Khan. He was the second son of Behram Khan. The elder one was Dr. Khan Sahib, who later become a famous political figure.

Crown up in a typical Pukhtoon environment, Ghaffar Khan was sent to Peshawar for schooling. Doing his primary from Municipal Board School , Ghaffar Khan along with Ms brother joined the Mission High School where a missionary, Canon C.A. Wigrim influenced Ghaffar Khan.

Prior to his matriculation examination Abdul Ghaffar Khan was selected in the British ,Arrny. However the [indecent behavior of British officials towards the local personnel made him change his mind, thus deciding to serve his people. Behram Khan arranged to send Ghaffar Khan to England where Dr. Khan Saib was already studying medicine, but Ghaffar Khan refused to go abroad.

The great social reformer started his career as an educationist and encouraged the establishment of schools in Mardan and Peshawar districts. But his growing popularity was unacceptable to the authorities. So several schoools were closed down and teachers arrested.

Having sensed the situation, Ghaffar Khan paid visits to various parts of the province and revived his institutions. This time his father was pressurised to stop his son. But Ghaffar Khan refused to suspend his social work and told his father he considered his mission as a prayer. This led to the arrest of Ghaffar Khan and his 95 years old father in 1919 on the charges of subversive activities.

The same year Abdul Ghaffar Khan was released and the people of Utmanzai (his village) accorded him a warm welcome. At a public meeting to welcome Ghaffar Khan he was given the title of "Bacha Khan". In 1920 Bacha Khan on the advice of then Afghan ruler Amanullah Khan established "Anjuman-i-Islah-i-Afghania" with an aim to educate and guide the people.

In 1926 the formation of Pukhtoon ]irga and a journal "Pukhtoon", marked the start of political career of Bacha Khan, which was followed by the establishment of Khudai Khidmatgar Tehrik (God's Servants Movement). The members of Khudai Khidmatgar Tehrik took the oath to sacrifice life, wealth and comforts for the motherland, refrain from party friction and side with the oppressed against the oppressors, not to enrol in any other party and join the armed struggle on the party's call for war against alien rulers and to adopt non-violence policy and serve humanity irrespective of personal •considerations, shall try to be good and just and his objectives would be to please God and win freedom for his country and religion. The volunteers of this moverrtent used to wear red shirts and were known as "Surkh Posh".

Under the Bacha Khan leadership the people of Frontier took active part in the Non-Cooperation Movement of All India Congress. It was during the movement that British army massacred the unarmed people at Qissa Khwani on April 23, 1930 . The next day Ghaffar Khan along with several followers was arrested and his journal was banned. After release from jail Ghaffar Khan and his elder brother Dr. Khan Sahib started reorganizing the Congresss in Frontier, but both of them were again detainedand served the jail term till the end of 1933. Afterwards their entry into Frontier was banned and the Khan brothers remained with Gandhiji in Wardha.

In 1933 the governor rule was imposed in the Frontier. In 1934 when the province was given an elective seat in the central assembly Dr. Khan Sahib swept the polls on Congress ticket, despite being absent.

It was difficult for Ghaffar Khan to accept the division of sub­continent into two

Independent dominions, India and Pakistan , and on June 24, 1947 he called for boycott of the referendum unless the state of Pukhtoonistan wa^~ created.

Having his dreams shattered, Bacha Khan continued his political activities. On June 15, w 1948 he was arrested on™ the charges of anti-stati activities. He was aware a three-year term, but remained behind the ban tiR January 5, 1954 . Though Bacha Khan had much regard for his brother Dr. Khan Sahib but their political programme differed as the former was against one unit and the latter favoured ft. White the constituent assembly of Pakistan was discussing the plan for a one unit administration in the west Pakistan, led by Ghaffar Khan, the Khudai Khidmatgar, Frontier Awami League and other bodies launched an agitation, demanding that a referendum should be held on the subject. However, Abdul Ghaffar Khan was arrested on September 17, 1955 , On July 10, 1955 Khudai Khidmatgar Movement was disbanded and Bacha Khan was arrested on 16th of June, 1956 on charges of antl-scate activities. Lahore High Court started hearing into the case on September 5, 1956 , and fined both Ghaffar Khan and his closed associate Abdul Samad Khan Rs. 14,000 and Rs. 9,500 respectively on January 24, 1957 .

Due to political Instability, President Iskandar Mrrza appointed Gen. Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial law Administrator on October 7, 1958 and was made the prime minister on 24th of October, 1958. Like others, the military regime as well was not • kind to the Pukhtoon leader and between October 10 to 12 Maulana Bhashani, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Abdul Samad Khan and G.M. Syed were arrested under the Pakistan Security Act. Due to falling health Ghaffar Khan was released on April 4, 1959 but Ghaffar Khan was yet to give up political struggle and was arrested under the Mlntenance of Public Order in 1961 and released on January JO, 1964 after three years.

Ghaffar Khan, on sensing that his presence might be harming the cause of Pukhtoons, left for Afghanistan and carried out his activities from there. During the self-exile, Bacha Khan made the first ever visit to Free India in 1969, where he inaugurated the Gandhi birth centenary , celebrations and received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. On October 1, 1969 , Bacha Khan was accorded a warm welcome at Paiam Airport by the then Indiar Prime Minister Indfra Gandhi.

Protesting against anti-Muslim riots in Ahmad Abad, the Pukhtoon leader announced to go for a three day fast at Delhi Ramlila ground on October 2, 1969 . Being a follower and firm believer of non-violence Bacha Khan said that violence always promoted a sense of hatred and ultimately destroyed nations. Later when he visited Gufrat, during his historic address asked the Hindus not to be distrust Muslims.

On November 15, 1969 when the president V.V. Girl while presenting the award to Bacha Khan said "If any body could be called a universal man he is Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, for he stands for virtues that will b£ valid for all thg times I In honoring him today, we are honoring a great Indian tradition of giving primacy to truthful and sacrificial living. Bacha Khan indeed is an embodiment of simplicity, personal purity and in fact of all virtues, that we hold dear".

Bacha Khan's visit to India was termed as not to be for the protection of Indian Muslims but Nehru award. However, Bacha Khan on his return to Afghanistan continued guiding Pukhtoons from exile. After 1970 crisis, when the martial law was lifted, Bacha Khan returned after 8 years of exile and on December 24, 1972 announced to launch a peace movement stressing the need forharmony not only inside the country but also with bordering states. Offering his cooperation to any government for the first time, Bacha Khan said "Bhutto wished to build a new progressive and prosperous society in Pakistan and I will support him even none else does so".

Bacha Khan launched his peace movement on January 11, 1973 but Bhutto accused him of using the language of violence. In October 1973 he was arrested once again, elected government in Balochistan and Frontier were dismissed and Bacha Khan's movement was confined to his village Utmanzai on March 20 1974 . While going to Afghanistan as a protest, he was again arrested on his way to Torkham on April 13, 1975 and released on August 28, 1976 after two years of detention. Meanwhile he was not sound physically and his health was deteriorating. However he proceeded towards Kabul once again where from he visited India twice. After spending two months in Moscow he visited India in 1980 for treatment at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi . Again for the same purpose he came to India on November 6, 1981 and returned to Kabul on January 1, 1982 .

Despite so many countries, including India offered to have him treated Bacha Khan this time decided to be with his own people and thus returned to Pakistan in August 1982. But Ziaul .Haq put him under'house arrest. However, on complaining to have pain in his left leg, he was taken to Kabul on July 1984 where from he left for Prague in the first week of August and • returned on September 3, 1984 . This time his health did not allow him and thus this great man breathed his last on January 20, 1988 at the age of 98.

His funeral was attended by Indian prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his family members, Farooq Abdullah and others. Followed by a vehicular procession in thousand his body was taken to Jalalabad and was laid to rest there. Though he is no more amongst us, but the Pukhtoon nation would always remember the esteemed leader who for his matchless qualities has earned titles like Bacha Khan, Fakhr-i-Afghan and Fakhr-i-asia

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