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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Demise of a dream

Demise of a dream
Adil Zareef

Only a dead nation remembers its heroes when they die - the real nations respect them when they are alive.” These were the golden words famously uttered by the great Bacha Khan of the Pukhtoons - Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan as known to the rest of the world - also nicknamed as “Sarhadi Gandhi” by his admirers and foes alike.

But I learnt about this quote when Baba (Wali Khan) confided to me in one of his lengthy discourses on the freedom struggle, and what became of the subcontinent after the birth of India and Pakistan. This “special relationship” was conferred upon a few others, besides me, as we happened to be class fellows of Dr Gulalae Wali Khan, who was herself an idealist and dreamer like the rest of our generation. Che Guevara’s icon was our trademark as it was a symbol of resistance for the rest of the world.

So many times I had thought about writing a biography of this great and dignified man who shaped my political and social thought during my growing up years. But the exigencies of this world took me away from this indulgent idea and today I am left vexing to write an obituary to this legend known to the world as Khan Abdul Wali Khan. What compels me to write this - as the various cable networks scramble to make headlines news of this sad news - reminding me of the quote mentioned above.

It is indeed a difficult task to accomplish - especially for a political titan who shared his thoughts and ideas so earnestly and whose courage and principled life will serve as a beacon to many who watch political pygmies and charlatans straddling the political horizon that change colours and shades more easily than any biological chameleon.

But again the section of national press will lavish praise on this great legend for standing stiff against a string of dictators right from Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul Haq and lastly President Musharraf - perhaps it was in his blood - as was the resistance to the Kalabagh dam and the Afghan war and the detente with India and resolution of the Kashmir dispute - that diverts precious human and economic resources away from the development and progress of the subcontinent.

True these causes symbolised Bacha Khan’s struggle for justice and fair play as it did Wali Khan’s political career and the legacy seems to carry on the political heirs of ANP in the future.

Analysing it closely one can identify the unifying strain of resistance against injustice and inequality in all these struggles. As Kalabagh dam seems to unify nationalists of all hues and strains against the World Bank-led hegemony of international consortium to plunder the resources of Third World nations in the name of development and progress, giving them in return a legacy of debt as the dollar-driven consultants have enriched themselves. Long after the profiteers of this international gang of Big Business and Big Money have enriched their coffers and bestowed environmental and social catastrophes - besides perpetual enslavement that shall linger on for generations to come.

Kashmir and Pak-India détente was Wali Khan’s theme as was Bacha Khan’s. Now with the end of the Cold War, the subcontinent offers an opportunity for a big market for the Western world. For nationalists, the perpetual conflict in the region kept them from their due position as major players in the world scene. Strangely enough, with Western prodding, India and Pakistan are dancing the proverbial foxtrot (despite a few missed steps) but ironically the Iron Wall on the western (Afghan) border remains as high and even more pronounced after the end of Cold War. In other words, one can dance the bhangra with fellow Punjabis across the border - but Pukhtoons will remain divided along the Durand line and cannot do the Atanh together! Bacha Khan’s or Wali Khan’s dream of a united Pukhtoon nation remains unfulfilled despite their Punjabi compatriots, jump-frogging the Wagah border.

Finally, the Afghan conflict came to have been a defining moment in Afghan politics as well as Pakistan’s. Wali Khan, like his compatriots, had objected to the superpower meddling in the region, which in his words will bleed the Pukhtoons. Watching Waziristan and Bajaur and the rest of NWFP, this prophecy seems to have come true. Now the religious right seems more vociferous in anti-Americanism than the left was during the bygone Cold War years - but the lesson of non-violence and peace was never a Pukhtoon trait - otherwise ours would have been a happier world.

Wali Khan said goodbye to politics after his defeat to Maulana Hasan Jan during the 1990 elections. He simply left the political scene - a graceful act in this dastardly world of politics.

Fifteen years on, one wonders who has had the last laugh. Perhaps Wali Khan is no more with us but his sagacity and vision shall guide the future generations - that is if we can avoid the follies and traps that he and the great Bacha Khan warned us about - but we did not heed their advice because Pukhtoons are a too greedy, impatient and unprincipled lot as a nation. Wali Khan never surrendered or bowed down to power intrigues - so he shall never die.
Zahid/khyberwatch pa manana

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