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Friday, January 26, 2007

Remembering Wali Khan

Remembering Wali Khan

Great leaders are unforgettable. They are remembered for long. So will it be with Khan Abdul Wali Khan, a leader of sterling qualities, who departed us on this doleful day a year ago to mourn his irreparable loss for a long time to come. But greatness has both foes and friends. And so was it with the great Khan. He had admirers and detractors alike. Yet, the tirades of his revilers didn't throw him off balance. Nor did the adulation of his fans throw him off the track. Unswervingly, he remained what he was: a man deeply committed to his ideals, beliefs and principles. And a hardnosed democrat he was to the bone, not susceptible to any temptation, no matter how seductive, or to any threats, no matter how menacing, to compromise on his dedication to democracy and civilian rule. When, in 1972, late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had then become the first-ever civilian in the country's annals to wear the mantle of the chief martial law administrator, offered to lift the martial law in lieu of an interim constitution, the Khan as the leader of the parliamentary opposition went for it. Even a sham democratic rule that the interim constitution provided for was better than the rule of the baton and the jackboots, he said. And he signed up to the 1973 constitution, even though he found it falling far short of the people's popular aspirations, hopes and expectations. A constitutional dispensation, no matter how flawed, was, in any case, preferable to an authoritative or autocratic order, he maintained. But his love for democracy and civilian rule was not cost free. For this, he was always at the receiving end of the autocratic rulers, both uniformed and civilians alike. And every time, he had to pay a heavy price for it. Nonetheless, for him the crunch came when in a patently politically vindictive move he was implicated in the infamous Hyderabad conspiracy case, a cooked-up sedition charge, in the mid-1970s. His National Awami Party was summarily outlawed and he, along with his top party leaders, was bundled away to the Hyderabad jail to keep languishing for years without indictment. Yet, even that searing experience didn't eat up his passion for the people's rule, nor did it slow down in any manner his commitment to democratic order. He stayed, unwaveringly, a staunch democracy enthusiast, out-and-out until his last breath. And he was decidedly a great patriot, though often misunderstood, and not infrequently tendentiously misrepresented as well. Yet, his wilful denigrators couldn't stop him from speaking up honestly, sincerely and boldly whenever a felt that something was underway that in the long run would hurt the nation and its supreme interests incurably. When after the 1970 national polls, he vehemently called for respecting its outcome and for listening intently to the party that had scored a decisive majority, failing which he forewarned a political crisis of unmanageable proportions and unforeseeable consequences would inevitably precipitate, his detractors pooh-poohed his fervent pleas. They mischievously give them the meanings he had not meant at all, and maliciously read in them his own fissiparous intents which were not there at all. Subsequent events proved he was absolutely right and they were totally wrong. And when the Pakistan government unnecessarily got involved on the side of the United States and its western allies to humble down the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan, he cautioned it again and again that it was putting its hands in the hornets' nest that would bite the nation for the long time to come. His slanderers kept dubbing him even as a Soviet agent and what not. But undeterred he kept reminding the powers-that-be of the inevitable horrendous consequence of their involvement, often alluding to the famous Pashto saying that when two elephants fight the frogs get crushed. Yet no heed was paid to his pleas, which the events have shown to be very valid and very true. The nation is yet to get out of the hurtful religious fanaticism, gun culture and drugs addiction which that involvement infested it with. Throughout his life, Khan Wali Khan remained a constant target of vindictive politics and character assassination of the establishments, political foes and ideological adversaries. Yet he never caved in to their machinations nor ever caviled at their ploys. For the most part, he would just shrug them off; and quite often, with the robust Pashtun humour, he would just laugh away the hostile tirades of his denigrates. By every account, he was leader of great eminence, vision and foresight. And it will not be easy to fill the vacuum he has created with his departure. May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace. Amen. Editorial of Daily The Frontier Post Peshawar

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