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Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Crippled Revolutionary

Dr. Waris Khan
A Crippled Revolutionary

“Bring forth whatever lies in your hear”
(Allama Iqbal)
Dr. Fazal-ur-Rahim Marwat

Source :

Writing biography is an art. Like other arts, it too needs adeptness and proficiency of language. The term biography is used for a comprehensive account of a person's life, and is regarded as a branch of history. Dyrden defined it as “the history of particular men's lives”.[i] As a literary form it has become increasingly popular since the second half of the 17th century.

Writing about one's own life in the form of autobiography is a fascinating task, because it is particularly difficult to speak the truth, or even to hear truth in our society. When Josh Malhi Abadi's "Yaddow Kee Barat"[ii] was published in 80's. There was uproar in our country, particularly in the religious circle. It was dubbed as anti-Islamic, vulgar and disgusting and demanded from government to ban it.

There is Chinese proverb: “It is natural that when you drink water, think of its source”.[iii] So it is but natural that one should know about Dr. Waris Khan his social milieu and his struggle before going through his book ‘Da Azadae Tehreek’ (Struggle for Independence).

Dr. Waris Khan has fully established his proficiency and competence in his biography ‘Da Azadae Tehreek’. His language is fluent and style of writing is impressive. He writes with ease, elegance and sensitivity. One finds no discrepancy in his mind, thoughts and writing. He builds up a picturesque picture to present an event, like a scene on the screen. His description of friends, fellows, persons, places and events is explicitly attractive, natural and alive. He has tried effectively to avoid exaggerations and self-praise. In between, he has quoted couplets and parts of Pashtu and Urdu verses, and anecdotes, to adorn description.

Dr. Waris Khan was not a medical doctor, nor was he a doctor of philosophy. His own disability, rural life without qualified doctors except some Unani Hakims and Saniasi forced him to look after his own health. Even Dr. Taizai was of the opinion that “in this way he [Waris] got knowledge of diseases and their treatment and he then used to help his ailing colleagues in absence of competent physicians. Thus he was called doctor”.[iv]

On 30th of June 1993, Dr. Waris Khan wrote a letter to Dr. Sher Zaman Taizai (the then editor of literary pages of the daily The Frontier Post, Peshawar) to clarify his position by writing: “Dear doctor Sahib! I was highly delighted to read your review on my book Da Azadae Tehreek in The Frontier Post of April 17, 1993. It speaks of your interest in, and knowledge of the subject. You have bridged the vast ocean. I am obliged to thank you that you selected my book for review. However, allow me to clarify a point. You have mentioned:”... In fact I have been a registered homeopath since 1965. My registration number is 8158. I am, therefore, entitled to be called a doctor. I may add that I have the honour to be affiliated with the movement of Khudai Khidmatgars, which does not allow quackery.[v]

Dr. Waris Khan has taken an alluring start in a single paragraph with winsome words: “The children tell stories to each other in the night. I was asked by one to tell him a story. I said to him that I would write true stories about my ancestors and myself. When you grow old, read them. I am now too old to remember every thing. Many events might have been forgotten. Memory exhausts in this age. But whatever I remember I would write it. Some events are just unforgettable. They remain intact in the faculty of the mind. Nevertheless, fresh events do not rest in memory. My story has such elements of events, which can not be forgotten. I dare start writing.”[vi]

Waris Khan was born at Ghaladher in 1914 and was attacked by polio at the age of 10 months. What this crippled man has recorded in the book might not appeal to the sound mind to be true. But many eyewitnesses to his struggles and active participation in the freedom movement under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan[vii] are still living.

Haji Ghazi Khan of Pabbi says that during the martial law of Ayub Khan, the Khudai Khidmatgars decided to court arrest in protest against the arrest of their leader. Khan A.Ghaffar Khan, who was in prison, nominated Ghazi Khan to carry on the movement. He used to go every day to the courts to receive volunteers from different places. These volunteers were garlanded and followed by processions. Before the arrest, they would address the gathering. One day, Ghazi Khan saw Dr Waris Khan, with garlands hanging around his neck on his chest, riding on the shoulders of another Khudai Khidmatgar. They exchanged greetings. Waris Khan had volunteered to court arrest. But Ghazi Khan did not approve his request due to his disability.[viii]

When Dr.Taizai accompanying the same Haji Ghazi Khan, called on Dr. Waris Khan at Rashakai (district Nowshera) in February 1993, he was sitting against the support of pillows. His old age and weak frame of body with crippled legs and hand had not been able to delude the charm and grace - of this man of character. His two sons served them with tea and biscuits. On their introduction, Waris Khan said: “I know you; I have read your novel”. He had forgotten the title but remembered the story. Such sharp was his mind and intellect at the age of 80. When Dr. Taizai mentioned to him his biography, he smiled and said: “This is our main weakness. We don't put our achievements in black and white. If someone takes the labour, it does not find the readers”.[ix] He was very right because in an illiterate society the preferences of our people are other than reading. His book has been published in June 1988 and this great son of Pakhtunkhawa died on April 23, 1996.

Haji Muhammad Asam of Akora Khattak in the preface of the book comments:

"...I had been a witness to all that has been recorded in this book. Dr. Waris Khan deserves Compliments for reanimation of our spirit with the past reminiscences. It was a time that we used to be tired of his stories and discussions. But then we could not imagine that these national struggles would constitute valuable part of our history. Now we are constrained to offer our heartiest tributes to Dr. Waris Khan for his wisdom and prudence... "[x]

Commenting on his style of writing, Haji Muhammad Asam wrote,

“Dr. Waris Khan has not introduced only his own- self but his whole family in a candid style. But still I would like to say something pithy about his political career”.[xi]

He further says: “The doctor was attacked by polio in his early age, and both the feet and one hand of this handsome and charming boy were paralysed. He had to walk on crutches. But his fair complexion and graceful features made him attractive. Sometimes, he would take ride on a bicycle. When he grew young, then he would ride a white or brown horse. I still remember that he used to wear a typical headdress; an embroidered cap with Peshawari turban around and the crest sticking out of it. When out on errand, the small children would like to have a look at him with awe.”[xii]

In his youth, Dr.Waris was inspired by the Pakhtun journal of Bacha Khan and Urdu newspapers Millap and Pratap[xiii] getting from his friend Baghat Ram.

My friend Dr. Professor Syed Wiqar Ali Shah Kaka Khel (Quad-i-Azam University Islamabad)[xiv] in his introduction to Dr. Waris book writes that when he called on Dr. Waris Khan on June 3, 1986, he was on the bed. Dr. Wiqar has drawn an excellent profile of Waris Khan, out of the detailed account given by the author in his book. His grand father Payo Khan had left his village Lahore in Tehsil (now district) Swabi, along with all his tenants, craftsmen and imam, and settled at Ghaladher in the same Tehsil. On his death his eldest son Buland Khan was recognised as the Malik. He was killed by dacoits who had raided the house. Buland Khan was succeeded by his son Waris Khan.

The book contains valuable information about the cultural, social and economic aspects of the Pakhtuns' life, their free nature, religious attachment, and fondness for music, ignorance and blood feuds, their weaknesses exploited by vested interests in favour of the British lords. The basic theme is the freedom movement of the Khudai Khidmatgars under the leadership of Bacha Khan in which Dr. Waris took an active part in spite of his disability. He has mentioned a number of other colleagues and non-Muslim friends, even those who later migrated to India.

Dr. Wiqar Ali Shah in the introduction of the book says that" Azadi (freedom) is an ordinary combination of five letters, but when considered, it becomes a very bright and attractive word. Today, nobody understands its meaning. The rulers of this generation do not conceive its meaning and charm, because it has come down to them without any struggle. It is but natural that any achievement without struggle does not carry its value. Those born in a free country would not know what struggle their ancestors had exerted for this cause, how much difficulty had they suffered and what they had sacrificed? And after that “this Laila has been brought to home”.[xv] Akbar Shah Mian of Badrashi (an eminent freedom fighter and writer) said: “Freedom is not an earthen toy which could be bought for a loaf of stale bread.”[xvi]

Many young, old, men and women had put at stake their lives and had abandoned comforts of life for the sake of prosperity of their nation. It is all due to their sacrifices that we breathe in a free atmosphere. Late Khadim Mohammad Akbar Khan (poet and Writer) has drawn a picture of this struggle in one line of a poem:

Years of bondage of the life of a slave, (Can’t be compared with) a moment of freedom, even on the brink of the grave.[xvii]

Dr. Wiqar tried to highlight the British rule and the Pakhtuns by writing: A cursory study of the history of the Indo-Pakistan (subcontinent) reveals that the British had ruled this land for over a century. During this whole length of period, if they were harassed, that was only at the hands of the Pakhtuns who did not yield to their filthy presence on this sacred soil. Sometime, they encountered them at Ambala,[xviii] and sometime on the peaks of Malakand. Sometime Umara Khan of Jandul[xix] fought against them, sometime the Mullah of Hadda.[xx] The struggles of 1897 had almost compelled them to recede. But it was sheer luck that favoured those [British] and restrained Pakhtuns from the goal at a gait distance. That ensued a series of coercive and vengeful actions perpetrated by the British rule against the Pakhtuns.

In 1901, this part of Pakhtunkhawa was separated from the Punjab in the name of the “North West Frontier Province”. But the torch lit by their progenitors was not let to extinguish. Very soon, other Mujahid arose; like Fazle Wahid alias Haji Sahib of Turangzai,[xxi] Mira Jan Kaka Khel, Maulana Uzair Gul,[xxii] Abdul Hameed Gul alias Fakhre Qaum Mian Sahib, and above all the towering personality of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who continued the epic struggle.

Ironically other provinces of India were granted reforms in 1919 but Pakhtunkhwa was left in the dusky dark. There was no law here. Whatsoever the chief commissioner and his surrogates wanted became the law. The British had imposed the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) under which many young Pakhtuns were executed in jails.

With the declaration of India as Darul-Harb (abode of war) by the Ulama in 1920, the Khilafatists launched the Hijrat Movement. According to various confirmed sources round about seventy thousand people migrated to Afghanistan. This also excited many Pukhtuns and in august 60,000 of them sold their homes and hearths and migrated to Afghanistan. The kind of oppression that was perpetrated against those refugees can not be imagined. But they moved with profound resolve and determination. Amir Amanullah Khan had also pledged that the government of Afghanistan would extend support to them because it was the most sacred cause of Islam.[xxiii]

The British government had managed to penetrate a great number of agents and informers among the refugees who indulged in subversive propaganda; that Amanullah Khan had promised to wage jihad against the British, but instead, he was now duping the migrants. Therefore the migrants should repatriate. Still, many anonymous graves on way between Kabul and Peshawar bear testimony to the hardships to which the returnees had been subjected. But most of the Indo- Pakistani scholars are perhaps ignorant of the fact that it was due to the Hijrat movement that new revolutionary ideas and tactics came to the British India from Moscow and Tashkent.[xxiv]

Henceforth the time takes a turn of significant changes. The Pakhtuns were waking up gradually. On return, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan formed Anjuman‑i‑Islah‑i‑Afaghena[xxv] with a view to bringing about social revolution among the Pakhtuns, to divert them from internal feuds and tribal jingoism. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan known as Bacha Khan made them understand the curse of slavery. His other companions in this mission were Qazi Attaullah, Mian Ahmad Shah, Abdul Akbar Khan Akbar, Khadim Mohammad Akbar, Haji Abdul Ghaffar, Mohammad Abbas Khan, Taj Mohammad Khan and Abdullah Shah. Under the aegis of this Anjuman they founded Azad schools. Amir Mukhtar Khan of Bannu dedicated his two sons Amir Mumtaz and Maqsood Jan to this cause; the latter was the first head teacher of the Azad Schools. They gave a start to these schools in a very difficult situation. In this connection, Bacha Khan says:

“We set out on village‑to‑village trips in those days to guide the people understand, develop affection, harmony, brotherhood and social consciousness among them, reactivate their feelings for education, eradicate evil traditions and outdated practices from the society, and muster support for national schools. And we reanimated the life and sensitivity of the people.”[xxvi]

This could not be tolerated by the British. They did not like those schools. Whosoever wanted to teach in those schools would first be scared, and then tempted to handsome salaries. When these tactics failed, then Bacha Khan was arrested and the schools were closed. But the time had changed. Many young people could arrange to receive dailies and periodicals from Punjab and other parts clandestinely, and their understanding was developing gradually.

In India, too, the freedom movement had got fresh vigour. The Congress had moved from its earlier demand for dominion status of a British colony. It raised the banner of complete freedom at the hands of Jawaharlal Lal Nehru at 00.30 hours on December 31, 1929 on the bank of Ravi in Lahore. It demanded the rule of India in the hands of the people of India. The meeting expressed opposition to the British rule. That resolution of the Congress was acclaimed throughout India.

In those days, another party of the youths, the Nawjawan Bharat Sabha emerged to wrest freedom of the country from the British. They pledged to offer any kind of sacrifice for this cause. This party was joined by Hindus, Sikh and Muslims alike. An activist of this party, named Bhagat Singh, assassinated the British DSP Sandruss of Lahore. He had placed a bomb in the train by which viceroy Lord Erwin was travelling to Delhi. The device exploded damaging one or two railcars but the viceroy escaped unhurt. Then he hurled a bomb in the central assembly hall causing injuries to many people. Bhagat Singh was arrested followed by arrests of many other revolutionaries. They were tried in Lahore Conspiracy case and executed.

Here, too, the revolutionaries of Pakhtunkhwa like Sanobar Hussain Kakajee and Maulana Abdul Rahim Popalzai[xxvii] formed a party in the name of the Nawjawanan‑i‑Sarhad, like the formed in India. It is worth mentioning here that Hari Kishan, son of Lala Gurdasmal of Ghala Dher (Mardan), like Bhagat Singh, had shot a fire at the governor of Punjab, Sir Jeffery, on December 23, 1930, on the occasion of the convocation of the Punjab University. The governor was hit on a hand and a police officer died on the spot. Hari Kishan was arrested and hanged like Bhagat Singh.

Bacha Khan, along with his companions, had attended the Lahore meeting of the Congress as observers. On that occasion, the Congress volunteers displayed military parade smartly which impressed the delegation from Pakhtunkhwa. They decided then and there to take a lesson from it. The Pakhtun leaders liked very much their organisation and display of the disciplined parade. On return, a meeting was arranged very soon at Utmanzai. Inter alia, it was also decided that a youth organisation should be formed and be called the Khudai Khidmatgars. They designed Khamta uniform for it. Bacha Khan, with a handful companions, toured the province and formed organisations at local level. Hundreds Pakhtun youths joined the Khudai Khidmatgars with the sole aim of awakening of the slumbering Pakhtuns. The Khudai Khidmatgars succeeded to a great extent in achieving the objective of bringing out the Pakhtun youths to serve the nation.

The people had already developed hatred against the British atrocities in Pakhtunkhwa. They got an opportunity in the civil disobedience movement of the All India Congress in order to express their hatred. By virtue of the activities of the Khudai Khidmatgars, political awakening was being galvanised rapidly among the Pakhtuns. They had developed the sense of discernment between the good and the bad. The Congress decided on violation of the Salt Act. The Peshawar Congress also followed under the leadership of Ali Gul Khan. They collected saline soil from Pabbi and a little salt was made of it. It was wrapped in small packets of papers and auctioned. The government ignored it. No arrest was made. The provincial Congress again decided to lay cordon around the bar houses, and invited Bacha Khan and his companions also.

It was the historic day of April 23, 1930, that the Congress leaders were arrested in Peshawar City. They included Agha Lal Badshah, Maulana Abdul Rahim Popalzai, Dr. Ghosh, Ali Gul Khan, Abdul Rahman Riya etc. Only two prominent figures, Ghulam Rabbani Sethi and Allah Bakhsh Barqi escaped arrest, having planned court arrest the next morning.

That day when Bacha Khan and his fellow companions, Mian Ahmad Shah, Abdul Akbar Khan Akbar and Sarfaraz Khan who were enroute to Peshawar, in response to the invitation from the Peshawar Congress were arrested at Nahaqi and taken back to Charsadda.

In Peshawar, many people gathered at the time of the arrest of Allah Bakhsh Sethi Barqi and Ghulam Rabbani Sethi and demanded removal handcuffs from their leaders so that they may go free to the Kabuli police station. They, thus, marched to the police station in a procession. The police informed the deputy commissioner on telephone due to fear and requested for security arrangements. The first armoured car drove in swiftly running over a Hindu youth was Wandhi Ram. It annoyed the people. At that time the people killed an Englishman riding on a motorbike and snatched his vehicle.

The rulers could not tolerate the courage exerted by their subject and opened indiscriminate fire for above five hours from 10 am to 5 pm. The toll of casualties, dead and wounded, exceeded thousands. Martial law was declared and the city was taken over by the army. The memorable event of this bloody occurrence was the refusal of Gharwal unit from firing at the unarmed people. Those disobedient troops were arrested, court‑martialled and sentenced to 10 to 20 years, some sent to black‑Waters (the Andaman Islands).

The Pakhtun poets wrote many poems and odes on the Qissa Khani massacre. Abdul Malik Fida says;

None might have shed so much chicken blood,

As the British had shed the innocents' blood.

Written in blood was the year of thirty,

Because, that day the blood was in plenty.

Of Qissa Khani Qasab Khana was made,

In its streets the human blood so said.[xxviii]

Another eminent writer and poet Mohammad Khanmir Hilali wrote:

April came with reminiscence of country's martyrs,

Handsome youths when put on country's altars

Chengiz Khan, by Ice Moonger, was thrashed,

The day when as Qasab Khana the Qissa Khani flashed.

A son was killed a woman widowed, a child made orphan,

And the homes were ruined by the Englishman.

The roses seen in the spring in garden,

Have the hues of the blood the youth had given.[xxix]

For the liberation of his motherland, Dr. Waris participated in almost all anti-British movements i.e. the Khudai-Khidmatgar Tehreek and Ghala Dehr Kisan movement and made contacts with revolutionaries and freedom fighters like Subash Chander Boss[xxx] etc. But his dream were shattered like others after independence in 1947 and he confessed in his book that those who struggled for the liberation of the country are still under suppression but those who were British stooges, traitors and serving the British empire became the rulers of Pakistan like Iskander Mirza who became the first President of Pakistan.

His book ends at the creation of Pakistan and the impact of the communal riots on the locality in which the author was living. It has been dedicated to anonymous soldiers of the freedom movement.

References and Notes



[ii] Josh Malhi Abadi's original name was Shabir Hussain Khan. Born in 1894 in British India and died in Karachi in 1982. He was an eminent progressive Urdu poet and writer.


[iv] The Frontier Post, Peshawar, dated, April 17, 1993.

[v] Letter of Dr.Waris Khan to Dr. Sher Zaman Taizai dated 30-6-1993. See also The Frontier Post, Peshawar, dated, July 10, 1993.

[vi] Dr.Waris Khan, Azadae Tehreek (Struggle for independence), Peshawar, 1988, P.7.

[vii] Khan Abdul Ghaffar, a renowned Pakhtun reformer and freedom fighter. For more detail see Abdul Ghaffar, Zama Zawand Aw Jadojuhed (My Life and Struggle), Daulati Matbua, Kabul, 1983.

[viii] Khan, op.cit., p.31

[ix] Interview with Dr. Taizai, Peshawar dated 10-11-1993.

[x] Khan, op.cit., p. 31

[xi] Ibid., p. 31

[xii] Ibid., p. 9

[xiii] Abdul Ghaffar Khan in May 1928 started a Pashtu journal the "Pakhtun", which was an organ and mouthpiece of his Khudai‑Khidmatgar Movement or as dubbed by the British the "Red Shirt Movement".

[xiv] Dr. Syed Wiqar Ali Shah Kaka Khel is Assistant Professor in Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He met with late Dr. Waris Khan and also wrote an introduction to his biography.

[xv] Khan, op.cit., p.9

[xvi] Mian Akbar Shah of Badrashi is one of those freedom fighters who first migrated to Afghanistan in the Hijrat movement and then to Soviet Central Asia. Later on he joind the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement of Khan A. Khan, Forward block of All India Congress etc. He wrote travelogue Da Azadai Talash (In search of Independence).

[xvii] Khan, op.cit., p. 15

[xviii] The battle of Ambela (1863) has been considered the second most important battle after the war of Independence (1857) in the history of the subcontinent. Da Swat Babaji, "Pashtu", monthly journal of the Pashtu Academy, University of Peshawar, Feb-March, 1982, p.49. Sir Olaf Caroe, The Pathans, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1986, P.360

[xix] Umara Khan of Jandul was the chief of Jandul (Bajaur-Dir) attacked Chitral and besieged the British Resident Robertson in 1895.

[xx] Mullah Najm-ud-Din was the Pir (guide) of Haji of Turangzai, led several tribal uprisings against the British in the Mohmand area.

[xxi] Haji Fazal Wahid, commonly known as Haji Sahib of Turangzai (1858-1937) belonged to a religious family of village Turangzai, district Charsadda. He took part in the 1897 frontier uprisings. With Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan he established a number of Azad (independent) schools. In 1915, Haji left his homes for the tribal areas and settled among the Mohmands. There he preached Jehad against the British. He died on 15th December 1937.

[xxii] Maulana Uzair Gul, son of Mohammad Shahid Gul Kaka Khel was born in 1889 at Dargai. He was one of the active leaders of anti-British movement of Sheikh-ul-Hind Maulana Mahmood-ul-Hassan. Maulana Uzair Gul along with Maulana Mahmood-ul-Hassan and others was arrested by the British authorities and imprisoned in Malta. He died on November 16, 1989 and has left behind two sons (Abdul Rauf Zubair and Mohammad Zaheer) and three daughters.

[xxiii] The Hijrat Movement is one the significant events of Indo-Pakistan history. It developed out of internal and external political crosscurrents in the region including the Khilafat agitation in British India in 1920. Thousands and thousands of people migrated from India to Afghanistan. Contemporary writers and Muhajers have written many books and articles in Urdu, Pashtu and English with their own perspective and experience about this mass migration of the Indians. The second source which is comparatively objective is the British and Afghan government record. See James W. Spain, The Pathan Borderland, Mouton & Co., the Hague, 1963, p. 163. See also a letter of Dr. M. Naeem Qureshi, to Dr. Muhammad Anwar khan, Director, Area Study Centre, and University of Peshawar, dated November 6, 1985.

[xxiv] Those Pakhtuns who migrated to Kabul and later on to Soviet Central Asia and even Moscow brought with them new revolutionary ideas in politics, literature and dramas to their homeland.

[xxv] On 1st April 1921, the Anjuman-i-Islah-ul-Afaghana (the Society for the Reformation of Afghans) was formed with Ghaffar Khan as its President and Mian Ahmad Shah as Secretary. The stated objectives of the Anjuman included: promotion of unity amongst the Pakhtuns, the eradication of social evils, prevention of lavish spending on social events, encouragement of Pashto language and literature, and the creation of ‘real love’ for Islam among the Pakhtuns.

[xxvi] Sanobar Hussain Momand known as Hussain Kakajee was born in January 1897 at Kaga Wala village, Peshawar. He died on January 3, 1963. He was an eminent writer, freedom fighter with socialist leanings. Abdul Rahim Popalzai was born at Peshawar in 1980. He is one of those freedom fighters who were inspired by the philosophy of Shah Waliullah and the revolutionary tactics of Marxism - Leninism. He breathed his last at 02:00 PM on Wednesday, May 31, 1944.

[xxvii] Abdul Ghaffar, Zama Zawand Aw Jadojuhed, op.cit., pp 65-66.

[xxviii] The daily Frontier Post, Peshawar, March 28th, 1993.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Subash Chander Boss, a Bengali freedom fighter who raised Indian National Army (INA) against the British Raj in 1940s.

1 comment:

ozma said...

i want to know more about Taj Mohammad Khan,,one of the comrades of Haji Saheb of Torangzai. I want to know his prodigies..lineage etc. any information would be appreciated.Thankyou