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Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890 – 20 January 1988) ‫ ن

 ار‬was a Pashtun political and
spiritual leader known for his non-violent opposition to British Rule in India. A lifelong pacifist, a devout
Muslim,[1]and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he was also known as Badshah Khan (also Bacha Khan,
Urdu, Pashto: lit., "King Khan"), and Sarhaddi Gandhi (Urdu, Hindi lit., "Frontier Gandhi"). In 1985 he
was nominated for the Nobel peace prize. In 1987 he became the first person not holding the citizenship of
India to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award.

Early years

Ghaffar Khan was born into a generally peaceful and prosperous family from Charsadda, in the Peshawar
Valley of British India. His father, Behram Khan, was a land owner, farmer, and the chief of the
Mohammedzais ("sons of Mohamed") tribe of the Pashtun people. Ghaffar was the second son of Behram
to attend the British run Edward's mission school -- an unusual arrangement since it was discouraged by the
local mullahs. At school the young Ghaffar did well in his studies and was inspired by his mentor Reverend
Wigram to see the importance of education in service to the community. In his 10th and final year of high
school he was offered a highly prestigious commission in The Guides, an elite corp of Pashtun soldiers of
the British Raj. Ghaffar refused the commission after realising even Guide officers were still second-class
citizens in their own country. He resumed his intention of University study and Reverend Wigram offered
him the opportunity to follow his brother, Khan Sahib, to study in London. While he eventually received
the permission of his father, Ghaffar's mother wasn't willing to lose another son to London -- and their own
culture and religion as the mullahs warned her. So Ghaffar began working on his father's lands while
attempting to discern what more he might do with his life. [2]

Ghaffar "Badshah" Khan

In response to his inability to continue his own education, Ghaffar Khan turned to helping others start
theirs. Like many such regions of the world, the strategic importance of the newly formed North-West
Frontier Province (NWFP) as a buffer for the British Raj from Russian influence was of little benefit to its
residents. The oppression of the British, the repression of the mullahs, and an ancient culture of violence
and vendetta prompted Ghaffar to want to serve and uplift his fellow men and women by means of
education. At 20 years of age, Ghaffar opened his first school in Utmanzai. It was an instant success and he
was soon invited into a larger circle of progressively minded reformers.

While he faced much opposition and personal difficulties, Ghaffar Khan worked tirelessly to organize and
raise the consciousness of his fellow Pushtuns. Between 1915 and 1918 he visited every one of the 500
settled districts of the Frontier. It was in this frenzied activity that he had come to be known as Badshah
(Bacha) Khan (King of Chiefs).

He married his first wife Meharqanda in 1912; she was a daughter of Yar Mohammad Khan of the
Kinankhel clan of the Mohammadzai tribe of Razzar, a village adjacent to Utmanzai. They had a son in
1913, Abdul Ghani Khan, who would become a noted artist and poet. Subsequently, they had another son,
Abdul Wali Khan (17 January 1917-), and daughter, Sardaro. Meharqanda died during the 1918 influenza
epidemic. In 1920, Abdul Ghaffar Khan remarried; his new wife, Nambata, was a cousin of his first wife
and the daughter of Sultan Mohammad Khan of Razzar. She bore him a daughter, Mehar Taj (25 May
1921- ), and a son, Abdul Ali Khan (20 August 1922-19 February 1997). Tragically, in 1926 Nambata died
early as well from a fall down the stairs of the apartment they were staying at in Jerusalem.[3]

Khudai Khidmatgar

In time, Ghaffar Khan's goal came to be the formulation of a united, independent, secular India. To achieve
this end, he founded the Khudai Khidmatgar ("Servants of God"), commonly known as the "Red Shirts"
(Surkh Posh), during the 1920s.
The Khudai Khidmatgar was founded on a belief in the power of Gandhi's notion of Satyagraha, a form of
active non-violence as captured in an oath. He told its members:

I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is
the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No
power on earth can stand against it.[4]

The organization recruited over 100,000 members and became legendary in opposing (and dying at the
hands of) the British-controlled police and army. Through strikes, political organisation and non-violent
opposition, the Khudai Khidmatgar were able to achieve some success and came to dominate the politics of
the NWFP. His brother, Dr. Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan (known as Dr. Khan Sahib), led the political wing of
the movement, and was the Chief Minister of the province (from the late 1920s until 1947 when his
government was dismissed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah of the Muslim League).

Ghaffar Khan & the Indian National Congress

Ghaffar Khan forged a close, spiritual, and uninhibited friendship with Mahatma Gandhi, the pioneer of
non-violent mass civil disobedience in India. The two had a deep admiration towards each other and
worked together closely till 1947.[5][6]

The Khudai Khidmatgar (servants of god) agitated and worked cohesively with the Indian National
Congress, the leading national organization fighting for freedom, of which Ghaffar Khan was a senior and
respected member. On several occasions when the Congress seemed to disagree with Gandhi on policy,
Ghaffar Khan remained his staunchest ally. In 1931 the Congress offered him the presidency of the party,
but he refused saying, "I am a simple soldier and Khudai Khidmatgar, and I only want to serve."[7] He
remained a member of the Congress Working Committee for many years, resigning only in 1939 because
of his differences with the Party's War Policy. He rejoined the Congress Party when the War Policy was

On April 23, 1930, Ghaffar Khan was arrested during protests arising out of the Salt Satyagraha. A crowd
of Khudai Khidmatgar gathered in Peshawar's Kissa Khwani (Storytellers) Bazaar. The British ordered
troops to open fire with machine guns on the unarmed crowd, killing an estimated 200-250.[8] The Khudai
Khidmatgar members acted in accord with their training in non-violence under Ghaffar Khan, facing bullets
as the troops fired on them.[9]

Ghaffar Khan was a champion of women's rights and nonviolence. He became a hero in a society
dominated by violence; notwithstanding his liberal views, his unswerving faith and obvious bravery led to
immense respect. Throughout his life, he never lost faith in his non-violent methods or in the compatibility
of Islam and nonviolence. He viewed his struggle as a jihad with only the enemy holding swords. He was
closely identified with Gandhi and he is known in India as the `Frontier Gandhi'.[6]

"O Pathans! Your house has fallen into ruin. Arise and rebuild it, and remember to what race you belong."
-- Ghaffar Khan[10]

The Partition

Ghaffar Khan strongly opposed the partition of India.[5][6] While some Pashtuns (particularly the Red
Shirts) were willing to work with Indian politicians, many Pashtuns were sympathetic to the idea of a
separate homeland for India's Muslims following the departure of the British. Targeted with being Anti-
Muslim,[6] Ghaffar was attacked by fellow Muslims in 1946, leading to his hospitalisation in Peshawar.[11]

The Congress party refused last ditch compromises to prevent the partition, like the Cabinet mission plan
and Gandhi's suggestion to offer the Prime Ministership to Jinnah. As a result Bacha Khan and his
followers felt a sense of betrayal by both Pakistan and India. Bacha Khan's last words to Gandhi and his
erstwhile allies in the Congress party were: "You have thrown us to the wolves."[12]

When given a choice between Pakistan and India, most voters chose Pakistan by a margin of 9 to 1 in 1947.
Note a small part of the population voted(Over 5 million boycotted and others were barred [13]); thus, the
neutrality/accuracy of the votes was and is in question. British bribed tribal elders and sponsored loya jirga
in the Tribal Areas, it garnered a similar result as most preferred to become part of Pakistan; an
independent Pashtunistan or joining Afghanistan were not an option given by the British. Khan asked his
supporters to boycott the polls.

Arrest and exile

The notion Khan took the oath of allegiance to the new nation of Pakistan is false. Under the new Pakistani
government, Ghaffar Khan was under house arrest without charge from 1948 till 1954. Released from
prison he gave a speech again on the floor of the constituent assembly, this time condemning the massacre
of his supporters at Babrra.

"I had to go to prison many a time in the days of the Britishers. Although we were at loggerheads with
them, yet their treatment was to some extent tolerant and polite. But the treatment which was meted out to
me in this Islamic state of ours was such that I would not even like to mention it to you."[14]

Arrested again in 1956 for his opposition to the One Unit scheme he remained in prison till 1957. Re-
arrested in 1958 until an illness in 1964 allowed for his release.

In 1962, Abdul Ghaffar Khan was named an "Amnesty International Prisoner of the Year." Amnesty's
statement about him said, "His example symbolizes the suffering of upward of a million people all over the
world who are in prison for their conscience."

In September 1964, the Pakistani authorities allowed him to go to Britain for treatment. During winter his
doctor advised him to go to America. The U S Embassy was reluctant to give him visa because of its ties
with Pakistan. The Pakistan Embassy in London opposed his going to Afghanistan or India for treatment.
The Pakistan Government requested the Afghan Embassy to refuse him but the Afghanistan Government
had already given a green signal to his stay in their country. After being arrested several times he was
exiled in Kabul until December 25, 1972.

From 1972-80 Ghaffar Khan was arrested several times during the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and
the proceeding military government.

Ghaafar Khan spent 52 years of his life imprisoned or in exile.

Ghaffar Khan died in Peshawar under house arrest in 1988 and was buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistan
according to his wishes. The Indian government declared a five-day period of mourning in his honour.[15]
Although he had been repeatedly imprisoned and persecuted, tens of thousands of mourners attended his
funeral, marching through the historic Khyber Pass from Peshawar to Jalalabad. A cease fire was
announced in the Afghan Civil War to allow the funeral to take place, even though it was marred by bomb
explosions killing 15.[16]

He visited India and participated in the centenary celebrations of the Indian National Congress in 1985; he
was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 1987.[17].

Political legacy
His eldest son Ghani Khan was a poet. Another son Khan Wali Khan is the founder and leader of the
Awami National Party and was the Leader of the Opposition in the Pakistan National Assembly. His third
son Ali Khan was non-political and a distinguished educator, and served as Vice-Chancellor of University
of Peshawar. Ali Khan was also the head of Aitchison College, Lahore and Fazle Haq college, Mardan.
Asfayandar Wali Khan is the grandson of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, and leader of the Awami National
Party, the party in power in the NWFP.

Once he communicated “Where is the democracy that British gave us? Ayub Khan robbed us of it. And
what did he give us in return ? He gave us his own version of democracy which does not even deserve the
name of democracy.

Look at our financial position, look at our language, culture, society. He has taken it all. Look at our
schools, our colleges, the education and instruction of our children. And look at his manners. I am always
surprised at these people who keep telling us:”We are making such progress. Pakistan has a target and we
are fast approaching it.” Actually there are several jokes in circulation about that. I will tell you one. It goes
like this:

A woman said to her husband, warmly embracing him: “Darling, I want a diamond nose-ornament!” The
husband replied: “Actually I was considering how I could cut off your nose altogether.”

All we are asking is for a nose ornament, it does not even have to be diamond. But Pakistan is thinking how
they can cut off our nose altogether.”“I want you and the Pakistani leaders to take a look at the misery
which our Balochi brothers are living in. They have been asking and crying and shouting for their rights for
the last twenty years. When nobody listened to them they had no choice but to take up arms. You all know
what happened to them, the tyranny they had to suffer, the cruelties that were committed. Now Pakistan has
found that the question cannot be solved by cruelty and oppression, and these poor people are told; Come
on, let us sit down together and settle our dispute. It did not take me long to find out that in the heart of
Pakistan there is no room for any Baluchi or Sindhi or Bengali or Pakhtun. Therefore I want my Baluchi
brothers to know that the Sindhis and the Pakhtuns are just as oppressed and that our aim and objectives are
the same. Pakistan's real design will be clear if you look at Punjab. The Punjab leaders met and had
discussions and consultations with their Jirga. They said “look at the Pakhtuns, they are all very rich. They
have electricity you know. Then they said; look at the Sindhis, they have so much land. About the Baluchis
they said, they have in their country wealth of mineral resources and gas.

Brothers, all this is trickery and they are only saying all this because they want it for themselves: the
electricity of Pathans, the land of Sindhis and the minerals of Baluchis. Then they have this idea of “one
unit”. Work it out for yourselves, is this in harmony with Islamic belief? Does Islam tell you to rob one
brother of electricity, another brother of his fertile land and take possessions of the mines and minerals of

And you, ignorant and misguided Pathans, you do not even stop to think whether this is Islam or not, you
just swallow anything you are told.”

One time the Pakistani Minister of Foreign affairs Manzur Qadir had come to see him over a statement
made by Russian Prime Minister Khrushchev about Pakhtuns.

“He talked for four hours. First about democracy. He said, “Because here in Pakistan democracy did not
work, we do not give the people democracy anymore”

I asked him, “Where was this democracy in the first place ? You never had democracy, so
how do you know whether it works or not? In India they have had three or four elections.
When did you last have elections in Pakistan? Did you ever? Have you ever asked the
people what kind of government they want ?” [Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan by Gayatri

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