Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pashtun Personality of the Week: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Non-Violent Soldier of Islam

Update (November 5, 2014)

Dear readers,

Thank you for visiting! I've moved this blog post on Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (also known as Bacha Khan or Badshah Khan) to my new blog over at Wordpress. Please click here to access it.



  1. i can't agree more than that on the issue of frontier Gandhi .my memory is hazy but i think i have read (syed waqar ali shah islam ethnicity and nationalism)that the non violence of bacha khan stems from the non violence of the holy Prophet (the meccan period before the hijra )another thing which surprises me is that most of our (hyper)liberal friends altogether forget (leave)about the religious sentiments of bacha khan(ofcourse not u your essay was short) like he performed haj etc.by the way i have the greatest respect for mahatima Gandhi .yes we should not forget bacha khan and his dream of peace and education . good job .keep it up.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Naif! :) Much appreciated!
      I agree! I've noted the same things about most Pashtun nationalists (and I know them only online) who want the independence of Pashtuns and/or the complete unity of the Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan under one Pashtun nation.

      Yes, it's true that Bacha Khan's understanding of non-violence actually stemmed from Islam. He was a staunch follower of (peaceful) Islam, he stood against extremist/violent Islam, and he strongly supported progression and reform. He knew that Pashtuns lacked a decent understanding of Islam and were also lacking in education in general, and that was his motive behind establishing the schools that he ran.

      This man was a real hero. He was a real man, a real human, a real Pashtun. May he rest in peace, aameen.

  2. Did he want to be a part of combine India?
    Why he was so much honored by India?
    Please educate me?

    1. Thanks for your questions, Balarkhela!

      As the above write-up notes, Bacha Khan did not support the partition. He did not want Pashtuns to be a part of Pakistan; he wanted full independence for them--or the complete unity of all Pashtuns, the Pashtuns of British India (modern-day Pakistan) and the Pashtuns of Afghanistan.

      He is and was honored by India because they were united by their resistance to British India. Indians loved and love Gandhi, and Bacha Khan and Gandhi were allies and shared the same views on non-violent resistance towards the British. Where the Indians would rise in protest to the British, the Pashtuns, under Bacha Khan's guidance, would rise in protest of the same colonialists. Basically, their efforts tremendously helped lead to the riddance of British imperialism in South Asia, although Bacha Khan was disappointed (and felt betrayed) by India when they didn't support Pashtuns' independence, as mentioned above.

      So, yeah :) I hope that clarifies it a bit!

    2. I agree with most of your points but at the moment we are part of Pakistan and we should play our role inside Pakistan. I know Pakhtuns are divided by other forces but as Bacha Khan or Wali Khan has a very popular quotation that " Pukhtano pa yawa khabara ethefaaq karay de che ethefaaq ba na kaoo." We should not blame others but to revisit our own deeds and our own leaders. I respect Bacha Khan but I am really disappointed by his grandson's politics. Bacha Khan was a sign of bravery but for Asfandyar one suicide attack was enough to keep him away from his people.
      I am proud to be Pakhtun and I am also proud to be a Pakistani, because I think instead of wasting energy to oppose Pakistan we should do some constructive work for Pakhtuns while remaining part of Pakistan. Only making complains will not solve the problem. Our main focus should be education among Pakhtuns without which development is not possible.
      Sorry for some random thoughts lacking coherence :-)

    3. I am waiting for your comments....

    4. Balarkel, you have valid points and these are the same concerns I raise with Orbala all the time....Be a Proud Pakhtun Pakistani...but she seems bent on making the Indians happy...I hope she had done more research on Bacha Khan (I love and respect Bacha Khan and love the fact that he gave up being a feudal lord to help his people), but did you know that his main concern with Pakistan was the fact that the Pakhtun areas were setup as 1 unit and Bacha Khan wanted the Pakhtun area as units, Yahya Khan setup the Pakhtun area as FATA and Bacha Khan was pleased (though he would have wanted a totally autonomous state) by it.
      Why people loved Bacha Khan is because he wanted people to be educated and fight with the power of the pen instead of the sword. The main enemies, the British (which Orabala does not talk much about) did not like this, and jailed Bacha Khan many times. He prevailed due to his non violent movement.
      anyways, I think Bacha Khan would have had a good role in Pakistan politics if he was given the chance...read this

      and mind you, as generally perceived, and the author of this blog had also tweeted that people in Pakistan and Pakhtuns don not remember Bacha Khan....fyi, we remember him very much and we do know and respect him more than you think we do!!!

    5. qrratugai... Warka os jawaab :-)

    6. Thank you for the reminder to reply to him, Balarkhela! To your comment, I don't remember implying that we as Pakistani Pashtuns don't have a significant role to play in Pakistan--or otherwise that Pashtuns shouldn't be proud of being Pakistanis, etc. As I have always stressed in every Pashtun-related discussion on this blog and everywhere else, there are more than one types of identity, such as ethnic and national. We are ethnically Pashtun and nationally Pakistani. Our Pashtun brothers and sisters over in Afghanistan are also ethnically Pashtun but they are nationally Afghan.

      However, I also want to emphasize re-visiting our history, understanding Bacha Khan's role in our fate, his sincere efforts to liberate us from the chains of any oppressive regimes, and his disappointment when he did not succeed (i.e., when formerly British-Indian Pashtuns fell to Pakistan). It surely sucks that we can't go back in history, but there's merit in reminding ourselves of that, along with remembering where over half of his life was spent *and why*; surely, it helps explain to a large extent our current situation today.

      @ "Anonymous," thank you very much for your insight. I don't remember, however, saying that no one in Pakistan remembers him. Read above for further info.

      Thanks, you both, for your comments!

  3. A very interesting read.
    Very much endorse the sentiments of not referring him as ' Frontier Gandhi'. But given that age and sentiments should not be taken harshly. Nevertheless,time to restore the man's rightful stature in history.

  4. An interesting read.
    I fully endorse the sentiments of not referring to him as 'Frontier Gandhi', but given that age and sentiments !! anybody's take.
    Time to restore his rightful stature in history which sadly enough been denied.
    Does he not present an excellent rallying point for both the Nation's to move towards peace.

  5. About 80-100 years ago, pretty much the same set of people who form the Taliban today were secular and non-violent. It was an incredible achievement and the entire credit should go to Badshah Khan.

    I don't see why he shouldn't be called "the Frontier Gandhi". Of course he was a person in his own right, but an association with Gandhi is very high honour in the eyes of the world. Gandhi grew up in a Hindu-Jain tradition with an large emphasis on non-violence, but the Pashtun people have no such background. Hence Badshah Khan's adoption of non-violence was considered a bigger achievement in India than Gandhi's. There is no other freedom fighter in India who is called the-anything-gandhi, which shows the esteem in which Badshah Khan was held.

    Mention should also be made of George Cunningham, the last British governor
    of the NWFP, who in an attempt to reduce Badshah Khan's influence over his people, encouraged a bunch of Mullahs to spread opposition to him on the grounds that he wasn't Islamic enough and tended towards secularism.

  6. we all the pukhtoons are proud of our great leader Abdul Ghaffar khan (Fakhr-e-Afghan... we are non-violant and are GOD Servants

  7. see whats is the situation of pashtoon in these days specially of our tribe area,this is all what bacha khan not want,pashtoon though fight in themselves but they always unite against others,now they cant be unite even the invaders killing us.

  8. "He is and was honored by India because they were united by their resistance to British India. Indians loved and love Gandhi, and Bacha Khan and Gandhi were allies and shared the same views on non-violent resistance towards the British. Where the Indians would rise in protest to the British, the Pashtuns, under Bacha Khan's guidance, would rise in protest of the same colonialists."

    "India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi went to Peshawar to honor Bacha Khan, despite Pakistan's (Zia ul-Haq's) efforts to prevent the visit, citing security reasons. The government of India also honored Bacha Khan by declaring a five-day period of mourning upon his death."

    " In 1967, he was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, while in 1987, he won India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna--becoming the first non-Indian to receive the award. "

    Ever heard of the saying, my enemy's enemy is my friend, the Indians didn't like Bacha Khan because he was a great activist or statesmen for his people, they didn't like him because he was a non-violent person, they liked him because he was anti-Pakistan, if the Indians really like Bacha Khan for "fighting for his people against oppression", then they should have given an award to Maqbool Butt a great Kashmiri activist aka Shaheed-e-Kashmir, who was executed by an Indian court.

    Any country that has committed war crimes and has oppressed it's people, has no moral authority to hail a rebel of another country, because they have no credibility, and I also say this for Pakistan.

    I mean Pakistanis have no right to cry for the Rohingyas of Burma because we have done just as bad to the Baloch and the Bengalis in the past, and the same applies to India, they have no moral authority to hail Bacha Khan or Akbar Bugti, or any other rebels as heroes because they have committed even worse atrocities in Kashmir, and the same applies to America as well, they can't claim that have a "moral authority" to "save" the people of Darfur or Syria, when they have done just as bad if not worse, to the Natives,the Blacks,the Vietnamese,Iraqis,Afghans etc

    Countries only support certain rebels/movements for their interests, not for the benefits of the people they supposedly want to "help".

    "On a personal note, I can't stand it when people refer to him as "the frontier Gandhi." No, he was not the Frontier Gandhi! He wasn't a Gandhi at all. He was an individual, his own person; can he not be recognized without any references or links to Gandhi or any other person? "

    I wouldn't be surprised if that title was given to him by the Indians, they love to claim every great leader to be a Gandhian, just recently the Indian Prime Minister called Nelson Mandela a "great Ghandhian", taking all the credit for Mandela's achievements.

    I remember watching Obama in a Q&A session with Indian journalists, and one of the journalists wanted to know how he was "inspired" by Gandhi and how MLK Jr was also a "Gandhian", LOL.

    I don't mean any disrespect to Gandhi or Bacha Khan, but even without them, the Brits would have left South Asia because they were almost destroyed after world war 2, and they wanted to focus on rebuilding their country, the Brits even left Sri Lanka even though the independence movement their wasn't that popular.

    There are many hisotrians that would agree that the Brits had nothing left to gain from occupying South Asia, one they stole all the goodies they thought it would be wise to leave.

    So Gandhi or no Gandhi, freedom was inevitable.

  9. This writer tried to "Islamise" a pure "Gandhite" movement in Pakhtunkhwa (then the Frontier). Bacha Khan was a confused and largely unsuccessful politician and had nothing to do with Pashtunwali or popular inspirations of the land that he came from (Pakhtunkhwa) and even the long term interests of Pashtuns according to our history and contemporary circumstances. YES he was a Pashtun political leader of some stature but by no means a representative of Pashtuns or any symbol of their heritage. Pashtuns have much more great people and present time to proud of than this over rated "Imam" of online self proclaimed champions of Pashtuns who are Afghanis and Indians by inspirations.

    Great comments by anonymous above.. (Y) :)

    1. Thank you for your readership and comment, Anonymous!
      I would, naturally, urge you to read up on Badshah Khan instead of oversimplifying him, his philosophy, and his movement. Some references are listed above for your convenience.


  10. was going to read the article when I saw 'Pashtun Personality... Soldier of' but then I saw 'Islam' soldier of Islam? wth wtf? insult to pashtun and our dear Lord #BachaKhan.

  11. American People for MLK and soldier Of Islam for Lord Khan ... You made my day... What a joke... Islam? Did I really read Islam? oh my. i am sorry bacha khan baba that I read you were a soldier of Islam. I want to die right now

    1. Thanks for your visit, Soldier of Islam!

      Oh, man - it must take a really unpleasant outlook on life to be offended that easily, no?
      I wish you best of luck in life because you certainly can use it. Don't want to die right now, please; you've a lot to read and learn, like all of us!

  12. the great man of the bacha khan baba

  13. Short and full of emotions ! i loved reading it.. as you said "Rest in peace, Bacha Khan. You have left us a lot to ponder over and learn from. May you be rewarded for all your efforts and struggles--and may your decades of unjust imprisonment (at the hands of British India and later Pakistan) be rewarded with eternal peace. Aameen.

  14. Indians didn't like him because he was a non-violent person, they liked him because he was anti-Pakistan


Dare to opine :)

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...