Abd ul Gaffar Khan



A Sarhadi leader who had great feeling for his people A champion of a movement of moral, social and economic reform Abd Ul Gaffar Khan well known as Badshah Khan or 'Frontier Gandhi' had passion for his people. Founder of a group called, Khudai Khidmatgars, Badshah Khan devoted his early life in winning independence from British rule. He was so close to Mahatma Gandhi that they shared reading glasses, inspiring jokes about their shared vision. Gaffar Khan was once the President of All India Congress Committee in 1934. A giant man of 6'5'' Gaffar Khan turned down a career in the British army to build his own force - Khudai Khidmatgars, in 1929 - of thousands of troops sworn to non-violence. The servants of god, Khan's peaceful army who dressed in red to show they were willing to shed their own blood but not that of others. For all his austerity and simplicity, Gaffar Khan embraced the modern world. He enlisted unarmed recruits from the countryside and hoped to supersede the culture of the gun. His practice of Islam and non-violence were shaped by two longings - to rid the Pakhtoons of revenge and save them from destruction that violence would invite from the British who were the colonial power. The 'Peacemaker from the Pashtun Past' Khan sought to replace revenge with justice and reconciliation. His daily life demonstrated his belief in the unity of humanity. He served God by serving humanity without violence. He was also a rock. Khan came from a tribal tradition that prized honour and expected men to defend it at almost any cost, but he managed to redefine the meaning of bravery for many. Khan also believed women should have an education and a role in society, making sure his own daughters were well-educated and creating a corps of female Khudai Khidmatgars. Recipient of `Nehru World Peace' award and Bharat Ratna (1987) India's highest award, Khan's message of peace, also won him a Nobel Prize nomination in 1985. The split of India and Pakistan marked the beginning of the decline of Khan's political influence, though not his popularity. He opposed creating a Muslim state, believing people of different faiths should live together, and his non-violent army fanned out to protect non-Muslims amid the slaughter and chaos of communal violence over partition, in 1947. But Pakistan's eventual leaders mistrusted him because of his stance, and many of the elite seem ambiguous about his role in their national history even now. Khan spent around one out of every three days of his life in jail, and much of that time was done not under the British but the Pakistani government. Gaffar Khan, born in Utmanzai, a village near Peshawar, was buried in the garden of his Jalalabad home in the heart of the Pakhtoon, according to his wishes. Though the Afghan struggle was not yet over, the Kabul government and the mujahideen both announced a ceasefire for the event and his last rites were attended by Pakistan's ruler Zial Haq and India's prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi - a sea of humanity greeting the dead had few parallels in history. The naturalness of Badshah Khan's belief in Islam, his directness, his rejection of violence and revenge, and his readiness to co-operate with non-Muslims add up to a valuable legacy for our times - a task of overcoming divides between Islam and the West and Afghanistan and the rest of the world. His bridge-building life is a refutation of the clash of civilisation theory.

Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan / Ghulam Mohiuddin / Riaz A Hakeem Khan

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