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Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

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Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan was a man of God who believed in service to the humanity as service to God. Gandhi was struck by Gaffar Khan's transparent sincerity, frankness and utmost simplicity. He was, in his view, a true Khudai Khidmatgar, Servant of God. He struck to the three prime ideals of life-amal, yakeen, muhabbhat--right conduct, faith and love.[1]


The life saga of Abdul Ghaffar Khan known as Bach Khan provides one of these instances in which the manor destiny comes to lead Pashtuns towards freedom and simple, kindly and gentle, fearless, faithful and true, a towering personality with a friendly chiselled face,and character built up in the fire of long suffering and ordeal. Bach Khan is one of the outstanding soldiers who have fought for the liberation of Pashtuns from the foreign domination and exploitation. His movement was like walking on the mine field. He had been imprisoned on various occasions, first by the British and then by the Pakistan government. At the age of seventy-seven the determined soldier of peace and noble endeavor had to his credit thirty years of jail life in pursuit of high principles. He suffered a lot but would never.


Born in Hashtnagar, in the village of Utmanzai in the house of Khan Bahram Khan in 1890. His exact date of birth is unknown. It is not the custom among the Pashtuns to note down the birthday of a newly born child because few of them can read or write and that is why his date of birth is not recorded.


Abdul Ghaffar Khan was the fourth child of a tall blue eyed woman and a sturdy, blue blooded old Khan of medium stature. His father, Bahram Khan, a rich landlord was highly respected khan of his village. He had neither pride nor vanity of being a chief khan of Hashtnagar of Mohammadzai clan. He was humble, God fearing and self restrained. He had many friends and no foes. The British officials him as "uncle".


Both the father and mother of Abdul Ghaffar Khan were illiterate; they lived more in the world of the spirit than of the flesh. The mother would often sit down after her prayer to mediatein silence.


Like his parentage, Abdul Ghaffar Khan's birth place is remarkable in many ways. Hashtnagar, a tract in Charsada tahsil of Peshawar district, comprises a strip of the country that extends ten miles eastward from the swat river and stretches from the hills in the north to the Kabul in the south. Charsada is twenty miles away from Peshawar and Utmanzai, suburb beautifully situated on the swat river, about four miles from Charsada.


Abdul Ghaffar Khan was five or six years old when he was admitted masque to take lessons from mullah. The poor mullah was himself stranger to learning. he could hardly read or write. He only remembered few verses from the holy Quran but could not understand their meanings. On Ghaffar Khan, starting their lessons, his parents were highly pleased and held celebrations and distributed sweets. The mullah did not teach him alphabets but rather started to teach him the spinach. It was not the fault of the poor and half educated mullah; this was the accepted of teaching the Holy Quran during that period. The mullah was cruel and harsh; he used to beat the students severely. In course of time Abdul Ghaffar khan finished reading the Holy Quran. The parents were pleased with their son's performance and once again held celebrations. They distributed alms generously and the mullah too received a big sum of money.


The Pashtuns had a yearning for education and most of them used to send their children for getting education in the mosque. English education was opposed by mullahs. They would not allow the people to avail that education. They used to say that the education of the present day was Kufar, un-Islamic.


Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was fortunate in having a brave and large hearted father and a pious and loving mother who did not need the cries of their follower. He was sent to the Municipal Board High School in Peshawar. He took his preliminary education from this school and then joined Edwards Memorial Mission High School at Peshawar. He was in the sixth class when in 1906his elder brother went to Bombay to join the medical college while he continued his studies in the Mission School. Later on he joined the three inches-belonging to a rich and respectable family of British officers so he resigned while his father bitterly opposed his hasty decision and was greatly displeased with him for throwing away such a coveted rank in the Guides. Abdul Ghaffar Khan found nothing glamorous about the military service, on the country it seemed to him disgraceful and humiliating.


"I had taken my education in a mission school and many of my companions had studied in the Islamic school at Peshawar. My education had created in me the spirit o dedication to serve my community and country, but my companions had no such indication. The created for this goes to my teacher who influenced me and had created in me the spirit of service to the creatures of God was not a Muslim but a Britisher, the Rev. Mr. E.F.E. Wigram. I said to myself; "We Pashtuns have no sympathy for our poor brother who need our help and they who came from foreign land and belong to an alien nation and faith, how much sympathy they have for humanity ". This was the turning point in his life who made his mind to serve the creatures of Gog Almighty and particularly the Pashtuns who were heading towards disaster and chaos.


Abdul Ghaffar Khan started his career as a reformer; the mullahs feared that if the people were enlightened they would no more get alms and gifts. He explained to them that their welfare lay in the prosperity of the people and the progress of the nation dependent on the enlightenment of the people. Islam has enjoined that it is the duty of every man and woman to get educated. "Go in the quest of knowledge even unto china", the Prophet said. "It is better that the people should take their education in the schools opened by the British rather than remaining illiterate," Abdul Ghaffar told the mullahs. "When you ask the people not to go to the schools started by the British, you should open your own schools. He tried to enlighten the mullahs without any success. "When God Almighty could not make these mullahs understand, how could I?"


Abdul Ghaffar Khan and a few of his companions met together to organize the spread o education in the Frontier province in which the Haji Sahib of Tuarangzai, a prominent scholar helped them to great extent. Turangzai is a suburb about a mile away from Utmanzai. The Haji Sahib became known in 1911 when he started his own schools as instrument for social reforms under the patronage of himself. Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his colleagues "Dar-ul-Uloom ".


The function of this "Dar-ul-Uloom" was to popularize education and to open schools in villages. Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Maulawi Aziz opened a school in 1910 at Utmanzai. In course of time such schools were also opened throughout the province, in which many students got themselves admitted.


Bacha Khan was in touch with some of the most progressive and revolutionary divans in India. Some of his co-workers were trained by them. He used to subscribe the Urdu daily, Zamindar, and the weekly, Alhilal was a turning point in the history of Urdu journalism. The first issue came out in June 1912 and at once created a revolutionary stir among the masses.


Abdul Ghaffar Khan was married in 1912, and the following year a son, Ghani khan was born. He adored his wife, a loveable from a good old family. He loved his children.


In 1914 he visited Deoband at the request of Maulana Mohammadul, Hassan accompanied by his colleagues, Maulawi Fazal Mohammad and Maulawi Rabi. In a small gathering of Maulawis in Deoband it was decided to the north West Frontier in order to prepare and start the struggle to free Pakistan from the British domination. Formerly, there had been a centre established in Buner for the same purpose. But soon it was discovered that the centre was in wrong hands.


After a while the World War-l started and the plan to establish a centre of revolutionary activities did not materialize. Mecca and there he was arrested and handed over to the British.


Obaidullah Sahib went to Afghanistan. The Haji Sahib of Turangzai removed himself to Buner, and with him went many of Bacha Khan's close associates. The Haji Sahib intended to continue his activities there and the people quickly responded. The mullahs intrigued against him and wanted to hand him over to the British. He came to know about the plot and escaped to the Momands. All his schools were closed down by the Britishers and the teachers were arrested. Abdul Ghaffar Khan thus lost a sincere and very influential friend and colleague.


His restlessness increased. He had found a new love, his people. Pashtuns must be united, educated, reformed and organized. He drew their attention to the miseries and darkness of their lives. He tried his best to made them think. He succeeded to a great extent. The simple Khans of Hashtnagar gathered in mosque and declared that he was their "Bacha" king. Thus, he became the Bacha Khan, the name by which he is generally known till today.


In March 1919 the notorious Rowlatt bills were passed in spite of the united opposition of all the elected Indian members. The NWFP fully participated in the movement. There were unprecedented strikes all over the province, out of fear the British rulers were hiding themselves during the day and visited their homes during night times. The police came to know about the presence movement activists and arrested Abdul Ghaffar, took him to Mardan and lodged him into a jail. The following day he was produced before the police superintendent, who ordered that he should be fettered. Again he was taken to the jail where there were no fetters big enough for his feet, but the jail staff forced the fetters on his feet with great difficulty and pot him in a motor car. He was taken to Peshawar and produced before the superintendent of police and sent to the lock up in the cantonment. His was ordered "come out you have to appear before the court". It was no use arguing with the arrogant officer and so he said "My feet are paining, am not able to walk to the court. If you fetch a tonga I will go, but if you don't I won't go "Ultimately he was taken to the court in tonga. There were three or four Britishers sitting in the court and they put him some question. "Did you move among the people agitating against the government?" they asked. Ghaffar Khan retorted," The people among whom I move are all your loyal Khans and maliks."


After the queries they sent him out, while they were taking a decision. After an hour he was taken to the prison and confined to the barracks in which there were many Pashtuns.


The arrest trial and imprisonment, thus, described by Ghaffar Khan. "I was not only an ordinary convict but a most dangerous convict. I was taken to the jail handcuffed and I had fetters on during the time of my imprisonment. I weighed 220 pounds and there were no fetters to fir my ankles. Whether a special pair was made of not, I don't know. They were bard to put and when they put one on me the portion above the ankle bled profusely. That apparently did not worry the authorities, who remarked that it should not take long to get accustomed to them."


After the arrest of Bacha Khan and his colleagues, the troops went to Utmanzai and surrounded the village and collected the villagers in the compound of the Azad school. The British soldiers made the villagers sit down and mounted the canons and vigorously started loading them. The people felt that they were going to be blown up, so they said their prayers. The trick was played on the villagers to frighten them. The troops also indulged in looting the village. Bahhram Khan and other relatives of Bacha Khan were kept in jail there months.


It was a period of great anxiety to the British. The British were determined to crush the movement by terrorizing the Pashtuns. But the then chief, commissioner Sir George Rouse Keppel, an able and sympathetic administrator, stopped repression and atrocities. Abdull Ghaffar Khan was released after six month imprisonment.


Bacha Khan's activities alarmed the authorities and objection was implemented on his touring the districts. His school in Utmanzai was six month old. The Chief Commissioner Sir John Maffey, summoned his father and tried to persuade him to ask his son to close down the school.


When Ghaffar Khan pleaded with the rulers that education was no crime, that he was merely helping the government, the rejoinder was: "But if you are allowed to organize the Pashtuns for social reform, what guarantee is there that this organization will not be used against the government and its interest?"


"You must trust me", said Bacha Khan . "No" said the rulers. You must apologize and give a surety that you will not do it again. "Give a surety that I shall cease to love and serve my people?: he asked for as he had studied in a mission school and had many about Christian justice and charity. "This is not service, but rebellion", said the official.


Shortly, Abdul Ghaffar Khan once again was arrested and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment under the section of Frontier Crime Regulation on December 17, 1921. Abdul Ghaffar Khan suffered the tortures of solitary confinement, heavy chains on his hands and feet, dirt and filth and lice and hunger, and most of all insults and kicks from the lowest and most loathsome British lackeys. He was always a model prisoner. He was kind in of his strength and gentle even with his enemies. He forgave everything to everyone, and possessed unlimited patience. He treated his captors with sublime contempt.


According to an oriental scholar of great repute, "(Pashtun's history ranks with chivalry and ferocity by which it is characterized. Pashtun have hung tenaciously to their land Pashtun, against all comers. The Moghul's collapse in the eighteenth century and the British in the twenties testify that Pashtun made it a point of Pashtunwali in repelling the great empires of their day)."


Ghani Khan an eminent poet and writers, distinguished historian and sculpture, while referring movingly to his people wrote "I am a Pashtun and must be honest, so I will frankly admit that I am prejudiced in favour of my people. lndeed I would hate myself if I were not. i love them in spite of their murders and cruelty, ignorance and hunger. Because he kills for a principle and cares not who calls it murder. He is a great democrat. The Pashtuns are rain-sown wheat. They all came up on the same day, they are all the same".


History bears testimony to the fact that the legendary land of Pashtunkhwa provides a platform for what must be the most extensive mountain panorama. Distance and perspective given by the Gandhara plain provides a tremendous scenic canvass against which sir Olaf Caroe, former governor and prolific man of letters, observed "(the Pashtun plays out his life)".


In this context history of Pashtunkhwa from which the best things we derive are heroism, warm-hearted hospitality, love and devotion for the land of great warriors, patriots and valiant freedom-fighters. Its history can be considered to be a glass through which one may behold not only the various chivalrous deeds of Pashtuns and the unforgettable accidents that attended them, but at the same time discern the humour, quick wittedness, imagination, sentiments and character of those, who upheld the banner of Pashtunwali inhabiting the rugged terrain and lush green valleys of Pashtunkhwa.


Pashtun heroes like Darya Khan, Aimal Khan, Umra Khan and Ajab Khan and highly venerated religious divines and freedom-fighters like Haji Saib Turangzai , Sartor Fakir, Mullah Sahib Paiwanda, Fakir Saib lpi and many more divines, who fought with an epoch making courage, grim determination and strong will for the noble cause of Pashtunwali against injustice, inequality and persecution.


There is no denying the fact that the life story of Bach Khan is in itself the history of Pashtuns replete with his patience and resignation, life-long trials and tribulation, courage and grim resolve which sprang from a consciousness of virtue, unpretentious life-style and his indefatigable struggle to liberate his people from the domination of the Raj. Bacha Khan was wedded to his committed convictions and not of opinions. He firmly believed that liberty is Almighty Allah's gift to mankind after that of human life. The obligation which rests upon all is to respect life as sacred; hence the obligation to respect liberty of mankind is equally sacred.


It goes without saying that Bach Khan the grandest Pashtun hero of our age ruled over the hearts of his people, who with a voice that did not err, lived for the sake of serving the sadly neglected Pashtun. The eternal symbol of Pashtun's pride and courage, Bacha Khan waged a relentless non-violent struggle against the British colonial rule, exploitation, poverty and ignorance remaining sincere steadfastly in his actions, served no personal ends, gained no titles was praised as "the first and the finest Pashtun" and was honoured both in and outside his country unlike those who regarded only the present, Bacha Khan saw in the future valiantly pursuing and acting upon the enduring principles of truthfulness, service before self and liberty. he was the type of leader guide and mentor whose vagaries of time failed to consign his name and his patriotic fervor to the dustbin of history. he faced and bore sufferings like a true Khudai Khidmatgar against all adds created by vicissitudes of time. blessed with a positive faith, positive convictions and positive endeavour, Bacha Khan a truly extraordinary Khudai Khidmatgar , never wavered nor compromised on his time-honoured convictions held tenaciously throughout his freedom struggle against imperialism, oppression and vested interest.


Bach Khan's ordinary demeanor portrayed his colorful personality of many parts. With a mind free of fear and prejudice, honouring him as a legendary politician of the Indo-Pak subcontinent. In fact Bacha Khan himself was greater than the legend. He was looked upon, respected and adored as a saint politician by his millions of followers. It was no doubt, not less, than the sainthood to rise against the mightiest power on earth with his invincible determination and unshakable resolve launching a formidable non-violent struggle against all that was ugly and cool villainy. To believe that the struggle ahead of him and his followers was onerous or impossible was incompatible and at variance with all that Bach Khan stood for, fought for and suffered for. This very fact lent support to his will and determination in learning that it was not help, but obstacles, not facilities but difficulties and hardships that rendered strength and elevation to the freedom struggle. Once a close companion of Bach Khan complained bitterly about the inhuman and ruthless manner in which the Red-Shirt volunteers were made a target of torture by the British colonial Administration.


Bach Khan consoled his companion and told him not to lose faith, rather set about doing good to people. "Go and visit those, who were made to suffer, attend to the sick and minister to their wants and tell them of the consolation religion". Bach Khan added that he had often tried it himself and always found it the best medication for a heavy heart. Once after a long detention, Bach Khan did not feel, answered a visitor, who went to enquire about his health "I do not care whether I am dying or not, for if I die, I will be with Almighty Allah and if I live, He will be with me".


Bach Khan always considered trials and tribulations, which he underwent ceaselessly, as the means by which Almighty Allah meant to fashion his life for better things. Being a great humanist, he ardently believed that human nature was not so depraved as to hinder it from respecting goodness in others. It is easy to look down on others but to make an estimate of our failing is difficult. Allah's blessings according to Bach Khan, are marked for those, who submit to Allah's will and serve Almighty Allah through selfless activities for the overall good of humanity at large irrespective of caste, colour, race or religions. To Bach Khan's mind love enabled and strengthened character. Deeply influenced it produced in him a holiness that fortified his faith and convictions, elevating the spirit of those whom he served selflessly.


Bach Khan is no longer with his people, his love, forbearance, lifelong sufferings in the service of Pashtuns and safeguarding the spirit of Pashtunwali will remain a great source of inspiration. The great and the finest Pashtun-Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan did not fail since he lived and died fir a great and noble cause. The sweet remembrance of the legendary Bach Khan shall flourish everlastingly while he sleep peacefully in the dust.


A Man of God

In December 1928 Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bach Khan) with some of his colleagues went to Calcutta to attend a Khilafat conference. It revealed a serious rift between the Ali brother and the Punjabi leaders. During a night session a Punjabi leader violently criticized Maulana Mohammad Ali, who was sitting next to Ghaffar Khan on the dais. He could not put with it, he lost his temper and hurled abuses at the Punjabi speaker. Another Punjabi leader, who too was sitting on the dais, suddenly stood up, flashed a knife and reviled Maulana Mohammad Ali. There was uproar on the platform. Ghaffar Khan's colleagues intervened and rescued Mohammad Ali.


The Congress session was being held simultaneously in Calcutta. In his presidential address at the Khilafat Conference, Mohammad Ali had attacked the Hindus, ridiculing their civilization, culture customs and manners. It was an unpleasant experience for Abdul Ghaffar Khan and he decided to attend the Congress session. It was a novel experience for him: "The subjects Committee meeting was being addressed by Gandhi and a naughty youth interrupted him repeatedly with remarks. Gandhi did not lose him temper, he roared with laughter and continued his speech. I was greatly impressed and, on return to my attention to composure of Mahatma Ghandhi, the leader of the Hindus, that stood in contrast to the behavior of our Muslim leader, Maulana Mohammad Ali.


"Some of us had a discussion with Mohammad Ali. I narrated to him how Ghandhi, in spite of the interruptions and criticism, delivered his speech in good humour, unperturbed. You are our leader I said to Mohammad Ali, and we wish you to grow in stature. How nice it would be if you cultivate some tolerance and selfrestraint!' He flared up and said: 'Oh, wild Pashtuns have come to teach Mohammad Ali. 'He left the place in a huff.We were hurt at his behavior. I did not attend the Khilafat session any more and went back to my village".


After Amanullah's fall in 1928 power came in to hand of a freebooter, known as Bacha-e Saqao and Nadir Khan had come from France in an attempt to recover the throne for the Mohammadzais. He and his brother were acting in concert and it was widely assumed that they were acting on Amanullah's behalf. Nadir, like Amanullah, was a Mohammadzai. Mahsud, Wazir, Zazi, Mangal and Ahmadzai tribes formed the spearhead of Nadir Khan's advance; it was they who took Kabul for him and made it possible for the Durrani dynasty to be restored. Commenting on these events, Abdul Ghaffar Khan writes: "Amanullah Khan worked for the welfare and prosperity for the welfare and prosperity of the Pashtuns. But they rose in rebellion, unable to distinguish between a friend and a foe, and banished him from his country. This was sheer ingratitude. Ingratitude is a great crime in the eyes of God who, therefore, punished them by thrusting Bacha-e Saqao of the country and community came to a halt and they headed towards disaster. We,the Pashtuns, considered the ruination of Afghanistan as our own. The British ruined Afghanistan on our account, because the prosperity of Afghanistan would have affected us. And this the British did not want. We did our best, with man and money, to help Afghanistan and continued to do so till Nadir Khan triumphed. At the time of chaos I toured extensively to plead the cause of Afghanistan. In the Punjab I met Iqbal and some leaders. The Khilafat colleagues asked me: "Why did you meet Iqbal? He is a worthless fellow, he only writes couplets". After his death everybody praised him. It is a common practice in the world that living nations Honour living Persons and decadent nations Honour the dead. We, Muslim, always Honour the dead and have no appreciation of the living.


"From Lahore I went to Lucknow, where a congress meeting was being held in 1929. Here for the first time I met Gandhiji and Jawaharlal. I was not acquainted with them, but Jawaharlal had intimate relations with Dr. Khan Sahib. They were in England together and studied in the London University. My brother had given men a letter of introduction to Jawaharlal. I discussed Afghanistan affairs at length with Jawaharlal.


"Then I went to Delhi. One Friday I met Mohommad Ali in a masque. He was a decent man and very kind to me. His brother, Shaukat Ali, was not a desirable person and he misled his brother, especially, on the question of Afghanistan. On that account I was annoyed with him and avoided meeting him. When he sighted me, he approached me with a smile and said, 'we don't care for the Pashtuns. I retorted we too do not care for such leaders who are misled by others. Please, remember that you are saying the same things about Amanullah as the Bristishers. Embracing me warmly he said, 'brother, tell me the facts.' He then took me to his house.


"On the eve of Amanullah's departure to Europe, Shaukat Ali had arranged a grand reception and presented him with a welcome address. I was present on the Occasion. It is alleged that Shaukat Ali did not receive the amount of he expected from Amanullah Khan and was, therefore, displeased with him.


"A few days later, I received a telegram from Nadir Khan about his conquest of Kabul. We celebrated the happy occasion by taking out two impressive processions from the northern and the southern points of Hashtnagar. They converged at Utmanzai, where we held a mammoth meeting. I told the audience that there are only two means by which a nation progress: religion and patriotism. Though America and Europe have neglected religion, they are full of national spirit. They have prospered. The cause of national and religious spirit. A great revolution is in the offing, but you are not even aware of it. During my recent visit to the sub-continent, I noticed that men and women were fully prepared to serve the nation. Leave aside women, even our men are not aware of the interests of the country and community. The revolution is like a flood. A nation can prosper thereby and can perish as well. A nation that is wide awake, that cultivates brotherhood, comradely feelings and national spirit, is sure to benefit through revolution. A nation that lacks these qualities is swept away by the flood. You are mistaken if you think that a prosperous nation drops from heaven. A nation progresses that produces people who deny themselves leisure and comfort and stake their social status and future prospects for the advancement of their nation. We have no such men among us, and, therefore, we are backward. Those who march forward, know that their real prosperity lies in the progress of their nation. We look only to our self interest and let the country go to the devil. We fail to understand that our own individual prosperity does not lead to the national prosperity. When a nation prospers, every citizen benefits thereby. We look only to our own personal gain. A concern for isolated existence is the way of the beasts. The animals create their own shelters, choose their mates and rear their progeny. How are we superior beings if we do the same? If your want the progress and prosperity of your country, you should lead a community life instead of an individual existence.


"I have heard that Amanullah Khan used to say, 'I am the revolutionary king of the Pashtuns'. In fact, it was he who had infused the revolutionary spirit in us. And, indeed, we have benefited more from it then the Afghans themselves because they were sleeping, we were awake.


"The meeting had a great impact on the audience. The following day a young man visited me and said that he wanted to found an organization to serve the Pashtun community and bring about reforms. We held discussions and consultations over it. We already had an organization, 'Anjuman-Islah-ul-Afaghina'. It was working for the spread of education and we decided that it should continue to do this very important work. To remove the other social drawbacks from our backward community, we founded another organization, 'Khudai Khidmatgar', the Servants of God'. At first it was a completely non-political organization, but the British policy of oppression compelled it to participate in politics. It is a paradox that the British were instrumental in bringing us and the Congress together.


"Among us prevailed family feuds, intrigues, enmities, evil customs, quarrels and riots. Whatever the Pashtun earned was squandered on harmful customs and practice and on litigations. Underfed and underclothed, Pashtuns led a miserable life. Nor were we prosperous traders or good agriculturists. After prolonged exchange of views, in September 1929, we succeeded in forming the 'Khudai Khidmatgar' organization. We called it so, in order to fulfill a particular purpose; we wanted to infuse among the Pashtuns the spirit and community and country in the name of God. We were wanting in that spirit. The Pashtuns believed in violence and that too not against aliens but their own brethren. The near and dear ones were the victims of violence. The intrigues and dissensions tore them asunder. Another great drawback was the spirit of vengeance and lack of character and good habits among them.


"One who aspired to become Khudai Khidmatgar, declared on solemn oath:'I am a Khudai Khidmatgar, and as God needs no service I shall serve him by serving. His creature selflessly. I shall never use violence, I shall not retaliate or take revenge, and I shall forgive anyone who indulges in oppression and excesses against me. I shall not be a party to any intrigue, family feuds and enmity, and I shall treat every Pashtuns as my brother and comrade. I shall give up evil customs and practices. I shall lead a simple life, do good and refrain from wrong doing. I shall develop good character and cultivate good habits. I shall not lead an idle life. I shall expect no reward for my service. I shall be fearless and be prepared for any sacrifice".


Abdul Gaffar Khan went from village to village to the Pashtuns. His companions found that their white clothes got easily dirty. So, they decided to colour them. One of them took his shirt, trousers and turban to a local tannery and dipped them in the solution of pine bark prepared for hides. The result was a dark, brown red. The others did the same. When next the group went out, the unusual colour attracted the eye at once. The people left their ploughs in the fields and came to have a look at the red clad men. They came, saw and were conquered. Abdul Ghaffar Khan adopted the red colour for his workers, Khudai Khidmatgars, and that is why they were known as the Red Shirts also. Their aim was freedom, their motive was service.


This remarkable institution, unique in many respects, bears testimony to Abdul Ghaffar Khan's genius for organizing his people. He set up a network of committees of the local people, called jirgas, in every village. Then there were the committees, for a cluster of villages, called Tappa Committees. Next came the tehsil and district committees. Above all there was provincial Jirga, or the unofficial parliament of the Pashtuns. All these committees were elected bodies. In the volunteer organization, however, the system of election was not introduced, because here the discipline mattered most; and to avoid factious feeling, Ghaffar Khan (Bach Khan) himself nominated the Salar-e-Azam or the Khudai Khidmatgars. This officer, in turn appointed officers who were placed in charge of different units. All such officers and men rendered free service, and paid even for their uniforms. These volunteers were always the greatest source of strength to the organization; they formed the spearhead of the movement and carried out its decrees. They were pledged to free and selfless service and to cheerfully make the greatest sacrifice that occasion demanded. The volunteers had their own flags: red in the beginning, later tri-colour and bands: bagpipe and drums. The men wore red uniforms and the women black. They maintained fashion. But they bore no arms, carried no weapons. The Khudai Khidmatgar movement aimed at teaching the Pashtuns industry, economy and self-respect and the fear of God which "banishes all fear".


The life saga of a sensible, kind hearted man and unstinted man, generosity to all, with a burning hatred of oppression and a passion for justice came to an end at the age of 98 and out of which 35 years he spent jail. So, every third day of his life he was in prison. His soul departed on 18th january, 1988 and he was buried in Jalalabad of Afghanistan. He is no more with us but he will be remembered for his meritorious services and services and sacrifices.

References

  1. Balaji Kumbhar Blog