Abdul Wali Khan (1917 – 2006) A Biographical Sketch Abdul Wali Khan (Wali Khan) was born on January 11, 1917 in Utmanzai. He was the second son of the great Pakhtun leader and legendary freedom fighter, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as Baacha Khan. Wali Khan started his early education in Azad Islamia High School Utmanzai (AIHSU), founded by his father in 1921 to educate the Pakhtun children. Baacha Khan practiced what he preached. Wali Khan was the first student of Azad School Utmanzai.
The British Government arrested Baacha Khan on December, 17, 1921 under Section 40 of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and was given three years rigorous imprisonment. During his absence, the students of AIHSU played the role of vanguards in the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement (KKM). Since political meetings were banned by the British authorities, KKM activists used to arrange religious meetings in the mosques. Wali khan used to recite verses from the Holy Quran followed by a national anthem in the company of Abdul Karim and Sa’adat Khan in the AIHSU. But during this period the young Wali got an irreparable personal loss. One of his eyes was affected by measles. Baacha Khan was in jail and was very anxious about Wali’s health. He wrote many letters to his close relations for to pay attention to Wali’s treatment but no one paid heed.
At last Wali Khan met his illustrious father in Lahore Jail when he ha d totally lost sight in one eye. Baacha Khan felt grieved and could not get rid of this grief through out his life. After his release in 1924, Baacha Khan again started his activities and went on inspection tours of the Azad Schools.
During these tours, three student s of the AIHSU - Abdul Wali, Abul Karim and Saadat Khan of Turangzai would accompany him, and Wali Khan would open every meeting with recitation from the Holy Quran. All the three students used to sing national songs in chorus, creating nationalist feelings in the audience. The annual day of the Azad School Utmanzai used to be celebrated with great fervor. On this occasion a “Tarhi Mushaira ” (gathering of poets) was held and a Pashto drama was also staged. The first ‘Mushaira” in the history of Pakhto literature was held in April 1927 at Utmanzai on the eve of the annual day of the Azad School. On the same occasion the first Pakhto drama entitled “ Dray Yateema ” ’ (Three Orphans) was staged. The drama was written by Abdul Akbar Khan Akbar and was staged by the students of Azad School Utmanzai. Abdul Wali Khan played the role of the elder ‘Yateem ’ (Orphan). The story revolved around the family of a poor peasant who had been sent behind the bars for not paying “Aabyana” (a form of land tax). The police raid his house and carry every thing leaving nothing, not even food for the family. The performance of the actors in the drama was so impressive that in one of its scenes when the younger ‘Yateem ’ starts wailing because of hunger, complained to his elder brother (Wali Khan), “Lala Za Ogay Yam” (Brother! I am hungry). In the meantime, an old man rises from among the audience, climbs the stage with tears in his eyes, puts some money in the hand of the elder brother (Wali Khan) and says, “Son! Do not grieve. Buy some food with this money for your younger brother.” On April 23, 1930, Baacha Khan was on his way to Peshawar for attending a meeting of the local chapter of the All India Congress. He was arrested at Nahaqi, a village on the Peshawar Charsadda road. The All-India Congress had decided to start a “civil disobedience movement” on this very day. It was the same black day when the army opened fire on the peaceful protesters in the historic Qissa Khani Bazaar Peshawar, killing hundreds of innocent people. Baacha Khan was again sentenced to 3 years rigorous imprisonment under the obnoxious Frontier Crimes Regulation.
The British Government let loose a reign of terror on the Pakhtuns. After Baacha Khan’s arrest the army besieged the Utmanzai village. The people were terrorized. The office of the Khudai Khidmatgars was set ablaze. The workers present in the office were thrown from its second floor down on the road. They were severely beaten like animals. At that time Wali Khan was also present in the office. A British army officer was going to stab him from the back side with his bayonet when a native solider, named Sher Khan, came forward andtook the bayonet thrust on his own hand. Thus Wali escaped narrowly a certain death and found a new lease of life. In the meantime, he developed trouble in his other eye also and his doctor stopped him from further studies. Thus, after doing his senior Cambridge in 1933 hecame to his village, Utmanzai, leaving his education incomplete. Baacha Khan was released in 1931 after the Gandhi Irvin Pact. But on December 24, 1931, he was again arrested in Peshawar and was sent to Hazari Bagh jail for 3 years. He was released from the jail in December 1934 but his entry in the Punjab and NWFP was banned. So he went to Wardah and stayed there with Gandhi. But, again, he was arrested for a speech in a function arranged by a Christian society in Bombay. The British Government always treated him discriminately.
His children were refused allowance to which he was entitled under the Bengal Regulation III of 1818. At his village the tillers on his land were arrested by the Government and his income from the land was embezzled by others. As a result Bacah Khan suffered heavy financial loss. His elder son, Ghani, left his education incomplete due to insufficient finances and returned from the U.S.A in 1933. It was during these times that Wali Khan returned from Dera Dhun. He took the management of his landed property and in a short span of time, consolidated his family’s financial position. Baacha Khan was very pleased with him and appreciated his management qualities. In a letter, written on May, 24, 1935 to his elder son, Abdul Ghani Khan, from Sabar MatiCentral Jail, Ahmad Abad, Baacha Khan recorded: “I am sure of the virtues of Wali. You have also written about him to me and other people too are of the same opinion. But I cannot believe in your goodness until other people write to me (that Ghani has mended his ways) ....... This time the improvement in income is due to Wali’s efficient management. No doubt the prices were also high this year. Last year the prices were low but you neither utilized that meager amount of money properly nor you paid back the loans” . Wali was an obedient son and enjoyed complete confidence of his father. In a letter written to Wali on 15.8.1935 from Braili District Jail, Baacha Khan writes to him. “I always remember you in my prayers. Take care of your health and particularly of your eyes. Always keep a good company and do good deeds.Keep yourself away from bad company and all evils. Keep Lali (Abdul Ali Khan) in your supervision so that he, like Ghani, may not develop the habit of extravagance. In another letter written from the same jail, on 25.10.1935, Baacha Khan tried to clear some misunderstanding which Ghani had erected about Wali: “Your apprehensions about Wali are entirely baseless. Very few peop le will have a brother like Wali. I am aware of the love he has for you. You both had the management of lands for one year each. How you spent the income and in what way he utilized it? He seeks my permission in every matters and acts according to my advice.
After the Provincial Assemblies Election in 1937 a new era ushered in the politics of India. The All-India Congress succeeded in forming governments in 8 provinces including NWFP due to its alliance with the Khudai Khidmatgars. Meanwhile, the World War II broke out in Europe in 1939. The Congress declared that it would help the British government in its war efforts only if it promised to liberate India at the end of the war. But the British government rejected the Congress’s demand. Congress started the “Quit India Movement”. All the Indians irrespective of any religion or race were asked to participate in the movement and the Indian government servants were called upon to leave their jobs. Due to this decision a well organized movement was started in NWFP. Khan Abdul Wali Khan started his political career during this movement. At that time due to the absence of his father, he was responsible for his family affairs. In 1938, when Mr. Gandhi came on a tour of NWFP, Wali Khan had the privilege of driving his car during the entire tour. He took Mr. Gandhi round the whole province. During this visit he got the opportunity to see Gandhi very closely, understand his political philosophy and had long discussions with him. In this movement Wali visited the entire barren area of Karak in the sizzling heat of summer in the month of Ramadhan (Muslims’ fasting month). During this tour he went to every village on foot and tried to persuade the people to take part in the movement. Abdul Wali Khan was arrested, for the first time, in this movement and was sent to Dera Ismail Khan jail in January 1943. In the jail he, once again, had problems with his eye. The jail superintendent called a military doctor for treatment but Wali Khan’s condition did not improve. evidence from the records of the India Office Library in London. He has also unveiled the real faces of certain religious leaders and feudal elites of the NWFP and their infamous role during the freedom movement. The book, for the first time , was published in Pashto in Afghanistan by the ministry of Nationalities and Tribal Affairs in 1987. In Pakistan, it was translated into Urdu and was published by Zahid Khan from Rawalpindi in 1988. Later the book was translated into English also by Aziz Siddiqui under the caption “Facts are Sacred” and was published by Jaun Publishers Peshawar. One of its English, translations by Dr. Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, has been published by Vikas Publishing House New Delhi (India) in 1990. Asal Haqaiq Yeh Hain (These are the Real Facts). This book was published in Urdu by Shabal Publicatons, Karachi in 1988. It contains the statement prepared by Abdul Wali Khan during his detention in 1975 in response to the reference submitted to the Supreme Court by the Government of the Late Z.A. Bhutto against the National Awami Party. In this statement Wali Khan presents a detailed analysis of the role of his family during the freedom movement and, later on, in the politics of Pakistan; clarifies his position against the malicious propaganda of successive governments in this country; and gives a befitting reply to his political rivals and opponents. The book, at the end, also contains one of his informative and thought provoking interviews taken by a renowned intellectual and journalist, the Late Professor Waris Mir on May 6, 1983, at Wali Bagh Charsadda, for the Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore. This book is very useful and valuable for those who are interested in the study of Pakistani’s politics. 3. Baacha Khan Aaw Khudai Khidmatgari (Baacha Khan and the Service of God): This book, which is in Pashto, is in three volumes. Among them two have been published [while the last one is yet to see the light of the day] ∗ . The first volume contains a detailed history of the political developments taking place in NWFP, from 1833 to 1947 with particular reference to the All-India politics and global policies of the imperialist British empire. The writer has thrown a searching light on the valuable contributions of the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement in creating political awakening among the Pakhtuns and their marvelous sacrifices in breaking the shackles of slavery. At the end, the book includes the text of the tripartite treaty signed among the British Government, Maharajah Ranjeet Singh of Punjab and Shah Shuja of Afghanistan in 1938. The second volume of the book has been published in 1995. The book consists of the detail of the oppressive politics of the successive Muslim League Governments towards the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement after the partition, the travails of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, his family and comrades, Baacha Khan’s and Wali Khan’s struggle for the basic rights of the masses and the political conspiracies and ugly game of power which started in Pakistan soon after the partition. The book tells us about the unreasonable and wrong internal and external polices of Pakistani leadership with particular reference to the glob al political changes, which finally resulted in the ∗ All volumes have been published and translated into English and Urdu by now (editor’s note). 9 Joint Secretary in the provincial organization of the party. He enjoyed this position till the partition of India. After the creation of Pakistan, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, his family and followers were subjected to brutal political victimization due to their ideological differences with the Muslim League regarding the fate of the Muslims of undivided India. Abdul Wali Khan was also not an exception. He and political companions were imprisoned under an ordinance, which was issued one week after their arrest. In a country, which had come into existence in the name of Islam, the 'Khudai Khidmatgars' were kept behind the bars without any trial for six years and were denied the right of appeal against their unlawful detention, in any court of Pakistan.
In 1954, Abdul Wali Khan was the first among his comrades who was set free on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (the Federal Court of Pakistan) after the expiry of the term of his detention. His subsequent political career is a narrative of constant and consistent struggle for democracy, basic human rights, equal distribution of national resources and against oppression, suppression, obscurantism, exploitation of the masses, dictatorial regimes, ignorance and social, economic and political injustices in the name of Islam. After the creation of Pakistan, a handful of feudal and capitalists had succeeded in occupying the corridors of political power and in monopolizing the national resources with the collaboration of civil and military bureaucracy. To protect their inte rests, these classes had conspired to hamper the way of healthy political and democratic development and kept the masses deprived of their basic rights as the citizens of Pakistan. Abdul Wali Khan, under the leadership of his celebrated father, launched a hectic struggle for the basic rights of the entire oppressed masses of Pakistan including the Pakhtuns, for the establishment of a modern secular democratic system in the country and for an exploitation free economic set up. During this struggle he has been the victim of numerous corporal and financial atrocities. He, time and again, was sent behind bars for long terms or detained in his own house. His properties were confiscated and a heinous propaganda of character assassination was launched against him. He was painted as a traitor, enemy of Islam and Pakistan and a prejudiced and narrow-minded Pukhtoon nationalist. His unbrid led criticism of the Punjabi dominated ruling clique was termed as his hatred and prejudice against the Punjabi masses and he was propagated as a champion of separatism. That is why his political influence on the mass level could not transgress the boundaries of the North West Frontier Province. Additionally, attempts were also made to deviate him from his political path by offering him ministries and other lucrative posts by several regimes in Pakistan. But he stood like a rock and never budged from the path he had chosen for himself. The dictatorial regime of General Zia-ul- Haq offered him, twice, the post of Prime Minister of Pakistan but he spurned the offer. Thus, he is one of those politicians who can be numbered on fingers and who rejected the offers of political power in a country where politics is considered a way of gaining wealth and power only. Wali Khan [was] one of the leading lights of the opposition in Pakistan. He played his role excellently as the leader of the combined opposition in the National Assembly, lower house of parliament in Pakistan, during the Z.A. Bhutto regime in 1970s. He has been the president of the National Awami Party NAP, the National Democratic Party (NDP), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the first convener of movement of Restoration of Democracy (MRD). Abdul Wali Khan never transgressed the limits of gentility and moral and human values in politics. His political opponents, often, use objectionable means to defame him and use abusive language against him. But he has never tried to pay them in the same coin as he being a self-disciplined leader knows the way of facing his political rivals in political field. The art of public speaking is a part and parcel of political life. The popularity and success of a politician depends, to a great extent, on his power of oration. Abdul Wali Khan was a fine public orator. It was always a pleasure to listen to him. He had the knack of keeping large crowds spell-bound for hours with the force of his eloquence. But he neither used his talent in this field to exploit the emotions of his audience for gaining his political objectives, nor he ever tried to incitethe people on gherao jalao –siege and burn-politics. Abdul Wall Khan was a democrat in the true sense of the word. He has bravely faced successive dictatorial regimes in Pakistan. For the cause of democracy, he has worked shoulder to shoulder even with his staunchest political rivals and has never let his personal grievances stand in his way. In the presidential election of 1964, he supported Fatima Jinnah who not only was a Muslim Leaguer but her party also included his most notorious political opponent, Khan Abdul Qayum Khan. Similarly in the dictatorial rule of General Z.ia ul Haq he jointly struggled with the Pakistan Peoples Party from the platform of MRD, forgetting all the travails he had suffered during the days of Z.A.Bhutto. Wali Khan breathed his last on January 26, 2006. His funeral, according to some observers, was as bigger as his illustrious father’s. High-profile State officials, both from the ruling and opposition, foreign dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of Pakhtoons mourned his death across the world.
Wali Khan left a legacy of honest politics and sincere public se rvice, which remains the true asset of his people.