Peace activist, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, will always live in the hearts and minds of Afghan people, announced the Afghanistan Times on the anniversary of his death on 20 January 2017. He waged war against extremism, occupation and injustice—without firing a single bullet. The non-violent soldier of Islam is highly revered and loved.
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988), known as Bacha Khan – or Badshah Khan (king of chiefs) – was born on 6 February 1890 in Utmanzai, Hashtnagar in the north west Frontier Tribal Areas of Punjab Province in British India – after the partition in 1947 it became the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.
Known for his non-violent opposition to the British Raj, and close friend of Mohandas Gandhi, Bacha Khan was nicknamed the ‘Frontier Gandhi.’
Bacha Khan spent 33 years in prison. However he continued to support Afghans living on both sides of the Durand Line. The Durand Line is the 2,430-kilometre (1,510 mile) international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was established in 1896 between Sir Mortimer Durand, a British diplomat, and Abdur Rahman Khan, the Afghan Amir, to improve relations and trade.
He did not believe in religious divisions, although he was a devout Muslim. He married twice and had five children.
He wanted an independent secular India during the India-Pakistan partition debate at the time of the British Raj, and formed the Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God), known as the Surkh Posh (Red Shirts), based on Gandhi’s vision of active non-violence. Its oath was: “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.”
After partition he pledged allegiance to Pakistan in 1948 and formed the first opposition party. He was arrested several times between 1948 and 1956.
In 1962 Amnesty International named Abdul Ghaffar Khan ‘Prisoner of the Year’ as a prisoner of conscience. In 1984 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 1967 the Indian government awarded him the Jawaharial Nehru Award for International Understanding.
He has a street, hospital, university, airport, and market named after him in Pakistan, as well as recognition in India and Afghanistan.
In 1988, the warring parties in Afghanistan announced ceasefire to allow Bacha Khan’s burial in Jalalabad in Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan, when he died during house arrest in Peshawar, Pakistan, at the age of 97 and was taken back to his house in Jalalabad for burial.
Followers of the Pashtun leader Bacha Khan in Afghanistan are urging the Afghan government to officially commemorate the anniversary of his death on 20 January each year. They particularly want special celebrations in 2018 for the 30th anniversary of his death.
Bacha Khan received the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna, for his work, but he has not been recognized by the international community as a great man who defied odds to fight extremism through education and social reforms.
His followers want the government in Afghanistan to spread Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s message of non-violence, patience and righteousness, because the importance of his message is felt now, more than ever before. Through his message they hope to convince people to shun violence and build the country for the coming generations.