Khan Shaheed’s Struggle For Democracy
Pakhtunkhwa is a fertile land which always gives birth to people who resist and fight bitterly against all the tyrants and occupiers. They give mammoth contributions till their last breath for the liberation of their motherland. Khan Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, one of the great personalities of the land of Pakhtunkhwa, moved heaven and earth to emancipate all the oppressed nations in general and the Pashtun in particular from the suppression of the colonialists. Khan Shaheed sacrificed his life for civilian supremacy, for rule of law, for equality and equity.
Khan Shaheed was a multifaceted personality. He was a great politician, a wonderful statesman, an inspiring linguist, a fine artist, an eloquent speaker, a social reformer and a noble journalist. Saeen Kamal Khan Sherani, a great intellectual of Pashtun-Baloch province (Balochistan), was impressed by Khan Shaheed in the very first encounter. Mr Sherani would call Khan Shaheed ‘Ideal Khan’ all his life. Although every aspect of his life is encouraging, I will shed light on his struggle for the civilian supremacy and democracy.
Khan Shaheed was born at a time when the British with their sheer power separated the historic Pashtun Afghan territories from Bolan to Chitral and annexed them with India via so-called treaties namely Gandomak and Durand line. They had forcibly established their illegitimate government. The foreign occupiers had deprived the sons of soil from their right to decide about their future. Unlike India, where people would elect their representatives through votes, the Britishers had imposed the black Law known as FCR (Frontier Crimes Regulation) in British Balochistan. Political agent used to be an absolute authority. Jirgas would run their affairs with the help of its members who would often be selected on the basis of exaggeration and venality. Resultantly, the evolutionary process of the society was stagnated as a whole.
Khan Shaheed in his autobiography “My Life and Survival” of the first volume on page 183-89 dubbed the said propaganda as baseless. To prove Pashtun as pro-democracy, he gives the reference of his village pertaining to the system of Karez. He says that this system is going on for the last hundred years. Rich, poor, powerful, weak, orphans and widows are part of the system but rights of the none have been violated. The organizer of the Karez was selected via votes who would decide the distribution of water and look after the affairs of the Karez. The organizer held the position for as long as the participants trusted him. Twice a year, a meeting of the participants of the Karez was held in which each participant had equal right in decision-making. In these meetings, the organisers were asked regarding the previous management of the karez and unanimously, future decisions would be taken. On the basis of that system, the cultivation of crops was much higher than the surrounding ones. Rifts and fights would often take place between the participants of the nearby karez. The karez would remain closed due to disagreement which caused the reduction of the gains.
Contrary to propaganda, it is evident how befittingly the Pashtun nation can run their state affairs democratically. It proves that how useful a system is, when the people are involved in decision making and the representatives are accountable to the people. When the ruler is occupier, tyrant and dictator, it results in the establishment of master and slave system. The former deems the latter inferior. The former considers the latter to be mere objects. In such a system, the former preserves the vested interest of the elitists. Resultantly, lives of the ordinary people are messed up.
In this very context, Khan Shaheed writes in the first volume of his autobiography on page 176-77 that I wanted to search and study about the importance of ‘Jirga’ and its usefulness. After having studied ‘Jirga’, it revealed on me the obvious dichotomy between Pashtuns’ ‘Jirga’ and that of British and the adverse consequences of the British rule. I pretty understood that British government is the sole responsible for the miseries and suffering that our nation and homeland go through. Homeland and nation will further deteriorate if they are not liberated from the oppression and illegitimate rule of the British. They will suffer until and unless sons of the soil get their own government free of interference of foreigners. The above-mentioned research and factors led me to do endeavors for the freedom of our nation.
At the time of British rule, there were no national and political parties to struggle for the true independence of the homeland. Amidst all this, Khan Shaheed mustered up his courage and took extremely bold steps to free his nation from the occupation of the foreigners and to work hard for the progress and development of his nation. He took initiative by delivering a speech in a mosque of his village. In order to continue his political struggles, Khan Shaheed was imprisoned on May 15, 1930 for the second time. Before that, in 1928, he was imprisoned for 28 days for refusal to take part in the war against the British backed rebellions and in the favor Afghan progressive king Ghazi Amanullah Khan. This period of imprisonment followed from time to time till he breathed his last. However, the process of imprisonment intensified after the separation of the sub continent.
After the formation of Pakistan, Khan Shaheed spent a little time of his life out of jail. In Pakistan, Khan Shaheed used different platforms of ‘Waroor Pashtun’, NAP and later Pashtunkhwa NAP to form a united province of “Pashtunistan” consisting of Pashtun areas in the country. He struggled for the abolition of ‘One Unit, One Man One Vote’ and harshly opposed martial law in the country. He struggled for the rule of law, civilian supremacy and democratic values.
He spent the entire period of general Ayub Khan’s rule in prison and was the last political prisoner to be released.
At the time when One Unit was dissolved, the Pashtun and Baloch leadership agreed to the merger of Pashtun populated areas of Southern Pashtunkhwa into Balochistan, and the merger of Attock and Mianwali into Punjab. They overlooked the principled stance of Khan Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai. Reviewing the then political conditions, Khan Shaheed decided to bid farewell to the NAP and formed his own political party, namely Pashtunkhwa NAP.
Simultaneously, the political tussling amplified at a time in history when democracy was still in its infant stage in Pakistan. Khan Shaheed realized that non-political covert powers may take advantage of the political fiasco.
He knew the fact that the weakest form of democracy is far better than the best form of dictatorship. His deep understanding of politics led him to support Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government despite its evident defects and weaknesses.
Johar Meer in his report published in “Daily Masawaat” on December 8, 1973, stated that Khan Shaheed met a delegation of journalists on December 1st, 1973. On that occurrence, while commenting on the political mayhem that engulfed the national politics, Khan Shaheed clearly expressed his apprehensions regarding the undemocratic forces that were involved in the weakening of democracy in the country.
He believed that democracy must be safeguarded at any cost. On the very next day, i.e. December 2, Khan Shaheed was assassinated.
Sometimes, politicians take such decisions on the basis of their extraordinary political consciousness that, on one hand, provide the rivals an opportunity for their character assassination, while on the other hand, their own affiliates do not understand the significance and delicacy of their decisions, that take too long for the ordinary folk to understand.
If the contemporary and forthcoming political circumstances are closely and candidly examined, the decisions taken by Khan Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai will be viewed as highly acceptable and foresightful.
His concerns proved true when four years after his martyrdom, Zia ul Haq overturned the existing democratic system and banned all sorts of political activities.
Forty seven years from his martyrdom, the dream of a strong and genuine democracy has not come true. What brings satisfaction to the common folks is that those who were once the sympathizers and subordinates of the dictators of past in one way or the other way, have now gathered under the umbrella of PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) for the restoration, promotion and safety of democracy.
Their narrative is all about what Khan Shaheed struggled for, 47 years ago. And for this, they must feel indebted and obliged to him. Khan Shaheed still holds his head high for the precision, perfection and accuracy of his political thoughts and ideology.