Khan Abdul Wali Khan

Khan Abdul Wali Khan, son of Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan passed away last Thursday. A report and a tribute to one of the few people of historical importance who walked the patchy road of mutual goodwill between Pakistan and India till the “thaw” in recent years. Among others was of course Faiz Ahmed Faiz who is as much loved in India as in Pakistan. Among the politicians it was the Khans- both father and son.

It is said that nothing grows under a banyan tree. The same is believed to be true of a towering leader, whose progenies are generally no patch on his greatness. There are glorious exceptions though, and veteran politician and leader of Pakistan’s Awami National Party, Abdul Wali Khan, who died at a ripe age of 89 last Thursday, was one of them. He was the son of as tall a leader as Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar and yet became an undisputed leader in his own right.

A longer and more critical remembrance by Rahimullah Yusufzai:

One could argue that the ANP’s declining popularity was due to extraneous factors and on account of manoeuvrings by the all-powerful military and the use of money and religious agendas. But political parties and their leaderships should be adapting to changed circumstances and strengthening their organisations to meet new challenges. In any case, refusal to move beyond the single-point agenda of Pakhtun nationalism at a time when other issues had become important and relevant wasn’t going to fetch more votes.

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2 Replies to “Khan Abdul Wali Khan”

  1. have you read rajmohan gandhi’s biography of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan? Fascinating. and it has amaizing insights into both his relationship with his brother and his son.
    I wonder sometimes what if the Congress had supported his movement. Would Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan been talibanised?

  2. I havent read this particular book. Rajmohan Gandhi once led me on a wild goose chase (“Revenge and Reconciliation: Understanding South Asian History”), and I have since been a little careful about his works, though I suppose that wont stop me reading this one!

    My understanding of the Red Shirt movement is limited and whatever little exists is more emotional than didactic.

    But to your last point, it is tragic that the INC did let down Frontier Gandhi. Indeed, the question for support for his movement is very much tied to the partition question and the INC leadership agreeing to the partition.

    Was Partition inevitable?

    Some historians think it was unavoidable after the Direct Action call or even after the run up to the 1937 elections. But I don’t think anyone, except the hard Right (Muslim/ Hindu) feels that partition was inevitable. It needed a far more delicate handling and probably large heartedness that the INC leadership, except for Gandhi (and Maulana Azad) demonstrated. Even Nehru, with his better theoretical grasp of the communal question faltered (the 1937 elections).

    Politics is the art of the possible and my own view, though it is much more a wish, is that it was possible to avoid Partition.

    Even the Left played a somewhat dubious role on the partition question, though Dr Adhikari’s thesis was withdrawn well before 1947.

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