"You have thrown us to the wolves"
by SevenStrings, Thu Jul 31, 2008 at 08:48:45 AM EDT
This diary is about the NorthWest Frontier Province ~ the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan that Sen. Obama identifies as the crucible of terrorism. He would refocus American energies there. My diaries are an attempt to shed some light on it's history, with an goal of outlining the difficulty of the current situations.
There was a time when the NWFP had hope. There was a time when the NWFP was led by a great man.
His name was Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan.
He was known as Badshah Khan (or King Khan).
He was also known as Sarhaddi Gandhi (or Frontier Gandhi ~ Gandhi of the Frontiers).
And the best way to understand the tragic story of the NWFP is to follow the story of this great man... from hope to betrayal and to disappointment!
The era of hope: 1920s to 1939
Gaffar Khan was a tireless social worker in Afghanistan, and he was a respected leader even before Gandhi had returned to India. He forged a special friendship and alliance with Gandhi ~ the two men shared a deep & mutual admiration. Gaffar Khan was the founder of the "Khudai Khitmatgar" (or the Servants of God) movement, whose goal was the creation of a unified and independent India stretching from modern Afghanistan to modern Burma. Gaffar Khan was very influenced by Gandhi's methods, and had told his followers:
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.
The Khudai Khitmatgar (and it's political wing ~ the Frontier Congress, which was led by Gaffar Khan's older brother) came to dominate NWFP politics from the 1920s up until 1947.
The era of betrayal 1939-1947
In the late 1930s, and leading upto Indian Independence in 1947, several prominent Muslims in India floated the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims. Initially, this idea had very little political support, but it gained steam through some brilliant legal maneuvers executed by the leader of the Muslim homeland movement, and by the represensible stoking of communal fears.
Gaffar Khan was bitterly opposed to the idea of a separate Muslim homeland. He strongly favored a unified and secular India ~ but his voice became increasingly faint. The Pashtuns around him favored Independence, or a union with Pakistan.
When the Indian National Congress rejected a last ditch attempt at a compromise solution brokered by Gandhi, and it became clear that the NWFP province (and other Muslim majority regions) would be given the option of joining Pakistan, Gaffar Khan reportedly told the Congress leaders
You have thrown us to the wolves
Indeed, voters in the NWFP were offered a choice. Gaffar Khan's party was running the elected government, but the voters rejected his call to boycott the vote (with 56% showing up to vote), and voting to join Pakistan by a very large (>90%) margin.
They had, indeed, been thrown to the wolves.
The era of disappointment 1948---
In 1948, Gaffar Khan took an oath of loyalty to the newly created nation of Pakistan ~ a nation whose creation he had bitterly opposed. Despite this, the government led by his brother was dismissed by the new government of Pakistan, and he was put under house arrest. He remained under house arrest from 1948 till 1954 ~ obviously, no charges were ever filed.
His followers were treated with less mercy ~ there were very many massacres of the Pashtuns who had initially sided with India. Upon his release from house arrest in 1954, Gaffar Khan declared
I had to go to prison many a time in the days of the Britishers. Although we were at loggerheads with them, yet their treatment was to some extent tolerant and polite. But the treatment which was meted out to me in this Islamic state of ours was such that I would not even like to mention it to you
They had indeed been thrown to the wolves.
Gaffar Khan spent the remainder of his days drifting in and out of house arrest ~ he was imprisoned by governments in both Pakistan, and in Afghanistan.
And who looks good in this story ?
This is the point where we stop and ask: who comes across looking good in this story. And the answer is: noone.
I am a huge fan of Gandhi. But Gandhi, and his Congress party, let Gaffar Khan down. The Pashtuns of the NWFP had embraced Gandhi in 1937 ~ Gandhi abandoned them in 1947. Some will say that it is not fair to accuse the Congress party of abandoning the Pashtuns, and that they did not really have a choice in the matter. My opinion is that if the Indian National Congress had really wanted to avert partition, they would have outfoxed Jinnah.
I will not waste any sentences on the new rulers of Pakistan.
But I will also point out that you, dear reader, are equally complicit in this episode (or, at least, your forefathers in the 1940s and 1950s were). You are complicit in the atrocities committed on the Pashtuns by the new rulers of Pakistan... you looked the other way while those atrocities were being committed, and armed the new rulers of Pakistan as part of your strategic game against the Soviets.
I hope you will think of that, the next time you wonder why the Pashtuns are so uncivilized !!Update [2008-7-31 13:50:15 by SevenStrings]::Wow, I see this is at the top of the rec list. Thank you everyone! I should have added one more bit. If you watch the film Gandhi carefully, you will notice a very tall in an Afghan longshirt and a trimmed beard, who is always lurking in the background. He doesnt say very much, and he always sides with Gandhi... even when Gandhi is opposed by everyone else. That man is Gaffar Khan!