Bacha Khan and Nonviolence: Hope for Peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan
It was a historical day that Bacha Khan (1890 – 1988) was born in the strategic tall mountains of Pashtun land located on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bacha Khan is also known as, Abdul Ghafar Khan, Fakhr-e-Afghan, non-violent Muslim soldier of Islam and a man to match his mountains. When Bacha Khan was died, flags were lowered in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India because the people of these countries have respect for his services to earn freedom.
BY JAHAN ZEB | June 2012
Khan is standing tall in the line of the finniest leaders of the world such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Martin Luther King and Nelsen Mandela in many aspects. Bacha Khan’s exclusivity was eminent due to the fact that he was born and raised in the mountainous region of Pashtun land that was agrarian and encountered with family and tribal feuds. Bacha Khan was sanded to see such difficulties and hardships.
The 6’5”charismatic Khan stood up to overcome it through community mobilization, education, and social and economic reforms. He raised over 100,000 strong nonviolent army of men, women, and youth — the Khudai Khidmatgars, or servants of God — drawn from the multi-ethnic traditions of the subcontinent (currently India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and Afghanistan. These servants of God included the diverse cultures, ethnicities, nationalities and religions such as Muslims, as well as Hindus, Christians, Parsees, Sikhs, and Buddhists. They came together in the cause of peace, social justice, religious tolerance, freedom and human dignity for all.
Bacha Khan was beaten, jailed, and exiled by the British rulers of United India because they thought that his reforms may be converted into a freedom movement if he is allowed to reform his people. When his reforms were blocked, his servants of God movement joined hands with Indian National Congress to raise a voice for their victimization. And there they started struggle for the freedom of India from the British rulers.
Khan mentored his nonviolent army to internalize the nonviolence struggle and prepared them to peacefully protest against the British rule to get India free. The British Army beat the Khudai Khidmatgars and dragged them in the streets, removed their clothes and humiliated them in front of their mothers and sisters but they did not respond with violence. Bacha Khan writes in his autobiography Zama Zhwand au Jaddo Jehad (My Life and Struggle) that “violence promotes dislike and hatred. Anyone can do violence but only strong people can practice nonviolence because nonviolence needs courage.  This was the message that he gave to his people which still continues in form of the 2.3 million members of the Awami National Party Pakistan.
According to Senator Afrasiab Khattak, peace envoy, Government of Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan, the nonviolence philosophy of Bacha Khan is based on the teachings of Buddhism and Islamic sageness – the basic principles of Pashtuns and regional society which is fully aligned with universal humanism and bonding.