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GHAFFAR KHAN ABDUL (1890-1989)

GHAFFAR KHAN, ABDUL (1890-1989) Abdul Ghaffar Khan was born in 1890 in the village of Utmanzai, near Peshawar in the Northwest Frontier Province At an early age, Ghaffar Khan decided to involve himself with social causes and work for the betterment of the poor people of the region The Khudai Khidmatgars, a popular sociopolitical group of the area, offered him an opportunity to pursue his interests, and he became one of its more enthusiastic members He discovered that the Khidmatgars’ social philosophy had a great deal in common with the policies advocated by Mahatma Gandhi Accordingly, he forged a close link between the Khidmatgars and the Indian National Congress, which won him the title of the Frontier Gandhi Although the title made him popular among the followers of Gandhi and the members of the Congress Party, it distanced him from the Muslims of the Frontier Province, who had begun to subscribe to the “idea of Pakistan” Pakistan’s birth on 14 August 1947 posed a difficult political dilemma for Ghaffar Khan He had little affinity for the new country or liking for its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah Immediately after the birth of Pakistan, he began to espouse the cause of autonomy for the Pathan population This campaign was often couched in a language that suggested to his detractors that he was working for the creation of an independent state for the Pathan population, which lived on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border



Such an entity was given the name of Pukhtunistan, and it attracted support from large sections of the Pathan community in both Pakistan and Afghanistan For a long time, the idea of Pukhtunistan had the official support of the government of Afghanistan and was the cause of the uneasy relationship Pakistan had with its neighbor for more than 30 years, from 1947 to 1979 By endorsing the idea of Pukhtunistan, Ghaffar Khan could not join the mainstream of Pakistani politics He had to endure long periods of incarceration at the hands of several regimes in Pakistan, which accused him of working against the integrity of the country But Ghaffar Khan refused to either profess loyalty to the country of which he was now a citizen or to agree not to work toward its dismemberment In 1979, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan presented another worrisome dilemma for the Pathan leader Ghaffar Khan refused, however, to either condemn the Soviet move into Afghanistan or to distance himself from the communist government in Kabul In 1987, during one of his frequent visits to India, Ghaffar Khan suffered a stroke that immobilized him permanently Even from his deathbed, he managed to provoke controversy by suggesting that he did not wish to be buried in Pakistan His wish was carried out, and he was buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistan

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