ANP’s struggle: ‘Watan Ya Kafan’

Published: April 19, 2013

The ills faced by ANP are, perhaps, as old as is the country itself. PHOTO: SULEMAN AKHTAR

Watan Ya Kafan (either the country or the coffin) is a strong slogan – one that can be read on posters next to those of the Awami National Party (ANP). This slogan was born because of our country’s turbulent past and along with Azadi ya Maut (freedom or death), it can be traced back to the Hur resistance movement against British colonialism.

The movement was spearheaded by the Pir Pagaras and their followers (Hurs) and it lasted for around a 108 years (1843-1951). It reached its climax when Pir Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi II rose to the title of Pir Pagara in 1922. However, this was short lived as he was arrested by the government in 1942 and a draconian ‘Hur Act’ was enforced. This declared the entire Hur community as corrupt and unleashed a reign of terror and violence upon them. Ultimately, Pir Pagara was hanged in 1943 by British authorities in Hyderabad.

He is reverently remembered by his people as ‘Soorieh Badshah’ (brave king).

Although, the slogan has not been adopted by ANP officially, it has been adopted by the party’s candidates, reflecting the perilous state that ANP’s election campaign has gone through.

Since his jailing after partition, Dr Khan Sahib’s party (ANP) has virtually been declared as unacceptable. The ills faced by ANP are, perhaps, as old as is the country itself.

The party traces its roots to the non-violent movement of ‘Khudai Khidmatgar’ founded in 1929 by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

Khudai Khidmatgars came under severe suppression at the hands of British colonialists. In 1930, at the Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar, around 400 followers of Ghaffar Khan’s non-violent movement were massacred by British authorities. Additionally, Ghaffar Khan was arrested and exiled time and again during his peaceful struggle against colonialism.

Independence from Britain, however, could not herald a new peaceful beginning as Khudai Khidmatgar was declared unlawful and banned by the then Chief Minister Qayyum Khan in 1948. Markaz-e -Khudai Khidmatgar at Sardryab was destroyed and the events culminated into the Babrra massacre of Khudai Khidmatgars in the Charsadda District, resulting in the death of hundreds of activists.

Ghaffar Khan was arrested in the 1950s because of his vocal opposition to the One Unit scheme. The National Awami Party (NAP), founded by Ghaffar Khan in 1957, was banned twice in 1971 by Yahya Khan and then later in 1975 by ZA Bhutto.

Fortunately, the present ANP was able to rise from the ashes of NAP. Ghaffar Khan is reverently remembered and celebrated as Badshah (Bacha) Khan (King of Chiefs).

Since the beginning of the proverbial war on terror, the party has lost over 700 workers. At the helm of affairs when the elections are around the corner, ANP finds itself in a serious predicament with regards to running its election campaign owing to the grave threats issued by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Just two days ago, nine people were killed at an ANP rally in Peshawar and the TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack. They even stated that they would continue to target the ANP leadership.

What is important to note here is that it is not the party’s voice that is being subdued, it is its people that are being silenced. From the Indian provincial elections of 1937 to the general elections of Pakistan in 2008, the people, whenever given the opportunity, have elected their own representatives who they deemed were in their best interest.

After 70 years of Dr Khan Sahib’s ministry in 2008, the verdict of history proved that the people’s voice cannot be quashed by coercion.

Furthermore, what is currently unfolding in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is nothing but disenfranchisement on ideological grounds enforced by militants. While many on both sides of the political divide have gone through great pains to portray the insurgency as an anti-imperialist, one is perplexed as to why the so-called anti-imperialists would bar the local population from choosing their own representatives by exterminating them?

Isn’t it an imperialist characteristic in itself to deny the people of their fundamental political rights?

Watan ya kafan is the most logical and pertinent catchphrase that emerges from the indomitable struggle of ANP against the horrors of suppression and militancy after all these years.

While it’s heartening on one level to see that the resistance is still alive in the hearts of the party’s workers, it is also discomforting to note that the party and its people, to borrow the words of Bacha Khan, have literally been ‘thrown to the wolves.’

Read more by Suleman here, or follow him on Twitter @SlmnAkhtar 

Suleman Akhtar

Suleman Akhtar

A mechanical engineer belonging to Gujrat.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • afza siddiqui

    sympathy votes if u r asking for ? well the story does not seem quite hunky dory if u are a karachiite. slogans should mean substance. and parties shoud get votes on the basis of their good will and policies rather than the number count of their victims .Recommend

  • Faraz Kakar

    Nonviolence, whether political, social or personal, is a battle, an unflagging engagement of the will against tyranny using the weapons of fearlessness, love and faith.

    As Khan told his Khudai Khidmatgars, ‘‘You have to be against all tyrants, whoever they may be; whether individuals or nations … you will oppose them’’ – even, we can assume, if the tyranny is found to be those turbulent forces of the soul which tyrannise from within the recesses of one’s own heart.

    Those who would take up this call step into the stream of an ancient tradition of fighters that included the Buddha and Jesus, continues through St. Francis, and is passed on today, among others, by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Badshah Khan.

    (The Good Fight by Timothy Flinders)Recommend

  • Faraz Kakar

    “Non-violence,” I asked, “how was it, how could it ever be your creed?” He looked up. “You see, I was a little saint for those four years. I made an effort, I tried to live up to my dreams instead of my desires. It was great, it was a miracle. I refused fortunes for a hope and spared lovely girls because they trusted me and looked up to me. You cannot help loving those that love you and you cannot hurt those that trust you. I tried to live up to what the people thought I was. Then the moment ended. I dropped down from the clouds into my own world of desire and envy and lust, and have wallowed in it ever since.

    Ghani Khan (1948), The PathansRecommend

  • Iqbal Hussain

    Despite all these hassles or embarrassment copped into the way of self identity in terms to set up a democratic the province, the people must be educated whoever comes to the office (parliament) & serve the nation with whole heartedly for the betterment of the masses instead to stuff his/ her pocket and leave the people on the mercy of others who wants to get in. Be loyal and sincere with the people instead to fool them as the pro and against both comes out from the people force, no outsourced.

    So raise a sense of identity and self determination so that people can choose a correct, honest and loyal leader to ameliorate the province. Get strong to the people not to the leader to keep the democracy live forever. talk to the people, listen to the people, feel for the people, think for the people, walk bare footed wit the people so that you can feel the pain who does not have a sandal in their foot. provide them basic amenities of lives, undertake the task on grass root level not by lip service but in practicality. very soon you will see that the territory will be flourished with well educated people, progress and prosperity will step in and people will pray for their leaders if they get the initial requirement of livelihood and other necessitates at their door step or in their hands.

    Power of the people should not go unattended?Recommend

  • Realist

    @afza siddiqui: Judging; what you call accountability without authority is just a blame. You forget that the last tenure was just a transition into democracy and not democracy since judiciary, foreign, interior and defense ministry are still run in only politicians name. The transition is likely continue till the military surrender to the will of the people. Every semester of the last government, there was a plot to undermine and malign the political forces. The entire media was and is still used to discredit democracy. Why do you expect performance when one is not even control of critical matters. Can Zardari ask the military to wind up the war? Could the parliament resist higher judiciary, forget asking them to clean their own institution.

    Will anybody invest in a country at war with itself for the past 11 years? Who has delivered in past 65 years? Why has the military failed in winning war against a few of it;s own created ruffians despite best resources and massive public support behind them?

    How has Higher judiciary delivered despite being under autocratic Chiefdom of Chaudry Iftikhar? Why single out politicians and parties alone?Recommend

  • http://NA Allah Warayo Behan

    The ANP is being targeted by Taliban but it still stands in field bravely because it is the party of Bachha Khan. If they have adopted the slogan of Shaheed Pir Sibgatullak Shah II that fits in present political scenario Recommend

  • Parvez

    The ANP just like the MQM will have to pay a price for sticking with the PPP for 5 years, possibly its a small price and then again it could be a big one.Recommend

  • Chaudhry Lamlaat

    Salaam to the ANP and its leaders.
    How can Imran Khan, Munawwar Hassan, Molana Fazal and Nawaz Sharif condemn the Taleban terrorists? Its a clear fact that if these leaders started criticising the terrorists they will be hit like the ANP. These leaders are silent only to gain political benefits but as a whole the country and its people are suffering.Recommend

  • idiosync

    What a ‘brave’ attempt on the part of the writer.

    tl;dr ‘Vote ANP, please please please’

    Just curious, how did you come up with the 700? Lives have been lost and it’s sad but the 700 people strong is nothing less than an exaggeration. Or are you including those who lost lives in Karachi?

    Also worth mentioning is the fact the ANP did rule for 5 years, both in the center and two provincial assemblies. Recommend

  • Anoop

    Bacha Khan merging his party with the party of the apostle of peace – Gandhi – is conveniently ignored to be mentioned.

    I wonder why!

    Poor Khidmatgars. They were haunted by Muslim League then(Their Government was dismissed by Jinnah using a provision he introduced and much more.. Much much more), their ideological followers are now haunted by Taliban now.


  • Burhan

    One and only bit sensible, wise and brave party.!!Recommend