Pashtun scholar Khadim Hussain obfuscates Deobandi identity of ASWJ-TTP terrorists

 Editor’s note: In this article written by a learned Pashtun nationalist scholar, you will find specific mention of: the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement, British Empire, USSR, Khushhal Khan Khattak, Bacha Khan etc. The only vague and generic reference in the article is “religious militant organisations”. Consistent with the tradition of silence or obfuscation by certain Pashtun and Punjabi “liberals”, the author fails to specifically mention Deobandi terrorist outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ-LeJ, a front for TTP in urban areas), fails to mention the Deobandi and Salafi/Wahabi roots of hate ideology and terrorism imported in Pashtun areas in last 150-200 years, and amalgamates Deobandi, Wahabi religious terrorists with peaceful Sunni Barelvis and Shias.


Culture, as has been outlined by experts, represents identity, a worldview, indigenous wisdom incorporated in creative and visual arts, continuation of productive behaviors and community interactive relations of a particular group of people. Culture has been observed to be influenced by ecology, demography, historical evolution and economic relations.

Ethnicity, on the other hand, is “the identification of a group based on a perceived cultural distinctiveness that makes the group into a “people”. This distinctiveness is believed to be expressed in language, music, values, art, styles, literature, family life, religion, ritual, food, naming, public life, and material culture,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Another term that is interchangeably used in anthropological studies is ‘race’. Encyclopedia Britannica defines ‘race’ to be “the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioural differences. Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races, and scholars now argue that “races” are cultural interventions reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century”.

Keeping in view the above definitions, we can trace and debate the cultural distinctiveness of a particular community in terms of its salient features influenced by numerous factors related to discourse of politics and social evolution.

The militant network attempts to delink the Pakhtuns from their history and indigenous narrative and have tried to isolate Pakhtuns from the rest of the world.

The discourse of politics seems to be invariably linked to power, hegemony and marginalisation. Hence, all communities of people may be termed to be distinct and influenced by ‘others’ and at the same time no community of people can be termed as ‘pure’.

No culture, race and ethnicity can be preferred over others, except for the distinctiveness of ecology, demography/geography, and economy. A particular mode of social behaviours, economic relations, and political framework of power accepted as norm in a given time might be termed as civilisation. Hence, all cultures exist in and create and re-create civilisations in the course of human history.

The Pashtuns, like all other cultures and ethnicities, demonstrate essentials of distinctiveness as well as influences of politics, history, ecology, and economy. This distinctive nature of Pashtun cultural features has been termed Pashtuwali/Pakhtunwali by historians and anthropologists.

The Pakhtunwali sustained Gandhara civilisation influenced by Indus civilisation in the east and Persian civilisation in the west. Though the roots of Pashtun race can be traced to antiquity, proposition and formulation of Pashtuwali might be elaborated in three phases of its historical evolution.

The Roshanite movement by Bayazid Ansari (1525–1581/1585), linked Pakhtunwali to political aspirations and provided an epistemological base to it. The first ever Pashto text, Khair-ul-Bayan, in prose was penned down by Bayazid Ansari. The movement which started in the southern part of the Pakhtun belt gathered momentum and expanded to the central parts of Peshawar Valley and Swat Valley.

The Mughal Empire had by then consolidated. Historical evidence suggests that this movement was decimated by Mughal Empire through the use of military as well as manipulation of the cultural cum ascetic discourse of Bayazid Ansari. Scholars and sufis of the land were allegedly employed to discredit the discourse.

The second phase of Pakhtunwali started with scholar, poet, and chieftain, Khushal Khan Khattak (1613–1689). Khattak, being a genius, articulated socio-cultural and socio-political distinctiveness of Pakhtunwali in terms of political economy. His poetry, prose — Dastarnama being the most articulate treatise — and large-scale discussions and consultations with several Pashtu tribes were instrumental in converting tribal codes into a coherent cultural and national code of the Pashtuns/Pakhtuns.

He was able to develop propositions of collective Pakhtun politico-economic interests, dialectically in conflict with the Mughal Empire. He was able to elucidate on the contours of society, collective psychology, geography, and culture of the Pakhtuns. He was arrested by Aurangzeb Alamgir and imprisoned in Ranthbur.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, alias Bacha Khan, (February 6, 1890– January 20, 1988) initiated the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement in 1928 after expanding the scope of earlier collective effort under the banner of Tahreek-e-Islah-ul-Afaghina started in 1921.

The Khudai Khidmatgar Movement built on the earlier discourse of Khushal Khattak, linking the Pakhtun cultural distinctiveness with the indigenous wisdom and identity of Gandhara Civilisation, on the one hand, and connected it to modern civilisation, on the other.

The British Empire had, by then, carved Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the Pakhtun belt as a strategic space to keep Afghanistan under its thumb to repulse a probable onslaught, first by the Tsar of Russia and, later, by the United Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR).

Books by the colonial writers had started pouring in, depicting the Pakhtuns to be ‘uncivilised’, ‘noble savage’, ‘ungovernable’, ‘militant’ race. The Pathan, magnum opus by Sir Olaf Kirkpatrick Kruuse Caroe (1892–1981), is well known for such construction. Later, national and international works on Pakhtun’s society, culture, and anthropology have largely borrowed from Caroe for the depiction and construction of the Pakhtuns as an ethnic and cultural entity.

The Khudai Khidmatgar Movement constructed discourse of human dignity, pluralist democracy, and indigenous wisdom and identity as a foundation for its cause of socio-political, socio-cultural, and socio-economic transformation. The Khudai Khidmatgar Movement stood for Pakhtunwali to be a dynamic code that has incorporated almost every step of civilisational march of humanity in the last several decades.

The Khudai Khidmatgars asserted that poetry, art, literature, architecture, music, and dance have been inseparable parts of the code of Pakhtunwali that could be retraced over the last several centuries. They also pointed out that the dynamic aspect of the code is usually ignored when it is brought under discussion by the academics and media around the globe.

The Khudai Khidmatgar incorporated all the ingredients of a modern movement by working in social transformation through education, cultural revival, and promotion through advancing indigenous languages, literature and arts, and political empowerment through the non-violent struggle for independence and political reforms for the then North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Later, the movement struggled for inclusive federalism, indigenous inter-dependent economic paradigm and decentralisation of power and resources.

The Khudai Kidmatgars opened dozens of community-based independent schools across the length and breadth of the then NWFP. They gave space explicitly to vocational groups and women and celebrated diversity of nature, religions, lifestyles, and languages.

The Khudai Khidmatgars also introduced skills that promoted trade and commerce in the Pakhtun belt. They simultaneously struck at the roots of tribal ego and colonial representation of Pakhtunwali in the form of behavioural change and brining about awareness for hygienic living standards.

When we juxtapose Pakhtunwali with religious militancy in Pakistan and the Pashtun belt, we find the discourse of militancy completely disjointed in the fabric of Pakhtunwali. The discourse, strategy, and tactics of the religious militant network are anathema to Pakhtunwali and Khudai Khidmatgar Movement. As opposed to Pakhtunwali and Khudai Khidmatgar Movement, the extremist discourse is constituted to reject the discourse of human dignity, pluralism, and indigenous narrative linked with modern human civilisation by manipulating ethnic, religious, sectarian and nationalist emotions.

The militant discourse represents an aversion to knowing, research, and creativity. The militant discourse has always resulted in a mindset that rejects diversity, that despises innovation, and that results in the rejection of freedom of expression.

Hence, it should not come as a surprise that the religious militant organisations destroyed the heritage of the Pakhtuns (statues of Buddha, shrines, and remains), eliminated Pakhtun social elders, banished Pashtun poets and singers, killed Pakhtun artists, banned indigenous dance, forcibly terminated indigenous lifestyle and exterminated those who professed affiliation with Khudai Khidmatgar Movement.

The militant network attempts to delink the Pakhtuns from their history and indigenous narrative  and have tried to isolate Pakhtuns from the rest of the world.



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