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The story of a man of conviction

DR FARID A. MALIK In a typical leaguer's house there is a portrait of the Quaid in every room and a discussion on the importance of "Mazboot Markaz" (strong center). I grew up in one such environment.

Khan Qayyum Khan, a regular visitor, who was Qayyum Lone in Srinagar and Double Barrel Khan in Peshawar, never ever missed the opportunity to drive home the importance of Mazboot Markaz and anyone opposed to this concept was somehow considered anti-Pakistan.

Shaukat Hayat was not far behind. The "Red Shirts" or "Khudai Khidmatgars" never fared well amongst the leaguers. As a child I was always inquisitive about the other side. Despite all the negative talk, my father always admired the Karakuli (Jinnah) Caps of Khan Wali Khan and his steadfastness on principles. While most leaguers compromised for positions and prominence, or were disillusioned like my father, the Red Shirts- Sardar Shaukat Hayat Mehboob Qureshi; Sardar Zafarullah - held their ground. Compromise was unknown to them; they were certainly a different breed of politicians, perhaps they really were khidmatgars.

On my own initiative, I started to follow Wali Khan and his politics. In the 1970 free and fair elections, his party fared well in Sarhad and Baluchistan. It had the third largest standing in Pakistan after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's (ZAB) PPP and Qayyum Khan's League (PML-Q). Wali Khan and his ANP sided with Mujib's Awami League and openly opposed the military action in East Pakistan.

When ZAB boycotted the National Assembly session in Dacca, Wali Khan defied threats and went to attend the session. Pakistan was dismembered, the Armed Forces were humiliated. ZAB was asked to put the pieces of what remained of Pakistan together. He called it the New Pakistan.

Constitutional government was the first order of business. Martial law had to go. The Supreme Court (SC) under Hamood-ur-Rehman was moving against Martial Law in the Asma Jilani case. The house enacted the 1972 interim constitution and ZAB was sworn in as the President.

Under the civilian government, the 1973 permanent constitution was promulgated in which Wali Khan played a key role. His party, in coalition with JUI, formed provincial governments in Sarhad and Baluchistan while he became the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.

The 1970 house was glorious; each member played his role. The leader of the house was ZAB and Wali Khan sat on the other side. The debates were lively and democracy at its peak. It seemed that the rule of the establishment had finally come to an end.

The rise of democracy lasted till 1975. ZAB had total grip over the country; no politician could match him except the tall man from Charsadda. The battle grounds were drawn but confined to the floor of the assembly which used to meet in the old State Bank building, which is now the NADRA headquarter.

ZAB was at his best in diplomacy and foreign visits. He returned from a very successful trip abroad and was preening on the floor of the house; he even lashed out at the opposition and its leader for slowing him down. When Bhutto was done, Wali Khan responded: "Mr. Bhutto, you stop telling lies about me and I will stop telling the truth about you." There was a standing ovation- someone was able to match ZAB's wits.

The establishment decided to strike back. Suddenly the "Mazboot Markaz" debate started. Wali Khan stood his ground. His famous words were "We neither run nor compromise". The democratic forces started to rally around the leader of the opposition. Wali Khan came to address a gathering of intellectuals of Cheney's Lunch Home on Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam.

A delegation of students was also there. It was my first meeting with a "Khudai Khidmatgar" about whom I had heard from the Leaguers. He spoke his mind; I was impressed and decided to interview him for the magazine that I was editing. The word got out; we were summoned by the administration and admonished. The entire editorial staff decided to resign. There were intense negotiations, and finally an agreement was reached: we were to publish only his views on the Education Policy. On his next visit we interviewed him at his party leader's house on Upper Mall. His eye kept bothering him, but he was honest and graceful. Wali Khan was educated at Colonel Brown's School in Dehra Dun. After his Senior Cambridge, he joined the freedom movement headed by his father Khan Ghaffar Khan who was also called Sarhadi Gandhi.

The Red Shirts were closely linked with the Congress Party and were in the forefront while driving the colonial powers out. Wali Khan was imprisoned for his defiance and lost one of his eyes during his jail term. At the time of partition, the Red Shirts were in power in the frontier province and the League in the opposition.

Qayyum Khan led the famous referendum under which the frontier province voted to join Pakistan. After the creation of Pakistan, the federal government dismissed the provincial government despite a majority on the basis of the referendum results. This started a feud between Red Shirts and the federal government that has remained unresolved.

According to Wali Khan, the Sarhad was always a Muslim majority province with a sizeable tribal belt. The Pakhtun ran their own affairs with minimum interference; they had always stood for autonomy. Mazboot Markaz was not acceptable to them. Honesty and integrity has always been their hallmark. Being anti-colonial they were fiercely anti-establishment as well. Their politics is based on "Khidmat" not "Tijarat".

Unlike his father, Wali Khan lived in Pakistan and is now buried here. A true son of the soil who served it well with no aspiration towards personal gains or bounties, Wali Bagh is his permanent abode. He will be cherished as a Pakhtun leader of Pakistan who struggled for the rights of his people.

ZAB, under the influence of the establishment, dismissed the governments in Sarhad and Baluchistan. Army action was started against the defiant Baloch leaders. Democracy went for a six. Wali Khan and his party leaders were arrested. National Awami Party (NAP) that he headed was banned. Hyderabad conspiracy case was initiated. Despite failing health he kept his dignity. His able wife Nasim Wali Khan started the Awami National Party (ANP) and decided to take on the government. The struggle had to continue.

Wali Khan himself paid a tribute to the old Leaguers. Neo-Leaguers who joined the Muslim League after the 1940 Lahore Resolution and then 1958 Martial Law have derailed the country.

According to Khan Sahib, corruption was not an issue till 1958. We were opposed to Qayyum Khan, but never accused him of corruption and vice versa. The formation of NAP in East Pakistan was because of the Neo-Leaguers and their selfish politics. Wali Khan merged with NAP but later branched off as NAP (Wali Group) while the other was called NAP (Bashani Group) and was active in East Pakistan.

Neo-Leaguers are the real villains of the malaise that plagues us today. The old Leaguers took part in the freedom struggle and then tried to serve their new country. One by one they were either sidelined or cornered.

Pakistan was in their blood, they could not betray it. My father's close friend Mr. Mehboob Qureshi, who rose to be the Joint Secretary All India Muslim League, died a disillusioned and broken man. Sardar Shaukat Hayat, despite being cornered, played an important role in the election campaign of Madre-Millat that brought Ayub Khan down. According to Mehboob Sahib, the Quaid himself was unhappy with his party members and withdrew in disgust when he went to Ziarat.History will draw the line between "Khidmat" and "Tijarat"- those who served and those who plundered. Ghaffar Khan, Wali Khan and now Asfandyar Wali Khan; three generations of principled politics. Honesty and steadfastness even at the cost of personal sacrifice. As a young man, Wali Khan sacrificed his youth by spending time in jail where he lost his eye. In his middle age and then old age again he was persecuted for his righteousness.

The Muslim League remained while the players changed. The Nationalist parties perished but the Leaders survived to re-emerge and fight back. There has always been a "Power League" that has managed to cling to the powers that matter. Who has served the motherland?

Those who compromised and prospered, or those who stood up and suffered? Wali Khan could not be bought or intimidated, his was a long glorious innings. My father the Leaguer admired his "Karakuli Cap", as he too was fond of it because it represented purity and character- only he called it the "Jinnah Cap". Wali Khan was indeed one of the worthiest men to wear such a cap.

The writer is a former Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation