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Bacha Khan - His Will & His Way

J.K. Sufi
The Will of the late Abdul Ghafar Khan has direct bearing upon the
material, moral and intellectual legacy of our people, comments J.K.
Sufi, requesting all the involved parties to unearth what happened to
the money and property willed by Bacha Khan to the Pakhtoon Trust.

Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan, one of the leading figures of the


Indian Independence Movement, died more than twelve
years ago. Those who claim to be his real heirs and
successors observe his death anniversary every year. But
misgivings exist in the minds of Afghans and Pashtoons on
both sides of the Durand Line about his Will. There is an
urgent need to dispel these misgivings if one has to
determine Bacha Khan's place in history.
Like most other leaders and mortals he had some wishes
which he reportedly enshrined in his written Will. He also
expressed his wishes to his near and dear ones when he was
alive. The most befitting manner of celebrating his deeds
would be to abide by his Will and his expressed wishes
instead of playing politics with his legacy, which is already
part of Pashtoon history - enriching some, devastating others
and confusing the ordinary lot. This is the most appropriate
time to ponder over his Will because the present leadership
of the country has initiated a long overdue process of
accountability.
The current process of across the board accountability;
vertical as well as horizontal, initiated by the Chief Executive
General Pervez Musharraf has been widely welcomed. It is
heartening that those who have welcomed it include most
political leaders who have also offered themselves for
accountability. The Awami National Party has not lagged
behind and its leaders belonging to Bacha Khan's family
have disclosed some of their assets through the press. It is
another matter, that when one of their scions was nabbed on
corruption charges, they did a somersault and started
questioning the fairness of the process.
Accountability is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and an all-
embracing process in true democracies. If we are to build
the nation and serve the country, let it be the day of
reckoning for everyone in this land. We must not play politics
with this process; otherwise it would consume and consign
the nation to the dustbin of history.
Though legally not directly related to the Chief Executive's
current accountability agenda, the late Khan Abdul Ghafar
Khan's Will has direct bearing upon the material, moral and
intellectual legacy of our people - it is related to the
collective conscience. This matter will have far reaching
repercussions upon the culture and psyche of our people in
the future. It relates to the moral, intellectual and material
accountability of the so-called Pashtoon leaders and rights of
our people concerning their history and past.
It was Bacha Khan's allegedly unwritten (unconfirmed) wish
that he preferred to be buried in Jalalabad, and his family
respected this. His wish, where apparently no money, cash
and property were involved, was honoured promptly but the
fulfilment of his written Will involving cash and property has
not yet seen the light of day.
Great men always record their wishes in writing. It has
almost become a vogue in developed countries that long
before they die, even ordinary people record their Wills
through professional legal experts. They thus free their heirs
from worry about the disposal of their property, intellectual
as well material, after their death.
It particularly is essential for important people to record
everything for posterity - as did Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal
Nehru, Abdul Kalam Azad and Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali
Jinnah. Quaid e Azam recorded his Will in 1939 when
Pakistan was still a dream. There was no Pakistan Resolution
and the proposals of the Cabinet Mission Plan which he
accepted and the congress, including Bacha Khan, rejected
in 1946 had not been spelt out. In order to set the record
straight and confirm his love for the cause he professed, I
must quote the last two articles of Quaid's Will signifying his
charitable character and devotion to public service.
I direct executors to pay the following by way of gifts to
the Institutions mentioned:
I bequeath Rs 25,000 (twenty five thousands) to the
Anjuman e Islam, Bombay situated at Hornby
Road opposite Boribunder Station and next to the
Times of India Buildings.
I bequeath Rs 50,000 (fifty thousands) to the
University of Bombay.
I bequeath Rs 25,000 (twenty five thousands) to the
Arabic College Delhi.
Subject to the above, all the residuary estate including
the corpus that may fall after the lapse of life interests
or otherwise to be divided into three parts - and I
bequeath one part to Aligarh University, one part to
Islamia College Peshawar and one part to the Sindh
Madrassa of Karachi.
The proceeds from his property still continue to be deposited
in the bank account of Islamia College Peshawar, Quaid e
Azam College of Commerce, Jinnah College for Women - all
part of Peshawar University, Jinnah Koruna (residential
quarters for Islamia College Employees) and the newly
constructed teaching block named Takbeer in Islamia
College have been built with this money.
More than twelve million rupees have so far been granted
from his assets - earned through hard work and not as a
political leader or founder of Pakistan; nor did it involve any
special Award Money. His Will confirms that he really cared
for the welfare of Indian Muslims. Our people will remain
indebted to him for generations for his generosity.
On this score we should also salute Imran Khan who became
a celebrity by sheer accident of history in the world of sports
and used his position for the welfare of the people by
building Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital for the
treatment of Cancer. And people like Abdul Sattar Edhi, true
Khudai Khidmatgar's, are but born rarely in history. They
serve and demand no rewards nor do they leave any
material wealth for their progenies.
As far as we know, Bacha Khan also recorded his Will. He
had savings in Kabul at the National Bank of Afghanistan
(Bank e Milli Afghanistan) and the Bank of Afghanistan (Da
Afghanistan Bank) worth billions of Afghanis and he had
categorically written, as far as I know, and Ajmal Khattak and
Afrasiab Khattak can testify, that the said amount along with
the landed property in his name would go to the Pashtoons
after his death.
A former Afghan minister, Abdul Rashid Waziri, presently a
refugee in Pakistan, was one of the witnesses. He told this to
the Afghan Government time and again, in front of Ajmal
Khattak and myself. The two Khattak's can testify that when
the late Khan Abdul Ghani Khan, elder son of Bacha Khan,
visited Kabul in late 1988 during Najib's reign, he asked the
authorities to allow him to take out his share of money as
one of the heirs. President Najibullah replied that the
deceased had written a Will with his own hands, which was
lying with the banks and which stated the said amount
belonged to Pashtoons and not to his legal heirs.
According to one estimate, the amount came to billions of
Afghanis (worth Crores of Rupees) when Babrak Karmal was
in power. Bacha Khan used to ascertain the interest on his
savings off and on. Thrice this exercise took place in front of
Ajmal Khattak and myself and the former recorded it in his
personal diary, a daily routine with him. He can confirm the
exact amount from his diaries.
Bacha Khan distributed the land inherited from his father,
Bahram Khan, among his sons. However, he set aside 80
acres of land for the Pakhtoon Trust which he established in
his lifetime; its registration and charter still lie with Arbab
Abdul Ghafar Khan, son of the famous freedom fighter, the
late Arbab Abdul Ghafoor Khan.
This was announced in the press and can be confirmed
through the reports published in the newspapers then,
specifically the Daily Shahbaz of the late 70s. The land was
on lease and its proceeds which used to come to Grindlay's
Bank, by now must have reached a couple of millions rupees.
Our people have the right to ask about the said amount,
awards, property, owned by Bacha Khan. This included the
prize money from Jawaharlal Nehru Award for Peace and
International Understanding, the donations collected on
Bacha Khan's Birthday (probably his 70th) from all over
India. One hundred thousand Indian rupees for each year of
his life was collected on his birth anniversary. The full story
about this incident appeared in the famous Indian journal,
Blitz of Bombay, edited by A. R. Karanjia. Bacha Khan also
posthumously received the highest Indian civil award of
Bharat Ratna, which was received by Khan Abdul Wali Khan
on his behalf. This also included the landed property set
aside for the Pashtoon Trust.
The Pakhtoons still remember the membership oath taken by
every Khudai Khidmatgar while joining the movement. The
very first operative provision stated "I will sacrifice my
wealth, comfort and self in the service of my nation and for
the liberation of my country."
The oath says a lot in simple words. There is no need to
recount the names of the numerous Khudai Khidmatgar's
who sacrificed everything to keep their promise. Their
descendants were deprived of education and respectable
living. For example, Abdul Aziz Khan of Zaida in district
Swabi kept his oath by sacrificing everything. There were
numerous others like him. These sacrifices should not be
wasted.
There is no instance in the world of a recipient making an
Award money his personal property, to be inherited by his
heirs. The Pashtoons are not concerned about the property
that was distributed among Bacha Khan's legal heirs during
his lifetime. However, the matter of his will should not lie
dormant and shrouded in mystery because his legacy is
shared not just by his family but by many.
In order to clear the name of this great man who rendered
tremendous sacrifices for human beings and who remained
committed to his ideals till the last, someone has to embark
upon a trust mission. The Pashtoons must know the
whereabouts of his cash and landed property set aside for
his Pakhtoon Trust, including the land donated to the Khudai
Khidmatgar Markaz at Sardaryab by the Khan of Kuddu, the
late Mohammad Israr Khan.
The government of Pakistan which must have received
income/wealth tax on the said property, can also furnish the
details about its possession. The same request can be made
to the ANP leadership and especially to the family of Bacha
Khan to find out what happened to all the money and
property that he had willed to be used for the welfare of the
Pashtoons through his Pakhtoon trust. If there was no such
Will, that must also be disclosed. If the existence of his Will
is denied then the people have their right to form their
opinion about him accordingly.
It is the duty of every Pashtoon to exonerate the good name
and legacy of this unique man. Well meaning quarters
suspect with a degree of certainty that the money lying in
Afghan banks was been brought back by Bacha Khan's
family during the last days of Najibullah's rule. This was
testified by Hashim Paktyani - the assassinated cousin of the
assassinated former President of Afghanistan, Dr. Najibullah
in front of many people. If so, the people would like a
clarification and if the money is still in the banks of
Afghanistan, the Taleban authorities can be approached to
furnish the required information.
A befitting tribute to his memory would be the establishment
of a learning institute or a hospital with his money and
property, which he originally intended to do.
We are answerable to history and someone has to speak on
behalf of the collective conscience of our deceived and
deprived nation and its history, as well as on behalf of this
widely misunderstood leader. History will never forgive us if
we remain silent spectators in the face of such an important
matter relating to the independence, democratic and
liberation movement of the 20th century.
Now we have entered the 21st century and a new
millennium. In this age of cyber space, satellite
communication and TV, nobody can hide facts from the
general public for long. And fortunately, transparency is the
hallmark of the present government.
We hope this closed chapter in our history will be opened. I
have done my duty as otherwise my conscience would never
have forgiven me if I had remained silent. A titan like Bacha
Khan deserves to be cleansed of the doubts and confusions
surrounding his legacy.

The Article was Published in Dialog


The News on 18th June, 2000