Dr. Sher Zaman Taizi

History of Pakhtunkhwa without the mention of Akora Khattak will not be complete; and a note on Akora Khattak without the mention of Ajmal Khattak will not be complete. Literary achievements and political struggles have, certainly, made the name of Ajmal Khattak indelible and unforgettable, although he has earned more fame in politics also. Apart from being a veteran Pakhtun nationalist leader, he is a towering progressive poet, writer, critic, playwright, intellectual, journalist and researcher. He held up fast his conceptual trends of revolutionary accomplishment and modernist innovation.
I consider myself lucky to have been a student of Ajmal Khattak in the National High School at Pabbi for a few months. It was before the partition and Ajmal Khattak was in his early twenties - quite young, energetic and handsome with electrifying ideas and enthralling articulation. His method of teaching was inspirational – cordial and friendly. Students did not feel any hesitation to ask question or answer his questions. Students liked him because of his earnest and affectionate approach and affable method of teaching. It was a short time, but that memory bulged in my mind as carving on a maple tree with the passage of time, more so when Ajmal Khattak was acclaimed across the country as the revolutionary poet and then he was put behind the bars as he scared the government by his firebrand eloquence having set a new revolutionary trend in Pushto and inspired the budding poets to imitation of his style. He grew to stand high as a beacon of hope for the depressed people.
Ajmal Khattak infused new spirit in the withering generation of Pakhtunkhwa with his revolutionary poetry – Da Ghairat Chegha (The Slogan of Honour), which rightly created fear in the minds of the ruling juntas in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.                                                                                              
Born at Akora Khattak on September 15, 1925, Ajmal Khattak came under the influence of Bacha Khan as a child. At the age of 17, he became active during the Quit India Movement (1942). He was reading in Government High School Peshawar when he was forced to leave the School due to his active participation in that movement. It was the beginning of his political career that stretched over five decades during which his literary pursuits and education took several painful turns. However, he earned M.A. degree in Persian from the Peshawar University. In the Islamia College, Peshawar, he was one of the few prominent pioneers who put Pushto literature on ‘modern’ track – linking it direct to European literature, particularly English, and, thus, expanded its visa and accelerated its speed. He also played dynamic role in progressivism and was acclaimed as a progressive poet through the length and breadth of the sub-continent.
Ajmal Khattak served as editor of, or worked for, various newspapers and periodicals, including Anjam, Shahbaz, Bang-e-Haram, Adal & Rahber. For five years, he worked as script writer for Radio Pakistan Peshawar.
Political philosophy of Ajmal Khattak has been greatly influenced by Marxist ideology. In an interview, he described his concept of various ideologies as: “Khushal Khan Khattak is in my blood, Marxism in my mind while Islam in my heart.” About the language, his idea is clear and unambiguous; “Language is the great identity marker. Marxism and Leninism could not take away my Islam and Pakhtunwali from me. I have lived and will die with these virtues close to my heart and soul.”
His struggle for provincial autonomy led to his house arrest. After the Liaqat Bagh (Rawalpindi) firing on March 23, 1973, he left for Afghanistan and stayed there in exile for over 16 long years. Several innocent workers of NAP had fallen to the bullets fired from organized groups of the ruling party.
In Afghanistan Sardar Daud honoured Ajmal Khattak as a state guest. He maintained cordial relation with various Afghan governments during the Soviet occupation as - President Noor Mohammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin, Babrak Karmal and Doctor Najibullah. Most of the progressive and revolutionary elements were already his fans. He ended his exile in 1989 and returned to Pakistan. A large number of people turned out to line up on both sides of the road from Torkham to Akora Khattak to accord warm reception for him and Afrasiab Khattak.
Ajmal Khattak realises that ‘being a man of letters, his involvement in active politics was an aberration. He could have better served his people through his poetic talent.’ He was born a poet with restless soul. His first poem was published in a magazine named Pakhtoon in 1944 while the first collection of his poetry came out in 1958 under the title of Da Ghairat Chegha (The cry of honour). Pakhtoon was founded by Bacha Khan. Da Ghairat Chegha was banned in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. I was an Assistant in Pakistan Embassy in Kabul (1967-1974), when Mohammad Gulab Ningrahari, a Director of the department of tribal affairs, told me that Ghulam Hassan Safi, then Afghan Consul at Peshawar, was excited to see the book and sent more than 700 copies to Kabul. Many copies were taken away by people before the department received an order from the royal palace to ban its circulation. They could not recollect the copies already taken away but stuffed others in gunny bags and put in the store. In 1965, when Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan was formed, its members made good use of the few copies of this book in their hand for inciting their workers. That party used three books in particular for promotion of their revolutionary cause; the other two were Da Bang Musafari, a novel written by the founder president of the party Noor Mohammad Taraki, and another novel titled Amanat.
Ajmal Khattak has remained active member of the Progressive Writers' Movement. According to him, it was not a violent withdrawal from the healthy traditions of the past but it was actually meant to give a new dimension to literary trends. He strongly believes in objectivism and wants that poets and writers should pick up social issues and problems of poor masses and reform them through their writings.
In an interview, he said; “Anyone who doesn't have the habit of reading is out of soul of the society… I have read scores of books on a variety of subjects in Persian, Arabic, Hindi, German, Russian, English and Urdu. Faiz was no doubt a great progressive poet but Sahir Ludhianvi's poetry always impressed me due to its simplicity and genuineness of his unbridled emotions. In Pashto, Qalandar Momand, Ashraf Maftoon and Ghani Khan are three literary giants whose poetry cast magic spell on me.” 
Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzai maintains that this great living legend, Ajmal Khattak, is the second greatest poet in Khattak tribe after Khushal Khan Khattak (Baba-e-Pakhto - the father of Pakhto) and has earned a distinct and unique literary standing among the five greatest Pashto poets of all times namely Khushal Baba, Rahman Baba, Hamza Baba, Abdul Ghani Khan and Ajmal Khattak of thousands years old Pakhto literary history.
Ajmal Khattak remained Member of National Assembly (9th term) from constituency NA-4 (Nowshera; 3-11-1990 to 18-7-1993); and senator from Awami National Party (March 1996-12 October 1999). On 12 October 1999, when General Pervez Musharraf toppled the government of Nawaz Sharif and assumed office as Chief Administrator, the democratic institutes ceased their functions. National Assembly and Senate were closed. Ajmal Khattak was then a member of the Senate.
On 23rd March 2006, Torlandi Pukhto Adabi Tolana, Swabi, conferred on Ajmal Khattak the title of Baba-e-Ghazal at a big public mushaira, which continued almost for the whole night. Ajmal Khattak attended that function. However, in November 2006, when the government informed him that he was considered for the lucrative award of Sitara-e-Imtiaz, he refused it with a polite note.
Ajmal Khattak hopes that Pakhtuns can maintain their cultural and ideological identity in the so-called global village. He rejects the notion of the clash of civilizations and says that material resources in society can bring about real change in the lives of the poor people.
Popular books of Ajmal Khattak in Pushto are Da Ghirat Chagha (The cry of Honour), Batoor (A species of falcon), Gul Parhar, Guloona Takaloona, Da Ze Pagal wom? (Was I mad?), Zhwand au Fan, Kachkol, Da Afghan Nang and Da Wakht Chagha. The latest additions are Da Zhwand Chegha (poetry) and Qisa zama da adabi zhwand (The tale of my literary life: a part of autobiography.) His Urdu works include Jilawatan Ki Sha’iry (The Poetry of a deportee).
Although confined to bed for quite long time, Ajmal Khattak still takes keen interest in literary pursuits and tries to compile his memoirs in various fields – at present working on Qisa zama da adabi zhwand (second volume) and Qisa zama da siasi zhwand (The tale of my political life).
Most people know Ajmal Khattak either as a poet or as a political leader or both, but only a few may know about the smouldering ideas in his mind and yearning wish in his heart. I am trying to translate Da Ghairat Chegha into English. Herein I place a sample or two.

Da Ghairat Chegha

As a song, I grew from the dust of Khushal
Became a burning torch over Indus n Tatara
Hark; O Manure! I – the cry of honour - was raging fire
The more you covered me the more I rose into flames.
د غېرت چغه
د خوشحال له خاؤرې پورته يو نغمه شوم
بل مشال په اباسين او تاتره شوم
سرې! يوهـ شوې؟ ٫٫د غېرت چغه،، سور اور ؤم
چې تا څومره رانغړلم سره لمبه شوم

When the tyrant slashed my tongue, it sharpened
The more the sword sharpened the more it sparked off lustre
Now the so called bold should cut his ears
My song did not cool down but warmed up
کۀ ظالم مې ژبه غوڅه کړه تېره شوه
توره څومره چې تېره شوه لا خوږه شوه
اوس کۀ نر وي نو غوږونه دې خپل پرې کړي
چې زما نغمه سره نۀ شوله، سره شوه

I look at heights, you tie my feathers,
I measure the heaven, you tie my wing,

I dream of spreading over the universe
You tie my fallen head in the well of disgrace

I wish to see and enjoy the vast universe
You tie me hungry to the peg of the butcher

Excitement for breaking the cage arises in me
You tie the door of my cage with raw thread
O Healer! Go away; cure your wisdom
You dress my head for my painful heart!

My falcon-courage flutters wings today
Who are you O hunter to tie my wings!

The universe can’t now play with my life
Pashtuns have wakened and can’t be deceived.
زۀ د فضا وسعت ته ګورم، تۀ مې پر تړې
زۀ اسمانونه کچ کؤم، تۀ مې وزر تړې
زۀ په دنيا د خورېدو نوي خوبونه وينم
تۀ مې کوهي د ذلالت کښې زوړند سر تړې
ويمَ چې دې ارت پېرت جهان کښې مې سېلونه ؤکړے
تۀ په موږي مې د قصاب اوږے نهر تړې
ما کښې وېښېږي د پنجرو د ماتوو ولولې
تۀ په اومړي تار زما د پنجرې ور تړې
طبيبه! لرې شه د خپل عقل علاج دې ؤکړه
زما زړۀ خوږ دے تۀ پټۍ راله په سر تړې
زما جرآت د شهبازۍ نن وزونه تلي
ښکاري تۀ څوک ئ چې او ما له بال و پر تړې
نوره زما په سر دنيا لوبې کؤلے نۀ شي
پښتون وېښ شوے دے هيڅوک دوکه کؤلے نۀ شي

Dawn (Books and Authors), daily, Karachi; 7 January 2005.

[1] A renowned writer of Pushto, known best for his five novels and research papers on Pushto language beside his output in other fields such as poetry, drama, short stories; a research scholar, particularly in Afghan affairs, having done his Ph. D. from Area Study Centre, Peshawar University.


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