By Yasser Latif Hamdani
“If political consciousness is awakened amongst our women, remember, your children will not have much to worry about.” Founding Father of Pakistan, Mr. Mahomed Ali Jinnah, Lahore, March 22, 1940
The title? No I don’t post such things out of spite or because I am a horribly mean and terrible person. I might be all those things but I am posting this question because I am sick of the hypocrisy shown by Pushtun Nationalists, who try and monopolize the terms “secular” and “progressive” for their narrow tribal agena.
Bear with me as I come to the main course. But first Bacha Khan – the Wikipedia entry makes this mention of his wives:
He married his first wife Meharqanda in 1912; she was a daughter of Yar Mohammad Khan of the Kinankhel clan of the Mohammadzai tribe of Razzar, a village adjacent to Utmanzai. They had a son in 1913, Abdul Ghani Khan, who would become a noted artist and poet. Subsequently, they had another son, Abdul Wali Khan (17 January 1917-), and daughter, Sardaro. Meharqanda died during the 1918 influenza epidemic. In 1920, Abdul Ghaffar Khan remarried; his new wife, Nambata, was a cousin of his first wife and the daughter of Sultan Mohammad Khan of Razzar. She bore him a daughter, Mehar Taj (25 May 1921- ), and a son, Abdul Ali Khan (20 August 1922-19 February 1997). Tragically, in 1926 Nambata died early as well from a fall down the stairs of the apartment they were staying at in Jerusalem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khan_Abdul_Ghaffar_Khan
Now surely there must be a picture or two of the great Bacha Khan’s wife in public sphere since it has now become fashionable to claim that he worked for women’s empowerment. Can someone please upload it? It is of urgent importance. The most chilling argument I got in response was that Bacha Khan’s wives stayed in seclusion out of their free will. After this there was a barrage of abuse and attacks on me for being racist against Pushtuns.
And it is not like you can say that the culture then was different. After all Mahomed Ali Jinnah – who is lampooned by these self styled Bacha Khan supporters and Pushtun Nationalists as being retrogressve- said famously : “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.” (Jinnah – Lahore 1944).
Now you might be wondering the reason for this sudden diatribe against Bacha Khan, not that I need to give one. This morning as I was minding my own business on facebook, a Pushtun Nationalist friend, for my benefit, uploaded Muslim League group picture, which had in it standing an elderly lady – the wife of Maulana Muhammad Ali of the Ali Brothers- in a Burqah- insinuating that this was official league policy. When I asked him if he was actually serious by insinuating that this was the norm (Muslim League under Jinnah actually brought Muslim women out of seclusion and most Muslim women leaders of note were exceptionally liberal and progressive women out of Purdah. Jinnah realized how fundamental women’s participation was to electoral success ), he responded first by saying “jinnah tolerated Purdah, am confused , those who extract their politics from Jinnah’s political views and stunts- what is this?” In other words Jinnah was supposed to tell the elderly lady to throw off her Burqah to qualify.
Forget that all Jinnah women were always out of Purdah and self consciously modern including Ruttie, Fatima and Dina… and forget that Jinnah had played an important role in the uplift of Muslim women – a role that no other leader in subcontinent’s Muslims had played in 1000 years. Here are some of the pictures of Jinnah with his family: http://pakistaniat.com/2009/03/21/ruttie-pettit-jinnah/
So where are Bacha Khan’s wives? I mean we have Jinnah the retrogressive exhorting his people to take women as comrades, to give equal rights, to liberate them from seclusion and purdah, to make them political conscious… we have Jinnah with the Muslim women national guard, talking to women as equals, having lunch surrounded in women, taking his sister side by side him even in the most conservative areas of Muslim India, where is secular and progressive Bacha Khan’s wife? Sister? Daughter?
And if this is not the case, why lampoon the one man who did champion these causes. Jinnah was part of the suffragette movement when Bacha Khan’s mentor Gandhi was denouncing it a “Ravanna Raj” or the “rule of Satan”. Jinnah followed in his political life Annie Besant and his closest colleague in his early days was Sarojini Naidu. His wife – Ruttie Jinnah – was a staunch nationalist. His sister may well have been the first woman president in the world had the military dictatorship not rigged the 1965 elections. This was Jinnah. So who is Bacha Khan’s wife? Who is Bacha Khan’s sister? Who is Bacha Khan’s daughter?
(Update: After first claiming what he did, my Pushtun Nationalist friend has suddenly transformed into an honor-obsessed Pushtun who has ruled out “exhibition” of wives as standard for liberalism. Ironically all I had asked for a simple picture of Bacha Khan’s wife not the picture of his wife in a mini-skirt.)