The feminist approach of Khan Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai countered the patriarchal conservative narratives among Pashtun Afghans.
“Feminism” was very rare amomg the masses of the sub-continent and neither organizations nor the government planned to implement it.
British colonialism had darkened the sky with “anti-humane” policies based on the exploitation and oppression of nations in the then-united India.
But at this time Khan Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, the Pashtun Afghan nationalist hero and founder of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, respected women and other genders equally and wanted the Pashtun patriarchal society to have gender equity in all walks of life.
A very patriarchal society was in place across Pashtunkhwa-- a product of the colonial, capitalist, conservative and extremist forces.
But Khan Shaheed began his autobiography with first a mention of his mother’s name and then his father’s name--giving a very clear message of feminism to his followers and those who would continue his legacy in the future.
Khan Shaheed was a Pashtun child from Inayatullah Karez Gulistan, and he once had visited Quetta with his parents for a medical operation for his sister. As he narrates, he loved the way the English nurses helped the people, even though these women were considered infidels by the society because of hostility towards British colonialism. Britons had oppressed the sub-continent and attacked Afghanistan in the three Anglo-Afghan Wars. Further, these missionary hospitals were actually maligning the religious beliefs of the Muslims and other believers in favor of Christianity.
But Khan Shaheed did not hesitate to meet the nurses, or to engage in a day-long observation of their aid to needy Pashtuns hospitalized due to illness. This attracted the child Khan Shaheed to go with them, ask them different questions. When you are alone in a society and you find a brilliant child like him enthusiastically and energetically observing every move of yours when you are an alien in the society, you cannot help but be attracted to him or her.
So, the nurses took him to their quarters and he had his lunch with them.
His parents were shocked when he went, because children from faraway areas can go missing in the unfamiliar buildings and the rush of the city. As they are naturally village-lovers and roam free, such lost children might not find their way back.
On his return his parents anxiously asked where had he been? He straightaway responded that he was with the nurses and he followed them because he had watched their work of helping the poor. They were following a noble job thousands of miles away from home. This made him have lunch with them.
Khan Shaheed’s parents got angry at him because the missionary nurses and doctors were not Muslim and their food was not “halal”-- the food for Muslims. So how could he have spent the whole day with them, eating their food, this “pig meat” with “wine”?
The brilliant Khan Shaheed tried to convince his parents that none of the great nurses had asked about his beliefs nor presented theirs. The food was simple, and eaten as if in his parents’ home, with neither forks nor wine.
This all shows young Khan Shaheed’s brilliance, logical and observational approaches toward new thinking and philosophy even at this very young age.
Then Khan Shaheed said that whenever he would come from the village or the then-Mumbai and Delhi for his fruit businesses and political activism, he would always visit the nurses and ask their well-being. This went on for a long time.
Owing to Khan Shaheed’s very liberal, secular, feminist approach the same nurses had testified to the British agents about his innocence and progressive mentality when once Khan Shaheed’s tribesmen had abducted the British military officials and one of their wives and brought them to Afghanistan. The testimony of the nurses cleared Khan Shaheed in the colonial court.
Not only this, but Khan Shaheed enrolled his daughter “Khor Bibi” at a very young age in a boys’ school in Gulistan. That was again shocking news for the religious and tribal-minded across the oppressed Pashtun nation that was invaded and separated from Afghanistan under Gandamak and Durand treaties imposed by the colonial regime.
As the school was a bit away from his home at Inayatullah Karez, Khan Shaheed procured a bicycle for her to go through villages and reach the school comfortably. This was a new chapter in the Southern Pashtunkhwa’s modern history to pave the way for girls’ education, women’s empowerment and gender equity in a very revolutionary way that is up till now still followed by Khan Shaheed’s followers. His political philosophy and legacy retains like-minded comrades to this day.
He did not stop there. On his political visit to Afghanistan he took Khor Bibi to official meetings to show his countrymen and women that there is a dire need for women and other genders in political activism and the nationalist progressive and anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist struggle.
Because without the equal share of all its masses, men cannot keep society from the dark era way of thinking--the extremist and conservative tribal mindsets—and move towards a society that would support the way of Zoroaster and Buddha’s humanist feelings again. They are preaching equity, love, prosperity and peace forever.
The comradeship of empowering women and all genders with equal rights is proven by the fellows of Khan Shaheed’s philosophy in the manifesto of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and its practical activism where the legacy-holders and party chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai tabled the equal rights for transgenders to serve in senate, parliament, provincial assemblies in all walks and in all policy-making bodies.
And Khan Shaheed’s comrade and legacy-holder is again and again teaching women and other genders empowerment by believing that to have an equal share, women must participate in the economy. This would surely enable them to become a greater voice for self-rights and would implement progressive nationalist scientific approaches to gain independence for themselves and for the society—freeing it from oppression, exploitation and modern slavery.
The party’s chairman with its massive Pashtun Afghan nationalist movement endorses and follow the forefather’s “feminist” legacy.
At this time party-member female parliamentarians are fully supported for playing their due role for an equal Pashtun Afghan society where all have their say in politics, economy, culture, history, education and religious gatherings across the country.
Malik Achakzai is a freelance journalist based in Quetta, Pakistan.