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Leader and prison Dream - Ghani Khan

"A poet is a slave of his environment -- his example being that of an animal which does not have the protective covering of a skin. If you so much as touch him with the tip of a thorn, he yells himself to death; and when he gets a little relief, his happiness so overwhelms him that he loses consciousness." - Ghani Khan


Ghani Khan (1914-1996) was a Pashto poet. Known as the "mad philosopher" (a pen name he wrote under for a local newspaper), he wrote of freedom, enlightenment, love and a deep awareness of one's soil. He was outspoken about the rights of the Pashto people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Influenced by the political agitations of his father, Bacha Khan, and his association with Gandhi, he took part in the struggle against the British Colonial Raj. Later in his life he came to disagree with his father's "non-violent" approach, because he did not see it as beneficial to the Pathans. While he had renounced politics, he was imprisoned by the Pakistan state for almost a period of 7 years. It was during this time that he wrote, what he considers his most meaningful poetry - Da Panjrey Chaghar (“The Chirping of the Cage”).


I have selected this poet today, because his poetry and his life echoes a deep commitment to a religious philosophy that embodies kindness,compassion and love. He is claimed both by the Afghanis and the Pakistanis, and much of his writing is littered with references to Islamic scripture and lore.The poem, Leader, is an old favourite, because it says so much about the nature of fascist political leadership just by suggestion. The poem can be read in so many different ways, but for me, today it is an indictment of a fascist leader by a Pashto poet, who knew the reality of "detention camps", and the real meaning of persecution of identity.






PC: Images provided by Imtiaz Ahmad Sahibzada, a friend and admirer of Ghani khan/ 1. A photograph of Ghani khan (1979) 2. a painting of the Buddha by Ghani Khan (Ghani Khan spent a considerable amount of time studying painting and sculpture in Santiniketan. Indira Gandhi was his peer)



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