Women and Nonviolence in Pakistan — a different story

Pretty interesting opinion piece in the NY Times today by William Dalrymple, author  of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 I was caught thrice, once by the mention of line of poetry with which Malalai of Maiwand rallied Pashtun forces against the British.  Though Dalrymple does say so it is surely a landay, women’s two line couplets which have survived for centuries in Pashtun Afghanistan, often re-mixed to suit contemporary events, many of which have recently been collected and translated for readers of English. See here for a review.

“My lover, if you are martyred in the Battle of Maiwand,
I will make a coffin for you from the tresses of my hair.”

Secondly, he makes much of the female tradition of leadership and power in Pashtun areas, from where Malala Yousafzai has recently become so well known.  And thirdly, by a mention of nonviolence in the Gandhian tradition.  People often dismiss such efforts because “non violence doesn’t work.” Of course it can been seen around the world how well violence is working for one and all.

The region also has a great tradition of peaceful resistance. In the 1930s, the North-West Frontier, under the Pashtun leader Badshah Khan, became an unlikely center of Gandhian nonviolence against the British Raj. A prominent group of activists called the Khudai Khidmatgars, or Servants of God, drew direct inspiration from Gandhi’s ideas of service, disciplined nonviolence and civil disobedience to defy the colonial authorities. They also championed education, in order to marginalize the influence of the conservative ulema — the religious scholars. As the leading modern writer on the movement, Mukulika Banerjee, has shown, the Khudai Khidmatgars have been virtually erased from the nationalist historiography of post-partition Pakistan.

NY Times: Dalrymple

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