Ajmal Khattak

Ajmal Khattak

Infobox Politician (general)
name=Ajmal Khattak

title= President Awami National Party
predecessor= Wali Khan
predecessor2= Asfandyar Wali
birth_date= September 15 1925
birth_place=Akora Khattak, North-West Frontier Province
party= Awami National Party
residence= Akora Khattak, Nowshera, North-West Frontier Province
profession= poet
religion= Islam

Nar Khattak Ajmal Khattak ( _ps. اجمل خټک)( _ur. اجمل خٹک) (born September 15, 1925) is a Pakistani politician, writer and Pashtun poet and close friend of the late Khan Wali Khan.

Early life

Born in Akora Khattak on September 15, 1925, Ajmal Khattak as a child was greatly influenced by Bacha Khan. By the time he turned 17, he was already an active member of the Quit India Movement (1942). He was a student then at the Government High School, Peshawar, but he left to contribute more to the movement. It was the beginning of a political career that stretched over five decades during which his literary pursuits and education took several painful turns. However, he did return to his studies doing an MA in Persian from Peshawar University. At Islamia College, Peshawar, he was among the pioneers who put Pushto literature on the ‘modern’ track. Linking it to European literature, particularly English, he was able to give it new direction and was acclaimed as a progressive poet through the length and breadth of the subcontinent.

He has had a long career in both the Indian Independence Movement movement against the British in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of what was then British India as well as part of the National Awami Party(NAP) in its various incarnations in Pakistan. His early political career began during the Quit India movement after he came under the influence of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement. He was forced to leave the school due to his involvement in the Quit India Movement. As a writer he served as editor of various Newspapers and periodicals, including Anjam, Shahbaz, Adal and Rahber as well as script writer for Radio Pakistan.

Political career

He was elected as a member of NWFP Provincial Assembly and served as a Provincial minister in the cabinet of Mufti Mehmood's NAP - JUI government in 1972. After the resignation of the NWFP cabinet in protest at President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's dismissal of the Balochistan government led by Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Ajmal Khattak became the Secretary General of the National Awami Party.

He was the organizer and stage secretary at the United Democratic Front rally held at Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi on March 23, 1973, when shots were fired at the UDF leaders, including Khan Abdul Wali Khan. In the general melee that followed, a number of UDF and NAP workers were killed by the authorities in their attempt at ending the rally.


Since Ajmal Khattak was a prominent figure in the National Awami Party, he was wanted by the Federal Security Force as part of the general crackdown on NAP. In order to avoid arrest and possible torture, he fled into self imposed exile to Afghanistan and stayed there for 16 long years.

During his years in Kabul, Ajmal Khattak was a close confidant of Badshah Khan, and also enjoyed excellent relations with leaders of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, including President Nur Muhammad Taraki, Babrak Karmal and Dr. Mohammad Najibullah.

He ended his exile in 1989 after the Awami National Party(ANP), the successor of the NAP, entered into an electoral alliance with Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League- led Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI).

Return to Pakistan

In the general election of October 1990, Ajmal Khattak was elected from his home district of Nowshera to the National Assembly of Pakistan, defeating Tariq Khattak of the Pakistan Peoples Party. These elections also signalled the retirement of Khan Wali Khan after his electoral loss to Maulana Hassan Jan of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Ajmal Khattak was elected as the President of the Awami National Party when Khan Wali Khan stepped down from the post.

President of ANP

In the 1993 general elections, Ajmal Khattak lost his reelection bid in Nowshera to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate Major General Naseerullah Babar. As a leading critic of the PPP, it was important for the ANP - IJI alliance to have Ajmal Khattak in parliament, and he was therefore nominated to the Senate of Pakistan in March 1994. His two terms as President of the Awami National Party were noted primarily for the close alliance with former opponents, the Muslim League, after the alliance collapsed in January 1998 over the renaming of the province of NWFP to Pakthunkhwa and Khattak role in leading the Awami National party briefly into joining an alliance known as the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM). The decision to join PONM was made despite strong pressure from party critics who preferred the ANP to ally themselves with a Federal party like the Peoples Party. Eventually, Khattak succumbed to party pressure and the Awami National Party left PONM [( Qazi 2005),] joining the Grand Democratic Alliance which included the Pakistan Peoples Party.

The author of many books in Pashto he has written 13 books in Pushto and Urdu including a "History of Pushto Literature (in Urdu)" 'Pakistan Main Qaumi Jamhoori Tehrikin", "Da Ghirat Chagha", "Batoor", "Gul auo Perhar", "Guloona auo Takaloona", "Jalawatan ki Shairee", "Pukhtana Shora" and "Da Wakht Chagha".

He was ousted as Awami National Party President in 2000, after a protracted power struggle with Nasim Wali Khan, wife of Khan Abdul Wali Khan, triggered by accusations of his closeness to Pervez Musharraf and his criticism of corrupt politicians in a press conference. Deciding to leave the party he briefly led a splinter group called National Awami Party of Pakistan. His Party was routed in the 2002 general elections amidst the religo-political parties alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), sweep of NWFP. After the shock victory of the MMA, he rejoined the Awami National Party after efforts by Khan Wali Khan. He has now retired from active politics and lives in his village home in Akora Khattak.

With the passing of time, Ajmal Khattak gained the reputation of a revolutionary poet. He infused new spirit in the withering generation of the Pakhtoonkhwa with his poetry. ‘Da ghairat chegha’ (The cry of honour) created fear in the minds of the ruling juntas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The poem and verses like it became the cause of his imprisonment. Still the firebrand eloquence set a new revolutionary trend in Pushto literature. Budding poets liked to imitate his style. He grew to stand high as a beacon of hope for the oppressed.

Ajmal Khattak served as editor of, or worked for, various newspapers and periodicals including Anjam, Shahbaz, Bang-i-Haram, Adal and Rahber. For five years, he worked as a scriptwriter for Radio Pakistan, Peshawar.

His political philosophy 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 is 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 Pakhtoonwali 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 being put under house arrest. After the Liaquat Bagh (Rawalpindi) firing on March 23, 1973, he left for Afghanistan and stayed there in exile for over 16 years. Several National Awami Party (NAP) workers had fallen to the bullets fired by organised groups.

In Afghanistan, Sardar Daud honoured Ajmal Khattak as a state guest. He maintained cordial relations with various Afghan governments during the Soviet occupation. Most of the progressive and revolutionary elements were already his fans. In 1989, he ended his exile 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 a warm reception to 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 had been born with the restless soul of a poet. His first poem was published in 1944 in a magazine named Pakhtoon (founded by Bacha Khan) while his first poetry collection, Da Ghairat Chegha, came out in 1958. The collection was banned in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He once said, “Anyone who doesn’t have the habit of reading doesn’t have a soul … 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 the simplicity and genuineness of his unbridled emotions. In Pushto, Qalandar Momand, Ashraf Maftoon and Ghani Khan are three literary giants whose poetry cast a magic spell on me.”

Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzai maintains that Ajmal Khattak, the great living legend, is the second greatest poet in the Khattak tribe after Baba-i-Pakhto Khushal Khan Khattak. He has earned a distinct and unique standing in Pushto literary history and is one of the five greatest Pushto poets of all time — Khushal Khattak, Rahman Baba, Hamza Baba, Abdul Ghani Khan and Ajmal Khattak.

Ajmal Khattak was a member of the National Assembly from 1990 to 1993. He was also a senator representing the Awami National Party (1996-1999). On March 23, 2006, the Torlandi Pukhto Adabi Tolana, Swabi, conferred on Ajmal Khattak the title of Baba-i-Nazam at a big public mushaira. Ajmal Khattak attended that function. However, in November 2006, when the government informed him that he was in line for the lucrative award of Sitara-i-Imtiaz, he refused it with a polite note.

Popular books by Ajmal Khattak in Pushto include Da Ghairat Chegha, Batoor, Gul Parhar, Guloona Takaloona, Da Ze Pagal Wom?, Zhwand au Fan, Kachkol, Da Afghan Nang, Da Wakht Chegha, Da Zhwand Chegha and Qisa Zama Da Adabi Zhwand. His Urdu works include Jilawatan Ki Sha’iri.

Although he is now confined to bed, Ajmal Khattak still takes a keen interest in literature. Most of his time these days is occupied by the writing of his memoirs.

The cry of honour

As a song, I grew from the dust of KhushalBecame a burning torch over Indus n’ TataraHark; O Manure! I — the cry of honour — was raging fireThe more you covered me the more I rose into flames.When the tyrant slashed my tongue, it sharpenedThe more the sword sharpened the more it sparked off lustreNow the so-called bold should cut his earsMy song did not cool down but warmed up.



I look at heights, you tie my feathers,I measure the heaven, you tie my wing,I dream of spreading over the universeYou tie my fallen head in the well of disgraceI wish to see and enjoy the vast universeYou tie me hungry to the peg of the butcherExcitement for breaking the cage arises in meYou tie the door of my cage with raw threadO Healer! Go away; cure your wisdomYou dress my head for my painful heart!My falcon-courage flutters wings todayWho are you O Hunter to tie my wings!The universe can’t now play with my lifePashtuns have wakened and can’t be deceived.

ee also

*Ahmad Shah Abdali
*Bacha Khan
*National Awami Party
*Khan Wali Khan
*Kabir Stori
*Awami National Party
*Khudai Khidmatgar
*Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement


Further reading

* Qazi, Raza Rahman Khan ( September 2005) Abdul Rahim Mandokhel: Essentially Pakhtun. The NEWS on Sunday. Jang Group. Available online at [http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/sep2005-weekly/nos-25-09-2005/pol1.htm#7]
* From Khudai Khidmatgar to National Politician : An interview with Ajmal Khattak, The NEWS Islamabad, February 11, 1994.

External links

* [http://www.khyber.org/interviews/ajmalkhattak.shtml Interview with Ajmal Khattak]
* [http://www.khyberwatch.com/pakhto/ajmal/nang2.htm Books of Ajmal Khattak written in Pashto]

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