I was amazed by the knowledge of the senator and the great popularity and respect of the great Pushtun leader Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (The Frontier Gandhi) when Senator Harris Llewellyn Wofford, in an Atlas Corps gathering in Washington D.C asked me, “Do you know about ‘The Frontier Gandhi’. I replied, Yes Senator, I know this great Pushtun leader, I am his descendent and his follower. I noticed that the senator wanted to talk more about Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan but he was engulfed by other Atlas Corps Fellows for handshakes and introductions and I had to step back.
The Frontier Gandhi was an independence activist, a Pushtun National Hero and a political and spiritual leader known for his nonviolent opposition to the British Rule in the Subcontinent, and a lifelong pacifist and devout Muslim. As a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Bacha Khan has been nicknamed the “Frontier Gandhi” by the Indians.
He led his non-violent Khudai Khidmatgar movement against the British Raj in the 1930s and 1940s. As a consequence of his opposition to the partition of India he was considered a traitor or seccionist for much of his life after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Post partition he fought for state/provincial rights as well as the eventual unification of Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand line. He and his followers suffered some of the most severe repression of the Indian independence movement.
He used to say, ‘My religion is truth, love and service to God and humanity. Every religion that has come into the world has brought the message of love and brotherhood. Those who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellowmen, whose hearts are empty of love, they do not know the meaning of religion.’ He wished to rescue his gentle, brave, patriotic people from the tyranny of the foreigners who have disgraced and dishonored them and wanted to create for them a world of freedom, where they can live in peace.
Bacha Khan received great international awards. In 1962, he was named the Amnesty International ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ of the Year and in 1987, he became the first non-Indian to be awarded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award.