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Another Attack On Pakistan's Dead Poets

Pashto poet and author Ajmal Khattak passed away in February 2010, but his ideas were still threatening to the Taliban.
Pashto poet and author Ajmal Khattak passed away in February 2010, but his ideas were still threatening to the Taliban.
Islamist militants blew up the mausoleum of poet, writer, and nationalist political leader Ajmal Khattak in northern Pakistan on May 9 in yet another attack on an iconic cultural figure.

The mausoleum is located on the main Grand Trunk Road connecting Pakistan's northern city of Peshawar with the central capital of Islamabad. Khattak's son Aimal Khan said the explosives damaged the construction but that no one was killed or injured.

News of the bomb attack on Ajmal Khattak's mausoleum spread like wildfire, and a wave of condemnation started pouring in on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

"Sorry Ajmal Khattak. You had dreamed and struggled for a peaceful and nonviolent Pakistan, but here dead bodies are attacked in their graves," one young man, Riaz Turi, said on his Twitter account.

Tauseef Khan, another admirer of Ajmal Khattak, posted the following message on his Facebook wall: "Terrorists, the forces of darkness, have blown up the grave of Ajmal Khattak, former ANP president, veteran politician, statesman, and poet."

Journalist and commentator Ziaur Rahman, in a Twitter message posted soon after the explosion, said the militants want to create a rift among Pashtuns and that is the motive behind the attack on Ajmal Khattak's grave.

Born on September 15, 1925, Ajmal Khattak's life is an embodiment of an untiring struggle for the independence of his land (from the Biriths Raj), the restoration of true democracy and political rights in Pakistan, and a revolt against the class system in society.

Khattak joined the Khudai Khidmatgar movement of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan as a young activist and retired from active politics at the age of 80. During his political career, Ajmal Khattak witnessed many ups and downs including life in prison, attacks by the authorities, and 16 long years of (self) exile in Afghanistan.

Since Ajmal Khattak served as member of Pakistan's National Assembly as well as president of the nationalist Awami National Party (ANP), many in Pakistan disagree with his political views. But almost everyone is appreciative when it comes to his moral character. "At times when people joins politics to become wealthy within days, Ajmal Khattak staged his exit from the political arena with the same empty hands as he had entered five decades before," journalist Tauseef-ur-Rahman said in Peshawar.

Ajmal Khattak wrote several books of poetry and most of his poems are a revolt against the oppressive system where the poor drift into poverty while the rich get richer. He raised his voice against the various social injustices and political deprivation. He was a strong voice against the bigotry of some religious leaders who, in his view, were misleading the illiterate Pashtuns in the name of religion.

In one of his famous poems, titled "Paradise," Khattak explains the meaning of paradise in the eyes of people coming from different classes of the society:

I asked a mullah, what is your idea of Paradise?
He moved his hands over his belly and said, "fresh fruit and rivers of milk"

Near the mullah was sitting a talib [religious student] with his book.
I asked for his views about Paradise.
He closed his book, and said, "beautiful huris [women] with their make-up"

A sheikh [nobleman] was standing nearby with rosaries in his hand and stroking his beard.
He suddenly interrupted and said, "no, it is not so.
[Paradise is the name of] beautiful servant boys"

A khan [landowner] raised his head from a lengthy sajda [bowing before God]
I asked him what is your view, Uncle Khan?
"Luxurious mansions made of gold and silver and fully perfumed"

A laborer was standing beside me and I asked his view
He wiped the sweat from his forehead and said, "it is enough food and full sleep"

An apparently crazy man was passing nearby and I asked him [about Paradise]
He stroked his fingers in his disheveled hair and said, "It is nothing but dreams of happiness for mankind"

It is because of his these views that his mausoleum was targeted by the militants who have killed singers, dancers, artists, and even religious scholars who opposed their definition of religion. The mausoleum of Sufi poet Rehman Baba was bombed under the pretext that visiting his mausoleum is against the spirit of Islam.

The destruction of Rehman Baba's mausoleum was widely condemned and the incident drew thousands of people from all parts and all walks of Pakistan to visit the site and express solidarity with the people of Peshawar.

The recent terrorist attack may spread awe and fear among people for some time. But in the long run, it will prove counterproductive, as each such attack pushes ordinary people away from the Taliban. This can be seen in the widespread condemnation of the bombings of the mausoleums of Sufi poets Rehman Baba in Peshawar (2009) and Hamza Khan Shinwari in Ladi Kotal (2011).

In his book "Da Ghairat Chagha," Ajmal put it like this:

My tongue further sharpened even if the oppressor cut it
Like a flute which gets sweeter with sharpening,

Now [the oppressor] should cut his ears,
My voice became louder instead of going down.

-- Daud Khattak