Dr Saleem Afridi, Anchor Person of the First Bacha Khan Peace Conference kicking off the 1st session of the conference in New York while (L) DR Rafeeq Jan, Abdul Wahid Mashwani , Dr Raj Wali Shah Khattak, Mr Raj Mohan Gandhi , chief Guest , Abdul Rab Khan President ANP USA, and Taj Akbar President Khyber Society USA sitting on the stage on Saturday April 12th in New York USA.
NEW YORK: First Bacha Khan Peace Conference concluded in New York late on Saturday night (April 12) with a call for resolution of all conflicts through peaceful means and bringing hope to the disadvantaged sections of the society by following in the political philosophy of one of South Asia's greatest Muslim leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan also known as Bacha Khan.
The day-long conference was addressed among others by Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan, ANP Pukhtunkhwa President Afrasiab Khattak, noted scholar and Associate Professor at Pakistan Study Center, University of Peshawar Dr Fazle Raheem Marwat, Noted scholar and poet Dr Raj Wali Shah Khattak, noted Afghan scholar and journalist Abdul Wahid Mashwani, Dr Munir Khan and Dr Saleem Afridi of of Bacha Khan Education Foundation addressed the conference which was spread over two sessions. Respected Indian scholar, historian and biographer and the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Rajmohan Gandhi, addressed the conference as the keynote speaker.
The conference also adopted three resolutions which called for changing the name of NWFP to Pukhtoonkhwa, making compulsory Pashto as the medium of instructions till 8th grade in schools in Pukhtoonkhwa and introduction of Pashto as optional subject all over Pakistan till 12th grade for greater understanding and harmony amongst different communities of Pakistan. The conference, spread over two sessions, was presided over by Abdur Rab Khan, President ANP USA, and Dr Rafiq Jan, Chairman Board of Trustees, Khyber Society. A large people from cross sections of life from the Pakistani community, Afghan community and a few members of the Indian community, some of whom had traveled from Florida, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and other far off places attended in hundreds. A few members of Washington based think-tanks and academics also attended the conference.
The conference opened with the recitation from the Holy Quran and a Dua for Jawed Khan Lala, the former President of ANP USA, who died of lung cancer early this year.
In his speech, ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan paid glowing tributes to his grandfather and founder of Khudai Khidmatgar movement Bacha Khan. He commended also highlighted the challenges confronting today's Pakistan.
Asfandyar Khan said Baacha Khan is an international figure, who can stand shoulder to shoulder with any peace-maker of the 20th century such as Martin Luther King Junior, Gandhiji, and Nelson Mandela. In fact, Baacha Khan is the only political leader of the 20th century who spent most of his life in prisons. "His undeterred determination to mobilize the Pukhtuns for a peaceful social and political change is our real historical asset that remains even more relevant today. Baacha Khan's message of peace and non-violence could be a recipe for conflict resolution among communities, nations and countries of the world," said the ANP President.
Referring to the challenges confronting Pakistan's new government, Asfandyar Khan said talks were the only solution to the violence and extremism in the region. He however, ruled out any direct talks with terrorists.
Asfandyar Wali Khan, however, said his government in Pukhtoonkhwa and his party had decided to hold dialogue with the tribal leaders as he believed that only this could bring lasting peace in the region.
Asfandyar Khan said use of force should be the last option. First option should be to sit across a table and talk to the person – convince him or be convinced, he said. Therefore, we as the political entity or the government have decided that we will go in for a dialogue. "But we want to make it clear that under no circumstances, we are going in for a dialogue with the militants. We would go in for a dialogue with the tribal leaders," Khan asserted.
He noted that the violence has come down in the last 15-20 days, and hoped to bring it down further.
Dwelling on the legacy of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, he said non-violence and teachings of the Frontier Gandhi is still relevant today. He said Pukhtoons are not terrorists or extremists as being portrayed all over the world. "They are moderate and democrat," he said.
"I beg the international community on behalf of all the children of Pakhtoons. For God sake, do not give my son a gun in his hand; give him a book to study. Do not give my son any bullets, give him a pen to write and do not give my child a suicide bombers jacket; give him the uniform of a school so that he can go and study there. That is the legacy, which we stand for," he said. "That is the legacy for which we stand for. That is the only legacy which can save the world," he said: "Until and unless, both Pakistan and Afghanistan decide to go ahead with the peace jirga or implement the joint declaration that came out with the peace jirga we do not have a way out." Central President of Awami National Party (ANP), Asfandyar Wali Khan urged the expatriate Pakhtoon community to help eradicate illiteracy in the region.
In his speech, ANP provincial President Afrasiab Khattak paid tributes to Bacha Khan and Khan Abdul Wali Khan. He discussed at length the political philosophy of Khan Abdul Wali Khan which was based on nonviolent political and democratic struggle for the rights of the oppressed communities. He said Wali Khan remained the leader of the opposition and was amongst the architects of the 1973 Constitution. He said the February general elections in Pakistan had proved once again that Pukhtoons are neither extremists nor terrorists. Rather they are moderate democrats who have been subject of oppression over different periods of time. Like Asfandyar, Afrasiab also reiterated ANP's belief that violence in tribal areas could be ended by initiating dialogue with the tribal chieftains and introducing broad based reforms and creating more job opportunities for the people.
Dr Fazle Raheem Marwat in his speech highlighted historic developments that added to the backwardness of Pukhtoons. He also critically analyzed the Pakistan governments policies in the past that had also added to the miseries of Pukhtoons, especially the people of tribal areas. He said Pukhtoons were not terrorists and spilling of innocents' blood was against the Pukhtoon tradition.
He said the philosophy of nonviolence preached and practiced by Bacha Khan was the only hope for a peaceful settlement of problems in that part of the world. He called upon the international community to first have a better understanding of Pukhtoons history and culture before reaching at any judgment.
Addressing the conference,
Dr. Raj Wali Shah Khattak, a Pashto scholar and poet, said that Pakhtoon blood was being spilled in others wars. He called for the appointment of a neutral commission to study the causes of extremism and to identify those backing and funding it. Dr Khattak traced the history of Pukhtoons to prove that their traditions and their culture had little room for acts of extreme violence.
In his keynote address, Rajmohan Gandhi, who came along with his wife Usha Gandhi and daughter, paid glowing tributes to Bacha Khan and called him an astute statesman, a shrewd politician, a hardcore nationalist and an honest and dedicated true Muslim. "Bacha Khan derived his philosophy of nonviolence from the Holy Quran's repeated message of Sabr," said Gandhi. "He was the most natural and authentic Muslim you could think of."
He recalled his speech a day earlier, delivered at an opera house in New York where 4,000 people were in attendance and where Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and other international celebrities were being remembered and honored. "I told the audience that while I am thankful for honoring Mahatma Gandhi and Dr King, but I think the organizers have done a huge omission. They forgot to celebrate Bacha Khan who truly deserved to be in the list," said Rajmohan Gandhi.
He said both Bacha Khan and Mahatma Gandhi were against oppression and injustice. He said the Khudai Khidmatgars of Bacha Khan had left deep imprints on the political history of the world. He said the struggle for dignity of humanity would be incomplete without Bacha Khan's nonviolent struggle.
Rajmohan Gandhi said there was greater need than ever before for following the philosophy of nonviolence. He said solution today's all problems should be found in nonviolent peaceful ways.
Later answering media men’s questions about resolving Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, Rajmohan Gandhi said it should be resolved through nonviolent peaceful means. He said Kashmiris had suffered at the hands of Indian security forces as well the militants. He hoped that both Pakistan and India will try to resolve their differences over Kashmir through peaceful means.
In his speech, noted Afghan journalist and scholar Abdul Wahid Mashwani recalled his association with the Bacha Khan. He says Pukhtoons are strong hard working and honest people. Their society is controlled by their traditional Jirga system. He said Bacha Khan tried to organize Pukhtoon society on democratic lines, educate them and politically empower them. He said Bacha Khan's philosophy was relevant to all societies all over the world.
Dr Munir Khan, a Florida-based physician who is associated with Bacha Khan Education Foundation, gave a detailed power point briefing about Bacha Khan Education Foundation's efforts to universalize education in Pukhtoonkhwa where the rate of literacy was dismally low. He urged the participants to generously donate for Bacha Khan Education Foundation so as to open news schools and a university in Pukhtoonkhwa.
The conference was also addressed by the office bearers of PPP, USA, PML (N) USA, Pakistan USA Freedom Forum and leaders of several other Pakistani and Afghan community organizations addressed the conference. They paid glowing tributes to Bacha Khan and called upon the people around the world to follow in the foot steps of Bacha Khan for a peaceful and a more secure world.
Legendary Pukhtoon singers Khayal Mohammad and Mahjabeen Qazilbash enthralled the audience with their beautiful songs. The program ended at 2.30AM in the morning.