Qalandar Mohmand - 09-06-2010, 02:30 AM
Born as Sahibzada Habib-ur-Rehman and known as Qalandar Momand, this genius Pashtun writer, poet, critic, linguist, research scholar, play-writer, journalist, lexicographer, academician, the founder chairman of Peshawar Press Club, and great Pashtun died on Feb. 04, 2003, in Peshawar. The sad news of his demise reached us through an Urdu newspaper in Karachi which was profoundly felt in the literary circles, activities and discussions in every part of the world where Pashtuns resided.
He was born, according to his matriculation certificate, on September 01, 1930, and grew up in an era of great political activism and resistance against the British Raj as well as the revival of Pashtun nationalism. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan aka Bacha Khan, well-known as Fakhr-e-Afghan (Pride of the Afghans), had been making tireless efforts to educate his people through a reformist mission and later uniting them under The Servants of God Movement, popularly known as Khudai Khidmatgar Tehrik.
According to the above information, he was 17 when the British Empire left the Indian subcontinent breaking it into two parts, India and Pakistan, in 1947. After the two new countries came into existence, the two other leaders of the subcontinent, Gandhi and Jinnah, enjoyed leading their nations into a new path, while Bacha Khan was destined to continue his struggle, now against the Pakistani rulers. Though most of the Pashtuns were muslims, Pakistan never treated them as its citizens despite the fact that the country was created under the name of Islam. Thus, Bacha Khan had to start a new non-violent struggle for his people’s rights within Pakistan for which he was put into prison for the rest of his life, and the new oppressors not only aggressively massacred and looted his people, but also tried in a shameless way to rob them of their beloved language, Pashto or Pashtu.
The young Qalandar was a witness to all of this. He was a big fan, and later a close aide, of Bacha Khan. The Fakhr-e-Afghan has mentioned him in his autobiography, Zama Zhond aw Jeddojehad (My Life and Struggle). He was a poet by nature, and, according to his teachers at Islamia College of Peshawar, had a special flair for literary and research pursuits from his early age. He belonged to a well-known family of poets, writers, and intellectual persons, and had the company of other eminent Pashto poets and writes of his time such as Amir Hamza Shinwari, Ghani Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Mia Taqweemul Haq Kakakhel, Dost Mohammad Khan Kamil Momand, and others.
From his early student life, he was a political activist, a poetry gatherings organizer, a social worker, an intellectual writer, a revolutionary figure, and a distinguished and well-respected personality among his friends and the literary circles. After getting his Master of Arts in English literature and LLB degrees from the University of Peshawar with distinction, he started his practical life as an employee in the Agriculture Department but then left this job and joined a private construction company.
A nationalist to the backbone, and an iconoclast of the established literary traditions, Qalandar Momand soon became a central figure among the political and literary circles across Pakistan. As a writer and journalist, during his career as editor with many English, Urdu and Pashto newspapers and magazines, he openly criticized the then government’s policies and opposed the dictatorship of Ayub Khan; as a political activist, he actively took part in every effort that led people to stand against the oppressors and their policies; as a literary critic, he was the most active member of the historical Wolasi Adabi Jirga (The People’s Literary Association), which held weekly meetings and discussed literary trends; and as a researcher, his works and studies opened ways to new discussions that proved to be very useful for the Pashto literature on the whole.
As always happens, his achievements and popularity earned him several good friends and scores of enemies. His political stand and commitment, and literary ideas made his life difficult and miserable, but he never compromised on them. He was put in prison and tortured for his political views by the regime of the time. In one of his poems, he said:
‘Che pa Khoshal pa Ranthambor ke washwe
Hagha kane pa maa Lahore ke washwe.’
(The brutality that Khushal Khan Khattak (1613-1689) had endured in Ranthambor (in India, in the hand of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir (1658-1707), I had to face it in Lahore).
According to accounts told by the political prisoners of the time after they were released, they were tortured in such a violent way that many of the helpless prisoners died there. A painful and detailed, and vividly told, account of those tortures can be read in a book named Da Za Pagal Wom? (Was I Mad?), written by renowned nationalist politician and progressive writer Ajmal Khattak.
Gajrey (Anklets) (published in 1957) was his first and only collection of short stories and the first major work that was widely admired and believed to be the first work of fiction written in accordance with all the standards of the modern short story. This book received an enthusiastic welcome from the Pashto fiction lovers and critics and inspired many young short story writers. In 1976 was published his first collection of poems, Sabawoon (The Dawn), while he was still behind the bars. The poetry of this book brought him to stand side by side with the three most celebrated modern Pashto poets: Amir Hamza Shinwari, Ghani Khan, and Ajmal Khattak.
Pata Khazana Pil Meezan (The Hidden Treasure in the Balance) (published in 1988) was another of his major works which provoked an endless and sometimes unpleasant discussion about a famous Pashto anthology of ancient works named Pata Khazana (The Hidden Treasure). In his critical work, Qalandar Momand has thoroughly analyzed the content, the background information, the language, the terms, the dates, etc. of the Pata Khazana and concluded that the book was not written or compiled in 1729 by Shah Hussain Hotak in Kandahar as claimed by its discoverer Abdul Hay Habibi, but was fabricated by Habibi himself. Before him, renowned Iranologists Lucia Serena Loi and David Neil MacKenzie, and few Iranian scholars had questioned the genuineness of the manuscript (the original manuscript is not available to the public and nobody knows about its whereabouts), but he was the first notable Pashtun scholar who, by asking undeniable questions and declaring it a forgery, totally rejected the book, thus causing a great controversy. At least ten books and hundreds of articles have been so far written in favor and against Qalandar Momand in this discussion.
His other works include: (1) A Critical Study of Khairul Bayan; (2) Nazmiyat (poems); (3) Translation of the Chapter on Criticism from Introduction to the Study of English Literature by William Henry Hudson (1922-1968); (4) Daryab (Pashto dictionary); (5) Da Rahman Baba Kuliyat (compilation of all the poems of the mystic poet Rahman Baba); (6) Da Muhammadi Sahibzada Diwan (compilation of all the poems of Pashto poet Muhammadi Sahibzada); (7) Critical Study of Two Books of Munshi Ahmad Jan: Hagha Dagha (This and That) and Da Qissa Khwani Gup (Gossip of Qissa Khwani); (8) Translation of Macbeth by William Shakespeare; (9) Rannayee (The Light) (second collection of poems, published posthumously); (10) Meezan (The Balance) (an anthology of articles, published posthumously); and many more.
At least six books have been so far written about the life and works of Qalandar Momand, including a PhD. thesis by Dr. Zubair Hasrat from the University of Peshawar. Many renowned contemporary writers and poets of the Pashto and Urdu languages have praised his genius and contributions. Ghani Khan has written a very moving poem to him which is included in Latoon (The Search, collection of poems). Ayaz Daudzai has described him as a man of high caliber; a scholar of Pashto, Urdu, English, Persian, Arabic, Hindi, Hindko, and other languages; and a man from whom you could learn any thing.
Qalandar Momand was Ahmadi (follower of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani) by faith. According to his close friends, he had never discussed his religious beliefs with any of his literary friends or followers. Because he was a learned scholar, an articulate speaker, a literary genius, had an impressive personality and was firm in his ideas, no one was able to defeat him on the ground of knowledge. Yet, his religious thoughts proved to be his Achilles’ heel. On the one side he was born Ahmadi in a society where people, particularly Ahmadis, could be just killed for their religious thoughts, on the other side, he was a man of undefeatable knowledge and unwavering firmness.
Consequently, when his opponents failed to defeat him on the ground of knowledge, they attacked his religious beliefs in a very shameless manner. A man from the Rahman Baba Mausoleum printed a fatwa-type booklet in which he and his friends and followers were declared to be ‘infidels’ (Qalandar loved Rahman Baba and had written several in-depth research studies about his life and works). Still, when they were not able to budge him an inch from his political and literary stand, they called him Iranian agent and, by saying that he was receiving funds from Iran, tried to defame his character.
The charlatan bigots continued to use these deplorable tactics even after his death. Immediately after his demise, The Pashto Academy of The University of Peshawar and the prestigious Pashto Adabi Board announced that they will dedicate next issues of their quarterly magazines, ‘Pashto’ and ‘Tatara’ respectively, to the life and works of Qalandar Momand and will publish them as the Special Issues. The religious bigots, supported by the then Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (a religious alliance) government in the province, threatened the Academy and the Board of untoward consequences if the Issues were ever published. As a result, both the institutions tacitly backed away from their decision and the issues got never published.
Qalandar Momand will be long remembered for his global thinking for peace, political activism, thought-provoking criticisms, literary works, poetry and short stories. To train young writers and researchers, he had established Da Sahu Likonkyo Maraka (Forum for Active Writers) in 1962, which still holds its weekly meetings on a regular basis in Peshawar. This Forum has trained many people who are now well-known in the world of Pashto literature.
He served his people and contributed to Pashto literature till his last breath, fulfilling his promise:
‘Gulistan ka me pa weeno taza kegi
Har azghai de ham zama pa zrah ke mat shi.’
(If my blood is of any good to keep the garden of love and peace blooming, I invite every thorn to prick into my heart.)