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Ghani Khan, whose ninth anniversary is being celebrated today, was not only a poet but

a great lover of peace and humanity. His life passed through various phases and almost
all of them are reflected in his writings. Most people know little about Ghani Khan. For
many, he is only a poet who wrote about love, Music, pleasure, wine and sensuality. For
some, he is a rebel while for others he is a heretic. It’s, therefore, makes sense to talk
also about his life and times instead of discussing his poetry in isolation.
Ghani Khan was born in January 1914, at Utmanzai village in District Charsadda. He
was the eldest son of Bacha Khan who founded the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement and
who rose to prominence because of his relentless, non-violent struggle against the British
rule in the subcontinent. When Ghani was five, his mother died of influenza and his
paternal grandmother took charge of his upbringing, But she also died in 1923

Ghani Khan received his early education from a traditional religious teacher at an
Utmanzai mosques. He was then sent to the National High School in Peshawar. After he
had studied there for one year, his father set up Azad Islamic Madrassa in his hometown
Utmanzai in 1921 and Ghani Khan was admitted to it. At the age of 14, he started
composing poetry while he was still at school. But it was in December 1928 that his first
poem appeared in Pakhtoon, a monthly journal launched by his father as the organ of the
Khudai Khidmatgar Movement for the promotion of the Pashto language.
In 1929, Bacha Khan sent him to London for higher education where he also came to
learn about Christianity. Even in those years of adolescence, he was able to impress
others with his body and bent of mind. While in London, he got involved in a love affair
with an eminent film actress but Bacha Khan did not approve of it. Ghani Khan was told
by his father to depart for the United States of America to study of sugar technology at
the University of Southern Louisiana.
But though Ghani Khan went to America his heart was in London. It was then that he
wrote many verses on the liberalism of the western society. He also wrote about his
emotional deprivation. He did Chemical Engine-ering from the US and on his return was
appointed in a sugar mill in Uttar Pradesh province as chief chemist.
It was also during these days that, deeply moved by the atrocities committed by the
British government against his father’s Khudai Khidmatgars, Ghani Khan sought Bacha
Khan’s permission for an armed struggle. Instead he was sent to Allahabad where he
stayed with Jawaharlal Nehru.
It is interested to note here that Bacha Khan while sending Ghani Khan, wrote to Nehru
“Teach Ghani Khan our culture, he has been Americanized during his stay in America.”
Therefore, in February 1934 Ghani Khan and Indra Gandhi were admitted to Rabindra
Nath Tagore’s Shantiniketan College of Arts where, along with journalism, he started
studying sculpture and painting. His stay at Shantiniketan had a profound effect on him.
In his own words, “it was in Shantineketan that I discovered myself and the past
greatness of my own culture and civilisation which has produced several men of versatile
geniuses, who have been appreciated by historians and scholars of the West.”
In December 1934 he went to Bombay where, at a friend’s house, he met and
instantaneously fell in love with Roshan (1907-1987), a Parsi lady of noble birth and the
youngest daughter of Nawab Rustum Jang Faridoonji of Hyderabad Deccan. They
married on November 24, 1939.
In 1940, he joined Frontier Sugar Mills, Takht-i-Bhai in Mardan District as cane
manager. In February 1943, he resigned. But soon the circumstances compelled him,
much against his natural inclinations, to actively associate himself with electoral
Ghani Khan was against non-violence preached and practiced by Bacha khan. He
believed in struggle through any means possible. This was what prompted him to set up
an armed organisation named Zalmey Pakhtun (Pakhtun Youth) to protect Khudai
Khidmatgars and members of the Congress Party from violence by the state. But despite
his belief in an armed political struggle, he took part in electoral politics. At 32, he was
elected as the second youngest member of the Central Legislative Assembly of India in
December 1945 on one of the two general seats for the Frontier province.
Zalmey Pakhtoon was banned after Pakistan came into being and Ghani Khan was put
behind the bars for allegedly subversive activities. His agricultural land was also
confiscated by the provincial government. He remained in different jails for six years and
was finally released in 1954.
He devoted the rest of his life entirely to poetry. In 1987 a peasant killed Ghani’s only
son Fareedon Khan. Though the incident shook him greatly, he pardoned his son’s killer.
Atrocities by the state, plight of the Pathans and death of his only son gave his poetry a
philosophical colour which became a hallmark of his literary persona. Ghani Khan’s
first poetic collection was Da Penjery Chaghaar (Chirpings of the Cage) which he wrote
from 1947 to 1954 while he was in jail. His other books include Palwashey (Beams of
Light), Panoos (Chandelier), Latoon (Search) and Kulyat-e-Ghani (A collection of
Ghani’s poetry).
It is because of his varied and colourful personality that one can see so many shades —
ranging from freedom, love of God, land and people, nationalism, fate, the mysteries of
life and death, the joys of communion, and the woes of separation to beauty — in his
According to him, it is the duty of the poets to turn man’s attention to those higher
centres of his being where he might see the reflection of his own perfection and the face
of his eternal beloved beauty. A poet, therefore must worship beauty in thought, in word
and in deed. Ghani Khan was of the view that beauty is the essence of civilisation and
culture which includes almost all human creative activities like painting, sculpture and
music. “Without the search for beauty in thought, word and deed we cannot have any
kind of civilisation.”
Ghani khan was a passionate devotee of freedom to whom the slavery of foreign
domination was anathema. His love for freedom and hate for slavery is manifested by
these verses.
Though tombstones fine of bluish slate Should ornament, adorn, my grave, But I were to
have died a slave, Come, spit on and defile them!
Beauty and love are the foundation upon which the building blocks of his poetry are
lying. Beauty, according to him, is present everywhere. If one is beautiful from within,
then the whole universe would be beautiful. But if one were hypocritical and ugly from
within, then the whole world would be dark and unattractive.
In Ghani Khan’s view, God created the world beautifully. It is only man’s narrow-
mindedness and prejudices that make it ugly. Ghani commented once, “Allah created
light and colour, poetry in nature and taught us so that we can appreciate them and their
Love for him is the divine gift of God. It is far more superior to beauty because physical
beauty is mortal and would perish while the spirit of love is immortal. The beauty of the
beloved is essential but it is the passion of the lover which makes love eternal.
He describes his “Beloved” in this manner.

Eyes, two in love, Load with scores of vision bright

Enriched my universe with Eye-appealing flowers, Giving in this world a draught of wine
of Paradise. Loading my dreams with life, flooding life of mine with dreams Handfuls
and handfuls of lustrous moon’s white

Lightning you splashed and sprinkled devotedly into my feet.

You showed me God, the Almighty, Hidden in Love deeds.
And threw heaps of stars in to shallow apron of mine.
I hear nymphs’ hustle bustle in your shining beauty
You showed me God, the Almighty, hidden in Love deeds.

Apart from Pashto, Ghani Khan also wrote in English. His first English book, The
Pathans, which was published in 1947, remains the best humorous introduction to the
people of the Frontier. It is a description of history, culture, traditions and customs of
Pakhtoons. It also depicts their feuds, enmities and their attitudes to life. “Pathan is not
merely a race but in fact, a state of mind; there is a Pathan lying inside every man, who
at times wakes up and overpowers him,” he once wrote.
He was very proud of his being a Pakhtoon and thanked God that he was born among
Pakhtuns. He says.
“When I see my clay-made homes, I forget about the cities of the world.
When you embrace a simple Pakhtun brother, You may forget about the lands and seas of
the world.I am thankful to Allah for having created me among the Pakhtun nation.”
His poetry is about humanism, and the search for truth. It is about self realization. “I
want to see my people educated and enlightened. A people with a vision and a strong
sense of justice who can carve out a future for themselves, in harmony with nature”.

Ghani Khan was not just a poet. He was a painter and sculptor. About his paintings, he
once said “From the very beginning I have only drawn faces. I don’t draw anything else.
I think it [the rest] is all a lot of waste of time. You see I want to get the personality of the
person into the paper. And that you can only show through his eyes, his face.”
Despite touching the glories of fame and sagacity, he sees himself neither as a poet, nor
as a sculptor or painter but perhaps only as a plagiarist who very humbly glorifies, the
work of another artist, the real creator, who he calls Al-Musavvir (The Artist) and Al-
Jameel (The beautiful).
Ghani khan possessed such a great wisdom that he could see things in their true colours.
His poetry at times reads like the description of the secrets and mysteries of life. For him,
life without an objective has no meaning. Death is the manifestation of the kindness of
the Creator for man. He sees life in the eyes of death because it is death, which unites
man with God and is proof of God’s love and mercy for mankind. He further says,
“I do not believe that death is the end of life, because ecstasy does not end with the end
of wine in the Jam.” With these bearings in his mind, Ghani Khan died on March 15,
1996 in Peshawar and was buried by the side of his mother in his ancestral graveyard
near Utmanzai, Charsadda.

O'Lord! What a mad I were to love just an idea,

Being drowned in the sea just for a ruby that I love.
O'Lord! What a rapture is this that I lost my sweetheart,
Or, I was charmed by the broker of the eyes of my beloved.
I couldn't gulp down the sea, so I had a hand-cups of it,
Since I was incapable to love the sun, I loved the crescent.
As my bosom couldn't store, I put them up in my dreams.
When I faced my beloved, I was charmed by the tastoo-mark
Neither excitement of the youth, nor delight of the wine.
I have, infact, fallen in love of an idea of my beloved's eyes
Did I hear laila calls for the prayers, or the Praise of Bilal,
Or I loved the lingling of the anklet bells of my beloved
Was it the moth delighted in darkness the name of candle;
Or I have fallen in love of an idea of my beloved's eyes.
Whether the grasshopper saw the shadow of sun in a dewdrop;
Or my sweetheart smiled at me in any dreams?