Achakzai’s mysterious killing

Published Dec 22, 2012 08:09pm

Before the beginning of 1974, it had become clear that the PPP government had not been able to restore normalcy in the two provinces bordering Afghanistan, and it was not owing to the people of those two provinces, but because of the flawed government policies. The attempt to resolve the Balochistan issue had already failed and the attempt to make the province compliant with the centre had also failed.

While Z.A. Bhutto was trying to run the country smoothly, the political situation in Balochistan worsened as the reports of the assassination of Abdus Samad Achakzai, a member of Balochistan assembly and a Baloch-Pashtun leader, spread across Pakistan and Afghanistan.

For Pakistan it was a very tragic occurrence as the PPP leadership was trying to mend fences with the leadership of the two provinces and /or was in a rush to throw their political leaderships into a political orphanage. As the events took place one after the other, Achakzai’s murder erupted into a deafening uproar.

Achakzai, a Pashtun born in Gulistan (Quetta) Balochistan in 1907, was a staunch supporter of the Baloch and Pashtun demand for provincial autonomy. He became quite interested in Pashto literature and studied Khushhal Khan Khatak, Maulana Hafiz and Ghazali beside his school studies. He was so interested in the historical process that at the age of 13 he led a procession to protest the British rule and support the Khilafat Movement. Arrested with other protesters, the young Achakzai was jailed for 28 days.

Even before seeing the historic event of the creation of Pakistan, he witnessed many upheavals of the subcontinent’s politics. He launched his political life in 1929 when he visited Lahore and attended the annual meeting of the Congress. In 1930, he formed Anjuman-i-Watan party which became the forum to raise the voice of Balochs and Pashtuns. As the head of this party he highlighted the grievances and problems of Baloch and Pakhtun nationalities. He opposed the institutions of tribal Jirga and Sardari system and also called for the elimination of the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) law.

Achakzai’s party formed an alliance with the Congress in 1942 on the condition that the Congress would ensure creation of Pashtun province after independence. After Independence, the future of Pashtuns was left to the referendum and tribal chiefs.

Consequently Achakzai and Bacha Khan continued their struggle for Pashtun rights which resulted in the arrest of leaders and killing and imprisoning of a large number of Pashtuns.

When Bhutto took over as the first civilian martial law administrator and president in December 1971, Achakzai was a member of the Balochistan Assembly. He was elected on the ticket of Pakhtunkhwa National Awami Party. This infuriated Wali Khan who did not want Balochistan’s Pashtuns to be identified with the Pashtun of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Achakzai was a realist in the sense that he wanted to bring the Pashtun community of Balochistan closer to the Pashtun’s of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as the Pashtuns in Balochistan constituted almost half of its population. That was the breeding point of hatred between Wali Khan and Achakzai. This suited Bhutto, especially when he was supporting Bugti’s provincial government in Balochistan. Finally Achakzai disassociated himself from NAP and formed Pakhtunkhwa National Awami Party.

Due to his policies Achakzai was not liked by the Pashtun leadership and the ruling central government. Taking benefit from this situation the federal government offered him a firm position in the government; however, it did not calm the Baloch community which did not want to share the power with Pashtuns settled in Balochistan. In all, Achakzai spent 33 years in jail for his commitment to the Pashtun cause.

On the night of December 2, 1973, the Baloch-Pashtun leader was sleeping in his home when two hand grenades were lobbed into the house. Abdus Samad Achakzai was dead without a trace of the motive and identity of the killers. Looking for possible explanations, Governor Bugti claimed that it was due to the feeling of hatred fanned by Achakzai between Pashtuns and Balochis. However, some analysts opined that perhaps it was the reaction to the failure of reconciliation talks between the ruling People’s Party leadership and the arrested NAP leaders.

Nobody knows why a sane leader and intellectual, author of more than a dozen books, was killed so brutally. Thirty-nine years after his killing nobody knows who killed him and the motive behind it, perhaps every successive government wanted to keep it a dark secret.

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