PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar titled ‘Ghani Khan in women’s perspective’ described poet-philosopher Ghani Khan as saviour of women rights. They said that Khan Baba had attributed his maiden collection of poetry ‘Da Punjrey Chighar’ to his own his wife Begum Roshan, an accomplished artist herself. They said that Khan Baba’s popular poem zama moray (my mother) was not just for his mother but his objective was glorification of woman as a human being.

The seminar was arranged by social activist and educator Azra Nafees Yousafzai at the Institute of Management Sciences, Hayatabad, on Friday. Sponsored by Strengthening Participatory Organisation, the speakers stressed the need for exploring and understanding of Ghani Khan’s writings and paintings in its true light as he was a staunch protector of women’s rights. He advocated their rights in his poetry. He used to say ‘woman’ was the crown of God’s creation and therefore, women must be given a supreme status, they maintained.

Prof Dr Salma Shaheen, poet and director of Pashto Academy of the University of Peshawar, while addressing the gathering as chief guest said that Ghani Khan was born in an environment where his legendary father Bacha Khan for the first time had struggled for introducing a special clause in the Act 1935 for giving the right to inheritance to Pakhtun women, where woman was adored and respected and where ‘women’s empowerment’ was call of the day. She said Khan Baba’s writings were sprinkled with his praise for women. His poems on mother, a nurse and other family members are reflective of his poetic tribute that he had in his mind for women, she observed.

Gulalai Ismail, a social activist affiliated with ‘Aware Girls’, said that Ghani Khan was the first literary figure who had challenged the status quo of an ignorant mullah and his narrow interpretation of religion usurping rights of women. She said Baba’s poetry could be used as a strong voice for raising Pakhtun women’s issues. “If I or any other woman in a typical Pakhtun society stands up for her rights, a biased mullah will issue verdict against her, but if a couplet from Khan’s poetry is quoted on the issue, it will be readily accepted because he was the one who had unveiled the real character of such religious bigotry in his verses,” she added.

Laiba Yousafzai, a journalist, said that Khan Baba was a liberal intellectual who wanted a Pakhtun woman being enlightened and socially empowered. She said Pakhtun women were being exploited at different pretexts. Unfortunately, Pakhtuns were themselves responsible for not giving her due rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Mastoora Jan, an Afghan woman activist and educationist, said that she was the first woman to have opened an educational institute for Afghan refugees. “My source of inspiration was no one but Ghani Khan Baba. I drew inspiration from Khan Baba’s poetic thoughts,” she argued.

Prof Naureen Nasir, a research fellow teaching at the Political Science Department of UoP, said that Ghani Khan was the ambassador of peace and love adding that his concept of a woman’s beauty was far superior to an ordinary person. She said Khan Baba’s organisation ‘Zalmey Pakhtun’ was inspired by Ahmad Shah Baba and Sher Shah Suri because they were the best planners.

A Canada-based young girl Yasmeen said that Ghani Khan was a secular mystic who wanted to interpret and appreciate the role of Pakhtun women in a different perspective. He had satirised Pakhtun nation’s follies regarding their culture and traditions. TV artiste Shamza Haleem told the participants that Khan Baba had raised voice for Pakhtun women’s rights in a time when no one could dare.

Shafiq Gigyani, a young student, ran a video shedding light on Khan Baba’s life and political struggle and garnered a thundering applause from audience. An audio message of renowned singer Sardar Ali Takkar based in US was also presented in which he dwelt on his association with the poet-philosopher. He said he was the one who had popularised his romantic poetry. “Ghani Khan told me one day that I was responsible for popularising his poetry otherwise his own people had long forgotten him,” Mr Takkar recalled. The seminar was followed by an exhibition of portraits of Ghani Khan in which nine young artists Brekhana Shehzad, Hamdullah Arbab, Shahid Takor, Abdul Sattar, Zafar, Azra Nafees Yousafzai, Taj, Amail, and Sailab participated. Earlier, Azra Nafees in her opening remarks said that from Malala of Maiwand to Malala Yousafzai of Swat, Pakhtun women had been neglected in every field of life, saying that time had come when voice of Pakhtun women could not be choked any longer.

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