Maulana Guldad Khan showed great valour in the fight against militants
In November 2007, a man was heard condemning the feared Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)in Nawagai in Bajaur district. In his public addresses, Maulana Guldad Khan urged the people to unite and resist the militants terrorising the citizenry.
Many at the time found it unimaginable given the fact the militancy was at its height in the tribal areas. A tribesman speaking against the militants thus risked his safety. Many who dared oppose the TTP were ruthlessly exterminated.
Most people thought that Guldad Khan was naïve and unaware of the power of the militants. During his public sermons, Khan continued to say that the militants were misleading the tribesmen. “Has anyone ever stopped us from praying, fasting or any other religious duty? Don’t we live in an Islamic country? Why we are being murdered without a justification? Let’s stand together. If you are not interested in safeguarding your lives and properties, I alone will fight these miscreants. I will eitherdie or clear the area of them,” he told the people.
Nawagai tehsil was considered very dangerous back then. It shared a border with Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Guldad Khan and his friend Sheikh Janzada started confronting TTP militants based in Mohmand and Bajaur areas.
With his white beard and turban, Guldad Khan might appear intimidating at first. However, once he starts talking, he keeps his tone balanced and speaks like a seasoned orator. He always ends his speech on a theme of peace and love. He says he has always believed in dialogue.
“At that time, most of the Bajaur inhabitants migrated to lower parts of the country. The city became deserted. From morning till evening, one could only see either terrorists or our own armed volunteers. It was a decisive time our countrymen. We had to stand up. Otherwise, history would never have forgiven us. We kept the green flag flying,” Guldad Khan says.
At the time, most of the tribal areas were under the sway of TTP militants. The security forces were fighting on many fronts from Swat to Waziristan. Most of Swat were under the control of Mullah Radio. The radio waves carried his words of hatred from Swat to Khyber and many had surrendered to the militants. Only a few individuals stood up firmly against the barbarism. These people had to pay a heavy price. In Waziristan, dozens of tribal elders laid down their lives trying to bring peace to the area.
Guldad Khan, 67, was one of them. Khan hails from Nawagai tehsil. He had graduated from a Swat madrassa and had a reputation for being broadminded.
This year, the government of Pakistan has awarded a Tamgha-e-Shujaat to Mulana Guldad Khan for his unforgettable sacrifices in the toughest time of the country’s history.
Guldad Khan openly challenged the excesses committed by Faqir Muhammad and Abdul Wali. “I challenged them many times to sit with me in front of people and convince me of their justification for the war,” Khan says.
“In March 2009, the terrorists launched an attack against my family. I was at my home. It was a well planned assault. The assailants were many and well-equipped. The cowards used small arms as well as heavy weapons. A rocket hit my study. Most of my books were destroyed,” says Guldad Khan.
“From day one, I told Faqir Muhammad and his disciples that this was not jihad. I said, don’t kill your brethren and don’t destroy the peace in the region,” he says. Being a staunch TTP opponent and strong voice for peace, Khan has survived 16 attacks. “I have lost a son, a brother, several family members and close friends in this war,” he says.
“In the beginning most people were relatively friendly to these terrorists. I opposed their imposition of their interpretation of religious laws. Along with a delegation, I met the Bajaur Taliban chief, Faqir Muhammad, and asked him stop violating religious law. We exchanged harsh words. There was hardly anyone then who had the courage to do this,” he recalls.
The TTP leader declared Khan a government-sympathizer and ordered his men to kill Khan. The terrorists targeted Khan’s brother in 2008. “At the funeral of my brother, I announced that I will avenge my brother and other civilians killed by the militants,” he says. His supporters killed the then local chief of the Taliban.
“In March 2009, terrorists launched an attack against my family. I was at my home. It was a well planned assault. The assailants were many and they were well-equipped. The cowards used small arms as well as heavy weapons. A rocket hit my study. Most of my books were destroyed. That day, they fired 12 rockets at my home. I was badly injured. That same year, we were harvesting our wheat crop when the militants started shooting at us,” he says.
Khan’s family members, friends and neighbours fought off the attackers. They also alerted security forces. After an hour-long battle, the Taliban retreated. Once again, Guldad was injured. His speech has been affected ever since.
A few months later, one of Khan’s sons was targeted in an IED blast. Later 16 people, including Khan’s family members and friends, died in another explosion.
Guldad Khan doesn’t present himself as a hero. “What I did was my duty to my family, my people and my country,” he says.
Guldad recalls that he had been affiliated with the Jamiat Ulma-i-Islam since 1970s. However, the party leadership did not support him during his most difficult days. His friend Sheikh Janzada was the only one who stood alongside him during the tough times. Guldad Khan has since joined the Awami National Party. “This century-old nationalist political movement has served the people. They have also rendered sacrifices in this war against terrorism. The ANP narrative on human rights was always clear. It remains so. That is why I chose Bacha Khan’s caravan,” he says.
Guldad Khan is grateful to the state for recognizing his efforts in the war against terrorism. “Pakistan is our country; we have to protect it from all sorts of enemies,” he says.
The writer is a Peshawar based journalist. He tweets @theraufkhan