Sain Kamal Khan Sherani is remembered for his progressive notions and political farsightedness
Kamal Khan Sherani, often called Sain, was one of a handful of Pashtun intellectuals and politicians whose progressive notions spread throughout the Pashtun society. Sain Kamal Khan Sherani grew up in a backward society, but transcended it.
Born in 1920 in Shna Ponga (Sherani) in the British Fort Sandeman, now Zhob, Sain Kamal Khan was fortunate to be the son of a farsighted father who provided every opportunity for him to get an education. His father sent him to the only primary school in the area where Sain received his early schooling. Sherani later moved to Zhob city for further studies and did his matriculation from Sandeman High School, Quetta, which was temporarily shifted from Quetta to Pishin following a massive earthquake in 1935.
For higher education, Sain and his two friends, Abdullah Jan Jamaldini of Noshki and Dr Khudai Dad of Pishin, wished to study at Aligarh Muslim University. However, his teacher advised him to study at Islamia College, Peshawar, instead where Prof Mohammad Idris of Bannu taught him socialism, philosophy and politics.
He graduated in economics and won a gold medal.
The three friends joined government service as naib tehsildars. However, they resigned in 1953 to protest the state’s tyrannical policies. People would later say that “had not resigned when he did, he would have risen to be chief secretary.“ To this Sain would reply, “I was one of those who live not for others, not themselves.”
Influenced by Marxism, Sain set out a left-wing movement called Lut Khana in collaboration with his friends Dr Khudai Dad and Bahadur Khan Bangulzai. Lut Khana was a one-room house rented from a widow in Balochi Street in Quetta, where the comrades met regularly and organised debates.
Derived from Pashto and Persian words, Lut Khana means a place for irresponsible people. In his book Lut Khana, Abdullah Jan Jamaldini, one of the key members of this group, explains the background to the name. Ghani Khan Achakzai, one of their Chaman-based friends, visited their room one morning. He found them asleep and shouted, “Sa kwai lutano tar OSA lia Prata yast” [What are you doing? Latano, you are still asleep?] From that day, the movement was called Lut Khana, Jamaldini writes.
Lut Khana played a vital role in the publication of an independent and progressive monthly magazine, Pashto. The first issue of this magazine was printed in July 1953. The government banned Pashto after the publication of hardly a dozen issues. Jamaldini recalls that the magazine had gained immense popularity.
Derived from Pashto and Persian words, Lut Khana means the place of irresponsible people. In his book, Lut Khana, Abdullah Jan Jamaldini, one of the key people in this circle, explains the background to the name. Ghani Khan Achakzai, one of their Chaman-based friends, once visited their room in the morning and found them asleep. He shouted, Sa kwai lutano tar OSA lia Prata yast [What are you doing? Latano, you are still asleep?] From that day, the movement was called Lut Khana, Jamaldini writes.
The hardworking intellectuals of the Lut Khana also set up Pashto Tolai (Pashto Circle) the same year. It was aimed at getting local languages, Pashto and Balochi, their rightful status.
As a nationalist politician, Sain enjoyed close ties with Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai. He served as a member of the constitutional committee of the Wror Pashtun led by Achakzai. When Wror Pashtun merged with the National Awami Party in the 1970s, he started working for the restoration of democracy from the NAP platform. Achakzai later parted ways with the NAP and established Pashtun Khwa Milli Awami Party, which Sain also joined.
Sain Kamal was repeatedly offered a Senate ticket by the party but turned it down. After Achakzai’s assassination on December 2, 1973, Sain played a key role by convening the central congress of the party at which Mehmood Achakzai was elected to succeed his slain father.
Sain was a rare intellectual who could readily speak on topics as varied as politics, Marxism, capitalism, education, nationalism, history and literature. During the last two decades of his life, he was stationed at home in Silyaza, some 15 kilometres from Zhob city, where the leaders would come and seek guidance. Many writers and intellectuals too visited him at his home.
Sherani translated many celebrated writers’ books into Pashto. These included Candide by Voltaire, Ten days that shocked the world by John Red, the first volume of Maxim Gorky’s biography, Plato’s Dialogues, Studies in a Dying Culture (a part) by Christopher Caudwell and Trial of Socrates.
After battling cancer, Sain Kamal Sherani breathed his last on November 5, 2010, in Zhob. He was laid to rest in the Salyaza graveyard.
On Sain’s passing, veteran Baloch leader Khair Bakhsh Marri exclaimed, “you have died when we need you. You are not just a Pashtun, but a great person. You did not enjoy living in Islamabad or the top seat. You did not deliver hollow speeches.“
The writer is a lecturer at Government Degree College, Zhob, and a freelance columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com