When he was a young child, Achakzai had fair features, beautiful grey eyes, a body bigger than usual, a curious mind, and eyes that searched the world for ideas. Because he lived in a Pashtun Afghan family structure he was inspired by the Zoroastrian and Buddhist civilization in thoughts, feelings and practices. No doubt the two civilizations taking their roots in the Afghan motherland are the ones inspiring Eastern ideas (Buddhism) and Western ideas (Zoroastrianism).
Both these civilizations have their birth place in between Oxus and Indus that still comprise the historical Afghan land. Buddhism spread in Gandhara regions from Swat, Mardan, Peshawar and up to Bamyan, while Zoroastrianism was present in Balkh.
Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, also known as Khan Shaheed, grew up in a village called Innayatullah Karez. He named himself as the son of Dilbara, his mother first, and the son of Nur Muhammad Khan, his father second (feminism philosophy students can further decode this).
He was the second male child in his family and he accompanied his parents to Quetta Missionary Hospital for his sister’s medical treatment. In the colonial era, scientific treatments were only available at missionary hospitals, and education only available at missionary schools.
Khan Shaheed believed in the secular ideas of democracy, peace and social justice but practiced them as a child. In the darkness of British colonialism, his maturity came from the teachings of diversity, pluralism and peace based civilizations in his motherland. In those times, people were controlled through barbaric laws, torture and imprisonment. People of the Indian sub-continent were considered lesser humans.
Anti-colonial forces propagated these hospitals and schools as a way to spread Christianity. Because of this imposition there were rumours that the missionaries wanted to force Wine and ham eateries on Muslim and Hindus. This infuriated Pashtun Afghans more than anyone else because their motherland was cut off from Afghanistan under the Gandamak treaty (Quetta and rest of the Pashtun areas up to Sibbi and Chaman, and the Bolan pass.)
Even as a child, Khan Shaheed saw things in a logical way. He followed around Christian nurses and doctors in a keen, observing way, when they were on ward visits, operating, bandaging and greeting the patients. This was a point of irony for the nurses and doctors because they wanted to show society that Pashtuns are backward, but here was a cute and clever child showing interest in them.
One day Khan Shaheed spent a whole day with the nurses and doctors and even ate a meal with them. On his return his parents were upset that he ate with Christians because of the rumours about them forcing wine and ham on Muslims. But the young boy rejected this narrative. He said: “I ate the same stuff we eat at home, the chicken, potatoes, vegetables and water”.
Khan Shaheed was an anti-colonialist to the core, like his ancestors. His ancestor Abdullah Khan Achakzai was “the spark” of the first Anglo-Afghan war in Kabul. Abdullah Khan Achakzai was martyred along with his brother and two sons when he stabbed the then British envoy for Afghanistan. Another ancestor Barkhurdar Khan Achakzai remained one of the top army strategists of the Ahmed Shah Abdali Lashkar — this Lashkar defeated the Marathas in the Battle of Panipat.
Khan Shaheed himself planned to join the resistance force to defend King Amanullah Khan. The British were trying to overthrow the King because he won the third Anglo-Afghan war and liberated Afghanistan in 1919.
Being a nationalist political leader, Khan Shaheed he spent 33 out of 66 years in prison. First he was imprisoned by the British and after 1947 by the Pakistani military establishment.
Khan Shaheed decoded philosophies, politics, religion, social sciences in modern and scientific ways. He did not give space to sectarian, religious, racial and ethnicity based extremism. He was against oppression and exploitation of any individual, class, nation, religion and sect over the others. He inspired Pashtun Afghans to follow his philosophy of peaceful politics.
He never hated someone on the basis of sect, religion, language. He was clear headed to struggle with a “humanist—not just humanitarian, approach of liberty”.
When Khan Shaheed’s tribesmen once abducted a British Army Major and his wife, he was furious. He immediately asked that the prisoners be released. Khan Shaheed said that the Pashtunwali code did not allow female captives. He was always a man of principal, no matter how hard the struggle.
Once Khan Shaheed visited Jacobabad for business reasons. He saw that Hindus were eating their meal separately from Muslims. He asked why they had separated their drinking pots, eating table and dishes and then convinced them to eat with him irrespective of religious beliefs.
Khan Shaheed’s meeting with Gandhiji concluded in a logical debate that inspired the Congress Leader. Khan Shaheed asked Gandhiji to write about the issues of the people in British Balochistan — the Bolan Pass, Quetta, Pishin, Chaman, Thal. These were invaded by the British and cut off through Gandamak. Gandhiji vowed these will be presented in his meeting with the British officials in Britain. Gandhiji saw spark in Khan Shaheed’s voice, logic and political vision.
Khan Shaheed’s political school of thought is “peaceful political” resistance. He believed in secular Pashtun Afghan culture. He believed in peace, democracy, social justice and liberty, and he took inspiration from Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Islam. He was assassinated by a hand bombs on December, 2nd, 1973 to silence his political ideology. His thoughts, however, mushroomed and millions were inspired by his life.