Munawar Khan of katlang: Remembered as a fearless Khan of the poor
Munawar Khan, idealized as a common man’s superhuman hero, had always been quick in responding to injustices done to the poor at the hands of powerful individuals and authorities. The huge Hujra (guest house) of Munawar Khan was a center of dispute resolution for the common people, a parliament for voicing their issues, and a judicial complex for seeking justice.
The tall, bold and handsome Munawar Khan’s charismatic personality was an institution in itself. Where people found the solution to all their problems. And he always stood by them in hard times, giving them a strong sense of security, love and empowerment.
His family Background
Munawar Khan was born in 1929 in katlang, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (kP) former N.W.F.P, Pakistan. He belonged to a respectable family of Yousafzai Azi Khel tribe. He had two brothers. Zar daad khan and Bahadur khan and he was the youngest of all.
Munawar khan inherited leadership in his blood from his ancestors. His Father Malik Mir daad Khan was a landlord and influential Malik of the area. Malik Mir daad khan son of Malik Ahmad khan, saved a small village called Zor Mata of katlang from the British attack by giving Rs.3000/- from his own pocket to the government. In that way, he resolved the issue of a murder of a British personnel committed by an individual of the town during a fight.
Munawar Khan: As a political leader
He started his political career by winning the Basic Democracy (BD) election in General Ayyub khan’s era in 1960s. He was elected again as a district council member in the local election of 1979 under General Zia ul-Haq’s rule.
Munawar Khan’s ideals of non-violence in his personal and political life matched with great Pashtun leader of the subcontinent. Khan Abdul Ghafar khan known as Bacha Khan. Bacha khan founded khudai khidmatghar movement (Servants of God) in 1929. The movement was non-violent resistance to the British colonial rule in India.
Munawar Khan hosted Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan at his Hujra at katlang and formally joined Awami National Party during General Zia-al-Haq’s dictatorship.
Projects undertook by him
But he rose to political prominence by winning his constituency as a member of provincial assembly (MPA) on Awami National Party’s ticket in 1988. In his first speech at the provincial assembly, he proposed a mega project connecting the people of district Buner and Mardan by constructing the road through cutting the parts of the hill between the two districts. He focused on the most backward unirrigated areas of his constituency in the development projects. Also, he provided employment to the poor talented people of his area but not a single one to his family members.
He organized his party. His popularity increased and his already large circle of friends widened. He contested the 1990’s election from the same ANP and was elected again by his supporters but with a huge margin this time. He was also appointed advisor to Chief Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao. Not to mention he remained well-connected with the people of his area. He facilitated the construction of roads, schools, tube wells, and provision of electricity in the neglected parts of his constituency.
Munawar khan empowered the poor and advocated peace
His ideology of non-violence was also the guiding principle of his personal and social life. He was the powerful khan of his area but he never used his power for his own benefit. Rather he would often say “power is to be used for helping others,”.
Peace-loving Munawar khan forgave the murder of his handsome little son crushed under bullock-cart by a poor man. He also forgave an attack on his other son’s life who got seriously injured as a result of that assault.
He would take sick people of his area to the doctors. At that time very few people had vehicles at that time. Even he would pick poor people on the way and would drop them at their homes. Hospitality was mixed in his blood. He loved to provide food to the huge number of guests coming to his Hujra for the resolution of their issues. People from far-flung areas would even stay there until their problems were solved. He often helped them at his own expenses.
Accessible Munawar Khan
He remained accessible to everyone, irrespective of social status, family background, color and race. People loved his straightforwardness, courage and velour. He advocated peace but he never let the powerful exploit the weak and the poor. His words and an account of day-to- day activities were shared and discussed with great pride by people at every Hujra of Katlang.
Once a poor rice-seller, Niamat kaka was offended by an official. The poor man also reacted in response. later on, he was asked that where he got such courage to talk to the official in the same language?
He said, “I saw Munawar khan sitting in a shop and I forgot every fear and I knew, Khan would take care of the matter and I avenged my insult,”.
Exactly, the same happened, Munawar khan asked the official that why he had mistreated a poor man of his village.
Today, his philosophy of life needs to be taught to our youngsters. His public life and stories of dignity and strength need to be documented. His inspiration can make us brave against injustices in society.
Munawar Khan’s popularity never declined even after his death
Munawar Khan died in the holy month of Ramadan before just before iftar at his Hujra on 11th November 2002. A huge number of people from all walks of life attended his Namaz- e-Janaza at katlang which was a confirmation of his popularity. He left no bank balance after his death.
Late Molana bahar Haji Sahib of katlang revealed after his huge funeral ceremony,” Munawar Khan had great respect for Islamic religious scholars and he secretly funded students who were receiving Islamic education at various madrassas,”.
“Once I asked Munawar khan that why he attends Namaz-e-Janaza of every one of his area. He replied that he also wanted a huge gathering at his funeral,” Bahar Haji Sahib had added.
His legacy remains
His eldest son Azam khan who is a lawyer by profession shared that his father remembered death almost every day and he never loved the construction of huge buildings. “My father used to advise us to help others and never expect anything in return,” Azam khan said.
Waheed Sayed, a poor support staff employed by Munwar khan at Government higher school katlang says, “I had no reference. I was jobless and poor. Munawar Khan saw my pathetic condition and employed me. He helped many others like me,”.
“Today, I am the sole breadwinner of my family. I pray for Munawar Khan every day. And I visit his grave every Friday,”. Waheed could not control his tears while saying these words.
(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])