“Gul Khan” is a new cultural and political term in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan, especially on social media. The name Gul Khan usually stands for nativity and silliness. These days, however, the title Gul Khan is a taunt against fellow Pashtuns who are so over-dosed on Pakistani nationalism that they hardly participate in the struggle for obtaining rights. Improvement in education, welfare, social affairs, hard infrastructure and other developmental sectors are hardly ever on Gul Khan’s mind. Instead, Gul Khan is high on vicious Pak nationalism that sees an enemy in every corner both inside the country and abroad.
In the 21st Century, when the world has turned into a globalized system where the “One click, Go Global” concept has spread, the great Gul Khans in the Pakistani Pashtun belt are still stranded in a thought process against their own best interests. To blame are the core narrative pushed in the Pakistan educational syllabi for turning a normal Khan into a GUL KHAN.
When you observe a so-called educated Gul Khan, you suspect as if the falsified dream of the poet Iqbal, the 14 points of Jinnah, the concocted Two Nation Theory of Ayub, and the much-celebrated Resolution of Pakistan had been designed especially for our Gul Khanis while the rest of the state seems to have got nothing to do with them.
A Gul Khan will never understand that his mother and father did not raise him to post nasty videos on social media against fellow Pashtuns, to issue empty threats to the Indian PM Narendra Modi or the Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan for his movie Phantom. His parents did not send him to school and college to call this the mission of his life. Instead, he was supposed to improve his family and community. He was supposed to speak for the illiterate people in his neighbourhood; for people who had been voiceless for generations because they never had an education. He was supposed to speak truth to the people who rule him, not people in faraway place who have nothing to do with him.
But it is very difficult to make Gul Khan realize that chanting green-blood slogans against fellow Pashtuns over the Pak-Afghan clash on Torkham is not what he is supposed to be doing. He is supposed to be doing the opposite. You can’t make Gul Khan realize that he is simply being manipulated emotionally into roaring and snorting like an animal for a country that doesn’t respect him for being from the Pashtun ethnicity. They don’t even call him Pashtun. They call him a freaking Pathan, a word so foreign to Pashto that he cannot even pronounce it properly.
Gul Khan will not understand that Mahmood Khan Achakzai was right when he spoke so bravely in the parliament or when he spoke to Voice of America when he said Pakhtunkhwa was a Pashtun-Afghan land. That is a historical fact. Mahmood Khan speaks from history but since the Gul Khans do not know any history other than that shoved at them in Pak Studies at schools and newspapers, they will not stop accusing Mahmood Khan of being a traitor.
Gul Khan’s narrow outlook will not broaden unless we decimate the ideas a Pakistani education and the media propaganda has stuffed into the dark depths of his mind and soul. Gul Khan often has no choice but to escape to the Middle East to earn some bread for his poor family because his own Pashtun belt in Pakistan has nothing but Pak-sponsored jihad to offer him, since the state of Pakistan chooses to use his ancestral land for a cowardly obsession called ‘strategic depth’.
So sitting in his overcrowded dwelling in a Mideast country, Gul Khan is furiously busy uploading videos issuing mad threats and spewing poison and hatred toward imagined enemies including those struggling for the rights of the Pashtun community.
On a recent bright afternoon, I had a conversation with one such died-in-wool Gul Khan about the stability of Pakistan and the instability of the Pashtun belt in Pakistan. He finally snapped, as a Gul Khan always will. “Those who have some sense of belonging to their soil will not criticize the policies of the state. The country is meant to improve the lives of its citizens”, he said. He cannot hear criticism about the policies of his perfect army. “Dude! Take some tea”, I said. I knew it would take a long time before the truth grows in his mind.
Let me attempt to make His Majesty Gul Khan realize that starting from 1948, when scores of Pashtuns were killed during the massacre of Babarra, to the most recent attack on lawyers in Quetta, Pashtuns have been suffering a veritable genocide. In the Babarra massacre, 1000 Pashtuns were killed at point blank range and more than 1300 were injured. We know how 141 Pashtuns including 132 school kids were killed in the Army Public School. Do not forget how 22 students were massacred in Bach Khan University just because the university is named after a Pashtun icon. Was that not an attack on the very identity and political struggle of Pashtuns? These are just three examples. There are thousands more. And now, once again, we are witnessing the painful consequences of a massacre of educated Pashtun lawyers in Quetta. Can you even count how many times our Pashtun national political leadership, even religious political leadership, has come under attack and how many hundreds of them have been killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA, and southern Pakhtunkhwa?
Dear Gul Khan, if you had just a little sense in you, you would not be waving that green flag in the face of wounded Pashtuns. Besides, dear Gul Khan, know this. You will never be accepted as a true Pakistani. This state is hard-wired not to trust a Pashtun since its very inception. You will never be considered an equal citizen.
In the end, let me remind you that the imposition of Taliban on Pashtun areas is also a strategic tactic of your policy makers in Rawalpindi. Taliban in Swat and then in Waziristan could have been either in Muzzafar Ghar and Multan but they were not, were they? They were and are here in our areas because we are not just Gul Khans of the Pak nationalist type.
We are also Gul Khans of the Islamic type. We take bleeding-green patriotism as a part of faith but consider it a heresy to think the best for our Pashtun nation. All this Taliban militancy has been a business for the policy makers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Despite all that has happened, there is still time for Gul Khan to realize the truth about why our areas are under such circumstances. It is high time for Gul Khan to stop tearing his throat screeching against his own people. We request him to stop for a moment and critically analyse his views. It is time for him to think about his neighbourhood, village, town, history and best interests. Struggle for your own people instead of fighting against imagined enemies created by the masters of the state. Your enemies are those that deny you your real share of the resources. Your security, electricity, water, mineral, agricultural products, and your economy in Pakhtunkhwa. Your enemies are those supporting and enabling the constant jihadist militancy in your area.
Personally, I will never raise a slogan of support for anyone I know is responsible for bloodshed in my land. I will never chant for someone who destroys my people, my land, my history, and my culture. Gul Khan, stop being fooled by people who manipulate our politics to their benefit and to our harm. Wake up Gul Khan!
The writer Sami Khan has an M.Phil degree in European Studies. He is a Pashtun social activist and currently residing in Dubai.Email: email@example.com