New Age Islam
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Interfaith Dialogue ( 24 Jul 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Geography Cannot Be Altered and Neighbours Cannot Be Chosen

By Juma Khan Sufi

July 10, 2017

There is a dire need for friendship and good-neighbourliness between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Geography cannot be altered and neighbours cannot be chosen. To live in mistrust of each other represents the very base feelings of humanity. There are theories after theories in the media about the problem. The different interpretations advanced by media pundits and NGO activists just scratch the surface. They hardly go beyond the surface and are unable to offer a workable solution.

The current issues such as the Haqqani Network, the Quetta Shura and the Pakistani state’s so-called strategic depth theories are just symptoms pointing to something deeper. When these issues were not there, even then Afghans entertained no positive feelings towards Pakistan. A thousand or more years back, they descended upon the plains of the Subcontinent to earn a livelihood or take back war bounties. But they have not understood to this day that their survival depends upon these areas.

Most Afghans are not fans of Pakistan, and Pakistan bashing is common in Afghanistan – although they massively depend upon Pakistan. But Pakistanis, most importantly Pakhtuns, need to dispel the hatred existing in the Afghan mind. This has also affected mindsets in some areas of Pakistan. Friendly relations between both countries would, first and foremost, benefit Pakhtuns. To the existing distrust our two nationalist parties have also contributed for their own dynastic survival. If Pakistan offers them lucrative deal, they go for it. But if that deal is exhausted, they turn to the Afghan side. This is triangle is: Kabul, Wali Bagh and Gulestan. Their game I call in my book ‘Faraib-e-Natmam’ or unending deception.

Many things can be learnt from Afghans and they could be taught in their own logic. To them Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) is Jalaluddin Balkhi (Afghan) as he was born in Balkh (some say in Wakhsh) in the Khwarezmian Empire, though he composed his poetry in Persian in today’s Kunya of Turkey (ancient Rome) and founded one of the Sufi Orders of the whirling Dervishes. One can go on and give a long list of luminaries of medieval history whom Afghans consider as Afghans and who either worked in the territory of present Afghanistan or were born there in Afghanistan like Rumi.

This is true of Abul Qasim Firdowsi (940-1020), Abdu Rehan al-Biruni (977-1052), al Bayhaqi (994-1066) and others. They all belong to ancient Iran, but all of them are considered to have been Afghanistan-based – and so the prides of the Afghans. Zoroaster or Zaratushtra (c 1500-550 BCE to c1000-500 BCE) is also considered to be Afghan as he was allegedly born in Balkh and spread his gospel from there. Though he was typically Iranian and his landmarks and followers are still there or have been forced to migrate to India. The Parsis are their successors.

The same is true about Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi (971-1030) and Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghauri (1149-1206) – both belonging to the territories of today’s Afghanistan, though both of them were non-Pakhtuns (one Turk and the other Tajik). They belonged to greater Iran at a time when even the name of Afghanistan was not yet coined.

I believe that Pakistanis should emulate the Afghans and their historiography on this score as Afghans are incensed over the fact that Pakistan has grabbed their heroes and named missiles after them. Let us leave aside Mahmud Ghaznavi and Ghauri as the domains of both. Muhammad Ghauri’s shrine is near Sohawa, as he was assassinated by Gakhars near Jhelum on his way back to Ghor. On this score he is very much Pakistani.

Pakistan has legitimate claim over Ahmad Shah Abdali (1722-1772) as well. He was born in Multan where his aunts and other relations lived. Abdali’s father, Zaman Khan, suffered Persian captivity for many years at Kirman before being released from prison in 1715. As a refugee, he made his way to India and joined his kinsmen at Multan. After he raised his family there, he was recognised as the scion of hereditary Sadozai chiefs.

It is believed that Zaman Khan returned to Afghanistan to fight the Persians and his Afghan rivals, but left one of his wives at Multan because she was with other members and also pregnant. So Ahmad Shah Abdali was born at Multan in 1722, after which her mother returned to Afghanistan to reunite with her husband. He lost his father during his infancy. The place where he was born in Multan has been commemorated by a pre-British big rock on which his birth has been inscribed and the street has been named Abdali Street. Shish Mahal was their ancestral home; it later became the commissioner’s house when the British occupied Multan.

Ahmad Shah died at Toba Achakzai – a place on the Pak-Afghan border. So his domain included the whole of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir. This way, Pakistan also has claim over him. And in true Afghan fashion, he can be called ‘Multani’ as Multan was his birthplace. Maybe because Afghans do not fancy being associated with anything Pakistani, they claim he was born in Herat. Likewise, Pir Sabir Shah Chishti was from Lahore, but they have termed him ‘Kabuli’ – as in from Kabul.