Khan Abdul Ghani Khan(1914-1996) is widely considered as one of the best Pashto language poets of the 20th century, along with Ameer Hamza Shinwari. He stands on a par with Khushal Khan Khattak and Rahman Baba. He was also a respected writer and artist. He was son of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and older brother of Khan Abdul Wali Khan.
Khan Abdul Ghani Khan was born in Hashtnagar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP), British India, modern day Charsadda, Village Utmanzai, Pakistan, the son of the Red-Shirt Leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and older brother of Khan Abdul Wali Khan. His wife Roshan came from a Parsi family and was the daughter of Nawab Rustam Jang. He went to study at the art academy at Rabindranath Tagore’s university in Shantiniketan and developed a liking for painting and sculpture. He visited England and studied sugar technology in the United States, after which he returned to India and started working at the Takht Bhai Sugar Mills in 1933. Largely owing to his father’s influence, he was also involved in politics, supporting the cause of the Pashtuns of British India. He was arrested by the Government of Pakistan in 1948 – although he had given up politics by then – and remained in prison till 1954, in various jails all over the country. It was during these years that he wrote his poem collection Da Panjray Chaghaar, which he considered the best work of his life.
His contribution to literature (often unpublished) was ignored by the Pakistan government for much of his life although near the end of his life his works did receive much praise and as well as an award from the Government of Pakistan. For his contributions to Pukhto literature and painting, the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, conferred on him the prestigious award of Sitara-e-Imtiaz (23 March 1980).
Aside from a few poems of his youth and early manhood, Ghani Khan’s poetry, like his temperament, is anti-political. His poem collections include Panoos, Palwashay, De Panjray Chaghar, Kullryat and Latoon. He also wrote in English; his first book was The Pathans (1947). His only published work in Urdu was his book titled Khan Sahib (1994).
The singular distinction of his poetry – aside from his obvious poetic genius – is a profound blend of knowledge about his native and foreign cultures, and the psychological, sensual, and religious aspects of life
Quotes & Prose
Ghani Khan’s love for nature and the local habitat of the Pashtun people is visible in his work. He wrote
- “Pashtun is not merely a race but, in fact, a state of mind; there is a Pashtun lying inside every man, who at times wakes up and overpowers him.”
- “The Pashtuns are a rain-sown wheat: they all came up on the same day; they are all the same. But the chief reason why I love a Pashtun is that he will wash his face and oil his beard and perfume his locks and put on his best pair of clothes when he goes out to fight and die.”
- As a progressive and intellectual writer, he wrote, “I want to see my people educated and enlightened. A people with a vision and a strong sense of justice, who can carve out a future for themselves in harmony with nature.”
After his death, in recognition of his outstanding achievements, the Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province built a public li and park as a memorial to him on about 8 acres (32,000 m2) of land, naming it “Ghani Derai” (the mound of Ghani). The site is an historical mound very near his home, Dar- ul-Aman, and within the confines of his ancestral village, Utmanzai, on the main highway from Razzar to Takht-i-Bhai.