The civil war, violence and bloodshed in Afghanistan — and the terrorism that it has spawned, especially in the sub-continent — has been causing concern around the world. Now, Indian Pathans, who outnumber their cousins in their homeland, have decided to do something about it.
Several organisations representing Indian Pathans have decided to hold a grand jirga, a traditional assembly of Afghan elders, in India to broker peace among the warring groups.
The convener of the proposed jirga, Dr Rais Ahmad Khan, said the organisers are approaching various Afghan groups to bring them to the table. The jirga will be held in Lucknow in February 2009.
“We are offering to mediate among the warring factions and are inviting representatives of every major group, including those who are fighting the government in Afghanistan (Taliban) and others active in the North-West Frontier region,” said Prof Khan Mohammad Atif, former Head of Department of Persian, at Lucknow University, who is part of the initiative.
“Indian Pathans are upset over the way terrorism is ravaging our country, and we want to do our bit to stop it,” he added.
India and Afghanistan share a long, and often chequered, history, dating back to antiquity. Shakuni, king of Gandhar (Kandahar in modern day Afghanistan), is one of the central characters of the Mahabharata. Then, the Kushan empire and Gandhara art are part of every school history textbook. And several Pathan rulers and chieftains have ruled over parts of India over the last one thousand years.
Pathans are now scattered across the country, and have pockets of influence in parts of UP, Bihar and other states. They have also shone in several fields, especially Bollywood and sports. The three most famous Indian Pathans are Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan and Irfan Pathan.
“The population of Pathans in India is twice their population in Afghanistan and though we no longer have ties (with that country), we have a common ancestry and feel it’s our duty to help put an end to this menace,” Atif added.
Academicians, social activists, writers and religious scholars are part of the initiative. The All India Muslim Majlis, All India Minorities Federation and several other organisations have joined the call for peace and are making preparations for the jirga.