Qazi Ataullah Khan

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Qazi Ataullah Khan was born in 1895 in the house of Qazi Nasrullah Khan in Landi Arbab village of Peshawar. He was the second son of Qazi Nasrullah Khan who was a religious scholar of his area and a teacher. Being natives to Landi Arbab, this family is Khalil momand by caste and Qazi is the title given to Qazi Ataullah Khans great grand father Qazi (Haji) Talibuddin Rohani.

Qazi Ataullah Khan received his initial education in a local religious madrassa of his village. He was then admitted to Mission School Peshawar where his father Qazi Nasrullah Khan used to teach. Qazi Ataullah completed his 14 years of formal education in Peshawar and then went to Ali Garh to pursue further studies in the field of Law. He completed his Law degree in 1918 and then came back to his homeland to practice law and work for the rights of his fellow beings. His first exposure to a public gathering fighting for the rights of Pukhtoons was in 1919 when he attended a rally of Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan) in Charsadda. After this he became a close aide and a confidante of Ghaffar Khan in all matters related to the well being and the rights of the Pukhtoons.

Qazi sb got married to the daughter of a Khan of prang in 1923. His wife was the niece of the then Sahib e Haq. He started practicing law in Peshawar for a few years and then settled in Mardan in 1925 where he was involved with Ghaffar Khan in Anjuman e Islah Afghania and also practiced his law. Qazi Ataullah Khan proposed the name of the KHUDAI KHIDMATGARS (as narrated by Ajmal Khattak) that was formed in 1929 after the Qissa Khwani bazaar massacre. In 1930 he was imprisoned for 5 years under the British rule for fighting for the rights of Pukhtoons.

When congress won the elections of 1937, Qazi Ataullah Khan became a member of the legislative assembly and was the ‘Minister of Revenue’ under the government of Dr. Khan Sahib.

In 1946 congress again won the elections in the subcontinent and then Qazi Ataullah Khan became the ‘Minister of Education’ again in the government of Dr. Khan Sahib. It was then that the first ever education policy of Pukhtoonkhwa was announced. In 1947, when Muslim League called for a referendum in Pukhtoonkhwa, the option that was given was to either opt for Pakistan or for India. Congress opposed the notion saying that the people had already given their opinion in the form of the 1946 election by opting for congress and not the Muslim League and that the referendum was not constitutional. When this cry fell upon deaf ears then the Pukhtoonkhwa chapter of congress headed by Dr. Khan Sahib gave another option on 23 June 1947 that was to either opt for Pakistan or for Pukhtoonistan. This was the first time that the Pukhtoonistan chapter had been put up formally in an assembly session and that was done by Qazi Ataullah Khan. These efforts also ended in vain and thus, congress boycotted the referendum.

Pakistan came into being on the 14th of August 1947 and a month later Abdul Ghaffar Khan along with Qazi Ataullah Khan and other Khudai Khidmatgar leaders were put behind bars and their properties were confiscated by the then government of Muslim League under the cruel and brutal leadership of Qayyum Khan. Qazi Ataullah Khan was first sent to DI Khan jail and then to Hyderabad jail. It was then when he completed his 4 volume ‘History of the Pukhtoons’ written in Pushto thus making him the first Pukhtoon scholar to write about the history of the Pukhtoons.

His health kept on deteriorating and then he was sent to Mach jail in Balochistan where Wali Khan, Abdul Aziz Khan, Arbab Abdul Ghafoor Khan and Amir Muhammad Khan were also imprisoned. Qazi sb used to complain of ill health but was not given much attention by the authorities (as narrated by Wali Khan). He had also asked the government to either give him good medical care or let him arrange it himself in England where his brother Qazi Matiullah was based. All these requests were declined by Qayyum Khans government and later on Qazi Ataullah Khan was diagnosed with blood cancer. In February 1952 he was finally sent to Mayo Hospital in Lahore when his condition had become critical.

Qazi Ataullah Khan died in Mayo Hospital in Lahore on the 17th of February 1952 and was then handed over to his family for burial in his home in Mardan. Since then he is not known as Qazi Ataullah Khan among the Khudai Khidmatgars but as GHAZI QAZI due to his unrelenting struggle for the rights of Pukhtoons till his last breath and the way the Muslim League government under the leadership of Qayyum Khan had declined him all medical facilities in prison. According to Wali Khan,


In his last days, a famous journalist, Sorash Kashmiri went to meet Qazi Ataullah Khan where according to him Qazi sb said his last words. These were

“Working for the well being of Pakistan is our foremost priority and is our firm belief. We are the sons of this soil and we have given our lives for this land, then why is our soil and land still in turmoil. I am not upset because my life is about to end but it pains me when I think that I will not be able to serve my people anymore and that my lifelong struggle for the people will end halfway.”

                                Ay shaheeda! ay ashiqa! Ay bachia da Mansoor
                          Pa khanda janaan la laaray doob daryab ke shway da noor