Imran Khan says he will take his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to Waziristan in the first week of October 2012 as a gesture to the long suffering people of the tribal region and in protest against the drone attacks there. After meeting a delegation from the Bajaur tribal agency, he also announced a similar march to Bajaur later on.
The initial reaction from the Taliban to this march was negative but the fact that Imran Khan has not set his party against them must have shamed them since their second reaction was mild. Imran Khan says that the security of his 100,000-strong procession will be in the hands of the local population. If the Taliban obstruct him, they will lose the local support, if at all they have it.
The next question that one might ask: will Imran Khan visit Kaniguram in South Waziristan? This is where his ancestors came from. The tribe of his mother — whose name is immortalised in the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital — came down from Kaniguram to live and prosper in India in the 17th century. The people of Kaniguram, now under great stress, recall this migration and will welcome his visit.
A fellow tribesman, Khan Hussan Zia, ex-deputy naval chief, has written in his recent book on the tribe: “Kaniguram is located about 20 miles north of Wana in South Waziristan. Two perennial streams pass through it and the hills are covered with thick pine forests. The town itself is about 7,000 feet above sea level”.
Another co-tribesman from Kaniguram, Khan Zeb Burki, an M Phil scholar and tribal affairs analyst, wrote in Asia Times Online (July 7, 2012) about Imran Khan’s tribal homeland.
“Kaniguram is a densely populated town inhabited mostly by the Burki/Urmar tribe and a mixture of other Pakhtun tribes, including the Mehsud and the Wazir, who are known as kandkimor, live in the upper part of town.
“Kaniguram or Kanigram is known locally as Shora (Pashto) while in the Burki language is called Shor, a scenic place full of natural beauty. Rainwater streams or ‘lgad’ run on both sides of Kaniguram. The mesmerising beauty of the area once attracted people to the town from across Waziristan and adjacent areas. However, since Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path to Salvation) by the Pakistan Army in 2009, most residents have been forced to flee the region”.
Burki goes on: “The war forced the inhabitants of Kaniguram to take shelter in other parts of Pakistan. Some left for big cities like Karachi and Islamabad, while others are now spending their lives as 100,000 internally displaced persons in the adjacent districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa”.
Imran Khan’s tribesmen in Zaman Park, Lahore trace themselves to their ancestor, Pir Roshaan. The inventor of the Pashto script — which ensured Pashto literature and writing — and the pioneer of the Rokhaniya or Roshanya Movement, Pir Rokhan or Roshaan, was from Kaniguram.
Khan Wali Khan’s book Facts are facts (1986) mentions Bayazid Pir Roshaan as one of the pillars of Pakhtun nationalism. Today, a nephew of Imran Khan is named after the great poet-mystic, the ancestor of the tribe. Bazid Khan — Bazid is a variant of Bayazid — is the son of Imran Khan’s first cousin, former cricket captain Majid Khan.
Imran Khan has talked about his ancestor Pir Roshaan in his book Warrior Race (London: Butler & Tanner 1993). His presence in the tribal areas will affect the environment of fear created there by the Taliban. Hence, he will challenge not only Pakistan’s policy against terrorism but also the pattern of terrorism practised by the Taliban.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2012.