Who’s story? Writers, politicians protest against Kalu Khan’s portrayal in textbooks

Lesson presents Mughal emperor Akbar as hero, exhibits Pukhtun hero as dacoit

Hidayat Khan June 04, 2016
Politicians and writers agitate outside Peshawar Press Club. PHOTO: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: The Pashto Progressive Writers’ Association and politicians protested against the government for presenting the 16th century hero Malik Kalu Khan as a dacoit and robber in class nine English book lesson, ‘The Snare.’ The same story presented the Mughal king Akbar as a hero.

Demonstrating outside Peshawar Press Club on Saturday, Awami National Party leader Mian Ifitkhar Husain said, “They are presenting heroes as thieves even to Pukhtun children – it is clear what they want to teach them.”

Pashto Progressive Writers’ Association member Hayat Roghani said Kalu Khan was a legendary man who followed the lead of Gujju Khan and Malik Ahmad Baba and fought against the Mughals for emancipation of Pukhtuns.

“This whole lesson is but a eulogy of Mughal king Akbar and completely disregards the history of Pukhtuns,” he said, adding Kalu Khan was famous for his generosity and bravery from Hind to Kabul and just because he fought against Mughals, he is seen as a villain.


The Peshawar text book board already announced the lesson will be removed from the syllabus and action against those who included it in the first place will be taken.

However, the writers demanded the lesson be removed from the course and another one that shows him as the real Pukhtun hero be added.

“The Pukhtun leaders and elders have never been presented in a responsible and just manner,” Pashto writer Muhib Wazir said. He added, “The course should be prepared by Pukhtuns who are aware of their culture and heritage.”

The sidelined narrative

Although the lesson was included in the course last year, social activists and Pukhtun writers realised it recently after people in Swabi brought the issue to light and protested against their government.

People in the district greatly revere him and four villages in Swabi are named after Malik Kalu Khan – Kala Dara, Kalu Dhand, Kalu Dher and Kalu Khan as he stayed in different areas of the district.

Although there is no confirmed date of Kalu Khan’s birth, Pukhtun historians believe he was the Sardar of Yousafzai tribe in the 16th century and was actively involved in wars against the Mughals who wanted to subdue Pukhtuns.

During Emperor Akbar’s rule in India, Kalu Khan followed the work of his predecessors Khan Gujju Khan and Malik Mistri Khan Salarzai, and became a valiant leader himself.

It is believed he also took part in the war in 1586 and killed Birbal, allegedly the strongest and cleverest of all Navaratnas of King Akbar.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2016.


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