Muhammad Gul Khan Momand

(M. Ibrahim Nasar, University of Wollongong Australia)

A man of letters and the sword, a literary figure and a true symbol of the Afghan code of life, Pashtoonwali, Muhammad Gul Khan Momand was born in 1885, in Kabul. Like his father Khursheed Khan, grandfather Momen Khan and greatgrand father Abdul Kareem, who played key roles in politics, the administration and the army of Afghanistan under the then rulers, Amir Dost Mohammad Khan and Abdul Rahman Khan, Muhammad Gul Momand is well known for his services in all three areas and for his great contribution to Pashto language and literature.

After a basic education, Muhammad Gul Khan Momand entered the military school in 1909. He joined the Royal Guards and became a Unit Commander and an instructor for some units. After serving as the principal of the Military School, he later became deputy commander-in-chief and then commander of the Royal Guards.

In 1919, he was a member of the delegation, headed by Mohammad Wali Badakhshani, which visited Europe to announce the sovereignty of Afghanistan under Amanullah Khan.

In 1924 he served as civil and military governor of Pakthia and, in 1927, as Chairman of the inspection team of Mazar-e-Sharif and then civil and military governor of Ningarhar.

A Great Soldier and Administrator:

Muhammad Gul Momand had been endowed by God with great qualities as an administrator and a soldier. During King Amanullah Khan's time when, different tribes in the Khost and Ningarhar areas revolted against his policies of modernization, Amanullah Khan asked Muhammad Gul Momand to visit the areas. It was through his popularity as a great leader and a true and honest man among the people that within a short time an atmosphere of peace prevailed in the area. And later he took the responsibility of the governorship of Ningarhar and subsequently of other adjoining provinces.

Besides being a good administrator, he was also a great soldier and he played an important role in the uprising, which brought Nadir Shah to power. When a small group of people took over Kabul and terrorized the city, he left the city and went to Ningarhar. He later joined army of resistance, taking command of several units from the south in Ningarhar and within a couple of weeks his lashkar had reached outskirts of Kabul. When Kabul was attacked by the army from three sides, under the command of Sardar Shah Wali Khan, Sadar Shah Mahmood Khan and by a third Lashkar under the command of Muhammad Gul Momand, the bandits were defeated at Logar, Siahsang and Bagrami, and the resistance army soon managed to get control of the city center. This paved the way for the success of the rebellion and, as a result, Nadir shah became King of Afghanistan. It was because of the important role that Muhammad Gul Momand played in the revolt that Nadir Shah assigned him the responsibility of Interior Minister in his cabinet.

In 1930 he became the governor of the Capisa, Parwan, Kandahar and Farah provinces, and after 1933, he served as the governor of Badakhshan, Mazar-e-Sharif and Maimana.

He also performed the duty of deputy chairman of Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly), convened in 1955.

Contribution to Pashto Language and Literature

Muhammad Gul Momand can best be compared to Khoshal Khan and Rahman Baba as a poet, a good writer and an orator. Apart from Pashto and Dari, he had command of the Turkish and Russian languages as well. But he was a strong advocate of the purification of the Pashto language. His literary work mainly deals with Pashto language. He wrote several books and compiled a Pashto dictionary, De Pakhtu Sind. De Pukhtu De Zabe Lyara (on Pashto grammar) and another book entitled De Pashto Landaki, are other great contributions to the Pashto language. His letter to Abdul Rauf Benawa regarding the importance of language for the nation and the responsibilities of writers and leaders towards their language was published tract form in fifty three pages by Pukhto Adabi Tolana, Kabul. "This essay counts all the virtues of human life in relation to Pashto and Pashtunwala." (Hamish Khalil, 1995)

He always urged the importance and advancement of Pashto language according to the needs of the time. It was this search, which inspired him to gather and consult Pashtoon writers and tribal leaders, when he was governor of Kandahar, to seek ways of working for the advancement of the language. At the end of this gathering, a historic step was taken and the first ever association for the advancement of the Pashto language came into being under the name De Pashto Adbi Anjuman, in 1932 in Kandahar. Later, branches of the Anjuman were also established in other parts of the country. Muhammad Usman Khan Barakzai was selected as its first head and a committee under Muhammad Gul Momand (known to his countrymen, Pashtoon Baba) worked out the guidelines and objectives of the organisation. The Anjuman served the language by publishing historic books about the language and its grammar; searched for lost words by visiting villages and kochies (nomads) where such words were still alive; translated into Pashto from Farsi and from some international languages books which were of scientific, historical, political or economic importance for Afghanistan. It also started publishing the first Pashto magazine Pashto and a second one under the name Da Mualim Pashto as well as publishing many other books for the teaching and learning of Pashto language. It was with the help of Pashtoon Baba that the Farsi language Thalo e Afghan magazine, was, from 1935 published in Pashto.

The Anjuman fulfilled its activities in Kandahar till 1935 and later worked in Kabul for two years, until it was replaced in April 1937 by the Pashto Academy. The Pashto Academy was also the brainchild of Muhammad Gul Momand. According to Pohand Rishteen, Abdul Hai Habibi was in Kandahar when he was called to Kabul and invited by Muhammad Gul Momand to become the first head of the Academy.

Muhammad Gul Momand was universally known and loved. He was awarded the medal of Lmar A'lee (Sun-1) He was known by many names, such as Wazir Sahib, Pashtoon Baba and Loe Afghan.

Muhammad Gul Momand died in Kabul on 18th of August 1964, at the age of 80. His funeral was attended by high-ranking officials and tribal chiefs from all around the country, including the then prime minister Sardar Dawoud Khan. Zahir Shah, in the midst of his busy schedule, spent the whole day at the fatheha and delivered a speech and paid homage to the great man, calling him his guide and savior of the Afghan nation and land.

Note: Most of the information of this article is taken from the works of Syed Sabir Shah (Loe Afghan, 1998), Ismail Yoon (Da Mummad Gul Khan Momand Annd ao Zwand ta yawa Kathana, 1994), and Hamish Khalil (Muhammad Gul Khan Momand, 1995)
Thanks to Dr. Asad. Z, Noorullah Khan Attal, Nancy Syed and Breshna for their contribution and help in this article.


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