Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Socio-Economic and Political Change in the Tribal Society: 'Awami-Khel's Struggle for Equality 'Emancipation', and Honour in Batkhela, Malakand *

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Socio-Economic and Political Change in the Tribal Society: 'Awami-Khel's Struggle for Equality 'Emancipation', and Honour in Batkhela, Malakand *

Article excerpt


The post-colonial political scene in Malakand is often depicted with reference to religious movements such as Tehrïk-i Nifadh-i SharTat-i* Muhammadï (TNSM) (1989-to date) and more recently the Tehrïk-i Taliban Pakistan.1 These movements are religious in nature, and therefore, highlight the struggle for political Islam in Pakistan. This also gives an impression that the region has only seen religious militant movements. However, there is substantial political effort made by some local organizations such as the 'Awamï-khel** that has become embedded in the local culture and driven by socio-economic change in the region. The 'Awâmî-khel was primarily launched by immigrant businessmen, who challenged the political and economic privileges enjoyed by the local landed aristocracy. Such a struggle was facilitated by socio-economic changes in the agrarian set up e.g., the development of a local bäzär (marketplace), diversification of economic activities through growing businesses, increasing income, large scale migration to the towns and urbanization.

This study intends to explore the struggle of the 'Awâmî-khel, which is rarely referred to in the available literature on Malakand. The primary research question investigated by this study is; "how an indigenous struggle was launched by a deprived community for socio-economic and political reforms in a tribal area of Pakistan? Within this broader inquiry the paper probes; what was the socio-economic context within which such a struggle was launched? How the leadership of this struggle disseminated its message and consequently created a support base? And most importantly, what was the narrative of this movement?" The study does not primarily evaluate the contribution of the 'Awâmî-khel to the political change in the region; rather it focuses on the nature of its struggle. In this way the study will showcase the exquisite efforts made by the these people in the North-West tribal areas of Pakistan for socioeconomic and political reforms.

The significance of this study is evident from the fact that there is no cogent study on this movement, despite the important role this movement played in articulating the demands of a segment of local people and making an organized struggle for political reforms in Malakand. Moreover, the authors accessed the original documents that were published by the 'Awami-khel and interviewed some of the senior members of the 'Awamikhel in Batkhela. With such rarely accessed data the analysis becomes more credible and insightful. Most importantly, the study intends to look into one of the disadvantageous parts of Pakistan and tries to understand the people of the region as agents of change.*

The study is ethnographic in nature and therefore, primarily involves field research. Semi-structured interviews were conducted during 2008 in the town of Batkhela. The interviewee included former representatives of the 'Awami-khel, the family members of the 'Awami-khel leader (Muhammad Khan), local peasants, businessmen and the traditional landlords of Batkhela. Besides interviews we have analyzed the literature produced by the 'Awami-khel during its struggle. This literature was published in the form of small pamphlets with titles such as 'Da 'wat-i Haq ', 'Da 'wat-i Insäf' and 'Interview with Muhammad Khän '.

We will first elaborate the socio-economic profile of Batkhela where the 'Awami-khel leadership was based. This will also help explaining the context in which the 'Awami-khel launched its struggle. We will then explicate the struggle of the 'Awami-khel by investigating its genesis, modus operandi and support base. An analysis of the 'Awami-khel's struggle and narrative will be made in the next section. The paper ends with a brief conclusion.

Socio-economic Profile of Batkhela, Maläkand

Batkhela is the tehsil (sub-district) headquarter of Swat Raniza'i and the only officially recognized urban area of the Malakand district. …

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