The Ideologue and architect of the armed resistance movement in Kashmir, Aman Ullah Khan was the founder of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). He was born in Astore, present day Gilgit Baltistan in August 1931 to a Revenue Official of the J&K State. He was named Aman Ullah Khan by his father, after the great Afghan Nationalist Leader and Reformist, King Amanullah Khan.
As fate would have it Amanullah Khan of Astore too would go on to become an Icon of Kashmiri Nationalism based on a Pluri-Nationalist Ideology of a Secular, Democratic and Welfare State. Having strong personal and political roots in all divided regions of the state – J&K, AJK, GB, he was a towering symbol of the Unity and Diversity of the state.
After becoming orphaned at a young age, Amanullah Khan went to live with his sister in Kupwara District, J&K in search of better educational opportunities. He passed his matriculation with honours topping the list of Muslim aspirants, while standing third in the entire J&K state. He then joined the renowned SP College in Srinagar where he got embroiled in Politics and faced incarceration, his first brush with imprisonment already occurring when in class 8. He’s political activism compelled him to cross over to Pakistan in 1952 and he eventually based himself in the city of Karachi. His initial years proved very harsh having to even sleep on the footpath for the first 6 months after his arrival. He was soon juggling multiple jobs while simultaneously pursuing his studies. The relative financial autonomy gave him the opportunity to rekindle his political pursuits and he formed the Kashmir Students Federation in 1954 while yet in college. By 1957 his growing intellectual engagement with the Kashmir issue lead him to favourably consider the idea of an Independent Kashmir.
As a means of further refinement of his Ideology Amanullah Khan established a monthly News magazine called the “Voice of Kashmir” in 1961. The magazine lasted for three years, immensely contributing towards the intellectual evolution and dissemination of his Ideology of an Independent Kashmir. In the meantime, he was also able to complete his bachelor of law degree from Karachi’s premier Sindh Muslim Law College in 1962. Due to unavoidable circumstances he had to drop out of his Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Amanullah Khan had realised very early on that a key means of pursuing his political autonomy would be his financial Independence and thus in the late 1950’s he lay the foundation of his Independent private Schools which would go on to enable him an Independent political stance by financially supporting his politics. Till date he remains a beacon of financial integrity, a tool otherwise employed to elicit political and Ideological compromises.
In 1963 Amanullah Khan broadened his political canvas to co-found the Kashmir Independence Committee with AJK State Council member G M Lone. This was merged with the Mahaz- e – Raishumari (Plebiscite Front) established in 1965 by Abdul Khaliq Ansari, Maqbool Bhat, GM Lone and Amanullah Khan. Gathered in the borderlands of Sialkot and Jammu the leaders enacted an emotional pledge towards the Independence of their homeland by taking oath on the soil of Kashmir. This was also an era of revolutionary fervour sweeping across the globe witnessing the establishment of Al Fatah in Palestine and the Algerian Guerilla organisation the FLN. Amanullah Khan had been deeply influenced by the FLN. He also personally knew the Algerian diplomats in Pakistan. Modelled on the FLN Amanullah Khan along with Maqbool Bhatt founded the National Liberation Front (NLF) – the English rendering of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale in 1965. In 1969 Amanullah Khan was able to sneak in Palestinian Fatah representatives in Pakistan to the Plebiscite Front convention in Mirpur, AJK.
Along with Kashmir Amanullah Khan also mobilised support for the indigenous rights of his native Gilgit-Baltistan for which he was incarcerated in Gilgit prison in 1970 for 15 months before being brought to the notorious Shahi Qilla along with Maqbool Bhat and facing torture. The 1970’s also saw the Bhutto lead Political Reforms in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Amanullah Khan was offered the presidentship of the Pakistan People’s Party in GB with the incentive of becoming the first Chief Minister of a then seriously considered province of GB. Amanullah Khan categorically rejected the offer.
In 1976 Amanullah Khan shifted to the UK where he resumed his magazine “Voice of Kashmir”. In 1977 he founded the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation front in Birmingham along with a number of his colleagues. During his stay in the UK Amanullah Khan met the Algerian Revolutionary leader Ahmed Ben Bella and established close ties with close associates of International leaders such as Yasir Arafat, Colonel Gadhafi and extended solidarity with pro-liberation movements of Palestine, Khalistan and the opposition to the South African Apartheid regime.
In 1979 Amanullah Khan attended the Muslim Nationality Movement Conference in UK which was presided over by the former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadiq Al Mahdi. The Conference elected Sadiq Al Mahdi as its President and Amanullah Khan as General Secretary. This was also a time Amanullah Khan was extensively travelling around the western world establishing JKLF Units and lobbying for support. He also travelled constantly to the UN Head Quarters in New York in pursuit of engaging with various diplomats, representatives of different liberation movements and the International Press.
In 1980 he was able to plan an incident at the UN General Assembly when during the address of the Indian representative, Kashmiri activists raised slogans of Free Kashmir and also distributed literature highlighting the denied right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. This was just one of the series of protests and demonstrations he had lead in leading capitals of the world highlighting Kashmiri aspirations and demands. He also got the opportunity to address Press conferences highlighting his cause in London, at the UN Head Quarters in New York and as a guest speaker at the prestigious National Press Club in Washington DC.
In December 1986 he was deported from the UK, after 15 months of incarceration on the vague grounds of safeguarding British National Security. By 1989 a full-fledged insurgency was underway in Indian Occupied Kashmir, conceived, planned and executed by the JKLF. In 1992 Amanullah Khan lead a March comprising hundreds and thousands of people in an attempt to cross the LoC, protesting the continued division of Jammu and Kashmir. The event attracted immense International media attention and was critical in turning the world’s attention towards the Kashmiri struggle again.
while on the invitation of the European Union to attend a seminar on Kashmir in Brussels, Amanullah Khan was once again imprisoned in October 1993 on the complaint of India to the InterPol. Released after a month, his passport was rescinded once back in Pakistan. An earlier US Visa had also been cancelled on the Indian request in 1990 while still in the US and he was asked to leave the country. This unfortunately put an end to Amanullah Khan’s diplomatic offensives.
An engineered split in the JKLF and restrictive curbs on his political activity along with a deteriorating health kept Amanullah Khan out of practical politics in the latter part of his life, but he kept raising the issue through a repertoire of Revolutionary literature – a testimony to his writer-thinker credentials. His maiden book “Free Kashmir” (1970) can be found in the bibliography of every major International publication on Kashmir. He has authored over 100 pamphlets on Kashmir, written numerous articles in National and International publications and penned his autobiography. His Autobiography spread across three volumes also sheds important light on intricacies of the resistance movement. He also authored the JKLF Roadmap in 2003, which remains an important guideline for the resolution of the Kashmir Issue.
Having developed Parkinson’s disease earlier on, with three fourths of his lungs already removed due to complications created by Cancer, Amanullah Khan’s last visit to Gilgit Baltistan in the harsh winter months of early 2016, as part of his campaign to open offices and consolidate JKLF in the region proved fatal and he developed a severe chest infection. He breathed his last in Islamabad on 26th April 2016. In accordance with his will he was laid to rest in his native Gilgit Baltistan. This was to be the parting shot of a pioneering Ideologue in the twilight of his life – his lasting legacy towards the reunification of his beloved motherland. With his political base well entrenched in AJK, Amanullah Khan knew that this would be a renewed opportunity towards the resuscitation of the broken linkages of the two sister regions. Even in his death he made sure that his struggle for the rights and unification of his motherland lived on.
Until Victory, Always.