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Rahman Baba plays to enthusiastic audiences in Nishtar Hall
Abasin Yousafzai wrote and Ajab Gul directed hit play
By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s culture department is introducing a new generation to Pashtun Sufi poet Abdur Rahman Baba’s teachings about peace and love through drama.
Hagha Khkulee Khkulee Khalaq (Those Beautiful People) was performed at Nishtar Hall January 16-18. Authorities will decide January 19 whether to extend the show’s run because of the overwhelming audience response.
“People are desperately looking for positive entertainment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” actor and producer Ajab Gul told Central Asia Online. “That is why we are meeting ... to see if the play can be extended for another few days.”
Iftikhar Qaisar plays Abdur Rahman Baba (popularly called Rahman Baba [1653-1711]) in the production written by poet Abasin Yousafzai. Veteran actors Javed Babar, Said Rahman Sheeno, Umer Daraz, Kalim Khan, Zahida Tanha, Meena Shams, H.M. Raza, Aziz Uzair, Shabir Khan, Ishrat Abbas and Riaz Akhtar rounded out the production in supporting roles.
Rahman Baba’s works include a naat, a poem praising the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “Che me meena Khudai pa ta bandi paida kra” (“When God created your love in my heart”).
Play acclaimed in Pakistan and abroad
“Through the play, we wanted to give the message that Pashtuns are not terrorists and they have always preached peace and love. We wanted to present that picture of Pashtuns to the world,” Gul said.
The response to the play, in Pakistan and abroad, has excited him, he said. Afghan and European Union officials have expressed interest in staging the play in Kabul and Brussels, he said. “We have also been requested to stage the play in Quetta and many other parts (of Pakistan), and we are looking to establish a mobile theatre,” Gul said.
As part of the theatre revival in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province’s culture department hopes to stage plays about other Pashtun creative greats, such as Khushal Khan Khattak, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (also known as Bacha Khan).
“Theatre is a powerful medium, and we will continue making plays on the lives of Khushal Khan Khattak, Pir Rokhan and others so their messages of peace and love could be conveyed to the new generation,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, KP information minister, who was among the 600 audience members on opening night of the Rahman Baba play.
“This was the first-ever play on the life of Rahman Baba,” Gul said, adding nobody had written such a play in more than three centuries. “The audience not only welcomed the effort but were generous in appreciating the dialogue, scenes and poetry.”
Play details Rahman Baba’s teachings
The play illustrates the poetry, message and life of Rahman Baba, Yousafzai said. “We have also tried to sow the seeds of spiritualism and peace and love of the poetry of Rahman Baba in the hearts of the new generation, struck by violence and terrorism,” he said.
Throughout the 2-hour drama, Iftikhar Qaisar kept the audience spellbound, taking the utmost care to convey the poet’s simple lifestyle and soft speaking habits to the audience.
"Different aspects of the life and teachings of the famous Sufi poet were highlighted in various scenes of the drama,” said Nisar Mahmood, a Peshawar-based journalist who covers cultural activities.
The play’s theme resonated with audience members.
“These are the people who are our ideal in life. It was great to have a play on the life of Rahman Baba,” said Rukhsana, who attended one of the performances.
Rahman Baba was born on the outskirts of Peshawar and laid to rest outside Hazarkhwani. Today his poetic message of peace, love and education is widely regarded as the best education for the common people.
However, terrorists have rejected his message. In March 2009, a bombing severely damaged his mausoleum after women refused to heed terrorist warnings to not pay homage at the tomb.
"His universal poetry expresses a peaceful mystical side of local culture, which is becoming increasingly threatened by less tolerant interpretations of Islam, as can be judged from the ... bombing of his tomb in 2009," Mahmood said.