By Fazal Amin Beg
This small contribution on the wonderful life stories of Mir (rather Wazir) Ghazanfar Ali Khan, a former Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Region, is based on an in-depth interview that I had taken on July 20, 2014. The interview continued for over two hours and one hour out of it was dedicated specifically to his life stories and experiential knowledge. The interview with him had two key objectives:
1) Bbring on record the enriched experiential knowledge and understand the personality of Ghazanfar Ali Khan in an evolutionary context by taking into accounts the life stories that are attached to him; and
2) explore and understand the old model of Governance functional in the former Hunza State focused on the indigenous rights of the people on their land, some aspects of the indigenous knowledge and practices under the customary laws about the ecology and dispute resolution.
However, in this small write-up , I’ve focused part one of the objective only that revolves around the biographic realm of Ghazanfar Ali Khan and his interesting and in many ways impressive or sensational life stories coming out of his experiences (challenges, opportunities and achievements).I hope the readers would look at the stories in a positively critical manner and try to understand the ground realities that hampered on the peoples lives where there was no better opportunities and instead the grave poverty and exploitation governed the political dominion in different ways despite the fact the Hunza State had its own due importance to the concerned people themselves as insiders and those who looked at them through different lenses as outsiders when compared with the neighboring princely states.
Situated geographically on the junction of South and Central Asia and China, today’s Hunza valley (a district within Gilgit-Baltistan Region) had its own invaluable significance, at least in strategic terms, especially playing its critical role between the imperial powers like Czarist Russia, British India and China. To illustrate a bit, on the world map, there existed the tiny but influential Hunza State for centuries and was abolished in 1974 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in September 1974 when late Muhammad Jamal Khan was the last ruler or Amir (contracted as Mir) since 1945 after assasination of his late father Mir Ghazan Khan.
Ghazanfar Ali Khan is the older son of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan who was born in 1945.He has two brothers and six sisters. His brothers are Amin Khan and Abbas Khan in their 70 plus ages by now.The names of his sisters are Dur-e Shawar, Nilufar, Nur Begum (also called as Malika), Mehr Jamal (nickname as Meri) and Azrah Khan.Ghazanfar Ali Khan has married with Atiqa Begum from Punjab (both remained as classmates during their university life). Both of them have thus three sons and no daughter. Their sons are Shah Silum Khan, Sheryar Khan and Salman Khan.
Before moving ahead, let me elaborate an important point here. Though, today there does not exist Hunza State, nonetheless the term Mir is preceded with the name of Ghazanfar Ali Khan in a titular way (means as a title only ) despite the fact he doesn’t continue or hold legally as Amir of the old dominion as a political entity .However, in a nostalgic way, it perhaps proves psychologically soothing and therefore when the term Mir is not used or he is not addressed with the very political term, he shows his resentment .Likewise, if he is a titular Mir of Hunza (not Hunza State), his life partner is thus spontaneously termed as a titular Rani of Hunza.
However, it is highly noteworthy and clear when we look at the title of Wazir preceded with his name that has been bestowed upon Ghazanfar Ali Khan by the Imam of the Time, His Highness, Shah Karim al-Hussaini Aga Khan IV (also known as Prince Karim Aga Khan). In theological or religious context, this title of Wazir has the utmost importance that remains to him and him only in his lifetime and cannot be transffered to his other family members unlike the political title of Mir or Amir.It now depends on Ghazanfar Ali Khan that which title he would like to retain and maintain with his name on priority: the title extended in political context associated with him from his biological father or the title that has been given to him by his spiritual Lord.I haven’t met him for a long time and I don’t know his priority in this regard. However, I myself personally have preferred the title of Wazir conferred to him from the Spiritual Lord of the Time I trust he would agree with it. . Well, it was July 16, 2000, when I initiated to have a detailed seating with Madam Shams-un Nihar wife of Mir Muhammad Jamal khan, the honorable mother of Ghazanfar Ali Khan and the last Rani of the former Hunza State.Both video clips I’ve already published on EaglesWorld channel in addition to the detailed account in textual form in English on my website (www.fazalamin.com). Interestingly, it was July again after fourteen years, when I got a detailed interview of Mir Ghazanfar ali khan for two hours and one hour I dedicated to his life history (right from his birth to July 20, 2014).Muhammad Ali Daulat Khan of Spenj (Chipursan valley) was so gracious to facilitate it , especially in making the videos, though some hurdle we faced before the respected Wazir and Mir’s interview.
The personality of Wazir Ghazanfar Ali Khan is not so much complicated to understand but rather could be found simple and plain and it is like an open book in many terms. It seems that it is hard for him to defend something he has said wrongly, though he tries his best but remains in vain. However, in the video discussion, he so friendly describes about his year of birth, childhood activities,schooling at Baltit and in the Mir’s Palace, his teachers, classmates and foster family members, learning some aspects of the traditional knowledge and music and the like. Besides, Wazir Ghazanfar Ali Khan also compares his life in a rural setting with those of the urban, his training as the Crown Prince , especially pertaining to the judicial matters. He greatly mentions about the resolution of the cases at local level and the roles of the local administrators like Arbobs or tranphas and his father’s role as decisive to resolve the cases in the last stage.
He then takes us lively in his life journey towards Rawalpindi from the Hunza state. How did he got admission in Saint Merry school and continued his education is nicely narrated before reaching to Gorden College Rawalpindi. What were the motivating factors to get admission in Punjab University, Lahore, and how did he spends his time during university life is described energetically.Moreover, how did he came in interaction with Madam Atiqa, his wife and got married with her is also shared in his discussion in somehow courageous manner.
Wazir Ghazanfar Ali Khan enthusiastically recollects his memories of his childhood and also comes up with one of the fascinating and most important events when he was lesser than 10 years. He joins his great parents to meet His Royal Highness, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili community in Karachi in 1950s and how does they met him, how does the Imam of the Time extends his hands of affection on the heads of the children like Ghazanfar Ali Khan while the latter sitting so near to to the former is also clearly mentioned to the public.It sounds that he politically misses his father too much as time and again he mentions about him in his detailed discussion.
Apart from the 48th Imam of the Time, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, Ghazanfar Ali Khan also evidences and relates the first ever visit of His Highness Shah Karim Al-Hussaini Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Time, to Gilgit-Baltistan Region, especially to Hunza on October 23, 1960 when Ghazanfar Ali was 15 years old only and travelled with the great Imam of the Time as the latter describes.It was this time when the jeep road link had not yet reached to Gulmit, the second capital of the former Hunza State.
Wazir Ghazanfar Ali Khan also updates us about another historic and important event pertaining to his late father, Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan who visits Beijing along with the then President of Pakistan, Field Martial Muhammad Ayub Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (then Foreign Minister of Pakistan). He also mentions about the agreement signature made between the Chinese Premier and the Mir of Hunza in the first half of 1960 in order to initiate construction of the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) as a souvenir of friendship between China, Hunza and Pakistan.
Wazir Ghazanfar Ali Khan also narrats about his professional life after getting his Master’s degree in Political Science from Punjab University in 1969-1970 while serving the Foreign Office of Pakistan. He spends a couple of years in Washington as a public servant, too. Earlier than United States, Ghazanfar Ali Khan also avails a signicant part of of more than one year in London School of Economics and gets his related Diploma Certificate from there.
Interesting enough to note that abolition of the former Hunza State was not even imagined by the ruling family because both Muhammad Jamal Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had good familial rrelationship together, Ghazanfar Ali Khan describes disappointedly. However, when the Hunza State was merged with Pakistan, it was so shocking in many ways to the ruling family and the majority of the people of Hunza.
I was so stunned and shocked to know for the first time in my life about the planned or leading tragic death of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan and the type of the secrecy revealed by Wazir Ghazanfar Ali Khan. This news is not found popular, at least, among the common people. According to Wazir Ghazanfar Ali, zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the concerned doctors in the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Rawalpindi could be held responsible for the leading death. Ghazanfar Ali describes that Mir Jamal Khan was hospitalized in CMH due to his kidney issues. ZA Bhutto had his plan to visit Hunza and has insisted the late Mir to go to Hunza for the reception of the former. Mir Jamal Khan has replied him that he was not doing well due to his critical health condition . more importantly, after ending up his State, Jamal Khan had no responsibility as per se, too. He has therefore stated better ask his Assistant Commissioner and/or Magistrate within the newly introduced political and administratrive setup to receive him on his arrival. Bhuttto was so stubborn and having status conscious and he has forced Mir Jamal Khan to be in Hunza. The doctors in CMH on the direction of Bhutto have discharged late Jamal Khan by saying that he was fine and no issue will come across. Late Mir Jamal Khan was thus brought to Hunza in 1976 and after a short time he passed away unfortunately.
After the death of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, Ghazanfar Ali Khan when in his youth (31 years old) finds himself so helpless despite the fact he was on job with the Foreign Office of Pakistan as under Secretary (Grade 18) on the one hand, and presence of his entire family members , especially his late and great mother and wife on the other. He thus contacts Amir Ali Merchant in Karachi and requests him to arrange a meeting of him with the Imam of the Time, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan in Paris (France). In brief, the great Imam of the Time invites him and his wife (Rani Atiqa) to France. Both of them reach Paris (Aiglemont) and meet the honorable Imam. This becomes so difficult for Ghazanfar Ali to venture and express himself before the great personality. The Imam of the Time then postpons the meeting for the next dy and takes both the couple to the markets and sight seeing.The next day, Ghazanfar Ali expresses him his heart that he is a deep trouble to decide whehter to continue his job with teh Foreign Office or shoiuld resign as his mother (the late Rani) was alone at home. Imam of the Time, after thinking for a while, advises him to leave his job and reach Hunza to look after his great mother after the death of his late father.
Ghazanfar Ali though stunned but dared to ask from the compassionate Imam of the Time that how would he then make his living without employment, as he has nothing. Imam of the Time responds that it was his responsibility to support him. The great Merchant thus hints Ghazanfar Ali to stop there to ask further as the blessing from the Imamof the Time was more than enough.
Both the young couple thus return from France to Pakistan.However, Ghazanfar Ali Khan waits for two months more and in the meanwhile a political delegation from Hunza under Hameedullah Baig also meet Ghazanfar Ali Khan in Islamabad and request him to resign from his employment and reach Hunza to lead them in the deteriorating political arena. Ghazanfar Ali thus finally resigns but his resignation was not accepted by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as Ghazanfar Ali Khan was serving as the Protocol Officer with him at that time. When Bhutto was hanged after seizure of his political power by the military dictator General Zia-ul Haq, it stood as a good omen for Ghazanfar Ali and his resignation was accepted.
Ghazanfar Ali Khan finally reaches Hunza to be with his family and people and enter in the political field to take part in the upcoming elections. His career thus gets shifted despite the fact he may not be considered so fit for the politics in the future. But during those days, he remained even above his political fitness.
It is important to note that when the democratic election gets introduced in 1975 for the Northern Areas Council (NAC), the huge majority of the people of Hunza fully supports late Colonel Ayash Khan son of Mir Ghazan Khan, younger uncle of Ghazanfar Ali Khan.The opposite contesting candidats were Mirbaz Khan of Hayderabad, Advocate Shafi and Abbas Ali of Ganish.
In the aftermath, though there was the Government of military dictator (Zia-ul Haq)in Pakistan, Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan gets elected as the member of NAC and even in the aftermath he is chosen for the Majlis-e Shura of Pakistan. However, it’s noteworthy that even after 1975, the firstly introduced election, it took more than 16 years to defeat Ghazanfar Ali Khan in the election of NAC and it was this time Nazir Sabir (basically belonging to Raminj, Upper Hunza). Won the election from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Following the end of the former Hunza State, in the elections thereafter, we could witness by now (July 2022) 48 years since 1976. Out of this timeframe, along with his late uncle Col Ayash Khan, Ghazanfar Ali Khan remained as the elected political representative of Hunza for more than six tenures; while out of his family the position of the political office remained for a period of four tenures with Nazir Sabir (once), Wazir Baig (twice) and Ubaidullah Baig (once and continues)
Although, elected from the constituency of Hunza, Wazir Ghazanfar Ali khan did not lead Hunza only in different capacity but could also be evidenced to provide political leadership to the entire region on the position of Deputy Chief Executive and later as Chief Executive of Gilgit-Baltistan during Musharraf Regime and finally as the Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Region during the Government of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
It is also noteworthy that along side his political activities and mandates, Wazir Ghazanfar Ali Khan also served the important civil society organizations of the Ismaili community in voluntary capacity on different positions such as member of the Shia Ismaili National Council for Pakistan (a supreme umbrella organization) for more than three tenures.Even, it is invaluable to note that once, Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan was especially appointed as a volunteer for one more tenure by the Imam of the Time, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, by using his special power. In addition, Ghazanfar Ali Khan also contributed as a volunteer in the Boards of other jamati and Imamat insitutions of the agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
Keeping in in view his dedicated voluntarism for the community institutions and organizations, His Highness Shah Karim al-Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, bestowed upon Mir ghazanfar Ali Khan the title of Etimadi. Recently, he was blessed with the title of “Wazir,” which is among the topmost and outstanding title for dedicated and selfless voluntarism to the community in different domains. Among all the entire Shia Ismaili community of Gilgit-Baltistan Region,Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Fida Ali Esar (a renowned religious scholar) received this landmark and noble title of “Wazir” for the first time by the Imam of the Time and both of them belong to Hunza.
To reiterate, the video interview I had taken in detailed for over two hours I’ve also brought in textual form as autobiography in English comprises of more than 35 pages.However, in this little contribution, I tried to highlight the key features in my own way.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that being humans, we all are prone to various types of challenges and fallabilities. We are not perfect by any way except for those who have elevated and proved themselves through their good deeds. Whatever one does in this world has the intents behind. As in the Holy Qur’an it says: “Inamal aamal-u binniyati” (all actions are subject to the intents.” The same notion we could find in the fundamental and beautiful teaching summed up in the three short phrases in Zoroastrianism in Persian: “Pindor-e Nik, guftor-e nik, kirdor-e nik”, which means “Good thoughts, good words and good deeds.”
Each human is therefore fallable and could become infallable only if s/he acts upon the above great divine guidelines. Otherwise, we will have to learn and experience to lern and get lessons out of them through out our life.
The above short biographic stories of Wazir and Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan , like the life stories of other people, invites us to reflect on ourselves that we all are weak in many ways as could be evidenced in his case but we can develo strenght within ourselves provided we have trust in us and has a strong belief in the supernatural or at least in those who are honestly above us. We could overcome our weaknesses and challenges to a greater extent if we live honestly within ourselves and contribute for other fellow human beings by starting it from oneself, one’s own family and the communities of humans.
I hope the readers of this little contribution would realistically enjoy it and those interested to watch , listen and understand the detailed biographic part in Urdu (possessing almost one hour), can get access to it on the following link of EaglesWorld:
Production, presentation and copyright: #EaglesWorld
Interviewer: Fazal Amin Beg on July 20, 2014
Interviewee: Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Former Chief Executive and Former Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Region
Videography: Muhammad Ali, Assistant Director, Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority
Editing: Naveed Karim, Bio-Medical Engineer, Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi
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