By Fazal Amin Beg
It was back in 2012 when one of my German scholar friends, Dr. Andreas Benz of Free University, Berlin (gemany ), had come to Hunza for the purpose of conducting a fieldwork on the students migration from the historical to present context. He and I were thus in the field behind the data collection in Hunza.In this regard, I got an opportunity to also get the interview of late Ibadat Shah, one of my great and compassionate teachers of my school life in Gulmit, which is today the headquarters of Gojal sub-division of Hunza district within Gilgit-Baltistan Region. The interview was taken on October 24, 2012 in my office, while leading the emergency field office of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) , established in Gulmit after the tragic and longstanding Attabad disaster of January 2010.
Late Master Ibadat Shah impressively narrates his life story from his childhood and young age in Gulmit to his youth in Karachi in the 1950s and 1960s.Various kind of insights we could get out of his short but interesting biography that reflects the socio-economic and political conditions of the time and especially the state of labor migrants, students and education .
Although,I had talked to late Master Ibadat Shah that I’d be taking his full biographic interview with the course of time, it was so unfortunate that he got a long ailment due to failure of both of his kidneys and was therefore under long treatement and dialysis for couples of years while living in Abbotabad with one of his sons named Manzur Karim. It was thus so difficult for me to meet him in person. On the other, when someone becomes ill, the enthusiasm he or she possesses in normal life, could not sustain and becomes challenging, as I could feel, realize and observe in the case of my late and great maternal uncle, Rai Ghulamuddin Khan (an unmatched and legendary community leader of Hunza) who had the same health issue prolonged for over a decade. I thus could not get appropriate time and opportunity to meet late Master Ibadat Shah physically and finally he passed away. Nonetheless, I trust his children, also including his nephews like Zulfiqar Ali Khan, have documented his life history in detail.
Now, I invite the readers to go through his short biography of over six pages line by line and enjoy reading it.As part of my written tradition, I have left the description in the tone of first person instead of second person to make it more lively where you would feel he himself is alive and before us while relating his interesting life history with us. From here onward, I leave it open to you to read him as he narrates his stories as under.
My name is Ibadat Shah and my father’s name is Ma’sum Shah. My actual date of birth could be before 1938 (but in my academic documents it has been written as 1943). I Belong to the Chorshambi clan of Gulmit and I’ve one brother and two sisters. My brother’s name is Aziz Bashi who served Pakistan Army from 1952 to 1971. My older sister, named Khawaja Begum, was married to Karim Khan within our own clan in Gulmit; while another sister was also married in Gulmit with Shaban ali of Bori clan. I got my elementary education from the Diamond Jubilee School of Gulmit, which was established in 1946.
After passing my primary level education, I served as a teacher in the Diamond Jubilee (DJ) School for one year in 1957. Qurban Jan of Gulmit was also teaching in this school. we were paid ten rupees per head as our monthly salary.after completion of one year, I was paid one hundred and twenty Pakistani rupees by the Mir of Hunza and this amount of money was sufficient for me to finance my travel to Karachi. Against twenty rupees, I purchased clothes for myself along with two tea pots.
In August 1958, I left for Karachi in order to first do laboring and then pursue my middle and secondary level education.my parents allowed me for the purpose because my brother-in-law Karim Khan was with us to guide and he was already based in Karachi.It should be noted here and I’d like to clarify here that there was no restriction from the Mir of Hunza to travel out of the region as normally people display wrongly or portray such kind of notions.the restriction on mobility or travel out of Hunza on its people has been before emergence of Pakistan in 1947. For us, there was no need of getting any kind of special written permission from the Mir of Hunza.
There was no road up to our area until 1962 and therefore we had to travel on foot from Gulmit to Central Hunza.as the road was already constructed, we therefore travelled to Gilgit by a jeep in 1958.seeing the jeep for the first time was so strange for us to observe and sit in. from there onward, we travelled on foot up to Chilas and continued from there to BabusarPass. Sher Ali and I were together in this journey for the first time led by Karim Khan(my brother-in-law).
From Babusar we got a jeep and travelled via Naran to Kaghan and reached the next destination at Balakot. Our next travel stage was Rawalpindi and from Balakhot we travelled by bus via Mansehra, Abbotabad, Taxila and Rawalpindi.we were so stunned to see the plain areas where our high mountain ranges ended.
In the middle of our travel to Karachi, Karim Khan wanted and persuaded us towards recruitment in Pakistan army. He was of the opinion that once Sher ali and I get recruitment, he would then proceed to Karachi as he was already working there. For this reason, we traveled to Kambalpur as well. Interestingly, after the medical tests and interview, I was selected in Pakistan army as a soldier but Sher Ali could not succeed. Without both of them, I felt myself insecure and refused to join the military force. We then moved ahead to Karachi (around our actual planning) in a train and it was so interesting to see the trains running on the railways.
When we reached Karachi, an amount of ten rupees was yet spared out of our long travel from Hunza at the cost of ninety rupees (also including the travels in the middle for military recruitment). I was asked to take bath. I hanged my shirt on the door and went inside the washroom. After I took bath and came out, I saw the amount of rupees was gone, I mean it was stolen away by someone from outside.
Initially, I stayed with Karim Khan and group in a shared flate. There were other labor migrants from Gojal already living there in Karachi such as Khalifa Sultan Shah, Hayder Ali and few others from Gulmit; Muhammad Magh, Ghulam Muhammad, Nazar Muhammad and Jorat of Passu, and others. In addition, some people from Misgar were also there and we would live together. Later on Izat Shah of Gulmit had also come to Karachi for the laboring purpose.
It should be kept in mind that Jalaluddin had gone to Karachi in 1962 as well as other people including Sarwar Qazi of Goz Gulmit, who would work in a Tobbaco Company owned by two Ismaili gentlemen named Hassan Ali and Badruddin who would transport the tobacco from Mardan (today’s Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan). Master Muhammad Ajayib of Gulmit was working in the house of Hassan Ali, while Sharifullah of Kũmars Gulmit worked in the house of Badruddin.
later on I shifted to and lived with Jalaluddin in the Souvenir Tobacco Company for six months without paying any house rent. When we were drawn out of the Company, we then rented a house in Sher Shah, near the company area where we would go to the Souvenir Tobacco Company on foot for employment without paying travel expenses.It was perhaps in March 1959. Within the rented house, we would contribute twenty five rupees per month per head for the food, accommodation and other utilities.our fellows in this rented house included Jalaluddin, Izat Shah and Karim Khan from Gulmit; Ibrahim and Dinor of Chipursan; Bozik Bai of Sisuni; Khaliq and Fazal from Misgar; and Maqsad of Khudabad.we were almost 12 people living in this house of single storey, which had three rooms, a compound, a kitchen and a washroom . Later on, Gulsher son of Raza Baig of Gulmit also joined us in the rented house. All of these were from Gojal valley.
Ghulam Muhammad, Hunar Baig, Muhammad Akram, Rahmat Ali and Izatullah Baig of Passu came to Karachi in the later stage. They would live in a rented house at our neighborhood. Among them, Rahmat and Izat were students. Ghulam Muhammad would support his brother Rahmat Ali in his education.
Here counted the various identities and relationships while living together. For example, the family relationship at broader scale, village relationship and identity, regional relationship for being Gojalis as the Burushaski speaking people also lived with them in the same rented flate.
When I talk about people in Karachi in the 1950s and 1960s,it never means that all of them worked in the Souvenir Tobacco Company but rather would also serve in other companies and factories. For instance, there was a vegetable oil company at Barha Board and this also belonged to an Isma’ili.our people would also work there. Along with Jorat of Passu, there were some Wakhi labors who would work in the famous paper mill in the same surrounding of Shershah owned by the Indurstrial Promotion Service (IPS) within Aga Khan Development Network.
It’s important to note that the Wakhi labor migrants of our area would not follow their education and for this purpose, it was only Gul Muhammad who had got admission in college the previous year in1964 and was among the first Gojali and Wakhi to champion the college admission, although he had gone to Karachi in 1952 and was also engaged with employment at different places.
During such juncture of my life, my family was not well-off in monetary terms to support my education. I therefore had to work in the Souvenir Tobacco Company in the morning and attend the school in the evening. I’d earn seventy five rupees per month, particularly at the last stage of my employment with the Company before leaving it in 1965.
almost all other fellows within the same rented house would also work in the same Tobacco Company as the working hours were divided in three parts or shifts having eight hours each shift. Most of the people working in this company were from Hunza and Chitral, and also a significant number of them belonged to the Isma’ili community.from Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan Region, there were few people.
The most significant and influential figures of that time in the Company were Gulbashar, Sher Khan and few others from hunza, who cared our people a lot. As there were also non-Isma’ili labors in this company, there would come up sometimes issue for the Company owners and among the workers the Ism’aili labor leaders would perform their positive role in bridging the relationship among the other labors.Somtimes, when the non-Isma’ili labors would violate the rights of the those who were from Gilgit-Baltistan region, the labor leaders would fight for the rights of the weaker ones.
During my life in Karachi for over seven years (1958-65), I visited Hunza once and that was during the time of marriage of Izat Shah of Gulmit. I then went back to Karachi to pursue my goals. For such a long time of my life, I’d keep in touch with my family members by writing letters and updating them on my progress and safety. We were in such an uncertain situation due to the War between Pakistan and India that had broken out and I as a result returned to Gulmit (Hunza). While, Qurban Jan did his matriculation later than us and pursued his college level education.
As part of our good tradition, I was supported by my relatives and friends in Karachi. As it was a moral debt or obligation upon us to pay it off by helping others who were juniors to me. For example, those had come after us, we facilitated and helped them in terms of accommodating them in our rented house free of cost unless they get job somewhere.
Finally, I passed my matriculation examination in 1965. There was the only person, Gul Muhammad from Gulmit, who had gotten admission and was studying in college. Along with his job engagement, he continued his study ahead.late Gul Muhammad counseled me to get admission in a technical institute and for this purpose he also led me to a college. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t get succeed to be admitted in the college.
The year 1965 was not a good omen for persons like me as this year the War began between India and Pakistan. I needed to think seriously about my parents and other family members as my older brother, Aziz Bashi, was serving Pakistan Army and there was no more brother at home.my parents were so concerned about us, as both of us were far away from them, and on the other they had the fear of war that might be harmful to us and we might be insecure, my parents assumed and advised. This situation however forced me to move back to Hunza in June 1965 and to live with my family members in Gulmit for two months of the summer vacations.
when I thought to leave back to Karachi after the summer vacations, my parents were reluctant and didn’t allow me. On the other, the people of Gulmit also insisted me not to go to Karachi because there was a serious dirth of availability of teaching staff in the Government Primary School in Gulmit. I therefore joined the School in October 1965. There was a teacher from Central Hunza but he didn’t come back to Gulmit after he went back in 1966.i was thus heading the school from 1965 to 1974 as a community teacher. I was being paid eighty rupees per month salary.
When we were there in Karachi in the first half of 1960s, there was no forum formed for the students as we were a few growing gradually in the big city. However, it would be interesting to share that a cooperative society was formed by the people of Gojal (Wakhi and Burushaski speakers) in the first half of 1960s named as Gulistan-e Hunza Society (GHS).late Gul Muhammad was as the founder of GHS. the pictures of that time we could find available with Karim Khan. we had contributed and taken share of a hundred rupees per member.there were altogether, I think, 50 or 60 members of GSH (composed of labor and student migrants).the purpose of establishing GHS was to address the immediate needs of its members in line with education (for the students), health or for any genuine emergency (if for instance someone had to travel to Hunza from Karachi and back).this sounded so cool and impressive.however, I must describe that I myself had not taken any credit when I was coming to Hunza as I didn’t need it.
Although, GHS still sustains, it is in loss as the credits are not returned by the members. It shows that there were 60 migrants from gojal in Karachi in the first half of 1960s. Engineer Ghulam Karim Sakhi told me that he had been given the responsibilities of GHS. He told me that the members had taken loans and had not returned them and it is a pity to hear about it.
It should be noted that Rai Ghulamuddin, Mutabiat Shah and Zafar Iqbal had gone to Karachi in the later phases after us in 1966.the Isma’ili Students Union (GISU), Karachi was thus formed by Ghulamuddin and his other fellows in 1968.Ghulamuddin was the founding President of GISU.
According to a list, there were over seven students from Gojal in 1969-1970 who got their scholarships from the late Mir of Hunza , who was President of the Aga Khan Supreme Council for Hunza and Central Asia.the constitution of Isma’ili Council in the former Hunza State was introduced for the first time in 1969 and according to the list, twenty thousand Pakistani rupees have been disbursed to the students of the entire Hunza.Out of this amount of rupees, per student, two hundred and twenty to three hundred rupees have been disbursed to them.the written record of all these are with me in a register/notebook.
The scholarship scheme continued by the time of Rai Ghulamuddin Khan, who was Chairman of the Aga Khan Education Board for Hunza. At that time, there was no merit but rather given to all wherever they studied in colleges (this also included students in the colleges of Karachi). From our area, the list shows, as I remember, the recipients who were, for instance, Qurban Jan, Muhammad Rahbar, and many others.
When I was in Karachi, there was no scholarship scheme in the first half of 1960s and more particularly such financial assistance was to the students of colleges and universities and not to those who studied in the schools.
It may be fascinating for the readers to know a kind of practice we had with regard to monthly savings. In our time, Izat Shah and I had internal deposit system of our monthly savings out of our salaries. For example, when we would get our salaries, we’d save forty rupees each (eighty rupees for both) out of our salaries and our trustworthy human bank was late Gul Muhammad of Gulmit, who was an honest gentleman. Rest of the money we’d use for our monthly expenses in the house.whenever they needed some money, late Gul Muhammad would return their deposit to them. More particularly, it was so interesting that, for instance, the forty rupees I’d give to Izat and he’d include forty rupees of his own and hand it over to late Gul Muhammad. The next month, Izat Shah would take out forty rupees out of his salry and would give it to me to hand over to our biological and mobile bank.there lies the concept of witnesses and guarantor within such practices and it had become a routine for us to do monthly.
It needs to be taken into account that when we were in Karachi, the Isma’ilis were not so rich as could be seen today and they extend their support to our people in terms of donations to the related organizations.there were few of them who were of very high caliber. It was also important to note we would never ask for money from the Ismailis and would work ourselves and earn.one of the great supports we would find in terms of providing employment in different companies and factories.one of the rich men of the time was Amir Ali Fancy.
Acknowledgement: Though, not present among us today, I’d like to acknowledge the kind consent of my late teacher, Ustad Ibadat Shah, for sharing this much and interesting stories with us. May God bless his soul in eternal rest and peace. My thanks to Professor Dr. Andrea Benz of Germany for coming to Hunza behind the study that provided an opportunity to also take the interview of our late teacher.