By Fazal Amin Beg
This contribution I present here is about a thrilling voice and a graceful cum profound personality of a woman from inside the palace, proved to be the last Rani (synonymous with Queen) of the former Hunza State (abolished in 1974), who passed away in November 2006.
Before leaving for Xinjiang (China) for conducting my fieldwork within anthropological tradition, it was back in Summar 2000 that I conceived the idea of meeting in person with Madam Shams-un Nahar wife of late Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, the last ruler of Hunza State. The main purpose was to get an orientation with her life history and personality through in-depth interview of her biography. The aim was to explore and know about evolution of her personality with the course of time on the one hand;and to examine and understand the societal and cultural changes (that occurred in her lifetime) through her oral narratives and worldviews that she possessed in her memory.In order to get the above objectives, I prepared a detailed Interview Guide so that to track the study in a logical sequence while directing her narratives.It didn’t end here but rather the interview was documented in a videography for one and a half hour and on the other, a notetaking of the interview was also made possible to an exent side by side so that to reduce the high risk of unpredictability of technology in the face of potentially technical reason at any time.
I must share here an important but pertinent point that it was the biographical interview of Madam Shams-un Nahar (which was the first among all), enabled and encouraged me to venture for such types of interesting and in-depth interviews of other people from a variety of backgrounds (social, political, literary, professional employees, and the like). Consequently, in over two decades period (along side other facets of my field studies), I managed to interview and record in voice almost a hundred and twenty key informants and respondents (for an average one and a half hour) from different parts of Gilgit-Baltistan Region and Central Asia.
By processing the field data in terms of recorded interview in Urdu as well as field notes, I translated the data in English and then transformed it into a kind of autobiography by following an analysis of the enriched data.
Although, the interview of one and a half hour or the field notes could never be termed something extraordinary and it may not make justice with her biography as she spent more than 80 years of her life, it however holds true in her case that “Something is better than nothing” when there remained nothing or less things in hand after her death in November 2006.
Madam Shams-un Nahar’s biography here begins with her early life. She narrates about her birth and her foster families within the former Nagar State. She talks about her childhood and friends and highlights that how the proposal for her conjugal partnership comes across when she was only 14 (in the beginning of her teenage) and engaged with playing with the children of her batch and neighborhood in Big Nagar.However, Madam Shams-un Nahar then goes back in history and tries to look into the kinship relations that existed between both the Princely States of Hunza and Nagar through the royal families specifically, although there existed the same relationship among various families and tribes of the valley in a broader context.
Sharing the tragic incidence of her paternal families of Nagar with regard to murder of his uncles and others, Madam Shams-un Nahar focuses and talks in detail about her wedding ceremony that took place in a time when there was no road links, no vehicles, no modern amenities. A more interesting point she shares is pertaining to her father (as the Ruler of Nagar) and her husband’s father (as Ruler of Hunza) who sought permission from the Viceroy of India during the British period for the purpose of getting married their children.
An interesting point Madam Shams-un Nahar shares is with regard to a foresightedness of her father-in-law, Mir Ghazan Khan, who had advised her and his son Mir Jamal Khan that they should not send his grandson, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, for the study outside the region. He has signaled that if Ghazanfar Ali was permitted for such purposes, he won’t be able to know his people and would get married outside his own cultural environment.
Moving ahead, she relates about her travel with her late husband (Mir Jamal Khan) to the Southern Areas when Pakistan and India as separate nations had not yet emerged on the world screen.Travelling on horses back from their States and they reach Kashmir. From there onward they move towards Rawalpindi and see the cit life that followed their exposure to Peshawar and Karachi where they meet their beloved Imam, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III and stay in his house. She also describes about the political scenes of Gilgit-Baltistan Region when there was the rule of Governor Gansarah Sing, how his rule was abolished that led towards independence of Gilgit-Baltistan Region, how the region was annexed with Pakistan but the Pakistani Government was scared to intervene in the region by thinking there could be the Hindus and many more.
Coming up with her narrations of international travels with her late husband during the time and on the invitation of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, Madam Shams-un Nahar highlights highly interesting and valuable experiences in France, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, Greece,Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Jerusalem, Jordan, and the like. It sounds also interesting that they did manage to meet the British Queen in London facilitated by the Imam of the Time, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan and his family.
Apart from the spiritual relationship, a closed relationship could thus be observed between the Spiritual family members and the ruling family of Hunza during the time of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan. The international travels of Mir Jamal Khan and Madam Shams-un Nahar therefore did not remain limited to the time of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, but rather it continued ahead during the time of the Present Imam, Nur Mawlana Shah Karim Aga Khan. After demise of Aga Khan III, Madam Shams-un Nahar and her late husband also participated in the wedding ceremony of the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan.It’s seen here that Imam of the Time folos up the development projects gradually, particularly in education field, before his first ever visit to Hunza on October 23, 1960.
Madam Shams-un Nahar also describes about the worldviews in education prevalent among the people of both Hunza and Nagar States. She also compares the formal education with informal and women’s education particularly emphasizing on the ethics and manners of behavior.
She also narrates about the unjustified and illegitimate Indian claim over Gilgit-Baltistan after liberation of the region. She also tries to analyze the factors that led towards the end of the Hunza State and merged with Pakistan in 1974; and the role of her late husband Mir Jamal Khan in that respect as well as in the post-Hunza State era before his death in 1976.
As she herself was in the center of her middle age, she lost her great life partner. The feeling of his loss could be found in the discussion of Madam Shams-un Nahar when she dedicatedly talks about the personality of the late Mir. This I’ve brought under a theme as “A Deep Look into the Personality of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan” where she purely talks about him.
Talking an interesting point about the traders caravan up to Hunza during her husband’s political era (1945-1974), in the upcoming sections she then narrates about the transformation of the political models or system from Mirdom to modern democracy and she attempts to compare both model within her capacity. Describing the political governance and social relationships in the current context, Madam Shams-un Nahar also illustrates that how she herself and her family members do contribute towards maintaining the social relations with the common people and to win their hearts for them vis-à-vis socio-political governance. in addition, awaring the indigenous communities of Hunza, she looks at the socio-political transformation and development leading towards the underlying issues and/or complexities such as land and other related resources and crises that would appear in the near future.
Finally, she comes up with her concluding remarks and reveals her faith implicitly and also talks a bit about the marriage of her elder son, Ghazanfar Ali Khan as well as her grandsons that how that might have appeared.at the end, she communicates a meaninglful message to the concerned people, particularly the women for being the last Rani of the former Hunza State and as a daughter of the last Ruler of the former Nagar State.
From here onward, I’d like to invite the readers to be open and unbiased, read her fascinating life history that I’ve kept up lively as part of my written tradition of biography.I hope the respected readers would enjoy and appreciate the aspects of life history of Madam Shams-un Nahar, who was laid to rest on November 16, 2006 in Karimabad Hunza according to the Shia Ismaili tradition of death around her will. I trust there won’t be any further ambiguity among individuals pertaining to her faith, which is totally a personal matter to all humanity.
A Voice from Inside the Palaces: Early Life, Marriage Relationship and Wedding Ceremony
Although, among the general mass I’m known by Ghenis̃h in Ghenis̃h in Burushaski and Khũnz̃o in Wakhi, my actual name however is Shams un-Nihar. I’m wife of the late Mir Jamal Khan, the last ruler of the former Hunza State. At present in July 2000, I could anticipate that I’m 75 years old or even above. I was born in Nagar Proper (Wuyum Nagar). For almost one year, my mother has breast-fed me; and then, according to our customs in Hunza and Nagar, I was given to the Ushams, fictive parents/family, for the proper care and fostering. Ushams were those who were from the noble families in the area. My Usham was Wazir Teyfur of Nagar who is not alive now. Wazir Teyfur’s son was Malik Shah and his wife has fostered me. I had many female friends in my childhood. They were daughters of our Ushams, relatives and servants. Usually, I used to play with our servants’ daughters.
A sensible person knows better that each child everywhere could be found possessing obedient and disobedient behavior, but the responsibilities rest on the shoulders of parents and other relatives to educate them the good manners and ethics at home to mentor them about the good and bad behaviors and tasks. For instance, in my case, when we would become naughty or disobedient, our parents, elders or other family members would advise and mentor us the ethics. For instance, they would say: “Besides your own family members, talk to other people in a polite way; raise your head and talk to the people, they would then also respond you in a good way.”
When I grew up and entered in my teenage, I didn’t imagine that I would also be getting married and then will become the queen of Hunza. When I was 14 years old, I got married with late Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan son of Mir Ghazan Khan. My parents did not share with me that my conjugal engagement had taken place. At that time, there was no tradition among our people to ask and take consent of their daughters pertaining to life partnership. In contrast, asking their daughters for such important purpose was considered a dishonor (of parents and/or other family members). However, whatsoever the parents thought befitting, we (as daughters) had to accept and honor the decision.
It’s important to note that from the beginning of its history, many families in Hunza are either from Nagar or descendants of the daughters of Nagar. On the other, many families in Nagar could be witnessed that they are from Hunza in the same manner. This reflects the underlying bondages, too, and the marriages thus took place among the peoples of both these princely states. One of the concrete examples in this regard we can find in line with my own family. My father’s mother named Zeb un-Nisah was from Hunza and she was a daughter of Shah Ghazanfar Khan, son of Shah Silum Khan III. Such types of kinship relationship existed already and therefore my engagement also took place without any barriers.
Although, there remained such -deep-rooted blood/family relationships, the political rivalries also existed strongly between Hunza and Nagar. Once, the British government banned the marriage relationship between these communities. But, it was interesting that during my marriage, the rulers of both these tiny States had to take special permission from the Viceroy of India. The then Ruler of Hunza, Sir Mir Nazim Khan, and my father (being the Ruler of Nagar) signed a written agreement and submitted to the Viceroy by assuring that both states won’t sustain fighting in the future. Thus, our marriage took place and the marriage and kinship relationship was restored.
When my conjugal engagement was determined, I didn’t share the news with my friends. Although, I would shy to tell them about my determined marital partnership, they were aware of it already. My friends would thus pull my legs or mock upon me by saying: “the people in Hunza are Ismaili’s and we in Nager are Shias. So how could you get married and how would you manage”.
My father was the youngest among his brothers. Three or four brothers were elder than him. Because of their mutual fighting, two brothers were killed. My father and his brothers had got a step-brother, too. Some people tempted and induced my father that if his step brother will grow up, he would be harmful to him. Those ill-wishers as advisors recommended that It was appropriate to kill his step-brother. It should be noted that killing was not considered a abnormal or weird thing at that time. The name of a brother of my father was Babar and another one was Harithum. There is a place called Yal, a sliding site on the Karakoram Highway between Ghulmet and Pisan (within Nagar). That uncle of mine had his land-property in Ghulmet. The plotters thus made a plan for his assassination. At the pretext of playing polo, my uncle was thus invited to Nagar Proper. When he reached at Yal, he was unfortunately killed there.
At that time, my father was young. In brief, He and Wazir Hamayun (of Hunza) fled to Gilgit in order to invite and bring the British forces (to the valley). Both of them thus succeeded in their mission in 1891. Consequently, there came up peace in both principalities. It was during the period of Maharaja that the British ruled for a long time.
Well, my marriage time finally reached. Along with a lot of invitees from the states of Hunza and Nagar, enormous guests, as our relatives from Chitral to Punyal, and Yasin to Gilgit, enthusiastically participated in my wedding ceremony. My kinspersons in Gilgit and Nomal were two of my father’s brothers named Alidad and Kamal. Even presently, family members of uncle Alidad live in Gilgit.
Although, in the old days, there would occur divorces after marriages, in our time, there was no such issues (except for any special case). But I was certain about my life partnership and I had no fear of such risks of separation which could come up in one’s mind during or after the marriage.
When my father became the Ruler of Nagar, the marriage relationship between the two states resumed again. To illustrate, from Hunza, my three sisters (-in-law) got married in Nagar. One got married with Babar Khan, a hero of Gilgit-Baltistan Liberation. Consequently, there emerged an intricate kinship relation and terms with me. On the one hand, she happened to be my nan, equal to mother, and on the other, she became my sister-in-law (bhabi) to me because as she was a sister of my husband Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan and a daughter of Mir Ghazan Khan (my father-in-law) Moreover, a daughter of Nazim Khan got married with my brother Raja Muzaffar ud Din, who served as a senior officer of the Police Department. He is unfortunately no more with us in this world. You could thus see that bilateral marriages and kinship bondages have sustained between both of the princely States.
During my wedding, I remember that the people of Nagar brought gifts according to their capacity/strength. There was no compulsion in this regard. The gift/present included gold that was indigenous (taken from the Hunza River and processed locally). At that time, besides gold, there were no other things available. However, the people would bring the gifts according to the available options. If the poor people, for instance, brought such type of precious gifts like gold, they were returned. But if a well-off would bring such presents, they were accepted and their names were recorded so that my father should respond them in the same manner during the marriages in their respective houses. In return, those who had brought gold were presented gifts according to their wishes and needs such as flour, butter and sheep etc, (excluding clothes).
A huge mass of people were involved in the marriage ceremony. In my wedding party, on the way to Hunza from Nagar, there were (as I could guess) approximately 200 to 300 people with me, apart from the porter-class who carried the luggage and baggage. On the other, I cannot exactly describe that how many individuals were from Hunza who had come in the wedding party with Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan.
At that time, there were no concepts of vehicles and road of today on which the jeeps or vans run. In other words, No one had heard even the names of the vehicles. People would load the stuffs and carry them on backs of the horses. On such happy occasions, when the invited guests of Hunza would attend the wedding in Nagar, as per tradition, the hosts would present gifts to them according to their social classes and presents in reciprocity. The gifts included guns, horses, cloths, chapan and chughas (long cloaks/shrouds made out of silky and woolen cloths. It should also be interesting to know that at that time, there was no radio or TV and the like for communication. It wasn’t so only in our little kingdom but rather they were also not available in Pakistan. In the same way, when the invited guests from Nagar would come to Hunza, such presents were anticipated by the groom’s side. It is significant to note that during my wedding, the amount of gifts given to the guests (in wedding) was more than the amount of dowry given to me by my father.
In the old days, there were three classes within the society. People of the upper class included the families of headmen and the foster relatives (notables known as Usham in Burushaski and Zharzhon in Wakhi) in different villages. The middle class was also of the commoners (known as Darqaney); and the lower class comprised of the porters (termed as Baldakuyn in Burushaski and borwar in Wakhi). Gifts were thus given to all these classes. Besides, presents were also given to the relatives of the Mir who participated in the wedding from different places.
The traditional band-group during my wedding comprised of six drummers and six flute players and altogether, they formed 12 members. These band group members were also given presents such as garlands and chughas, who preceded the wedding party from Nagar. Similarly, in Hunza, the band group members also received enormous gifts.
As it’s quite obvious (who are oriented with the physical geography) that The physical and political division of the boundaries of States of Hunza and Nager consisted mainly on the natural divides such as that of Hunza River and or stream divides. Being adjacent to each other, the wedding party of the Mir of Hunza when arrived in Nagar, they spent only one night in Nagar. As per traditional norm, the guests from Hunza were honored to dance first and then the hosts. The next day, the wedding parties of both the bride and bridegroom returned to Hunza. The musical program with the wedding party continued only for one day and one night; but with our people here [in Hunza], the program and jubilation continued for many days.
Consequently, I got three sons and six daughters. My old son is Ghazanfar Ali Khan, the middle one is Amin Khan, and the last one is Abbas Khan. Among my daughters, the first one is Dur e Shawar who was married with my older brother’s son. The second one is Nilufar who has gone to Gulmit today. Nur Begum (a name of one of our grandmothers who is also called as Malika) is the third one. Mehr Jamal, shortly named as Marry, is wife of Pir Karam Ali Shah. My youngest daughter is Azra, married to Colonel Sher Khan (who is a daughter-in-law of Shah Khan, a hero of the liberation of Gilgit-Baltistan).
Our first son, Ghazanfar Ali, was born during the reign of his grandfather Mir Ghazan Khan II. Ghazanfar was still too young that Mir Ghazan Khan passed away. At that time, the British doctors advised us to feed Ghazanfar the “Tan Milk” of Glaxos. They were of the opinion that “Mother’s breastfeeding was sometimes not good”. We therefore fed him the Tan Milk., He thus got no breast-feeding at all. However, it’s important to note here that it was Ayub, father of Amjad Ayub, who raised Ghazanfar as his foster son as the former was our Usham (foster/fictive family).
My father-in-law, Mir Ghazan Khan II, had a specific advice to us about my first son, Ghazanfar Ali Khan. The Mir had his resolve that “Ghazanfar should not be sent out of the region for his studies, instead he should be provided education within our own country.” He thought that Ghazanfar’s interactions should remain consistently with our people and he should know everything about the kingdom.” If he was sent abroad, in America or somewhere else, his habit and behavior would be totally different. He would hate the people and would get married outside his own cultural environment, the Mir of Hunza, Ghazan Khan described. In a sense, opposed to his advice, we sent Ghazanfar Ali for his higher education in Punjab. He thus studied from Punjab University, Lahore (and in the aftermath got married there).
Travel Towards the Southern Areas and the Political Landscape of Gilgit-Baltistan
In the old days, there was no transportation of airplane up to Gilgit and there was no road access for the vehicles either. People would ride Horses and travels continue their travel up to Kashmir via Astor. During the time of Maharaja of Kashmir, the travel involved 15 days. When his rule was abolished, the airplane started coming to Gilgit and the jeep-road was constructed. At such juncture of time, we travelled to Rawalpindi that we saw for the first time. Subsequently, we also visited and saw Peshawar and Karachi.
At that time, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III was Imam of the time of the Isma’ili community, who lived in Karachi. For the first time, we got an opportunity to see him in our life. He compassionately asked us: “where would you like to stay”? The Mir replied: “We have arrived here, now. In Karachi, we don’t have any house of our own. The government would do some arrangement for us, and we would decide accordingly.” Imam of the time advised: “Stay in my house, in the Moon’s Lodge.” This was the house where Imam of the Time was born: that is, the Aga Khan Tekri. We thus stayed in the Imam’s House not only during our first trip but rather it followed the next visits as well whenever we would go to Karachi.
There was no road-communication and the Indian Government had their occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan. Our native people fought the war of liberation against the Indian government represented through Governor Ghansara Sing, and Gilgit was liberated. In the aftermath, in order to annex the region with Pakistan, a telegraph was sent to the Pakistani rulers. But, because of fear, the Pakistani authority did not respond. They thought it was the area of the Hindus and if they occupied the region by force, the Indian government would react and there could be fighting. They thought it was safe to know and confirm it from the Mirs of Nagar and Hunza so they would appropriately communicate to them. They added that if the Mirs agree, the Pakistani administration should have occupation of Gilgit Agency. For 13 or 15 days or so, there was reportedly bombardment from Indian side on Gilgit. The Indians claimed over our area but our native people of Northern Areas liberated the region from them for the sake of Pakistan. Though, India cried a lot over our region, it was finally brought back from them in our own hands.
A telegram was sent to Liaqat Ali Khan, who was alive at that time. He resultantly asked the Mirs of Hunza and Nagar: “If you accept Pakistan, then please come down and give us a written. Otherwise, India was claiming over the region.”
The Mirs accepted the suggestion and responded them positively by mentioning that few conditions were there, which ought to be met and then the Mirs and people themselves would manage all the states of affairs. Some of the key points, of the conditions that I remember to an extent ( though I have forgotten the others).
1. Based on our own realization and requirement, we would select people in the forces from the Northern Areas, and you won’t object to raise police and military forces. (At that time, in the region, there was the Gilgit scout or so).
2. During the formulation of the foreign policy, the government of the time will take us fully on board for the purpose.
3. We will go according to our own customs, cultural norms and values prevalent in the region, and it won’t be so that the people of the region will have to copy or imitate the customs or values, which are prevalent in Pakistan or India.
Agreeing on such conditions, the regions in the Northern Areas were annexed with Pakistan. Liaqat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, invited the Mirs of Nagar and Hunza to Karachi for a decisive meeting and both the rulers of their Principalities participated in it. Following this meeting, Sardar Alam Khan was then sent as the first Political Agent to Gilgit Agency.
Aga Khan III and International Travels with Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan
After series of our visits of Karachi, Imam of the time, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, invited Mir of Hunza to Europe. Imam said to the Mir: “Come to Paris and be my guest there. You’ll be pleased to see the new areas.” The Mir accepted this invitation. Imam of the time further added: “I have also my house in Egypt besides Paris. It’s up to you to choose.” The Mir preferred to see first Paris and London. Imam of the Time thus invited us to Paris.
As Pakistan had already emerged on the world map, in 1948, for the first time in our life, we travelled towards Paris. The Imam had deployed Agha Majeed Khan, a relative of the Imam and heading the Ismailia’s in Bombay, with us from Karachi in order to guide us and manage the states of affairs. He was therefore accompanying us in the airplane.
After the departure from Karachi, the next day at midnight [12:00 a.m.], we landed at Paris airport. When we were descending from the airplane, a big car came near the stairs. We were astonished that whose car that could be? When we descended Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan had very graciously come personally to receive and take us from the airport and we were not aware of it. Imam had put on a white shirt, tie and a hat. A bus was also standing at the airport. The Mir and I humbly greeted the Imam and kissed his hand. Imam of the Time was very happy and he put his hand of affection upon me and the Mir.
The Mir of Hunza in a humble manner said to the Imam: “Oh Imam! You have bothered yourself in coming here at the airport in the dark night and we are feeling guilty before you, indeed.” The compassionate Imam replied: “No mention at all. It was my responsibility because you are my guests and I should have come here.” At that time, the news reporters were also there. They asked Hazar Imam (Imam of the Time) that for whom the Imam had personally come to the airport in a so graceful costume? Imam replied to them that there was no one more important than them. He added: These are my guests.” they are my special children.”
In the company of the Imam, we left the airport. Hazar Imam told us: “arrangement of your stay has been made and my son, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan will take care of you.” He then left us in the aftermath.
One day, Imam of the Time took us to the marketplaces in Paris. The markets were very fascinating and he bought various gifts for us, too. We were in a shop that I saw a special type of sweet/chocolate. I thought to ask the Mir to buy it but I couldn’t dare telling anything to him in front of Imam of the Time. I thus kept silence and thought to ask the Mir later. It was quite incredible that not a minute or two had passed, the Holy Imam realized it and bought that sweet for me and said: “You like it very much. So, accept it from my side.” I was so stunned that there was no word to express that moment of spirituality.
We spent 21 days as guests of the Imam in France. The month was probably December or January (if I remember correctly). Then the Imam stated: “You saw this place and spent very nice time with me. Now, you go and also visit London.” However, for the visit of many other cities, we needed more time.
In addition, the Imam directed his secretary to give the letter (of Imam to the concerned officials in London) and tell them that we were the guests of His Highness, Aga Khan III and make it possible to meet the Queen.
The Imam of the time had told Mata Salamat Umm-e Habiba (His Wife) to accompany and guide us all the way as we were alien and knew nothing. The Imam said: “I am now old and get trouble in walking.”
The Imam also advised Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to take and show us Paris. However, for other places, his secretary and his wife were there with us. When we were in London, Mata Salamat had a phone call to the Queen. Consequently, we were informed to meet the Queen in two or three days in the Buckingham Palace. We were thus taken to the Queen and we met her. The Queen’s mother was alive at that time while the Queen was going to be the successor of her father. Arrangement of the event’s celebration was in progress. After a short meeting with the Queen, we returned to our hotel. After spending eight days in London, we returned to Paris. We stayed for one week more in Paris and then went to Kant. Then from Kant, we returned to Karachi.
Hazar Imam (Imam of the Time) advised us that though we saw London and Paris, when we would be visiting him again next year, we would also be shown the Muslim countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Iran and the like.
Next year, we went again to Europe and saw many other places. This time, Imam of the time appointed the Mir of Hunza as the President for the Ismaili’s of Hunza and Central Asia. The Imam advised the Mir to convey the Imam’s directives to all the community. He directed the Mir to visit him every year looking at the suitable month, either in September or in December. The Mir requested that it was very cold in our country; therefore, if possible, we should visit him in December. Hazar Imam laughed and said: “You know that you have cold country and for this reason, you will travel in December to buy warm clothes and warm shoes from here, and you won’t like to come in September.” The Mir stated: “No Imam, we we’d visit you also in September. For only reason that, you mentioned, in our country, the weather is nice in September, while in Pakistan, it is hot. Therefore, we prefer to travel abroad either in December or January.” Hazar Imam laughed and said: “Doesn’t matter, you can come sometimes in September and sometimes in December. Therefore, in each December, we would visit the Imam of the time.
Afterwards, the Imam graciously advised us to visit also Rome in Italy which is near Kant. The Imam sent his Secretary with us and we went to Italy and saw this country. Sardinia was not settled at that time rather was settled by the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan. Besides, Prince Ali S. Khan also very kindly gave us time and showed us different places.
We visited London many times. We would visit Paris every year and there was a hotel with our name, associated to us). The manager of the hotel would say: “Although many people come to and go from this hotel, but I have dedicated it to your name. The Mir would say: “it is not our hotel but because we stay here when we come to Paris. In such context, we can say, yes, this hotel is ours.”
Once, the Imam was in Egypt and he invited us there. We went to Egypt, more specifically Aswan, at a distance of couples of hours. It was this place that the Imam said: “I like this place. I have chosen it, and have built a house here (in Aswan)”The Imam had made the house of Aswan in the name of Mata Salamat, Umm-e Habiba. The Imam at that time was managing to build his graveyard here, too.
When Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan departed from this world, we went to attend his funeral rites. The Imam had written in his will that wherever he’ll pass away, his corpse shall be brought to Egypt and burred there. All the Ismaili leaders shall go and attend his funeral rites. Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan in his will had described that it’d be great if Prince Ali S. Khan would participate in his funeral ritual. It needs to be kept in mind that the departed Imam had nominated the present Imam, Shah Karim Al-Hussaini Aga Khan (his successor) and his younger son, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to carry his corpse (from the front). While on the back side (of the corpse), the Imam had nominated the names of Mir of Hunza (Muhammad Jamal Khan) and Agha Khalili, a maternal relative of the Imam representing the Ismaili community of Iran. For this reason, the Mir was called and I was also accompanying him. Many other peoples had also come there from Pakistan.
The people of Egypt, the police and others, were standing and were very nicely managing the grand funeral ceremony. From the entire world such as Iran, Kuwait, Africa and other regions people attended this funeral gathering. We spent some days in Mata Salamat’s house in Aswan. Later on, we returned to Pakistan.
In the aftermath, there was a program of the accession day to the Imamat of the present Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim Al-Hussaini, Aga Khan VI; and the Mir and I went to attend this grand ceremony in Karachi in July 1958. Then the Ismaili community of Bombay also invited us, and we also visited them in India. Everywhere we did go including Africa.
It was highly interesting and productive that we would avail two foreign trips in a year: once in September and then in December. After getting the visas, we would cover many countries once we were out. Mir Jamal Khan liked Iran very much because he was very fluent in Persian. We would stay in Iran for a longer time and also in Turkey as well as in Berut. Once we also visited Greece.
Wherever we planned to go, we were supposed to inform the Ismaili leaders on phone and they themselves would come to the airport along with their cars to receive us. It was they who would make all the arrangements in hotels and showing us the important sites.
Apart from the above cited places, we also visited Germany, too. There were not that much considerable Ismaili’s in Germany rather all were found Germans. Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah had an opinion that among other places, Germany was a nice and sustaining country, and we must go to see this place. We did go to Germany.
There was a German man who had come to Hunza twice for hunting purpose .He and the Mir have thus got friendship. After the first visit, this gentleman then invited us to Germany where we were his guests. We visited Frankfurt, Munich, cologne, Berlin and other places of this wonderful country and spent 15 days each in different places. This gentleman has now died, although, he has got two sons.
On the way back, once we also went to see Jerusalem (Israel) via Jordan. We were told that Israel’s border was just attached with. Some government officials intimated us that if we wanted to go to Jerusalem we could opt for, as we had got the diplomatic passport with us. However, our driver was not allowed in this regard. We were therefore given option to drive the car ourselves. But the Mir decided not to go because we could not drive the car ourselves (as we were alien to the people and they were strangers to us).
To sum up, I liked and enjoyed all international travels. However, among the Muslim countries, I liked Egypt and Turkey the most. Among the other places, I preferred London, because there we could meet a lot of our own people (from the Sub-Continent). In London, we cannot feel that we are in an alien country. In any shop we entered, we met with the Muslims and Hindus. Wherever we have been in London, we came across Muslims and Hindus. Neither we got trouble in speaking the language nor did we come across with putting on the dresses. We were relax to wear dresses of our own countries and travelled ahead. The Muslim and Hindu in London we observed that they had affection for each other. For instance, when we would tell any Hindu that we were Muslims, they gave a great respect to us. The peoples in London were very nice, indeed.
Participation in the Wedding Ceremony of Prince Karim Aga Khan
During the time of the present Imam, Nur Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, the late Mir and I had the opportunity to go to Paris especially on the occasion of his marriage. Peoples from different parts of the world had brought very nice gifts to Imam of the Time. From Kuwait and Bahrain, people had brought the sea-pearls so that to sprinkle them on the Imam. In this connection, some of the disciples had the opinion that they themselves would sprinkle the pearls on the Imam when he’ll return from the wedlock. But there were some reservations from the community leaders. However, then there came up a consensus/proposal that the sister of Hazar Imam would sprinkle the pearls on him. But it was Imam’s greatness that he honored me and asked to do it. From Bombay, there was a musical group who played music and danced for couples of days. From Iran, Pakistan and other places, the Isma’ili’s had come and they presented their gifts.
From Hunza, the Mir and I had travelled in an emergency. Our homeland, Hunza State, was very backward. So in such circumstances what could we present in honor of the Imam? As a last option, a traditional/woolen robs (chugha) and a cap: that is all, nothing beyond this in our capacity. Nothing came in mind what to do? In the meanwhile, the Mir asked me to present my golden garland to Imam of the Time so that to represent the Ismaili community of Hunza and Central Asia. Whatsoever I had within my capacity, I handed over to the Mir and he put them in a plate and presented to the honor of Hazar Imam. The Imam affectionately liked it very much because that golden garland was locally manufactured. We thus presented such a little thing to our Imam.
Imam of the time advised us to open schools. He said: “No one should be non-literate, and the community members should be competent enough.” He further said: “Women in Hunza had worse condition, and they need to be given education and they ought to be capable to get better employment.” Agreeing with the Imam of the Time, the Mir also mentioned that our State also lacked hospital and he said: “Though, from the government, there is a small staff, there is absence of the required facilities. Sometimes medicines are available in the hospital and sometime they are not, and the people die because of such difficulties.” The Imam of the time gave directives in written to Agha Majeed Khan to provide funding for such issues related with health.
Situation of Educational Facilities in Hunza State
It is noteworthy that earlier, there was no school for girls. The schools were established in Hunza after the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of the Imam of the time, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, in Bombay. In this celebration, the Imam was weighed in diamond. On the raised money during this great occasion, schools were opened in different parts of the world for the Isma’ili and neighboring community members. In order to deal and manage the educational affairs, on behalf of the Hunza State, the Mir appointed Qudrat Ullah Baig as his representative and sent him to Bombay because in the entire Hunza, there was no school except for the British Indian Middle School at Baltit. On the monetary support of the Diamond Jubilee funding (notably known as DJ fundding), the schools were established in different parts of Hunza.
As mentioned above, in our time, there was no college or school in Nagar or Hunza. While in my case, the teacher used to come to our house and taught me. His name was Maula Madad, a local of Nagar who was a kind of personal Khalifa of our family. Sometimes, he taught me Arabic, sometimes Farsi and sometimes Urdu. After my marriage, Master Sultan Ali, famous by Samarqand, would come to our house and teach me. There were also some British women; they were brought in Karimabad in order to teach our children. I also learnt from them. Besides, the Mir brought Mambi (who has now died) to teach Ghazanfar Ali. Mambi’s wife stayed in our house for five years. I also got an opportunity to get education from her. This much I had my education in a non-formal way.
An important point is significant to be noted here that in our time, women or girls education was considered strange and discouraged everywhere. The people had such thoughts: “What is the need of giving education to the girls? They are not supposed to get any employment. They are not supposed to become the khalifa or the imam (of the mosques).”. People would comment: “ If the boys get some education, that sounds acceptable.” But, at present, year by year, there is coming up development. Now, the women have got more enthusiasm for getting education than men. In our homeland, it’s very commonly said that we have become educated. The people claim for many other things in development as well. But what I think, they may not hold true to the whole extent.
Formal Education and Ethics in Comparison
Here I would venture to add, if allowed, that capability and competency do not take their roots in a person in the schools. But rather, they, as is said, the first school of a child is his/her mother’s lap, and the house environment. That gives right direction. Those who have studied in the schools could be impolite, rude and crude. They won’t respect their parents, neither their brother, nor any respectable or notable of their homeland. Very arrogantly such children of formal education would say: “we are educated, we are more competent, and you don’t know the language(s).” for instance, I myself can speak the languages spoken in Hunza: for instance, Shina, Burushaski and Wakhi. But I don’t know Chitrali (Khowar). However, I also know Urdu and some English. But it doesn’t mean I know the whole thing.
There is no doubt that people apparently become educated these days, but that’s more in terms of learning languages. Although, the people speak the languages fluently, the politeness is subject to the home-environment. For instance, in the house, from the childhood to adulthood, the parents and elders educate/teach the children the manners of taking/eating food .other examples and that could be in such ammer that so and so are elder than you, and you have to respect them, greet them. In contrast, if the children are taught at home “not to respect the elders and not to care for the ethical manners then those teachings remain in their minds. So, such directives do not necessarily come from getting education from a formal school.
In the current context, if a respected family has got no money, s/he may not opt for formal education to her/his children. On the other, if a poor family has got money s/he would certainly opt to give higher education to her/his family. However, there won’t come up civility or ethical considerations out of formal education. Civility is something else and getting formal education is another domain.
To reiterate, although, girls are getting education and engaged with good services/employment, it is also incumbent upon them to respect their elders and do not stay away from their customs and traditions (norms and values). It is not good to leave out good facets of one’s culture at once. And these do not come from getting formal education. Out of such education, one can definitely get employment, and the competency would also come up, but the refinement and civility (tehzeeb) would not flourish significantly.
Socio-Political Transformation and Development
The government of Pakistan took the opinion of the late Mir, Muhammad Jamal Khan, regarding the native peoples demand that the Hunza State should be merged with Pakistan as that was a small country; and that the separate state was not appropriate, and in their favor, and the like. The reasons for and motivations behind abolishing the Hunza State by the native peoples were the stimulation and instigations by the peoples who had been taught in such manner by the outsiders. So when there are internal revolts then what could be done? I myself don’t know if there were any serious internal issues or drawbacks within the system. But definitely I do know this much that it was taught to the people of Hunza to demand for the abolition of the State. “In doing so, you’ll prosper; so and so opportunities will emerge,” the facilitators advocated.
Historically speaking, it’s noteworthy that the internal revolt of October 1940 by late Arbab Muhammad Adob Khon of Passu was not against the Mir or the State but rather against the tax collectors called Trangphas of central Hunza. The Trangphas were sent by the Mir from central Hunza to Gojal for the purpose of tax collection. Consequently, they would misuse their power and collect more taxes from the respective people. Therefore, they had the condition and demand that the trangpas from central Hunza should not go to Gojal but rather the arbobs (headmen) of in Gojal should be responsible for performing the duty. On such subtle issues, the revolt and demonstration emerged. I’d like to reiterate that the revolt was not against the Mir rather the people of Gojal were very happy with him. The tax collection issue led towards the revolt as the officially deputed trangphas would embezzle the taxes and would not deliver them appropriately to the State. When the notables of Gojal discovered this issue in delivery, the fighting and revolt took place.
However, the Mir of Hunza was asked by the political heads in Government of Pakistan: “Mir sahib! If you wish and agree, you’ll be bestowed with the position of a Minister?” The Mir replied that neither he needed to become a minister nor the viceroy. “I’m in my own country. For over centuries, my ancestors ruled Hunza as they were honored by the people themselves as the Mirs. But now, if the people do not like the old system, it’s a pleasure for to honor their wishes. You may also want to replace me with a governor but I’m in my own house (Hunza).” The late Mir refused in accepting any kind of political position in the face and expense of abolishing the invaluable Hunza State, which was beyond peoples imagination that played its crucial role among the world’s giant empires.
Some people try to compare the Hunza State with the Swat State, which may be injustice to an extent. We need to understand that the Swat State, which was merged with Pakistan on certain conditions, was not the ruler’s personal state but the Hunza State was a kind of personal State. In Hunza, according to their own wishes, the people established the Mirdom or monarchy for over one thousand years. The people of Hunza brought the Mir from another place called Darwoz in Central Asia and the people willingly paid the taxes to the rulers (Mirs) to run the State and states of affairs so to get protection and security.
While in case of the State of Swat, the people had the leaders who used to kill each other and become leaders like that in election in which one gets the leadership. There was also reportedly suppression on the people of Swat. Whosoever came in disagreements with the contestations, quarrel and fighting would erupt and that person would get hanged. In Swat, there is still a special tree in their forest where the peoples were hanged in public. In contrast, within Hunza State, we may not have such kind of brutalities during the old times. Although, it is narrated that there has also been some suppressions in Hunza State, as the basement of the Baltit fort illustrates. For centuries, there has been fighting between Hunza and Nagar States. The people of Nagar would invade Hunza and the people would get imprisonment in Nagar. Conversely, the people of Hunza would attack Nagar and imprison the people of Nagar in Hunza.
When the former Hunza State was brought to an end during the period of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the people were so happy that the Mirdom (Little Kingdom) ended in 1974 and democracy had taken place. The people said: “We will now choose our leaders very carefully and come up with representatives from different areas.” In such circumstances of political transformation, we did not feel it very strongly. However, many people came up with diverse and strange type of suggestions and presented to my late husband Jamal Khan, the last Mir of Hunza. Some of them were , for instance , (1) the Mir should merge the Hunza State with Pakistan; the Mir himself should rise through the modern model of democracy within the newly introduced political system; (3) and the Mir should do this and do that, and the like.
But, my husband disagreed at various fronts and said: “No, we are also born out of the soil of our homeland. It doesn’t matter whatsoever has happened. Our life and death is closely tied with our own people. We have not suppressed or forced them or their forefathers.”
However, those people who were with us and were our supporters felt the political transformation very tensely. They said that the state had been merged, what actions and strategies should be taken? They protested but the Mir did not become angry or sentimental rather he was cool. He made it clear by saying: “It had to happen. The giant kingdoms and empires have been abolished and were replaced by the democracy. While Hunza was a tiny kingdom, all of us are brothers to each other. If the people did not like the previous system, it was their right to disagree. It doesn’t matter.”
In the meanwhile, the Indian political authorities protested on radio and television possessing their assertion that Pakistan had no right upon the Northern Areas. They further claimed that Hunza, Gilgit and Nager belong to India, and they passed strange comments. But the Mir of Hunza did not respond to any of them.
Political Governance and Social Relationship in the Present Context
Well, coming towards the political governance in the present context, we need to understand that here in Hunza; we are brothers and sisters to each other. We are not displeased with anyone in the aftermath of the political transformation. I would like to add that election is a race in which after every five or four years, one stands to contest and wishes to be elected, and tries to get the opinion of the people in his or her favor. If the people like someone and s/he wins the hearts and minds of the people of the constituencies in a transparent manner, we need to accept it wholeheartedly. On the other, when the people are displeased from their leader, they get him/her out of the political scene for the specific timeframe.
Regarding our residence in the forts, I must mention that we have not stayed in the Baltit fort which was quitted before my marriage. The residence was shifted to the new palace here in Karimabad; while, the Altit fort is very old. Furthermore, it is significant to note that in winter season, we would stay in the palace of Gulmit. The Mir was very fond of hunting. He would prepare himself for the purpose from November. he would prepare bullets, guns and the like. He would say that for the hunting, he had brought so and so guns. Thus he would enjoy hunting.
Here in Central Hunza, the palace of Karimabad was in isolation from the settlements; and though the people, too, would come to meet the Mir. But, in Gulmit, the palace was within the settlement. Sometimes we would visit Ghulkin and spend five days there. Sometimes, we would spend our time in Hussaini when would get invitation by the Ushams. In Passu, we would stay in the house of Arbab Adab Khan.
In response to the invitations in different villages, the Mir would tell the people that he would go to the villages, if the people have built one or two rooms where he could stay. The people would thus construct the rooms instantly. Sometimes we would visit Murkhun and Khayber and would stay there.
Personal Perspectives in Some Social and Political Contextsand Contexts
I have my personal faith in Bobo Ghundi. Before the birth of my elder son, Ghazanfar Ali, I had visited the shrine with cordial intentions. I offered prayers and other peoples also prayed for us. In the aftermath, I got my elder son, although, we had two daughters already but no son. Ghazanfar was born after the visit of the Bobo Ghundi as with a true intention, I had gone to this shrine. Then my second son, Amin Khan and then my third son Abbas Khan were also born.
Let’s suppose, for example, the former Hunza State gets restored, which may not be possible so easily, it would be great. I’ll be glad, indeed. However, it is to mention that Ghazanfar Ali is there. If the people have some sense and intellect, they will do so. We are with the people and people are with us. It’s noteworthy that if there is any work with the government, we do exercise our responsibilities at different scales. And even, if there is anything to be conveyed to the Imam of the Time, we could do it, too.
In addition, I would like to say that it’s incumbent upon the people that during the Election Day, the people should cast their vote whosoever they want to give. But it’s not necessary to disclose their intention in this connection to each other. The people are being shown the symbols. If they can’t understand, they should ask whose symbols are they: then definitely put their votes in the ballot boxes. According to one’s wish, one should cast the vote. But it sounds ridiculous when people began abusing each other or having the rallies outside somewhere. I could realize that after a couple of years, those elected members themselves would become ashamed when they couldn’t deliver anything.
Relationship with the Siblings of the Mir
Besides the Mir, our relationship with late Colonel Ayash Khan Son of Ghazan Khan and brother of Mir Jamal Khan was so great. Although, he did not get married, all his life he dedicated for the services of the Mir as the Secretary of Hunza State. Sometimes, Ayash Khan would become angry and uneasy. If someone did something wrong, he would not pardon or spare them. Therefore, the Mir would sometimes become displeased with him and as younger brother he would say: “Ayash Khan! What are you doing?” In response, Ayash Khan would reply: “Leave the matters aside! You are afraid in taking the actions.” The Mir would reply: “Yes my brother, I am afraid but we need to be sometimes careful and mindful.”
Jamsheed Khan, another brother of the Mir, was not in Hunza but rather most of his time he spent in the military and outside Hunza. Even during his last days, he stayed outside separately from his family. Finally, he became sick and passed away.
Developments in Hunza
It’s soothing to witness the development in Hunza. Shops and hotels have been constructed. The tourists come and the local community members benefit from them. It is good that people’s interaction has increased and widened. For the girls, there was no arrangement of education.at present, schools have been established and the girls want to have employment/service.
In contrast, it’s a pity to note that some people have the idea that there is no need of land for cultivation. If cash money comes in hands, hotels should be constructed and no need of land for the agro-pastoral activities. I do appreciate if people get some relief and peace of mind out of such development as they are sources of happiness for me personally. But it’s highly important to think and envision seriously that in the future, after sometimes, there may not be land even for the graveyards to bury the expiring community members.
Previously, very low number of tourists (particularly foreigners) used to come. There was no vehicular road and peoples had little interaction with the people from outside. Airplane was also not available. In rare cases, if there was flight operation, very few foreigners would come as tourists. But, presently, from the entire world the tourists/foreigners come to see our landscapes. The influx of tourists in our region is good and they are welcomed. Their arrivals in our areas lead towards benefits to our people. For instance, the poor people, at least, sell their apricots and earn money. Some skilled women sell their handicrafts and earn money. On need-basis, people also get some medicines. Therefore, it is good if the tourists come to our area. They do not come to stay here permanently rather they stay for few days and go back after visiting the area. Consequently, there is benefit and not loss for our community.
A Deep Look into the Personality of Mir Jamal Khan
Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan had his interaction with all categories of peoples. He did not favor the poor-rich divide. Whosoever visited him, he met them frankly and happily. Those who came to him empty-handed, he felt it and helped them whole-heartedly. The Mir used to say: “They were the helpless and needy that is why they had come to me.” There were even some people who suggested to the Mir: why did you give him/her that much land? Why did you do this and that for them? But the Mir would say: “Look! God is the Giver. The poor should not be made dependent.”
We had also huge taxes. When a woman would visit the Mir and say: “We are poor, and we haven’t got anything to pay to you in taxes.” The Mir would ask the tax collectors (called trangpas): “Exempt them and don’t take the taxes from so and so persons.” In short, the late Mir was very compassionate towards all people within the tiny kingdom.
If a person would come to the Mir after a quarrel or fighting with someone, the Mir would advise both the parties to get reconciliation themselves through their families or elderly people, or through the State’s mechanism (which was down to the grassroots level represented by the Arbab or Trangpha). If there did not come up reconciliation or any kind of agreement among the fighting parties, he would look into the matter and pass on directives to give them penalty according to the set customary laws). It should be noted that it wasn’t the Mir who would receive the fine for himself. If the penalty, for instance, were brought to him, he would not get it but rather return it to the concerned person(s). The late Mir would sometimes become angry if things were made complicated for and if a person stood stubborn on their baseless stances.
Mir Jamal Khan was very fond of hunting. He would become so happy with the inception of the winter season. For the hunting purpose, he would spend the time from November to December in Gulmit (the Winter Capital of the Hunza State). For the ibex hunting, he would go to the Khunzhrav valley in addition to the ducks hunting in Borit Lake.
The Mir preferred the people of Gojal among the communities of Hunza. In turn, the respective people would also pay a lot of respect to us. It was sometimes so impressive that the Mir knew the names of a significant number of people in Gojal. If someone could not or did not visit him, he would enquire about him by taking his name that what is wrong with him. Is he not feeling well?
The Mir had his belief in the Bobo Ghundi Shrine; and therefore, he repaired this shrine himself otherwise it was previously in worse condition. It’s related that the grave on the spot belongs to Hazrat Imam Muhammad Baqir. Therefore, we would visit this shrine every year and would spend two days there. We would pay our respect by offering the prayers and slaughtering a male goat.
After the end of the Hunza State, a series of cases emerged at communal level and late Mir Jamal Khan was so concerned about them. As a case, I’d like to describe some of them that were noteworthy in which the Mir had to play his pivotal role.
Once, the people of Ahmadabad demanded the government of Pakistan for some monetary support in order to construct a water channel. The government made a promise but did not keep its word. In the meanwhile, the then commissioner of the Northern Areas was on his visit to Hunza. The local community of Ahmadabad went towards Sarat (a place between Gojal and Central Hunza). At this place on the road, the people had surrounded the Commissioner and insulted him for not providing money for the channel project. The commissioner was enraged and he sent the police force to arrest the local community and imprison them.
In such circumstances, Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan could not keep silence or stay in isolation but rather arrived on the spot and addressed the government officials. He effectively conveyed his robust message to them in such manner: “In my lifetime, you cannot arrest my people and cannot take them to the police station. I will punish them myself.” The Government officials questioned the Mir: “Are you going against the government’s decision?” The Mir responded: “No, there is no opposition to the government but keep in mind that our people liberated Gilgit-Baltistan. Among the martyrs of the liberation-war, you can find more people from Hunza than other areas. If you are still not satisfied, go and see their graveyards in the Chinaar Bagh in Gilgit.” So, we don’t oppose the Government but make sure that in my lifetime, you cannot arrest my people. You don’t know that who is innocent and who is criminal. If some individuals have pelted stones on the Government’s vehicle, is it then a wise decision to arrest and dishonor the whole community? Keep in mind that I’ll never give the poor and innocent people to you people.” The Mir did prove his resolute and did not hand over the community members to the administration, who used their power.”
Another case came up in Murtazabad during the construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH). Alongside a huge number of Chinese, 104-batallion of the Pakistan Army including Frontiers Works Organization (FWO) was working on the road. A colonel named Ejaz or so had a waiter. Someone had beaten this man as he was looking and laughing at our girls. So the local community members took the notice and were concerned for the violation of their cultural norms by the outsiders. Resultantly, someone, in rage, had beaten the waiter. Consequently, the army people suspected the people of Murtazabad. These laboring army people, without any consultation with anyone, started a search in the houses of the village in Murtazabad. They secretly put the bullets in the boxes of women. Then they made allegation that the local people had stolen their bullets/grenades. The people were thus arrested and the villagers were dishonored.
On this cruel incidence, Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan could not keep aloof. He immediately had a phone call to the then Commander-in-Chief and clearly communicated him the situations that: “On our community, your laboring army group has attacked by entering in the houses of women.” The Mir warned: “If you did not draw this military group out of Hunza, then the government should not become concerned. Our people will attack and will finish them in a day.” Consequently, the 104-battallion was immediately drawn out of Hunza.
In the same manner, once, the police came to arrest a woman of Hyderabad in an allegation of beating a policeman. The Mir came in the middle and did not hand her over to the police. He said to them: “In my presence, there will be our own judiciary in our area. Further, Mir added: “I feel very sorry to see that husband and wife are arrested and taken to the police station. They are beaten and insulted.” Upholding the dignity of our people, the late Mir was so concerned and, being his wife and with trust at that time, he discussed such alarming incidence with me .The late Mir said that when he would not be in this world, the people would then realize the benefits of the earlier model of Governance.
During the last days, before his death in 1976, the late Mir however narrated the misperceptions of the people of Hunza that had been taught to them by some fanciful and unrealistic persons to them that everyone will be prosperous and everyone will be the Mir. Therefore, the Mirdom should be abolished and the like. But it was unfortunate that they could not see such harsh realities that our people would encounter immediately after the end of the Hunza State, he added. The Mir had got diabetes. Although, he was recovered but sometimes was in trouble, despite having the dietary prevention. During his ailment, the Mir described: “because of my presence, there is a respect for our people. In my absence (after death) our people will realize when our women will be dishonored.”
A Comparison of the Political Systems: Modern Democracy versus Mirdom
I should say that every political system, whether the Mirdom or modern Democracy, has got the pros and cons within themselves. But regarding the democracy in Pakistan, it’s point of serious deliberation that the changes in the system occur year after year, which sounds absurd, indeed. It has become unfortunately a bad tradition of the country to disgrace a respectable person. At the top level, the persons do fight together and then they show down each other and ultimately replace each other. It is a pity to observe the political scenes before our eyes. It’s not understandable, at least, for persons like me, if this is the fruit of modern democracy.
Now about the Mirdom, I’d like to describe a bit. There is no ambiguity that needs to be noted that the Mirdom was a source of honor for our people and region as it had no complexities within the system. When there would occur a case between a man and a woman, they were not supposed to be taken to the police station. There was no police official to go to the house, arrest them and get investigation. Instead, a dialogue process was encouraged among the relatives and disputants. At this level, when there was no success, both parties would then come to us in the Mir’s court. Here, we would listen them thoroughly and make them understand for the reconciliation. If any kind of serious case was observed, the guilty person would get penalty. But in the modern democratic system, when even a brother quarrel with his brother, the police interferes, arrests them and takes them to the police station. Or even if there is any conflict or quarrel between a husband and a wife, they are arrested and taken to the police station. The women thus get disgraced. Therefore, such facets are not encouraging and productive.
The Old Silk Route: Caravans Raiding
Although, many stories are narrated behind looting of the caravans by our people on the old Silk Roads, I don’t have any solid information pertaining to such phenomena. In the old days, before Mir Nazim Khan’s era (that’s between 1891 to 1938 CE), there might have been such practices. But I’m quite sure that during our time, after 1945, no such practices were evidenced in any form in the later phases of trader’s interactions within the region.
Instead, I witness that the caravans, which would come from China to Hunza, were not permitted by the British government to go to Gilgit rather the caravan would stay here. There was a suspicion that spies could be among the merchants in the caravans coming from China. Thus, the merchants of the caravans were stopped here in Hunza where they would sell their merchandises to the peoples and would return to China.
Life and Some Activities in the post-Hunza State Era
By the blessings of God, the Almighty, so far we are doing well. Our utmost concerns and relationships are with the peoples of Hunza. We have been sharing the misery and joy of our people. For instance, in any wedding, when we are invited, we do attend it by considering them as our brothers. Similarly, when there is any death in a family, we also go in the deceased houses to pay our respect and condolence. We never feel negative in such respects. We feel that the people of Hunza are ours and we are theirs.
When a husband is lost, one can imagine that how a wife could feel it intensely. However, I have children, too. During his life time, the Mir had distributed the properties/land to his three sons and handed their shares over to them individually in written form. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that from the beginning, there has never been the tradition of distributing land to the daughters. If it were so, certainly land properties could have also been given to my daughters.
Although, I feel the loss of my husband but what to do. He can never come back. Anyway, I have my sons. I give them advice to remain in unity and respect each other. This is the greatest thing in the world “to respect each other and love each other as siblings.”
I experienced over 75 springs of my life and I observed the previously interestingly political system which got changed. On the other, the Mir passed away. But still I feel my life going well and smoothly. Nice people were with us in the previous time when there was Mirdom and good people are with us in the current context as well.
Previously, there were no people against us, while in the present context, there are some people opposing us. But we don’t care because the world is so open. Wherever we wish, we can live. Even one can live along with his/her families out of the country or region. It is one’s choice, indeed. For us, we don’t find much difference.
When the people come to visit me, I feel pleasure, of course. They come and meet me any time. Some people also come at night, if they have any emergency or telephone calls to their relatives. They prefer to come to my house and talk to their kinspersons because when they go to the telephone exchange, they are charged for it. Some people say: “When we go to the doctors, they ask us to go to the clinic and for the clinic; we haven’t got that much money.” Therefore, without any fear or hesitation, we help such needy or deserving people. Some poor people come and ask me to talk to so and so doctors by recommending that they should not get that much amount of money for the operation, because they are financially weak.
It is important that according to our capacity, women of the ruling family should work for the betterment of the needy women. Keeping in view my limited strength, I do extend my helping hand for the small activities of women.
In terms of my faith, I’m a Muslim. It’s noteworthy that during or before my marriage, my parents never pressed me that they were the Shia and when I would get married and in the aftermath, I should not become Ismaili. And when I came to Hunza, no one told me here that you are a Shia and you should not convert to Ismailism. I myself accept the Aga Khan as “Hazar Imam” (Imam of the Time) and I visit him. The way he deserves the honor, I do pay and fulfil it within my capacity. I do go to the Ismaili jamatkhanas, whenever I’m called. In addition, I offer my prayers, too. I keep fastening; and if I don’t feel well, I do not fasten. That is all.
All Muslims are one. If someone affirms: “There is no God, but God; and Muhammad is the last Messenger of God; s/he is thus a Muslim. Furthermore, what do the Sunni say and what does the Shia say, there is no adequate and positive output or productivity, indeed. They quarrel together. The fundamental principles for the Muslims are the same.
There is no doubt that a marriage is a fundamental part of a culture. With reference to Ghazanfar Ali Khan’s marriage, I should say that it happened by chance. We had sent Ghazanfar to study in Punjab University, Lahore. He then liked a girl and got married with her. Although, for a certain period, we had our reservation and we suspended the proposal that a girl from outside may not be our daughter-in-law, it was his wish and he got married with her, and there was no point for us to say further.
Following the outside marriage, Saleem Khan (my elder grandson) was also married with her maternal cousin. At that time when my consent was taken, I described to them: “If this boy’s mother is forcing him to marry with her niece then let’s accept it.” I added: “But Ghazanfar Ali has two more sons and their marriages should be from our area within our family. And if they also got married outside, it is their will: I won’t say anything more then.”
In conclusion, my message to the people, including women of Hunza and Nagar, would be so that if people could afford, they should give education to their children and they themselves seek knowledge. In addition, I’d say: “Be nice and competent. Live in unity. Don’t give up greater values of your respective cultures. If our people are ready to listen then it is nice. But if they don’t listen, it is their wish again.” Because more often it is said: “That was the old world and old fashion, and the people are still following the old world. But, now, it’s the new world and new people and they should prepare themselves within the modern standards of life to cope robustly with the upcoming challenges.”
I owe a deep gratitude to Madam Shams-un Nahar, the late Rani of the former Hunza State, for her kind consent to share her deep thoughts and experiences at various scales with me, despite the fact Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan (her older son) at that time didn’t cooperate with me and was so reluctant and resisted me not to get her interview. I however made it up with my benign determination in July 2000. It would have never become possible without the compassionate behavior of the late Rani herself. Today, she is not with us in this world, but all her great memories that she shared with me and was documented in video form as well as the textual form I produced out of it will remain ahead and people, particularly the womenfolk, will try to get lessons out of her firm struggles and thoughts. May God, the Almighty! Bless her soul with eternal rest and peace.
I’d like to pay my special thanks to my brother Ghulam Amin Beg (who for the first time in my life in 2000 purchased a computer for me to conduct such studies) for going through the Interview Guide I had prepared for this study and provided his positive feedbacks on the subject matter.
I’m also thankful to my cousin, Ahmad Jami Gulistan Khan of Gulmit, who kindly accompanied me on July 9, 2000 when we visited the late Rani and discussed our purpose and the possibility around it if she gives her consent in this regard. I must not forget to pay my thanks and salute to Madam Nilufar Khan, daughter of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, who was present there with her mother, for her kind appreciation around my intention. It was she who encouraged me to get her interview done in a week’s time.
For the video documentation, I’m so grateful to Haqiqat Ali and Wazir Aman of Ghulkin who kindly facilitated me in this regard as it was so usual to have video cameras without their support, it would have been difficult for me to capture the provided information.
My special thanks also goes to my nephew, MJ Beg, for going through the texts and making the adjustments within the document in addition to proof reading.
Taking an opportunity at this moment, finally , I’d like to acknowledge and pay my gratefulness to all my tested friends, colleagues and relatives within Pakistan and abroad including Professor Dr. Hermann Kreutzmann, Sabine Felmy, Professor Dr. Livia Holden, Marius Holden, Dr. John Mock, Dr. Julie Flowerday, Abdul Malik, Fazal Ali Sa’di, Qayyum Ali Shah, Sitarah Parveen and Faheem Samad Khan and other friends within Calibreone International , Zahid Karim Rumi and the U-connect , Noor Muhammad and Pamir Times Group, Hussain Ahmad Rumi, the marvelous Naeem Khan, Hilal Ahmad and my siblings and other family members (particularly sister Shamshad Begum and both my daughters Fazila Roshan Beg and Surush Ayman Beg) for their moral, overall and unforgettable support and facilitation pertaining to my intellectual endeavors. Their compassionate support is highly incredible to me, particularly at a juncture of denial of of my employment at the cost of my visual disability. Without their support and facilitation, I may not be able to come up with such type of contributions, indeed.
Great work Fazal Amin – you have unpacked the history, beautifully narration. I really enjoyed reading it; please keep up your inspiring work, good luck!
Thanks for your kind appreciations, indeed.
I was extremely pleased to read this interview of the late Shams-un Nahar. For a couple of weeks I have been collecting and compiling documentation about Hunza. I am working on a page that will summarize the construction of myths about the longevity of Hunza people by promoters of “alternative” diets and lifestyles. The page will be in French on my website https://lebonheurestpossible.org but it has an automatic translation to English. I would appreciate your views on this subject!
Merci beaucoup pour votre commens/remarks. I’ll be happy, too, to read the page once that’s accomplished by you on the subject matter .
its really engaging and enjoying script …
congratulations my friend
Thanks so much for your kind appreciations and encouragement.