By Fazal Amin Beg
The life of each human fellow in this world is so much unique, interesting and attractive when explored the hidden stories embedded in the experiences he or she possesses. When those stories are uncovered at varying degrees, we could then understand and realize how important they have been where enormous lessons emerge out of their life experiences in a pragmatic manner. More particularly, those people, who have some genuine aims, objectives, and missions of their life could be termed something highly outstanding and extraordinary in many ways. It thus becomes incumbent upon those who have the power of pen and knowledge to capture and share those stories behind which a world is hidden within the underworld of human minds nourishing the invaluable ideas, knowledge, perceptions and experiences that takes its route right from the birth to the childhood, youth and adulthood.
This important written contribution I therefore present here is thus in connection with such a distinguished personality like Mr. Qurban Jan son of Majnun Bai of Northern Pakistan. Belonging to Gulmit (Upper Hunza), Mr. Jan is one of the few important people of Gilgit-Baltistan Region whose life stories are so enriched and diverse in different contexts while keeping in view the old societal fabrics , classes and politics in comparison with the contemporary context.
It was back in November 2012 when one of my scholar friends from Germany, Dr. Andreas Benz of Free University Berlin, had come to Hunza in order to conduct a study on the educational migrants of Hunza, more particularly focused on two small villages of Hussaini and Passu. Both of us were thus in the field to collect the data through mix methods (qualitative and quantitative). Biographic interview of the key informants were one of the effective methods to explore and understand the states of affairs on the subject matters. In this connection, Mr. Jan proved to be one of the wonderful and highly friendly participants in the study.
The interview of Mr. Jan we had taken on November 4, 2012 in Gilgit and it was so fascinating to go through his verbal and attractive narrations of his life experiences as well as description of his perspectives and approaches on the missions of his life he had put forth to embrace.Apart from the aforesaid interview, the information shared is also through general discussion with the informant.
Mr. Jan starts his life stories with his year of birth as 1945 instead of date of birth because there was no tradition of recording the exact dates of birth. Those families who were literate enough would record the dates or years of birth of their children or family members. He then describes about his family members (immediate and extended) before embarking onto the journey of his life ventures.
Narrating his early schooling events in the 1950s , Mr. Jan then interestingly, being an obidient student, shares how he accepts his only primary level teacher’s suggestion to teach the students after he had qualified his primary level education. He thus teaches for couples of months in the DJ school Gulmit and then leaves for Gilgit (headquarters of the then Gilgit Agency) in order to pursue his middle level education (Grade 6-8). Gilgit in the current context is the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan Region and is over 140 kilometers away from his hometown. Identifying the difficulties and mode of travel of the old days, he describes that how he Along with one of his friends, Raja Bahadur Khan started their travel by riding the horses as there was no vehicular road up to his village. It sounds so remarkable that how apparently a non-literate but a dedicated and affectionate father accompanies his son like Mr. Jan for the sake of his education, when his son had not yet reached in his adulthood, rather not even in the teen-age.
The school and hostel life of two years in Gilgit of Mr. Jan is again fascinating where he remains out of political activities despite the fact his classmates or seniors tried to pursuade him towards the students political activism.He acquires and intensifies his knowledge proficiency in English and his English teachers get stunned on his wonderful progress.
When he appears in the written test of Pakistan Airforce (PAF) Public School and College, Mr. Jan qualifies it with a wonder. He and one of his friends named shagul (later becomes a medical doctor) from Hunza proved to be fortunate to get the admission offer in Murree Paf school. He and his friend are taken to Murree for the sake of interview in the flight of airforce.
It was for the first time in his life that Mr. Jan and his friend were going to experience to fly in an airforce craft from Gilgit to Chak Lala Airbase, Rawalpindi in the second half of 1950s and they appear in the interview with a great success. They are thus given the admission in the then prestigious educational institution.However, before commencement of the educational session , Mr. Jan had either to return to his hometown in Hunza or to spend the month in Rawalpindi. He however made to stay in the city in Gilgit Hotel when he was offered a financial support by his school management.
Mr. Jan thus successfully goes through the educational environment of the Pakistan Airforce school and college. Interestingly, in the later phases of his life, the effects of some dictatorial traits of the training within the institutional environment and military characteristics we could observe and find in him, particuarly during his career in the public services as a bureaucrat.
Besides the above narrations, Mr. Jan then informs us that how rest of his time continued till his intermediate level education and how it was possible for a person of mountain and rural, but rather far flung area, gets an opportunity to fly to Karachi in an official trip arranged by his college when he was pursuing his F. Sc study and how he made his way to meet with his community members in Karachi for the first time.
Though, Mr. Jan qualified his intermediate level education, he entrapped in financial challenges again to proceed ahead for the university level education. He describes how he had to go in perplexities and finally made his way towards Karachi University. His passion for English and the literature could not sustain when one of his Punjabi friends, named Khizer Hayat, guides him to change his mind and subject of English literature for political science so to prepare himself for the upcoming central superior services (CSS) examination after getting the Master’s degree. It’s interesting to observe that Mr. Jan apparently studied and specialized in political science but he kept himself away from the students political activities , in other words, abstain to take part in the political activisms of the university.
So inspirational again, if deliberated seriously, Mr. Jan and his tested friend Khizer Hayat spend one full year in the Mahmood-ul Hassan Library of Karachi University behind preparation of his CSS examination.It’s fascinating to see that how Mahmood-ul Hassan, the then Vice Chancellor of the University was so compassionate towards him in person when he noted and observed the spark of talent and hardwork in Mr. Jan and directed the library management to leave the library open for the serious students like Jan who could avail the resources for the sake of the thirst of knowledge, their study and career development.
In 1972, when Mr. Jan appears in the CSS examination, he qualifies it in the first attempt. He thus lays a solid foundation for and inspires his upcoming generations of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan Region in line with such competative exams. He is thus assigned the position of Assistant Accountant Genral of Gilgit-Baltistan Region (formerly known as Northern Areas of Pakistan). In his fascinating biographical sketch, he thus generously and honestly shares with us those experiences along with his timely promotions on the positions of Accountant Gernal, Secretaries of the Departments of Finance, Health, Planning and the like. After seeing his 60th spring of his life, he finally gets retirement from the public services but sustains his energism of work and contributed, particulary to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a senior consultant.
Apart from the above descriptions,the life stories of Mr. Jan, narrated by him, also leads and stimulates us to dig the societal realities of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan Region, at least for forty crucial years (from 1940 to 1980) when there was no road in the before emergence of Pakistan and gradual developments are evidenced in different contexts in an evolutionary manner.
Although, the COVID-19 not only threatened the senior citizens in different societies, it devoured uncountable lives of them around the world. But, it’s so encouraging to note that Mr. Qurban Jan drives on carefully, smoothly and with more confidence today on the highway of his life at the age of 76 (As per official record).It’s noteworthy that in the context of Hunza, a person in 76 cannot be termed as senior but rather still deemed in his or her middle age as the elders normally exist with a pride in their 90 plus.
At present (March 2021), it’s also impressive to note that he has proved himself adaptive to the change and has adjusted himself, in one way or the other, with the modern technologies related with social media despite the fact he had the traditional approach of bureaucracy and remained away from the computer technology.
Moreover, at this stage, I’d request the readers to be openhearted and unbiased while going through the short biography of Mr. Jan (comprises of leser than 15 pages). I can assume, understand and realize that there could be some people who might have encountered with him during his professional life (as a courageous bureaucrat) and might have got offended due to his honest and straightforward approach as he won’t care at all if someone tried to pursuade him negatively in professional capacity.
From here onward, I’m going to open the story narrated by the informant himself in a natural order. I hope the readers will fully enjoy a sketch of his life history as it would be injustice to term it as the whole of his biography.
Some Important Aspects of the Life History of Mr. Qurban Jan
My full name is Qurban Jan and I belong to Gulmit, my hometown in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan Region. Although, there was no written tradition of the dates of birth in the past,there used to be important points of references against which the dates of birth were remembered. My date of birth could also be taken for granted in such manner.I was born in Gulmit in 1945 as it was the death year of Mir Ghazan Khan son of Mir Nazim Khan. On the other, it’s also described that I might have got my birth either in 1943 or 1944 (one or two years before the death of Mir Ghazan Khan).
The old time has changed now and in the present context, the dates of birth are written at home and in the hospitals or health centers as well as in the Jamatkhanas and in the government’s registration offices. For exampel, we have the Aga Khan Health Services, having the small health units everywhere, especially in Gulmit we have it and the children are born there and their dates of births are recorded.
Before talking about the stories of my life, I’d like to describe a bit about my immediate and extended family members and then will move on. My father’s name was Majnun Bai and his father’s name was Gurgmol belonging to the Bori clan of Gulmit. my mother’s name was Sosan Gul and her father’s name was Muhammad Nazar belonging to the Shogũn family of Gulmit. I’ve three brothers and one sister. Their names are Muhammad Jafar (lived his life in Sharja along with his family),Khawja Ahmad (lives in Gulmit with his family), Hafizullah (an engineer and worked with Pakistan International Airline and after his retirement worked in Abu Dhabi). Hafeez is also married and have children. My only sister’s name is Bibi Maryam who has got married in Gulmit with Abdul Aziz.
My wife’s name is Bibi Laila daughter of Akbar Khan (belonging to the Gulbast family of Gulmit. We have eight children including two sons and six daughters. My sons names are Aziz Jan and Khalid Jan. All of my children have accomplished their education by getting their Masters degrees. Two of them studied from the United States of America.My older son Aziz Jan (after doing his Masters in international development) is settled in Washington along with his family and works with the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. The younger one, Khalid Janhas studied international rural development and has been working with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). My daughters names are Sosan Begum (studied and specialized in environmental science and as well as Gender and Development), Farida Begum (studied sociology and engaged with teaching), Shazia Jan (studied peace and conflict management), Dr. Safina Jan (a medical doctor specialized in medicine), Shahina Jan (doing her PhD in Economics and Management), Saira Jan (specialized in and teaching law)and Dr. Faiza Jan (a medical doctor). Sosan Begum is married with Dr. Sher Aziz son of Hikmat Nazar of Gulmit and based in Gilgit. Farida Jan is married with Col Wazirullah Baig son of Azizullah Baig of Hussaini and based in down country Pakistan. Shazia Jan is married with Ejaz Karim son of Ibadat Shah of Gulmit and is based in Gilgit. Dr. Safina Jan is married with Engineer Sajjadullah Baig son of Saeedullah Baig of Gulmit and is based in the United Kingdom. Both of My sons are married, too. Name of Aziz Jan’s wife is Naseem Bano daughter of Ahmad Baig of Gulmit and name of Khalid jan’s wife is Falak Naz Taj daughter of Sahib Nadir Khan of Chitral region. I’ve thus over a dozen grandchildren.
Let me move on to my early life history now and will then try to encompass a bit about professional life experiences, the ups and downs that came across my life. This will provide the respected readers an insight and may provide an opportunity for them to learn some lessons out of my breif biography in addition to other genuine considerations.
I remember the year, perhaps it was 1950, when we were children and their was school established by the Diamond Jubilee Trust of His Royal Highness Aga Khan III. It was a primary school and the teacher was from Central Hunza. His name was Momin Hayat who had retired from the Gilgit Scouts and he had served the Signal Department of the Military forces. He thus knew a bit of English. Otherwise, he knew Persian language, arithmatics and so on. I rmember when we went to him, it was Ghulamuddin’s house where the school was run. I think that house doesn’t exist now, which was termed as Diran House. It was a very big house and we used to go for the purpose of getting education. In winter, I rmember, we would carry our own firewood along with us early in the morning.
We were four brothers. We would thus carry our parts of firewood and go there to study. Momin Hayat was such a hardworking person that he would keep us busy till 5:00 p.m. We were fedup and would naively wish him the worst in our hearts so to get rid of his strict engagements in teaching. However, with the course of time and maturity, persons like me realized that He was such a wonderful and hard task teacher. He was undoubtedly a dedicated gentleman.
After two years, he was transferred and another teacher named Sanaullah came. He was also so literate and had been teachign in Hunza. He thus came there at Gulmit in the aftermath. He was next to the Mir of Hunza. He was so well-off and our parents used to look after him. It was not so that he belonged to the Wazir family of Hunza and people would respect him but ratehr he was a dedicated teacher. Therefore, the community members would give everything free to him. His pay was perhaps twenty rupees or so. You could imagine twenty rupees of 1950s and it was a big thing having very high value.
Mr. Ibadat Shah was one class ahead of us. My classmates of the school were Rifayat Shah (a retired bank manager) and many others. Some of them joined Gilgit Scout and Pakistan Army. However, persons like me continued education. Mr. Bahadur Khan was three years older than me and thus ahead of me in the school. Mr. Ghulamuddin was younger than me and junior in the school. I don’t know he was enrolled late in the school or what was the reason for being junior to me in the school but he was a well-off person. Those who are well-off, don’t care much about their study.Late Ghulamuddin was the pampered child as he was the only son of his parents. He had no brother and he had every thing available around him.
Mr. Bahadur Khan came to Gilgit for the study. He spent about two years in Gilgit. I was in Grade 5 and passed the primary level education. The teacher then asked my consent: “Why shouldn’t you teach in the school for a year or so or for six months?” So many children would attend the school those days and there was the only teacher. I agreed with the teacher and said: “Okay, I’ll teach.” I was being paid ten rupees per month salry. Rupees ten was a big thing at that time. I started teaching the boys in 1956. I thus taught in the school for only two or three months.
Mr. Bahadur Khan then came down to Gilgit and we discussed to join together. I thus came to Gilgit. My mother provided me a big chogha (woolen cloak/mantle/outfit).We were two or thre people and I rode a horse while starting our journey from Gulmit. The travel at that time was so much dangerous due to the arduous terrain of the region. There was no road, no jeep, nothing. We thus took our way towards Gilgit in September 1957 for the first time in my life. Even I had not travelled up to Central Hunza earlier than that as it was 21 miles from Gulmit to Central Hunza. We thus continued our journey for the whole day and then reached Karimabad.
Master Sultan Ali Samarqand was there and teaching in the DJ school. I don’t remember where did we spend the night. They provided us everything. We would just go to them and pay our courtesy call. They would thus accomodate, provide the food to us and the fodder to the horses.It was their compassion and greatness, indeed, which we cannot forget yet.
We came to Gilgit and there was a hostel here established by the Isma’ili community near the central Jamatkhana of Gilgit. It should be noted that it was not the Shah Karim Hostel, which emerged in the later phases, but rather was named as Diamond Jubilee Hostel. This hostel was specifically for the Ismaili students of the region.
I then appeared in the admission test of Grade 6 of Government High School Gilgit and qualified it. This was the only school in Gilgit, which was established earlier and upgraded to a high school perhaps in 1950. There was a boy named Dawlat Shah from Misgar valley of Hunza, who later became a doctor and died in America due to cancer disease. Dawlat Shah was my classmate and had studiwd from Hunza.
Though, I got admission in the school, I could not secure a place for myself in the hostel as the management of DJ hostel responded that Raja Bahadur Khan was in place of me in the hostel on the quota of Gojal. It was back in September 1957 when I had to go through such experiences of my life. However, I could not understand that how come there could be just one place for the students in the hostel coming from upper Hunza and the excuse that Raja Bahadur Khan was there who had already occupied the seat, as the management tried to justify.
One day, I met with Raja Bahadur Khan and told him that I was not able to get a place for me in the hostel.He told me that he was going to quit the hostel as he was fed up of the unfriendly hostel fellows who would tease him. He thus suggested me to apply and try against this place.I thus applied for the hostel accomodation and it took a month more to get the place.
The hostel was administered by a brother of Haji Qudratullah Baig of Hunza named Subedar Safiullah Baig. I thus replaced Raja Bahadur Khan in the hostel. For a month, I stayed at the place of late Sikandar Khan, a gentleman of Gulmit who was serving the T&T (Telephone and Telegraph) Department. He was staying in a house and whoever from Gojal would come to Gilgit would stay with him. It was a great contribution from his side and for the people it was becoming cheap. Anyway, in the hostel, I would pay nine rupees per month against accomodation, fooed and also a soap per head for washing our clothes.
The boys from Hunza then started agitating and mobilized the students to demonstrate that why the management of the hostel were charging much from them. I disagreed with them they were nonsense that for this much considerate rupees the hostel management were oferring us enormous things. Altogether, we were one hundred and fifty students, I think, in the hostel from the whole region (Hunza and Ghizer districts) .However, from Gojal, we were only two students: Raja Bahadur Khan and I myself. On the other, there were many students from Central Hunza, may be fifty.
Raja Bahadur Khan then left the hostel and stayed in the old Hunza House in Gilgit, as he was fond of talking to the people and least interest in education. The Old Hunza House was built by the late Mir of Hunza. It was the residence of Mir Muhammad Nazim Khan, the then ruler of Hunza.But during our time, it was Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, the grandson of Nazim Khan. The land was given to Nazim Khan by the Britishers. At present, that site has been converted to a marketplace after the land was sold by the owner Prince Abbas Khan son of Mir Jamal Khan as it was his property. Prince Abbas Khan served the Government as the Chairman of the Tarrif Commission before his retirement, I think.
Mr. Bahadur Khan thus stayed in Hunza House in a lavish manner, while spending hard time in the hostel. In my case, I realized that I should study and without study there was no way out.There used to be lantern and no electricity system. There was no room system in the hostel instead there were the dormataries. In one dormatry, there used to be eight to ten students. At night, the boys would raise objection at me that I was disturbing them while liting the lantern and studying. They would scold me to let them sleep.I would tell those stupids to sleep for ever as they were the sleeping giants. I would thus study till mid-night.
I liked English as a subject. The other guys would focus more on Persian and other subjects but I preffered Shakspear. I thus focused on Shakspear. They would argue that why was I focusing more on Shakspear, I may become Christian. They are horrible, they would convert me to Christian faith.Better not to study English. I disagreed with them as I also had studied a bit the history of Islam as would engage myself with the books.I’d tell them that the Christians also believe in the prophethood and the Book. We are all Christians, Muslims and Jews. They all are the same. They would ask, how come? I’d tell them: Jesus the Christ was a Jew. They would tell me that the Christians would kill me if they got such remarks by you. I’d tell them: No matter if they kill me. I damn care. I however continued my study. I also studied Martin Luther, the German Professor.
The head teacher of our school had a degree in English literature from Aligarh University, India. His name was Inaam -ul Haq, an Urdu speaker from Lakhnow and was not a Punjabi. When I compare my early education, primary level, with middle level school education of today, the teachers of our time were so much hardworking Because they were the dedicated teachers. At present, the teachers free the students from schools after 12:00 p.m. They cannot be seen in the Government schools.
When I compare my primary level education at Gulmit with that of the middle level education in Gilgit, the latter was something of high quality and the best.The primary level could be seen something embedded in religious ground. But in Gilgit, I was exposed to history, literature and the like.
The Britishers were the best officers from England. The doctors, highly qualified. Once, I went in the hospital and there was audit going on. One of the auditors showed me a thing. He said whose name was March and he was a surgeon. He said he had done his FRCS from England in the 1930s. He was thus posted from Simla (India to Gilgit. He was thus directed to report to the Agency Surgeon here in Gilgit and he had to learn from his experiences for six months and had to replace him before the earlier doctor was relieved.
In addition, there is a beautiful library here in Gilgit, the Municipal Library. One should go and see the library. It is fantastic and one could find every thing there. It was a church of the British officers and later on it was converted to a library after the Britishers left the area. The Political Agents were highly educated. What they did teach they donated their books to the library before going back to their homeland.This library is thus accessible to everybody. The question is who goes to the library and gets benefit out of it in a productive manner? At many places, people don’t go to the library, at least, in the present context, because there are these electronic devices and the like in front of them and these are horrible in many ways.The libraries sound empty in Europe , as far as I know. Similarly, the Churches are also empty , I guess.
I was studying in Grade 8 and I knew English. The teacher asked me: “Where did you learn English?” I replied: “Learning could be everywhere. One can learn at home, too. I’ve the passion and was learning it from you.” He replied: “But you speak very good English.” Well, learning is a continuous process and I’m learning it at present too.The boys at school didn’t know how to use the word “did.” The grammar they didn’t know, while I had grasped it.
The same head teacher, Inaam-ul Haq , was my first English teacher who was originally from Lakhnow.He would come to the class and say: “English is my part and I’ll teach the boys.” He would teach us the grammar and so on. There was another teacher from Gilgit named Ghulam Raza. He was also very good in grammar. I thus learned the English and the head teacher was so pleased with me.
The guys (my classmates) had learned the politics from Pakistan and they would take part in the processions and demand to do this and that. They would try to pursuade me for the purpose as well but , I would refuse to take part in such political activisms. Instead, I’d tell them that I was not going to join them. “You go and take part in the processions and I won’t be part of them” and instead I focused on my study. The head teacher would thus like me and say: “You are a good student.”
Luckily, there was a Pakkistani Air Force (PAF) public School at Murree, Lower Topa. The team was led by an English gentleman. After independence of Pakistan and under Colombo Plan, Pakistan became part of the Common Wealth and the latter helped the respected countries in establishing good schools of English medium (and not the Persian ,language religion or otherwise, which I don’t appreciate much). Columbo is in Sri Lanka (Sylon) .
There were retired teachers from the British airforce, British army and British Navy. They were sent to Pakistan to establish schools. They thus established one at Hassan Abdal (near Islamabad). One PAF school in Sargodah and it’s one of the best. Likewise, one PAF school was in Lower Topa, Murree. The Airforce officers of Pakistan could be seen mostly from these schools.
During those days of our schooling, there were admission tests going on at higher secondary level. It should be noted that the level was termed before them as Grade 6. We spent one year more there in the PAF school because we had to go through the english medium education.
In brief, the team of test takers of PAF Murree school came to our school in Gilgit and took the test. After three months, our result was declared and I had fortunately qualified the written test and I was offered admission .
Well, the education was free for me as for the poor students there were such kind of considerations and incentives. I thus studied free of cost here. In these schools, merit and competence is considered on top even today.
At primary level, the education was free within DJ schools. That is why there was no stipend. But when we would enter in the universities, there used to be financial assistance from the aga Khan education Board.
At school level in Gilgit, my late uncle Adil Baig (my father’s brother) financed me who was serving as a soldier in the Northern Scout.He had passed away as he had no child. On the other, my father would also support me by selling the livestock and trees.Thus, per annum, I’d recieve 150 rupees against supporting my educational mission.Everything was so cheap at that time and Pakistani rupee had a high value and had not such depreciation or inflation, which we witness today. That’s why, life was smooth.
After qualifying my written test for the English medium school of PAF Marree, I was invited for the interview, intellegence test and medical test.There was also another boy from Hunza (Aliabad) who had qualified the written test and his name was Shagul (who later became a medical doctor). Dr. Shahgul was uncle of SP Momin Shah.
There were the Bangali officers who were highly educated people and they were officers in the airforce. We flew from Gilgit to Rawalpindi for the purpose and we were taken by the airforce plane named as Frater. It took one and a half hour flight, I think. It was at that time when Mr. Shah Khan of Gulmit had joined the airforce. He is an old friend and he was also there. He thus offered me halwa (a sweet dish) in the mess. He encouraged me: “Be sure to qualify it, okay? I told him: “don’t worry., will do.” This was the story of Winter 1958 and beginning of 1959.
It was so cold in Murree and snowfall had started already.The administrator directed us that the school would begin on february 22. They therefore asked us to be there in the school by that time.I said: how could I go back to Hunza then? I requested them to take me back in the airplane, otherwise I had no money. The head of the school said, “No issue. I’m leaving for England and you should stay in Rawalpindi.” I was provided a stipend to spend it for my accomodation and food. I then agreed with him.
Those days, there existed a famous hotel known as “Gilgit Hotel” in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi. It was purchased by His Highness, Imam of the Time. The accomodation was free here and people staying there were supposed to pay for the food. I therefore opted to stayed in this hotel.
When the PAF Public school opened and my classes started, I joined it. I was so stunned to see the arrangements. Everyone would speak English. The hard time engagement to adjust myself was not a big issue for me. Comparatively, the sons of the military officers would literlly cry as we had to get up early morning at 4:00 a.m and bath in the cold water as part of the training. However, I made it successfully. I thus spent four years in this educational institution, which is now PAF school and college. At present, Overseas Pakistanis who work in Europe and Americas, they send their children for education in these institutions.
We were provided rupees 25/- per month as pocket money, as my education, accomodation and food were free in my case. Although, there was this pocket money provided to me, I could not save money for myself as once a year I’d also visit my family in Hunza.I won’t visit Hunza in winter but rather would opt to go in summer. I would travel both by road and by air/flight, though the flights were subject to weather. By road, the travel was from Rawalpindi to Balakot and there onward to Babusar and Gilgit and back. That’s what the life moved on. The nature was so beautiful during the travel as it was like the heaven, though the road through thee arduous landscape was undoubtedly so much dangerous.There was no decoit, no terrorist or otherwise. These are now all because of the Europeans and Americans who exploit us in different ways, especially, the mad American rulers.
Finally, I did my matriculation in 1962 with second grade. In this school or college, the emphasis was not on grade or much on studies, instead they have to prepare the students for the airforce, army and navy. Therefore, they need average people. They don’t need brilliant people to be thinkers. Once people start thinking, they don’t need to be in such institutions or organizations. Just imagine that what did Hitler do? He was a simple soldier but he started thinking, which became horrible. When a person starts thinking, he then writes Mein Kamp. I studied those books of those days.
When I had qualified my matriculation in 1962, late Gul Muhammad did his intermediate at that time as he was senior than me. But he made it from the scratches.After getting his primary level education from Gulmit, he left for Karachi. People from Hunza were there in Karachi such as Advocate Shafi, Advocate Mola Madad and so on. They were very senior people than me.
During my four years in the PAF public school Lower Topa (Murree), I also did qualify my F. Sc (Pre-Engineering (Intermediate level education) in 1965. When I was in Karachi, I waisted one year there.
I had no idea after my F. Sc that where to go ahead in my career. There was no one to guide me properly. Punjab was comparatively very expensive for getting higher education. I attempted to avail Gordon College, Rawalpindi, which was a very good educational institution and run by the Christians but it was so much expensive. The Principal of this college, who was an American, advised me to go to Karachi as there were our Ismaili community members. He further advised, it was too expensive in Gordon college. Similarly, Lahore was very expensive. There was no financial assistance from any source, either from Gordon college, or other educational institutions, as far as , I knew, nor was there any financial assistance from the princely State of Hunza. The stipend was by His Highness, the Aga Khan. There was no Aga Khan Education Services. It was the Diamond Jubilee Trust, the only source for educational assistance, though, the DJ schools were established and the teachers were being paid by the Aga Khan Educational Board and the education for students was free.
In the meanwhile, some of my friends, after passing their intermediate level education, went to Lahore. I thus also accompanied them to explore and know about the states of affairs on the ground. Some of them joined Gordon college because they were well-off people to support their children’s education. But for me, it was a big challenge and my father could not afford to pay the fees. We were four brothers and they had to be educated as I was the oldest among all my siblings. For such reasons, I had to leave for Karachi. There were some people of my village who used to live in Karachi having their employment. I thus joined them on the way.
Earlier than this travel trip, I had visited Karachi in C 130 flight in 1963 and this trip was on behalf of PAF Public College. That was a coordination visit to see the PAF structures. At that time, I had met with many community members in Karachi during our official trip of over three weeks. I had gone to the Jamatkhanas and met our people.
During my second trip to Karachi, it was a challenge how to get into the university in honors class. I was interested and enthusiastic to study and specialize in English literature. But in the second year, some friends advised me that if I was interested to enter in the public services in Pakistan, you have to look for other subjects and English literature won’t help me out in that respect. I should therefore opt for political science, which had 300 marks, because we also study political history of Europe. That’s how I could know the history of Europe including Bismark and the others. It was interesting to note that how those people in Europe killed each other and now they have become champion of civilizations.Anyhow, I thus switched over to political science from the English literature department. We had entered in these departments after written tests and interviews.
There was a good friend of mine, named Khizer Hayat, who was studying and preparing himself for the civil services and he guided me properly. He is now retired from Civil Services served lastly as the Chief of the Census Commission of Pakistan. Khizer Hayat was a son of a landlord from Punjab. He and I were together in the hostel room of Karachi university. He emphasized me to enter in the Government job at any cost as I was from the then Northern Areas (now, Gilgit-Baltistan). I told him it could be very difficult. But, he encouraged me and said I could do it. It was not that much difficult. He further emphasized that for this purpose, I also must study the subject of political science.
Khizer Hayat further guided me as I had no Law degree and could have it to supplment the mission before me. He himself had the Law degree with him. I said I had no Law degree but could get through it without formal involvement in it. I thus studied constitutional law as part of the subject. Besides, I also chose European History and studied it. The Islamic History and Culture which we knew already were there to support our noble cause before us.
To reiterate, after joining and studying English literature from Karachi University for two years (1965 to 1967), I switched over to Political Science and continued my studies. In 1967, I got my BA degree. One year I spent in the Mahmood Hassan Library of Karachi University. Professor Dr. Mahmood Hassan was the Vice Chancellor of Karachi University and he was so kind towards me. He encouraged me that any time I wish I could go to the library. He directed the related officials to permit me to study in the library as I was from such a far flung area and that I was their guest. There were great teachers in the university. Professor Ishtiyaq Hussain Qureshi was a famous historian and had written couples of books. I spent one year in the library of Karachi University and studied there.
As per rule at that time, after two years study of a person in Karachi University, he or she would be awarded with the BA degree. After three years study in the university, she or he would be awarded with Honors degree.
However, two years I spent in political science. My friend, Khizer Hayat and I were together. He was from HSN College and had a beautiful background in addition to his English proficiency. That’s how we appeared and went through the CSS exam as it had the total scores of 1200.
I acquired my BA degree in 1968 having English as thee major and got my MA in political science perhaps in 1969. One year, I completely invested in the Mahmood Hassan Library for the preparation of CSS examination after getting my Masters degree.
During those days while doing my master degree, late Rai Ghulamuddin was back to Hunza from Karachi. He was on a key position as a volunteer secretary within Aga Khan Education Board and he granted me two hundred or two hundred and fifty rupees per annum stipend during my Masters program. The stipend continued for two years and altogether it was four or five hundred rupees for two years. Late Ustad Samarqand was the Chairman of the Aga Khan Education Board for Hunza.
Well, we were supposed to appear in the CSS examination in 1971 but the India Pakistan war erupted and East Pakistan got separated. Consequently, in 1972, I appeared in the CSS examination.The abbriviation CSS stands for Central Superior Services examination at federal level.The place was at federal level. Now, this same position/place is at semi-provincial level.
I fortunately qualified my CSS examination in the first attempt. In the viva exam, I got 250 score out of 300. There was a gentleman known as Justice Faizullah Kundi who was the Chairman of the Public Service Commission wondered and said: I’ve yet to see a boy from Hunza, my God. Hunza is a small place.” I replied, “well, Hunza is far better. I’m from Gulmit, which is further ahead.” He said: “I have been there because it’s a historical place.” He applauded me a lot.
There was another member, too from East Pakistan, a Bangali speaker.There are normally the subject specialists in the Board. That gentleman was a political scientist and had been to Germany as well.He asked me many questions on Bismark. He asked: What do you know about Bismark? I said there was a ship known as Bismark and I have known it. He said, you are a good boy. Great!
I’ve seen the video as it was being sunk. Bismark was a ship of Hitlar.I like the Germans but I like their bank, know as the KFW. It is a good job. But sometimes, they send stupid people around.They talk nonsense. Some are very good. But the GTZ are their Consultants. When I was the Secretary, I couldn’t get them around. They said that I was always abusing the Germans and how could they give money to the country. I would say the Germans are good people but you are not good. They would then reply: “Yes, some of us are not good people, you are right.” The would then agree with me. However, KFW did a good job, a martial plan.
After I qualified my CSS examination, I came in the Finance Services.The position was termed as Assistant Accountant General (AAG), which is of 17 scale in the public services out of 22 scale. They then said: “Okay, it’s good and done. We were looking for a man from Gilgit. Go ahead and join the office there. I thus consequently joined the office. For six years, I served this position.
During those days, the financial involvement behind education was not expensive rather a cheap investment. I used to pay fifteen rupees only while in Karachi University.At the end of the year, the administration official would tell us: “Now, you people are going to appear in the exam, so please clear your dues.” This much money was the tuition fee. I did stay in the hostel of Karachi University for three years. The hostel in which I resided was that which was for the foreign students.
Apart from the financial assistance of Aga Khan Education Board for Hunza during my Masters program, I would also teach tuition to the students , children of the well-off people belonging to the Ismaili community based in Karachi.Per student, I was being paid 150 or 200 rupees per student per month for two or thre subject.In total, I’d spend two hours behind them. On the other, the family would also offer me a cup of tea and sometimes the meal.For such tuition, I would go to Garden Area, or other places.Commuting in the buses from and to Karachi University was so cheap only 25 paisa per student.In addition, it was so peaceful in Karachi during those days.
It is interesting to note that there were bars and people used to have the hard drinks. The labors such as the Makrani people would come and join the bars and drink. They had little money but were happy and would sleep on the floor.
We used to leave for our destination at 11:00 p.m in the last bus to go to Karachi University when we were out in the city. From Guru Mandar to Karachi University, there was nothing, no building structure except for the Jail. Now, all the open areas have been covered with enormous buildings. I had good friends of good families. They would take me to their families and say: “O, he is from Hunza. Come on and be our guest. Hunza had a big name like the passport.
When I joined the public service as the Assistant Accountant General, my salry was six hundred rupees per month in 1972. I’d then extend my helping hands to my family members in line with their education and other matters. The closed or extended relativs or wider family members would visit and stay with us in our house.That’s how we do and live as per our cultural arrangements and value system. Even today, we support our relatives and wider family members.
I came in conjugal partnership earlier because my mother had passed away in 1960. My small sister was too young. My father thus told me that he had five children and better to get married as I was the oldest among all. It was perhaps in 1968 that I got married. My first child, Sosan , was born in 1973.
Though, I’ve many children, thanks God I haven’t come in any kind of corruption during or after my career. After resuming my job, I was given residence by the Government.The house was thus free, vehicle was free, the drivers were free of cost, the support staff were free (apid by the Government).
What we have been observing about the public servants or others is that they make money and construct two or three houses.Once they get retired, they take rest and enjoy their time. In my case, it may be a bit different.
In brief, from 1972 to 1978, I served as the Assistant Accountant GeneralI then went for the foreign audit by joining the ministry of Foreign Affairs This provided me an opportunity to go to various countries. Consequently, I also visited Germany many times. For the first time, I visited Germany in 1987 when I was serving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.With this Ministry, I spent three years of my civil services.
Afterwards, I became the Secretary of Finance and continued till 1998. Subsequently, I also served as the Secretary of Planning, Secretary of Health and so on in Gilgit-Baltistan Region. I served on such positions for a long time in average five years as I was desired to be within the region as it suited me to be with my people while meeting them, too. During my public services, I had three vehicles, three houses and the like given to me officialy. That’s how life continued. After my retirement in 2006, I started serving again for couples of years with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Apart from my professional commitments and within my limited capacity, I also voluntarily contributed to different civil society organizations (CSOs). For example, as a member, I served the Shia Ismaili National Council for Pakistan, Aga Khan Education Board, Board of Directors of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program, and the like.
The short life history of Mr. Qurban Jan presented here possesses deep insights into the past and the contextual environment as a whole. When we observe them from his childhood to his youth, leading towards his professional life and commitments and moving towards his retirement from the public services is something extraordinary, indeed.
The grave poverty of the region in which he grew up and received his primary level education from a primary or middle passed teacher is unimaginable and it could be termed as a day dream or a nightmare for the current students of the region itself who have at least a graduate teacher available at their doorsteps in today’s context.
When the option ceases for further educational opportunity after primary level in his hometown (Gulmit) which remained the winter capital of the so-called former Hunza State but Mr. Jan opts to move to Gilgit for the noble purpose of acquiring his education on the suggestion of his great friend Raja Bahadur Khan of Gulmit is highly invaluable. More particuarly, his great father’s support sounds so impressive and unforgetable who accompanys him on the way and permitted him for the great cause when he had entered not even in his teenage. It’s again something highly incredible where he travels on the horse’s back due to absence of any vehicle and the jeep road.
The passion of Mr. Jan for learning English during his early life is marvellous, again, when he looks in the future with a futuristic goals and world linked with the official language of Pakistan and for this purpose he acquires a significant level of experience during his middle level education in Gilgit (Grade 6th to 8th) that he reaps and cashes among all students when appeared in and got admission in the Pakistan Airforce Public School at Murree (near Islamabad).
Multiple lessons and insights we can draw out of Mr. Jan’s short life history described here. His uprightness and onesty entailed with his sincere struggles have led him towards great achievements and pride in his lifetime, both in his professional and voluntary capacity and engagements.
In the case of Mr. Jan’s life history, couples of proverbs in different languages hold true. For instance, in English as is said: “If there is a will, there is a way” and “Company makes a person.” In Persian it’s said: “Oqibat, juyandeh yobandeh shawad” (literally as, “Finally, an explorer turns out to be a receiver”); “Suhbat-e soleh soleh kunad, suhbat-e toleh toleh kunad” (A good person’s company makes him or her good; a bad person’s company makes him or her bad”).In Wakhi it’s said: “Gizneni yi sharm, ne gizneni naw sharm” (If someone doesn’t stand to speak in an audience, there is little harm but once stood up, there are more harms if could not meet the standard in speech).
It’s noteworthy and need to be understood that the class system within a society as upper, middle and lower is not something static or fixed with any individual or family but rather it changes with the course of time and space depending on the struggle in one’s life in line with wealth and knowledge acquisition approaches. And this may hold true with regard to Mr. Jan. When we look into his case, he apparently didn’t belong to the elite class as per se but his strong will, determination and consistent effrots in getting education and seeking knowledge elevated him above all within his lifetime. Moreover, it’s interesting to note that his life interactions, relationship and friendship could be observed relatively more with those people who belonged to the ruling elites of his region. He thus could be seen have got some influence in one way or the other from them. For exampel, when he narrates about his childhood and adulthood, he talks more about his friendship and companionship with Raja Bahadur Khan and Mirzada Shah Khan. When he studied in the Karachi University, he seems to have influenced from his friend Khizer Hayat, whom he says was from a landlord family.
Although, numerous lessons emerge out of Mr. Jan’s biographical sketch presented above, some of them are noteworthy to be highlighted.
1. When someone puts forward the noble causes for his or her life, the passion and dedication should be there to pursuade them with honesty and sincerety.
2. Get away from negative politics during one’s educational pursuance, particuarly at school level, as Mr. Jan is observed to be least interested to get involved in politics.
3. Choose the best and honest persons as your friend, as in the case of Mr. Jan we witness and it’s quite obvious, when we look at the positive role of his great friend Khizer Hayat of Punjab in Karachi University who guided him properly.
4. Work with sincerety and around the set principels, as we could observe Mr. Jan’s life in his professional life is scarless without involvement in professional corruption
5. Educate your children to the optimum level you can and your children wish to go for it. We could witness Mr. Jan’s nine children (7 daughters and 2 sons) have not only accomplished their required and desired education but ratehr have also acquired their professional specialization in different fields.
Before conclusion heere, let me reiterate that Mr. Jan remained famous for his uprightness, competence and dedication during his professional life. Those bureaucrats who have abuse the power during their public services in Pakistan have been witnessed entrapped in the hands of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for their wrongdoings but Mr. Qurban Jan and Dr. Sher Zaman of Hunza are among those who earned honesty in their profession and who are real pride and honor for the sincere and honest people of the country.
Finally, I would like to suggest that Mr. Qurban Jan needs to write his full biography , at, least in the form of his memoirs. Otherwise, he has his biological and intellectual wealth at home having nine children (all specialized in different fields. For instance, if one child takes nine years of his and his life partners life span, a full book in the form of autobiography would emerge that will unveil lots of stories of their lives and the society as a whole.As second option, one child could contribute one chapter on his/her father’s life and altogether there could emerge nine chapters out of the nine children.
I would like to pay my sincere gratitude to Mr. Qurban Jan son of Majunin Bai for giving his consent to share some aspects of his impressive life stories that enabled me to frame and draft them in the form of this small contribution. .
In the same manner, I’m grateful to Professor Dr. Andreas Benz of Germany for providing me an opportunity to be part of his interesting study in Autumn 2012 that enabled me to explore, document and analyze many wonderful stories of enormous key informants and respondents from the field.
I’m also indebted to Ms. Sosan Begum for providing me some additional information regarding her great father’s biography , which were valuable, indeed.
FAB – This is highly informative and interesting. Please keep up your great work and unfold personalities who have made contribution to development and are role model for our youth
Thanks for your kind words and appreciations.