By Fazal Amin Beg
This little contribution focuses on some interesting, fascinating and appealing life stories of late Shaukat Ali, a former General Manager Landscape of Serena Hotel chains in Pakistan Afghanistan and Tajikistan. He spent most of his professional life with the hotel industry such as the hotels of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and especially 30 years services with Serena Hotel chains.Although, he got his retirement in 2015, nonetheless the respective senior management of the esteemed hotel did not cease his highly invaluable and professional experience in the field. He thus continued his services to Serena Hotels as a Senior Consultant.
Late Shaukat Ali was not only a dedicatd and honest management professional of the highest rank,he also contributed in voluntary capacity and leading positions to different civil society organization and forums starting from his home village to Karakoram Area Development Organization of Hunza and Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA), Gilgit-Baltistan Region as its President (from March 2018 to December 2019).
In Wakhi, there is a proverb, which says: Awal da k̃hũ khun chirogh pidhsũv, yan da masjid” (Lit the light first in your home and then in the mosque). Acting upon such wisdom, one of the marvelous contributions of late Shaukat Ali led him to provide local support to the marginalized and low income women of his village. For this purpose, he took a selfless initiative with a project named Rural Women Economic Empowerment Project (RWEEP) thorugh which he tried to support women’s income enhancement. He donated his house, fields/terraces and a car as well as providing them with other related materials.
Although, there are many unseen and silent contributions of late Shaukat Ali as a strong local philanthropist, he donated his lands to the social welfare projects such as extension of the Jamatkhana in Khaybar.It was the March 2, 2022 when the community of Khaybar was engaged with communal venture and late Shaukat Ali was also present there to share his part during cutting of a popular tree.However, this stood to be the unfortunate time for his temporal life in this world when the popular tree brutally hit late Shaukat Ali while falling down on him.He was thus taken to the hospital in Gilgit (three hours drive from his village but resultantly he could not survive. He thus left all those mournful, who were connected with him through kinship or friendship, in professional line or as beneficiaries, or otherwise. Today, late Shaukat Ali is not with us in this mortal world but his great contributions in professional and voluntary plus philanthropic realms to the community and humanity could never be forgotten and they will be examples to all. May God, the Almighty, bless and elevate his soul in the heavens with eternal peace and rest.
It is noteworthy that today (March 2, 2022) is the first death anniversary of late Shaukat Ali and in this regard I thought to contribute my little part on the occasion for being a writer/researcher and kinsperson as father of his maternal grandfather named Arbob Shukufa Shoh and father of my paternal grandfather named Arbob Khairulloh Beg were real brothers. Although, I had ensured late Shaukat Ali to take his in-depth interview in video as well as audio form around his life history as well as other thematic areas, it was so unfortunate that COVID-19 challenges all humanity and we could not meet each other instantly. His death was thus a great schok for me personally that all his enriched life experiences buried with him However, I had already suggested him to write a raw form of his biography in whatever language he was feeling easy, either in English or in Urdu, or at least capture some important aspects and events of his life so I would then write his life history in detail. In case, if these approaches become not feasible to him, he could just record the important events and his biography in audio or video forms as he had all material resources available to him. When I heard about this tragic incidence of his death, it was so much mournful to me as at that time I was in Islamabad for seven months during the COVID-19.
Moreover, it was so unfortunate again that I could not even get various types of discussions made around his personality after his death by various contributors as it has become now a tradition that lots of people talk about the deceased persons, especially during the third day morning or evening death ritual.
Thanks to Farman Baig, a paternal family member of late Shaukat Ali, who updated me about few documentation made on the occasion and I learned that one of the great youths, Ahmad Sakhi son of Samad Karim has wonderfully got a brief interview of late Shaukat Ali that last for 19 minutes. I highly value it and pay my heartiest gratitude to Ahmad Sakhi and Junaid for their great contribution that he shared with me on February 28 (at night). I thus translated the discussion in English and am sharing it with the audience on the occasion of his death anniversary.
In addition, it’s noteworthy that I also got an external hard drive from the paternal family members of late Shaukat Ali, especially Mufiyat Shah and his daughter Saiqa who served late Shaukat Ali generously. I searched out a lot to find if he had written or made any audio or video documentation around his life However, the drive was full of pictures and favorite songs and no meaningful files were found. It was however encouraging to note that late Shaukat Ali had highlighted important points in bullet forms and they meant a lot for persons like me to develop some aspects of his life.
The short biography of late Shaukat Ali presented here thus bases on three main sources: his written description of his life in bullet forms; his interview to Ahmad Sakhi and Junaid; my personal interactions with him as a cousin of third generation;discussions and interviews with different but related people such as in-depth interview of his first maternal cousin, Col Dr. Karim Rahmat of Jamalabad (Upper Hunza).
This contribution therefore comes up first with the live discussion by late Shaukat Ali himself in video form (translated by me today) and then the biography will follow that I developed out of the sketch he had written in bullet forms on two pages. I hope the readers will enjoy reading his interesting and inspiring life struggles right from his childhood to his yout and professional and voluntary realms.
Discussion of late Shaukat Ali about his Life Struggles and Achievements with Ahmad Sakhi and Junaid on November 19, 2018
Translated from Urdu to English by Fazal Amin Beg
In the name of God, the most Benevolent, the most Merciful
Ahmad and Junaid have visited me. They want me to share my life experience with them and I think they are going to make a video of the discussion. I was born in 1948 However, A remarkable memory of my childhood that I remember yet is about the departure of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III from this mortal world and the ascension to the grhone of Imamat of our present Imam, Noor Mawlana Shah Karim al-Husseini, Aga Khan IV. At that time we were so young and in the old Jamatkhana I don’t remember how many times we did go to the Jamatkhana and observe the activities.
Let’s move towards my education.During our childhood, there was no regular school system. In the varanda of the old jamatkhana, which has been now dismantled, late Ustad Qurban Shah would teach us. I’ve been admitted in the school when I ws four years old. I had no book at all. My elder paternal cousin, Nadir Shah, was in Grade 2 or 3 at that time.He had a takhtetk, a small wooden board on which he would write Alif and Be (alpha beta). My cousin Haqiqat Ali and I would observe it together. He would thus show us how to read and write.He thus taught us at home. I was perhaps taking more interst in learning as compared to Haqiqat Ali. My cousin Nadir Shah thus told me that you did qualify your nursery grade and you need to go to Grade 1.
For this purpose, my older uncle, Dinar Shah, went to Central Hunza , searched a lot and found aan old/used book of Grade 1. My brother Nadir Shah tried his best to teach me Grade 1 nook but was stuck at a place due to difficult words.He thus suggested me to go to Ustad Qurban Shah and learn the meaning of the words. When I visited Ustad Qurban Shah, he told me that why was I not going to school along with my book. I thus started going to svhool in Khaybar. Well, this was the story and motivation behind my early education.
During those days, I think, in the DJ schools, the teachers had been provided one or two sets of books of each grade. Those books were thus available with Ustad Qurban Shah. Late Faiz Shah was also my age fellow and we were classmates. There was thus a book among three of the classmates: Faiz Shah, Kalbi and I myself. It was interesting that the books of Grade three was not available in the school and we had to thus study Grade 2 for two years.
When the book of Grade 3 reached in the school our teacher, late Qurban Shah got retirement and was replaced by late Ustad Muhammad Sirat of Khaybar.Ustad Muhammad Sirat taught us for two years up to Grade 5 and he told us that the schooling was up to Primary lebel and better now to leave out of the village. With mutual consultation of our parents and teacher, it was recommended to leave for Central Hunza and get the education of niddle level.Consequently, Arab Khan, Kalbi, Faiz Shah and myself, and Muhammad Tahir perhaps after one year, were in Central Hunza. All of us are almost of the same age. We got our education of Grade 6 & 7 and while in Grade 8, it was not possible for our parents to support us further due to poverty. We therefore left for Karachi from there onward.
In Karachi, there was a school in North Nazimabad, named as Muslim Popular School. We got education in Grade 8and studied here up to matriculation. We thus consulted late Gul Muhammad of Gulmit, who was a great person and the only educated of that time from Gojal.He thus advised us that if you have the capacity, you should choose the science subjects (such as pre-medical and pre-engineering), if you could not do so, you should choose Commerce subjects, and if you could not do even so, then choose the arts/humanity subjects as the third option.
We deliberated on the subject matters. Finally, I chose commerce subjects as it was also said that those who study commerce can easily get jobs. Resultantly, I took admission in the Premier Commerce College, Nazimabad and studied up to B. Com. In the meanwhile, I also thought to do CMA (Cost Management Accountancy) and studied it for one year. But, unfortunately, my father was loosing his health and I had to return to Hunza. I therefore could not continue the next semesters.
This much was a bit about my educational journey of life. It’s not necessary that everyone would take interst in them. What should then be the interest areas for discussion? A question should be so how were our economic conditions and our social realities during those days? If I venture to say briefly that there was no much difference between us as humans and the animals, it won’t be wrong, I think there was a thin line among us. For instance, we do have our traditional Wakhi house and we have the lower platform witin it termed as Past Razh. It was also termed as D̃um Razh (platform of the musicians) as they would play music during weddings. However, this platform was not specific for humans as the householders would keep and/or feed the smaller and weaker animals such as babies of sheep and goats for a specific time during winter and carried to their pens or cattle-sheds. This was an eye witness account of our lives.
Our food consisted on very limited diets. There was no custom of making tea in breakfast. Early in the morning, sooner the related family members got up, would dump the bunches of thorns (as fuel)in the hearth and the fire was lit in the winter. The smoke was so much in the house that we could not breathe properly.The family elders would ask uc, being children, to put our heads inside our quilts. In this way, the house was warmed up.
The family women would thus make soups of three types: first, dried apricot soup, turnip soup and other vegetable soups. The soup made out of dried apricot was full meal in a sense as it was both breakfast and lunch. Then we would go school and while returning from there we had boiled potatoes or some dried apricots were given to us. There was no proper lunch as people won’t afford it. In supper, there was the bread/chapatis of boqla (faba-beans). The bread of what was no available to each family or householders. What bread was thus so special, which was offered to the guests. Once, I remembers, it was my father or my older uncle, when the guests were on meal, they would keep the wheat bread on top of all in a plate and the boqla bread were kept under the wheat breads. The guest would thus start eating the wheat bread from the top of the plate but the hosts would slowly and clandestinely draw the boqla bread in his hand and eat it because the wheat bread was not sufficient for both the guest and the host. This was an aspect or glimp of the socio-economic reality of our areas.
When we come towards the rituals and festivals such as Kitdhit and Tag̃hm, we the children would remain so restless to participate in them and go to the irrigation channels to see the rituals or activities, especially because on such occasions, there used to be food of high qualities.
During weddings, we were children and poverty prevailed on the other. The children were thus placed or seated at the corner of the Wakhi houses (the meeting places of the two platforms (past razh and kala razh). The food of low qualities were thus served to them sitten at the bũrj (corner) of the house. Those who were respectable and guests were seated at the Tokben (of the nũsũn-e razh) and around the hearth area platform (Dildung ben). These were some of the aspects of the social considerations.
Poverty was on its height.The food storage of the last season (gathered in the summer and autumn) would get finished in April, rather in March. The families would then opt for taking credit in kinds called tol. This credit of kind was taken from someone out of the village who had excess of grains (wheat/barley or faba-beans).Even this strategy of taking credit was socially insulting and disapproving and it was therefore lent clandestinely.
The mor we talk about such difficulties and challenges of our time, the discussion would get prolonged.Cutting it short, let me describe that since when then the socioeconomic conditions of our people and area began improving?
In 1960, the Imam of the Time (Aga Khan IV) visited Hunza for the first time and I was 12 years old. Participation of womenfolk from Khaybar village in the congregation was little, I think. However, almost of the men from the village had their participation. From our family, we included my father, my older uncle, my cousins Barkat, Nadir and Haqiqat and I myself.
As I was a child, just 12 years old, and had not that level of consciousness to understand the directibes of the Imam. Nevertheless, our elders and other related people would share the directives with us in the Jamatkhanas. Imam of the Time had said that our pooor conditions will get changed and Hunza will be ahead of Switzerland. At the door of each house, there would be a vehicle. These were the gists of the directives that our religious scholars, orators and elders would remind us. It is a tradition in our culture we would say: “May we be sacrificed to the name of our Mawla: Were are we and where the Switerzerland? At present, we witness all those advice and directives of the Imam in his Imamat (leadership office) that what he had said at that time in 1960, that are becoming realities before us. In the present context, I’m not supposed to elaborate or share that in what position we are now.
It was not only so that Imam of the Time ad advised us that our worst conditions will get changed but rather its beginning we can evidence in 1983 when the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) was initiated. Due to the intervention of AKRSP, you might have heard few days back,as the President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, has also remarked that the Aga Khan prioritized holistic development.Otherwie, some people would focus themselves on education, some on health, and still others would work on other sectors and will get rid of the responsibilities and would term it as entire development.
However, Imam of the Time, extended its development interventions from culture to music, from irrigation channels to agriculture and livestock, and the like. For each sector, we could see the institutions and organizations. But, on top of all, the AKRSP could be termed as champion and founder in development. All these are due to AKRSP we witness a lot of development. Karimabad, which was earlier termed as Borijingal, which is ahead in development at present. I predict that in the future, it would advanced rapidly. For instance, when the Holy prophet, Hazrat Muhammad, appeared in the Arabia, the positive changes are before you all. When Imam of the Time appears somewhere in our region, there we can witness a unique and unbelievable change and development and it could be seen ahead.
Similarly, the Diamond Jubilee schools, from where I’ve also studied, that is also Imam’s initiative and it has its won story that how did it start as about it the youth can read in the literatures that what were the objectives and themes behind.Lots of contributions we can see due to the DJ schools.The fundamental pillar of development is education.today, the world acknowledges that in Hunza there is 99% literacy rate. The seed for this development was cultivated during the Diamond Jubilee school initiatives of Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, the Aga Khan III.We thus reap the fruits of those plants.
At present, I’m 70 years old. If we reduce 12 years of my age, which is not in my memory, but 58 years of my recollections, some of which I have forgotten, too, and the summuary of those events I tried to share here with you. For sharing the stories of 60 years, it requires at least 60 days. I however abridged them.
Discussion of such stories have an objective in hand . If you think there could ne some worth out of my life experiences. The struhggles we had in Karachi had a separate story as there was no financial support from the families and we had to work hard in doing laboring, self earning and self support in education.Those stories I could not share here.
However, the youth need to understand that after hardwork and struhgles one can get the effective results. Those who spend their lives in cold regions cannot realize the hotness. Those who spend their lives in the hot regions cannot feel or realize the coldness.Such people could thus not taste the peaceful environment or atmosphere.Until and unless you don’t struggle, you don’t experience the pains in life, you won’t enjoy the real life situations.If your stomach is filled with food, you won’t feel hungry.When we experience such bitter conditions and situations, we can feel the importance of hunger and thirst. If you have never experienced any diseases or sickness, you won’t feel the issues of those who are sick and there won’t be any mercy in your heart for them. If you’ve not experienced poverty, there won’t be any care or mercy for those who are poor. If you’ve not studied with hardwork, you won’t enjoy your jobs and stages of promotions.If you won’t acquire a lot of knowledge, you won’t realize your importance. Likewise, when you will have enormous knowledge, you’ll be capable enough to disseminate it to others.
Today, for the engagement of the youth, there are lot of facilities including mobile sets, computers, televisions and many other activities. However, all such things are there for enjoyment. It won’t support you in the real world. There won’t be your promotion based on watching television. You will spend ten or more hours on your mobile sets, it won’t work for you practically. Instead, your struggle in the real world will support you iin your life. Therefore, it’s imperative to struggle and struggle. As Imam of the Time repeatedly directs us to work hard, work hard and work hard.I think it was recently in 2017 he were Imam of the Time advised: learn, learn, learn and learn. Learning thus comes out of the books , out of the journals/magazines, newspapers and the like. As we watch television that Imran Khan said so, so and so said so, they won’t increase our knowledge. Rather, in such way, we are waisting our time. In short, I’ve a request from the youth that to the extent they could work hard, they should. You just workhard and observe, as your brother does so, your friend does so, then you’d witness that what a great result it would have. On the contrary, if you didn’t work hard, you’d evidence it too and will repent that why did I did so. My father had said so, my teacher had said so, my elders had said so, my friends had said so to work hard but I didn’t listened/followed them and today I’m repenting. Therefore, avoid to encounter such type of sorrows . Always take a pride for your good deeds. The entire nation/community will take a pride over you that we have got a talentd/competent child.Due to his or her hardwork, our village benefited.Due to his or her hardwork, our poor people benefited.I’d therefore request you all, perhaps I myself could not do anything, but appeal you to for a successful life, do work hard, work hard and work hard and that’s all from my side.
Note: You can click, get access to and watch the video talk of late Shaukat Ali in Urdu on the following link of EaglesWorld:
Biographic Sketch of Late Shaukat Ali of Hunza:Former General Manager Landscape of Serena Hotel Chains in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan
By Fazal Amin Beg
Late Shaukat Ali son of Sakhawat Shah belonged to Hunza Valley, Northern Pakistan. He was born in 1948 in his native village Khaybar.He belonged to the Abdul Bai tribe of Gulmit and was from the family of Bahor, also termed natively as Bahor Kũtor. His father’s name was Sakhawat Shah son of Mufiyat Shah and her mother’s name was Moh-e Naw daughter of Bũd̃ol son of Arbob Shukufa Shah of Gulmit.His lineage follows in this manner: Shaukat Ali son of Sakhawat Shah son of Mufiyat Shah son of Sambar Khan son of Barot son of Naw Bahor. It was Naw Bahor who migrated from Odver Gulmit to Khaybar more than 160 years ago.
Late Shaukat Ali’s father got four marriages. Out of his first wife, he got a daughter. Out of his second wife, Late Shaukat Ali was born and he was the only child of his mother . Unfortunately, his mother passed away and Shaukat Ali became orphan when he was a kid and didn’t remember well her mother. His father thus got his third marriage and out of her Zain-ul Arab (the second daughter) was born (who was married to late Dad Ali Shah son of Khalifa Sultan Ahmad of Gulmit).The last marriage, late Sakhawat Shah had with a lady from Shimshal named Zain-ul Arab who has six daughters. Late Shaukat Ali himself was unmarried .Although, he had a deep love with a young and expected life partner. However, her beloved then got married with someone else and the disloyalty of her seriously disheartened and emotionally injured late Shaukat Ali and he consequently decided not to get married at all in life.
Late Shaukat Ali got his primary education from his village. In contrast to the facilities in education as available up to higher secondary level today in different main settlements of Hunza, It was so difficult in the 1960s and even 1970s and 1980s to get middle level education in the nearby villages. For this purpose, late Shaukat Ali, like his other classmates or friends, travelled to Central Hunza in 1964 and pursued his education up to Grade-8.
His interst in further education took him to Karachi in 1966 and from Muslim Popular Secondary School, Nazimabad, he passed his matriculation examination in 1968 Moving ahead, he got admission in the Premier Commerce College, Nazimabad 2 in 1969 and did his Intermediate in Commerce.
In 1970, he visited Gilgit-Baltistan Region for the vacations and met his family members. He was thus back in Karachi. It was this same year that late Shaukat Ali was sent to jail due to taking part in the labor union activities. In 1971, he was thus released from imprisonment and restored on his job in the Souvenir Tobbaco Company, Karachi Site. Along with his employment, he continued his education and got his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Karachi University in 1976. .
In 1977, he joined a small hydel project named NCC based in Islamabad and in 1977 he was posted to Chitral and he served there.in 1980, he was brought back to Islamabad and then sent to Peshawar.
In 1979, late Shaukat Ali joined Rakaposhi Hotel of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) in Gilgit, a hotel which is now termed as Gilgit Serene Hotel. In 1980, he was transferred to PIA Hotel named Skyroom at Karachi Airport and in 1983 he was transferred to Inter Pak Inn, Sukker (Interior Sind). Following the above postings in different cities, late Shaukat Ali was again transferred to Rakaposhi Hotel Gilgit in 1984.
In 1982, his sister Zain-ul Arab got married with late Dad Ali Shah of Gulmit (Kumars). It was this year , 1982 again, his father Sakhawat Shah became ill and late Shaukat Ali took him to Karachi for the purpose of treatement. He thus brought him back in 1983 and he passed away .
Late Shaukat Ali joined Gilgit Serena Hotel in 1985 as Finance Controller. He was then transferred to Hunza Baltit Inn, Karimabad in 1993 as Unit Manager. In 1995, he was promoted as the General Manager of Serena Hotel, Gilgit.
In 2007, late Shaukat Ali was transferred to Serena Hotel, Islamabad and promoted him as the General Manager, Landscaping. He was then given the responsibilities of looking at and managing the landscaping of all Serena Hotels in Pakistan , Afghanistan and Tajikistan. In 2009, he visited Serena Hotels in Kabul (Afghanistan) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan) in order to see the prospects of landscaping in them. In 2010, late Shaukat Ali was based in Serena Hotel, Dushanbe.in 2015, after rendering 30 years of extensive services with Serena Hotel, he got retirement. He thus returned to Gilgit and his native settlement.
In voluntary capacity, late Shaukat Ali contributed enormously by sparing his time, knowledge, experiences as well as for being a generous donor/philanthropist.
I must admit that this write-up is so little in its worth on the personality and biography of late Shaukat Ali who deserved to be interviewed for days and weeks to contribute some aspects of his life. However, in a situation he left us unpredictably here in this world, something, at least, are seen present in concrete form on his life achievements and challenges.The English proverb thus sounds befitting: “Something is better than nothing.”. Out of such types of contributions, many more worthy contributions could be made with the course of time. Due to time constraints, it was not possible for me to come up with a consolidate write-up and I hope to do it soely on the biography plus other domains.
I’m therefore indebted to late Shaukat Ali for his trust and sharing some oral information with me around some aspects of his life during his lifetime. My deepest gratitude to all those who shared various types of information with me on the personality of late Shaukat Ali, especially Col Dr. Karim Rahmat, Advocate Muhammad Tahir, Ahmad Sakhi, Farman Baig, Mufiyat Shah and family, some of his friends/colleagues and the like. All such information enabled me to contribute a bit on the personality and life history of late Shaukat Ali, otherwise it was not possible.