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A SHORT HISTORY OF MY FAMILY

 


The Khattak family of the Frontier would have been like any ordinary family living in Bannu, if it had not been for an extraordinary man, Muhammad Quli Khan Khattak.

He had been given the title of Khan Bahadur by the British, but after the Independence of Pakistan, he returned all the titles and medals he had received as a British subject. In every prayer, after 14th. August 1947, he prayed for the restoration of Kashmir to Pakistan, SIX times a day!

A fall while playing polo in Chitral might yet have put an end to the family, even before it started. Quli Khan survived the fall, and never played polo again. His grandson, Raza Quli Khan is the polo player in the family today.

Although Muhammad Quli Khan was a Civil Servant, the family has been synonymous with politics since his youngest son, Muhammad Yusuf Khan Khattak, joined the Quaid's Muslim League in 1944. On his return from Oxford, Yusuf was fired with the need to free his country from British rule and joined politics instead of the Indian Civil Service.

After giving them the best education possible, Quli Khan allowed his sons the freedom to choose their own destiny. Although an autocrat, he was not a tyrant. Without a murmur he supported Yusuf financially as politics was not a paying job in those days!

This caused not a little jealousy where his brothers were concerned, but they dared not voice their annoyance. Quli Khan did not encourage his children to talk back to him. He laid down the law, and everyone obeyed.

Quli Khan was a proud man when Yusuf Khattak became the first Honorary General Secretary of The Pakistan Muslim League, at just thirty years of age. `Khattak' became a well known name in the power circles of Pakistan. Liaqat Ali Khan relied upon Yusuf's advice, as he recognized the integrity that was to be Yusuf Khattak's hallmark.

Once, when his parents were enroute to perform Haj, Yusuf sent them a radio message on the aircraft wireless. Quli Khan was paged as `Yusuf Khattak's father', and his heart almost burst with pride. His lifelong ambitions had always been for his sons, and later, his grandsons.

The Khattak tribe traces its ancestry to Nasrat Khan, the Khattak chieftain who founded Takht-e-Nasrati. The Khattaks had to fight many bloody battles with the Marwats before they wrested the land from them. Zarkai Kalai, about 1 1\4 miles south of Takht-e-Nasrati, belonged to the La'ands. A subtribe of Nasratis, the Gandakhel routed the La'ands and took over Zarkai and the nearby mountain, Sheen Ghar. Nandoor Khan Gandakhel's era is still remembered with pride and nostalgia as the `Nandoor Khani'. Life in Zarkai was easy, and the Gandakhels were an easy-going lazy lot. Their strongest trait was their family feeling, the whole-heartedly supported the saying `One for all, and all for one.' The Gandakhel's were spendthrifts and gifted away large chunks of land in return for the smallest of favours. The La'unds were hard working and soon bought back a lot of the land they had lost in battle. The Gandakhel's lands were held jointly by the head of each family. If a grown son wished to live separately he requested the headman to redistribute the lands and give him his own share.

The odyssey of `The Khattak Family' as it is now known, began when Taj Baig Gandakhel left his native village. It is rumoured that he was compelled to leave over an `affaire de coeur'. Taj Baig's family finally settled on the outskirts of Bannu. Taj Baig's great-grandson Ghulam Qadir Khan had inherited his romantic nature and was a poet, but his romanticism was tempered with pragmatism and a bounding ambition. The Banneesee did not look kindly on this migrant Khattak family; they felt they were beneath them. They had lands, they had roots and history that connected them to the lands; but this Khattak tribe that had settled on the outskirts of their town was like the gypsies, no land, no history, no roots, no connection to the land they lived on.

Memories in villages are long. Once Yusuf Khattak was attending a public meeting at Zarkai; an old man, who insisted on meeting `the grandson of Taj Baig, was carried in. He taunted Yusuf Khan about the ouster of his ancestor and magnanimously offered him a share in the village lands, if he wished to claim his patrimony. In a quick repartee, Yusuf Khan said that he owed the people of Zarkai a debt of gratitude, and renounced claim to his ancestral lands. If they had not forced Taj Baig to leave Zarkai, he would not be where he was today. The villagers relished the exchange, and it too is now part of the village folklore.

Ghulam Qadir Khan had applied to the British for permission to found a village, to house his followers; but was refused. Not to be thwarted, he took a job at the Bannu Mission and worked on the missionaries to put in a good word for him. They finally interceded on his behalf, and `Kotka Ghulam Qadir Khan' was sanctioned in 1884. That day there was another event to celebrate. Ghulam Qadir Khan's wife, ShahGul, had given birth to a baby boy. This auspicious sign redoubled the festivities, and the baby was called Kali Khan (Khan of the village). Kali Khan later preferred to be called Muhammad Quli Khan.

Quli Khan's mother died soon after his birth and his father followed her to the grave when he was still a child. On the death of Ghulam Qadir Khan, an unheard of event took place. Gul Khaira, his sixteen year old daughter went to the village chowk, unveiled. She took an oath that from that day onwards, all the graybeards were her fathers and all the young men her brothers. She had decided she would care for her family as a mother and a father. Gul Khaira, or Nina Adday as she was called later, never married. Once a proposal came for her, but the prospective groom fell off his horse and died while returning to his village. Gul Khaira used it as a foil against pleadings that she marry. She claimed she was betrothed to the dead man, and so considered herself his widow.

Family lore speaks of Nina Adday with love and awe. She ruled her family with an iron hand, tempered with love and a strong sense of fair play and Justice. She is said to have been tall and strongly built. Her blue eyes could pierce the unwary tenant who thought he could cheat this Valkyrie with the long blond hair. She rode the length and breadth of her family lands, and nothing escaped her sharp eye. Gul Khaira had learned from her father about the mission school, and the power an education gives a man. She saw to it that her brothers went to the Mission school at Bannu. The work ethics that Quli Khan imbibed from the Anglican Missionaries were to help him further his ambitions for his family as well.

Nina Adday's dreams fired Quli Khan, the baby of the family. He used to sit on her knee while she churned the milk, and while recounting tales of glory, past and future she fed him dollops of freshly churned butter.

Bahadur Khan, the eldest of Quli Khan's brothers joined the army and was Subedar Major in the Baluch Regiment. Bahadur Khan made every effort to live up to his name. One day when a sudden noise startled him he was so angry with himself for the weakness he had shown that he whipped himself until his flesh bled. The self-flaggelation left a lasting impression on Quli Khan, who was to repeat the story to his sons and grandsons with wonder at the man who was his brother. Bahadur Khan never brought his salary home. Long before he reached his own doorstep he would have distributed it to others who, he said needed it more than he did.

Bahadur Khan had inherited the family's deeply romantic temperament. He fell in love with a girl, but her family refused his proposal for her hand and married her to another. 'Someone' killed the groom and the bride became Bahadur Khan's bride after he carried her home. He mostly lived in Karachi with his regiment until he retired. I met one of his daughter's Anar Begum when she and her family came to live with us for a while.

Muhammad Hayat Khan the other brother was everything Quli Khan was not. He was the black sheep of the family. Although he fulfilled all the rituals of religion he was not as besotted by God as were Bahadur Khan and Quli Khan. The butt of all Muhammad Hayat Khan's jokes, Quli Khan learned a lesson of patience that was to serve him the rest of his life. In a way Quli Khan's decision to settle his family in Peshawar was also due to Muhammad Hayat Khan. While Quli Khan was Political Agent in Kurram, he used to send home money and walnut wood for the house that Muhammad Hayat Khan was building for the family. One day, a Hindu friend advised Quli Khan to build a house for his family as his sons were growing up. Quli Khan told him that he was sending money home and his elder brother was building the house for him. The friend then advised Quli Khan to make sure that he was not being cheated. Quli Khan was very annoyed at the implication, but kept it in mind as his friend had said that he had advised him since he had suffered at the hands of his own brothers.

The seed had been sown and Quli Khan was no fool. Soon afterwards he went to Bannu and discovered that Muhammad Hayat Khan was building the house on land he had bought in his own name. Still hoping against hope Quli Khan suggested that he build many rooms as they both had large families. I suppose he wanted to make sure he understood his elder brother's intentions. Muhammad Hayat Khan said the days of families living together were long gone and advised Quli Khan to build a separate house for himself and his family. Without a word to his brother, Quli Khan returned to Kurram; but he never forgot the lesson. Starting with the house in Malikpura, Abbotabad, any property he bought after that day was always in his own name only. HIS family were now only his wives and children.

Matriculating from Dera Ismail Khan, Quli Khan was on the point of leaving for England to study the Law. But, Muhammad Hayat Khan requested Lorrimar, a British friend, to employ his younger brother in the civil service. Lorrimar offered to promote Muhammad Hayat Khan instead as they had a very special relationship but he refused, and repeated his request. Knowing Muhammad Hayat Khan well, Lorrimar was surprized,

`Do you love your younger brother so much that you would rather I employ him, than promote you?' he asked.

`Yes, Sahib I love my brother more than myself,' was the moving reply. Lorrimar was touched. He not only employed Quli Khan as Naib Tehsildar, but also promoted Muhammad Hayat Khan to Tehsildar. This of course ended all plans for Quli Khan to go to England to study; and yet did not impede his brother's promotion. Although his formal education ended with his induction into the civil service, Quli Khan continued studying privately and eventually graduated. Nina Adday's indoctrination had worked very well; and Quli Khan loved learning.

When he was about ten years old, Quli Khan came face to face with the Might of the British Raj. His elder brother, Bahadur Khan, had been accused of the murder of his wife's previous betrothed; a crime 'of passion' Young Quli Khan accompanied his brother when he went to Lahore to appeal against the sentence of death. The Judge of the High Court asked the boy whether his brother was guilty. Quli Khan always believed that his impassioned plea resulted in the case being dismissed. That day the British won an ardent admirer in the young boy.

While working with the British, Quli Khan carefully studied them and learned their ways. His table was always formally set for lunch and dinner, so that his sons learned the British manners early in life. They would grow up with no handicaps in the way of their success, not if Quli Khan could help it. A deeply devout man, he had the breadth of vision to take from the British what was good, while rejecting the bad. The British, on the other hand, admired the proud pathan, who had the courage to adopt many progressive practices that went against the customs of the day; and yet hold on to his own culture and traditions. Truely a man of many parts!

Quli Khan's intelligence and integrity led him to rise steadily in the Indian Civil Service, until he was eventually entrusted posts exclusively reserved for the British. Sir Olaf Caroe, Lord Griffith, and Sir George Cunningham were amongst his closest friends. The love and respect was mutual. His British colleagues called him `KK' behind his back, KK did not stand for his initials, (his name was frequently spelt Kuli Khan) but actually stood for `Kitchener of Khartoum'. The jokingly said that he was not a man to be crossed, without reprisals; and joke or not, they really did believe it!

Rai Bahadur Dina Nath of Naudeh Payan, a village near Peshawar was a very special friend. When Quli Khan went on his first trip to Makkah he asked him to build the house 'Zenanna' at 2, The Mall on the spot where the stables stood. Quli Khan's wife had expressed a wish to have a house like in Bannu, with a courtyard where she could sit under the sky instead of the 'bungalow' that did not meet with her approval.

When the troubles started during Partition, Dina Nath came to his friend in the dead of night and entrusted his family jewels to him. Yusuf Khattak and his family were shifted to Dina Nath's house, 2 Islamia Road, Peshawar, to protect it against the plundering, looting crowds that prowled the city. Some locks were broken and decoration pieces etc were stolen but the house servants were suspected of being at the bottom of that theft. I was very young, but I remember how upset my grandfather was about the theft. After the trouble had settled down, Quli Khan went to the Pak-India border and his friend Dina Nath came to the India-Pakistan border on the other side; fully accounted for, Dina Nath's valuables to him. Dina Nath's grandson, Mr. Kumar Lambah was the First Secretary and later Indian Ambassador to Pakistan, and kept up his grandfather's friendship with the Quli Khan family. If any of them applied for a visa to India, they were given the VVIP visa.

Quli Khan married Meera around 1900 (I think). His wife did not find favour with the colour-conscious Quli Khan. Fair complexion was his weakness and she was dark! his sister Nina Adday had made the cardinal error of marrying him to a dark skinned woman. Quli Khan had always resented the fact that he took his colouring from his darker mother rather than his father with his fair complexion and blond hair; he had only inherited his father's grey eyes. Heart-sick, he ran away to Quetta refusing to return home and almost married a lady there. Quli Khan had enough of the romantic Taj Baig in him to yearn for a beautiful wife. A wife whom he could love with all the passion that only a Khattak is capable of. One day, smitten by an actress in a theatrical show, he made a private vow to God. He swore never to look at another woman if he had a wife as beautiful as the actress.

Nina Adday, was at her wits end until one day while she was out riding she saw this utterly beautiful (fair complexioned) girl and asked,

"What is your father's name, girl?"

The girl was dumb struck, terrified of this handsome woman on a big horse who wanted to know her name.

The other little girl answered for her,

"Her name is Shadanara; she is Kareem Khan's daughter and Akbar Khan's sister.

The woman then asked them to lead the way to Shadanara's house and promptly proposed for the little girl. The girl was to be my Grandmother.

Shadanara, my grandmother, was born at village Allah Dad, Surrani, Bannu (now renamed Bazida Karim Khan). Normally the Bannisee did not marry their daughters to the Khattaks. They considered them “inferior” because they had migrated from their own territory and were there by the leave of the Bannisee. But Nina Addhay did not worry about that too much, she knew it would be ‘ok’ since Quli Khan was a government servant (and the fact that the family was well off didn’t hurt either). She promised her baby brother the bride of his dreams; the daughter of a widow of the Durri khel clan in Saroney/Surrani village. Shadanara was only about ten years old when Nina Adday first saw her, but she knew this petite little girl would win her brother's heart. She was not wrong. Quli Khan's happiness knew no bounds when he saw his bride. He always said she was the spitting image of the actress he had been smitten with. For the rest of his life he kept his side of his bargain with God.

Shadanara's mother used to declare that, even if she had as many daughters as there were hair on her head, she would never marry them to an already married man. It was only after the marriage that she discovered fate has a way of fulfilling its own purpose. Shadanara, her youngest child; posthumously born; the spoiled baby of the family, was the only one to marry an already married man. Inspite of her inquiries and her spies to the household she had not learned that Quli Khan was an already married man. His wife was with him in Chitral.

Quli Khan's sense of justice would not allow him to keep two wives at the same time; even though it was common custom to do so. He gave his first wife what was due to her and offered to set her free. She refused, she had nowhere to go, besides, she had her son. The only surviving child from this marriage is Muhammad Aslam Khan Khattak.

Young Shadanara had no children for the first few years of her marriage, (seven by her count). Her step son was almost her age and she played with him and took care of her husband's son, Aslam; she also hoped to placate Meera by helping her with the child. Later, when Habibullah Khan was born Meera brought him up as her own, making sure that he and Aslam were the best of friends. She was successful, Habibullah Khan was always more of a brother to Aslam Khan than to his own brother, Yusuf. Quli Khan's partiality towards Yusuf did not help, either. When Yusuf was born in Ooghi (Hazara) Muhammad Hayat Khan named him Naimatullah, to rhyme with Habibullah. Quli Khan was on tour at the time and when he returned, it was love at first sight! He said he had never seen a baby as beautiful as his newborn son and promptly named him Yusuf. It was one of the few times that he had gone against his elder brother's wishes.

Knowledge was Quli Khan's ruling passion. Soon after he married Shadanara he set about educating his bride. She, still almost a child, was not too keen. Before each class she insisted he play the `rabarb' and sing to her, if he wanted her to study. Finally he succeeded, not only in teaching her to read and write, but also in firing her with his own vision and love of knowledge.

Shadanara was a strong, harsh disciplinarian. In her, Quli Khan had an able lieutenant. A little too able, maybe. She did not allow anyone to get too close to him. A barrier and a spokesperson, she basked in the power she gained through him. Quli Khan's fiery temper and thunderous roar were no help. Although his anger lasted only a few minutes, the noise he made was enough to cow down everyone. His children were grateful to accept Shadanara's services, when communicating with their awe-inspiring father. As a child I remember that he was so much more fun when she was not around!

Shadanara gave Quli Khan three more sons (Habibullah, Yusuf and Usman) and four daughters (Sakina, Kulsum, Bilquis and Suraya). Three-year-old Usman died at Kurram. Quli Khan and his brother prepared to take the corpse to Bannu for burial in the family grave yard. Shadanara would not let go of her baby, begging her husband to allow her to accompany his cortege. She wanted to hold him in her arms, instead of the cold hard coffin. She could not go, it was not the done thing; but Quli Khan promised not to allow Usman to be put in the lonely little coffin. He carried his son's body, cradled in his arms, all the way to Bannu.

Quli Khan was a tall, powerfully built man, with heavy lidded grey eyes which were a little incongruous in his swarthy complexion. Proud of his large nose, he insisted that it was a sign of good luck. He always had an optimistic outlook, choosing to look at the bright side of everything. I never heard him complain of any reverses in life, just as I never heard him indulge in self promotion. He never flaunted his achievements; never urged anyone to follow his illustrious example; never spoke of his piety, his courage, his magnanimity, or his successes. He did what was right, and that was enough for him. When he died, on 22nd. December 1956, students came to his sons in droves. They wanted to know what would become of them, as he had been paying for their education. Habibullah Khan later set up `The Quli Khan Trust' for students of the Peshawar University.

When General Zia declared his Martial Law in 1977, he imprisoned Quli Khan's politician daughter, Kulsum. She was put in the death cell with two murderesses. The facilities were literally non-existent. When the police party had left, the prison Superintendent came to Kulsum, with tears in his eyes. He said he owed everything to her father. Quli Khan had not only educated him but had also ensured his employment. Overnight the cell was transformed. It was fully carpeted, one of the prisoners was to serve Kulsum, the Superintendent sent home cooked meals to the honoured inmate. There was nothing in his power that the jail Superintendent did not do, for the comfort of his benefactor's daughter.

After his retirement from Government Service, Quli Khan bought the family house, 2, The Mall, Peshawar, from two old English ladies. They made one request, that he never cut the Boadh tree in the compound. Quli Khan gave his word, and the tree still stands, fifty years on. Shadanara did not feel comfortable in the Bungalow, and Quli Khan was only happy when she was. When Quli Khan set off for his first Hajj, he asked his friend Dina Nath to build a village-type house, with a courtyard where the stables stood. Shadanara had the house of her choice.

At about the same time Quli Khan travelled to the edge of cholistan and bought a large tract of desert land in Haroonabad (Bhawalnagar). There were no roads and he made the frequent journeys to his lands on camelback or by bullock cart. He went to Karak and asked for volunteers to work on his lands in Bhawalnagar. They came with their families; they would have followed his call to the ends of the earth. He put fifty acres in the name of each of his grandsons, a trust for their education. Kali\Quli Khan now has a village on the borders of Cholistan to his own name, `Kot Quli Khan' in Haroonabad. When some of Quli Khan's grandchildren sold their lands in Kot Quli Khan, Zwan Khan Khattak a tenant-farmer, was almost in tears. He remembers coming to Haroonabad as a child, and could not understand why anyone would sell what their grandfather had worked so hard for. Zwan Khan remembers that the first building in Kot Quli Khan was the school that Quli Khan built on his lands, for the children of his farmers.

His passion for education and sports started with his own family. When he decided to send Aslam Khattak to Oxford, his brother Mohammad Hayat Khan jeered at him, accusing him of reaching above his station, by sending his son to the College of the `Raj Kumars'. But then, Aslam had been brought up no less than a `Raj Kumar'. He was the Crown Prince of the Empire Quli Khan was building. No other child recieved the concentrated care that Quli Khan expended on his first born.

Quli Khan educated his daughters in the teeth of opposition from his brother, Mohammad Hayat Khan, who did not see eye to eye with Quli Khan's progressive ideals. He prophecied that his daughters would become christians. The younger brother respectfully replied that teaching religion was the domain of the family, and taught more by precept than harangueing. He was only following the precept of his beloved Prophet by making sure his daughters were educated. Knowing that the only chance his daughters would get to play tennis was in school, he paid from his own pocket, to introduce tennis at Elizabeth Girl's High School. On his return from office he always checked whether his sons had played any sport that day. Yusuf shared his father's passion for sport, and would frequently point out that Habibullah Khan had not played. To make up for his sloth, Habibullah Khan had to jog around the garden, threatening to get even with his brother. Yusuf, meanwhile stayed close to his father, gleefully watching his elder brother's discomfiture.

Bilquis was the only child to pass her Matriculation in the First Division. Her proud father asked what present she would like to have. Bilquis was too shy to make any demands, so he bought her a pair of diamond tops. Only the very best was ever good enough for Quli Khan's daughter.

Whenever Quli Khan admitted a child to school, the Principal was given an envelope of money, to give them at break-time everyday. He wanted school to be a pleasant affair. That was Quli Khan's style, he preferred gentle persuasion to browbeating. Although his own handwriting was almost illegible, Quli Khan insisted his children write a beautiful hand. He wanted them to excel him at everything. Bilquis, whose writing was very like his own illegible scrawl, was made to practice penmanship regularly. One day she rebelled. She told her mother to inform her father that, since she had inherited his hands it was impossible for her not to write as badly as he did. She refused to try any more. Amused by the spirit shown by his otherwise timid daughter, Quli Khan never mentioned her writing again.

The Convent School in Peshawar held a Drama every year. The first person who bought a ticket was always my grandfather who sat on the front row, enjoying the performance. He did not believe in the nonsense that it was unislamic to have girls perform. My grandfather, Quli Khan, was very pleased because I was a voracious reader, and proud that I wrote poetry. He used to call me his `poetess', and said I had taken after his father. His tune changed when he got my report card. I was at the bottom of the class. His valet came for me, but I had already heard the howl of outrage. I was not about to enter the lion's den! I begged the valet to tell my grandfather I was asleep. The next morning all was forgotten and I could safely escape to my story books again.

In winter we often ate with our grandparents in their bedroom. 'Baba' as we used to call him, tried to convince 'Amaji', our grandmother, to cook pulao for us. He said she should be hospitable to the `guests'. Amaji knew the real reason for his concern. He was very fond of his food and his diet did not include all the rich food he loved. Gout agnized his last years, although I never heard him complain. He used to play games with us, tying our dressing gown belts to hang behind like tails, then teasing us about it.

Quli Khan's eldest son, Aslam Khattak, always had a flock of tutors following him around, and a servant whose only job was to report on his pranks. Aslam was the most mischievous of all his children. The other boys did not give him as much trouble. They had their mother to deal with, and she made sure they obeyed. Yet, mischievous or not, his children were made to study and succeed.

There is a story about when Kulsum failed in class four. Her father hid his disappointment, turning it into a joke by christening her, `Faila Bibi'. Yet, he had also taught her to be a fighter, and to go out and get what she wanted. He advised her not to stay in the old class-room and insist on being promoted. Young Kulsum promoted herself. Clinging to the desk in class five she refused to leave, screaming that 'Baba' had told her she could remain there. She lived down the mocking name by working extra hard at school, and never failed again, at anything! Quli Khan's tactic had accomplished his objective, his daughter was to grow up to be a fighter and successful in every undertaking.

His concern was not only for his own children. Bahadur Khan died leaving behind two daughters and a son. Quli Khan brought them up as his own. His son, Faqir Zaman, was studying to be a doctor at King Edwards Medical College. He died of typhoid before completing his education. Quli Khan made regular trips to Lahore to keep an eye on Faqir Zaman's progress. Neither his age, nor gout nor the lateness of the hour kept Quli Khan from responding when his niece, Anar Begum, once asked for help from an abusive marriage. Within the hour he was on his way to Bannu, and brought back Bahadur Khan's daughter and grandchildren to Peshawar. Only when he was satisfied that her husband had learnt a lesson did he let her return home.

Although he was a deeply pious man, Quli Khan never forced religion on his children or grandchildren. Instead he set an example with his own behaviour. He had started offering `Tahajud' prayers when he was nineteen. Quli Khan believed that prayers offered through coercion defeated its purpose. When my grandmother was out of town, I used to sleep in my grandfather's room. I never knew when he woke for `Tahajjud', because he never made a sound. `Fajr' was another story altogether. No one could have slept through the noise he made and the resonant `Asswalto khair um'minan'noam' (prayer is better than sleep). One day I refused to be beguiled into waking up and praying. That morning I was apprehensive of what was in store for me. My grandfather was in the veranda reading the newspaper. `Baba Salaam Alaikum' was all my parched throat could croak, waiting for hell to break loose. Instead he chuckled loudly, saying, `Sleepyhead, you couldn't wake up this morning! ' I never again missed `Fajr' prayers, at least not as long as I slept in his room.

Quli Khan installed a Chitrali Molvi at the mosque he had built at the Telegraph office on the Mall, Peshawar, after educating him at Dar-ul-uloom, Deoband. I remember Molvi Sahib sweating when Baba came for my `Khatam-e-Quran'. I was so nervous I even forgot how to read `Qul Shareef', which I knew by heart! No reprimands followed, his disappointment was much worse. The awe Quli Khan inspired can be judged by the fact that, even today, I visualize him if I try to imagine God!

He spoke about God with a loving gentleness. He advised us pray unhurriedly. He taught us that God was the best friend we had. Just as one would like to spin out a meeting with a beloved friend, so should one savour a meeting with God. Bahadur Khan, his eldest brother, had died while repeating the `Kalima'. Quli Khan envied him, and prayed he would be blessed with a similar death. His wish was granted, hundredfold. Although fatally ill, he never missed a prayer. He died while praying.

Yet, there was another side to this remarkable man. In the early `20s he built a large rambling house facing the hills in Malikpura, Abbotabad. Ignoring the taunt of taking on the airs of the British, (Mohammad Hayat Khan, again) he made his home one of the most popular places in Abbotabad. He held tennis parties, inviting all his friends, British, Hindu or Muslim. Although a good player himself, the parties were for the benefit of his sons.

The 1923 kidnapping of the English girl, Mollie Ellis brought Quli Khan's art of persuasion to the test. Given a `carte blanche' for the undertaking, he went to Ajab Khan's village in Darra. Accusing Ajab Khan of violating a cardinal principle of the Pathans he demanded her release. Ajab Khan admitted his mistake. He had taken the girl believing she was a boy, because of her short hair. Accepting all Ajab Khan's demands, (a photograph of Mollie and Quli Khan from the family photo archives)Quli Khan literally carried the girl to freedom, her feet were sore from the trek up the hills. Mollie Ellis visited Peshawar in 1984, on the invitation of Surraya, Quli Khan's youngest child. She spoke of her kidnapping and the gentleness of her liberator.

The British Government reneged on the terms accepted by Quli Khan. Ajab Khan held Quli Khan responsible and threatened reprisals. The Khattak household was in a state of alertness and the womenfolk stayed awake by pealing pine nuts all night. Six year old Yusuf Khan went to bed with a fruit knife under his pillow. Quli Khan, disappointed by the dishonorable behaviour of the Government sent in his resignation. Meanwhile, in 1924, the Political Agent and his wife were murdered in Parachinar, Kurram. The British Government was in turmoil. They decided it was not worth the effort of keeping the guns Ajab Khan had demanded. The post of Political Agent, Kurram was considered too dangerous for an Englishman. Quli Khan was asked to take back his resignation and was given the job that had, until then, always been reserved for a British Officer. Quli Khan's daughter, Kulsum, was born in Kurrum, her father always believed she had brought him luck!

In Kurram Quli Khan came across two Sunni girls owned by Shias. The Humanitarian in him was repulsed and outraged. Paying their price, he brought them up and eventually married them off to respectable boys.

Aslam, taking over his father's job when he completed his education at Oxford, went on to be the Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. His father's friends were always at hand to help extricate him from the scrapes he got himself into, during the early years. After retirement Aslam Khattak joined politics. His politician brother, Yusuf Khattak introduced him to the constituency and gave him his own political workers. Aslam Khattak went on to join every government in power. He was Deputy Speaker of the West Pakistan Assembly during Ayub Khan's regime; Speaker of the Provincial Assembly (1971) in an alliance with NAP and JUI. Changing his affiliations he joined Mr. Bhutto's PPP and became Governor of the N.W.F.P.(1972). He joined Zia ul Haq's Majlis-e-Shura. Joining Junejo's cabinet as Federal Minister of the Interior, he stayed on after General Zia sacked the Junejo Government to become Senior Minister in the General's cabinet. A post he held until Zia's death. Aslam Khattak lost the 1990 elections and was elected in the 1992 elections. Joining the Muslim League, he was the Minister for Communications and later Provincial Co-ordination in Nawaz Sharif's cabinet. In 1993 and 1996 Aslam Khattak lost the elections. His tendency of changing parties had caught up with him.

In a sense Quli Khan's ambition for his sons also sowed the seeds of discord amongst them. Aslam Khattak stood against Yusuf Khattak for the National Assembly from Karak. The constituency had been nurtured by Yusuf since he first entered Politics.

Habibullah Khan was sent to London to study engineering. He used to tell us about how he had once written to his father for more funds in order to go to the dentist for treatment. His father responded with alacrity. After Habibullah Khan had used the same ploy to augment his pocket-money, his father wrote to him saying, in mock concern, "My dear son, I do hope you return home with some teeth in your mouth!" That was the end of the dentist excuse as far as Habibullah Khan was concerned. When Habibullah Khan failed to complete his engineering course, Quli Khan sent him to Dera Dun (a military academy in India). He joined the Baluch Regiment where his uncle, Bahadur Khan, had been Subedar Major. He eventually rose to the post of Chief of General Staff in 1958. Habibullah Khan's son, Ali Quli Khan is also a Lt. General in the Baluch Regiment.

Once Habibullah had gone to Canada, his father could not remember the name, `Canada'. After each prayer he used to call out asking where `Bibo' had gone. Finally I wrote `CANADA' in large block letters and put it on his mantlepiece. He was quite tickled by my exasperation. I still cannot figure out why he had to tell God exactly where to look for Habibullah Khan!

After retirement from the army, Habibullah Khan went on to become a leading business magnate, in partnership with his son-in-law, Gohar Ayub Khan (son of the first military dictator of Pakistan). When Aslam Khattak became the Governor of the N.W.F.P. in 1972, Habibullah Khan stood for the vacated provincial seat, in a bye election at Karak. The Governor, Aslam Khattak set up his son-in-law, Mohsin Ali Khan against his brother. Needless to say, the Governor's son-in-law won.

Yusuf was his father's blue eyed boy. He is also the son who most favours him, physically. Yusuf Khan had his father's ambition, but the drive, the application to see a dream come true, was missing. Too much of an aesthete, Yusuf Khattak could not deny himself the good things of life. He frittered away his promise. In his youth he had got every thing too easy, and too soon. He believed it was his right. During his stay at Oxford, Yusuf Khattak met and eventually married Gwendolyn Mary Mullins,then and now on 1st. October, 1940. Yusuf's parents were furious and ordered him to return, without his wife. Seven months after, when his daughter was born, Quli Khan relented and allowed him to bring back his daughter with him. Yusuf prepared to remain in England, he could not give up his wife. Finally, Quli Khan lost, he agreed to allow Yusuf to bring back his British wife and child. He could not bear the thought that he would not to see his son again. Once Yusuf was back, Quli Khan was also slightly proud to have an english woman as his daughter-in-law and was very friendly to her. Shadanara had other plans. Finally Gwen, left Pakistan in 1952; leaving all her children behind.

On his return in 1944, Yusuf Khattak practiced Law for a short while. Although a promising Barrister (some of the cases he won are mentioned in the PLD) he decided to join politics. The sub-continent was in a turmoil in those days, the dying gasp of the British Raj. Yusuf had developed an interest in politics when he was about fifteen years old. During his post-Matric holidays he had heard Pir Bakhsh Khan speak in the Legislative Assembly. Yusuf Khan used tell us how much Mr. Pir Bakhsh Khan's oratory had moved him. Later, I, his second daughter was to marry Pir Baksh Khan's son. Another man who left his mark on Yusuf Khattak was his political Mentor, Arbab Ghafoor Khan. He always spoke of him with great love and respect. There were few men that Yusuf Khattak admired.

Yusuf had inherited his father's idealism and courage, and threw himself into the movement against the British. Ordered to go underground by the Muslim League high command, he was arrested by the Dr. Khan Sahib's Congress Government in 1946. When he was sentenced to twenty-five years rigorous imprisonment for treason, he defiantly told the magistrate, Col. A.S.B. Shah, `History will tell who is the traitor here today! ' The whole family was pressed into service during the referendum. I remember that even as a three year old I used to shout `Pakistan Zindabad', and then hide for fear that the `Red Shirts' would get me.

Khan Abdul Qayum Khan, the first Pakistani Chief Minister of the N.W.F.P felt threatened by Yusuf Khattak, the General Secretary of the All Pakistan Muslim League, and the Prime Minister Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan's blue-eyed boy. The young man had risen too far, too fast. The first electoral fraud took place in 1952, when Watan Badshah was made to stand against Yusuf Khattak in the Legislative elections. Ballot boxes were broken and stuffed before the elections ever took place. Against Liaqat Ali Khan's advice, Yusuf Khan took on the mighty Khan Qayum, who consigned him to a political wilderness, as long as he was in power. Yet, in 1971, Khan Qayum offered Yusuf Khattak his party ticket for the bye-elections to NA-1 Peshawar-1. He was warned about the long enmity with Khattak, but Qayum Khan knew his adversary well. He was his father's son, and when he threw in his lot with anyone, he did not stab them in the back.

Liaqat Ali Khan sent Yusuf Khattak to the United Nations, as a member of the Pakistani delegation, in 1954. The Pakistan High Commission at Amsterdam was upgraded to a full-fledged embassy. Liaqat Ali Khan wanted to send his protege abroad to protect him from the wrath of the powerful Frontier Chief Minister. Then the Prime Minister was assassinated. Begum Ra'ana Liaqat Ali Khan was the first Ambassador to Holland.

During President Ayub's regime Yusuf Khattak was the leader of Opposition. He lost the elections under the Basic Democracy System. The voters of the electoral college came to him with tears in their eyes. They could not vote for him, the Government was adamant that he lose. Among Yusuf Khattak's papers is one signed by the leading politicians of the day, Mujib-ur-Rehman and Nawabzada Nasrullah among others, when they formed an electoral alliance to back Mohtrama Fatima Jinnah against President Ayub Khan for the Presidential elections.

Qayum Khan's Muslim League made an alliance with the PPP, and Yusuf Khattak was the Minister for Fuel, Power and Natural Resources in Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's Cabinet. The only public office he held in his fifty years in politics. In 1990 the Government of Pakistan gave him a gold medal for his services to Pakistan. When Yusuf Khattak's dearest friend and brother-in-law, Saifullah Khan, showed his pleasure at Ayub Khan's Martial Law, Yusuf sorted him out.

"You are a Fool," He said, with tears glistening in his hazel eyes. "So what if Habibullah Khan's daughter is engaged to Ayub's son! This is a mortal blow for Pakistan". Yusuf Khattak steadfastly refused to join any Military dictatorship. They undermined the foundations of the country that he loved so deeply and had fought for so ardently.

Quli Khan's daughter Kulsum shot to prominence after her widowhood. Preferring to align herself with her husband's Marwat tribe, she brought to them the talents molded by the hand of Muhammad Quli Khan Khattak. Her business acumen, her diplomacy, her style, her magnanimity and her fighting spirit are all inherited from the greatest of all Khattaks. Today the Saifullah brothers are a force to reckon with in Frontier politics because of Kulsum's strategies.

Quli Khan belonged to that rare breed of men who could to change their habits and customs with the times. During the early part of this century, his wife observed the strictest purdah. On the infrequent visits to Bannu, or when they were transferred, a chador-wrapped tonga was brought into the Zenana. Wearing their shuttle-cock burqas, the womenfolk travelled at night while Quli Khan drove the carriage. The sayce was not allowed near the tonga. Later, his daughters only wore a black burka, when they went to school. The tonga was not muffled with a chador and the sayce drove the tonga. His grand-daughters, was simply supposed to cover their heads with a dupatta, and keep their gaze averted in the company of strange men.

I haven't mentioned Quli Khan's humour. I remember giving him some tablets once. After a full glass of water the tablet was still in his mouth. Looking at me with a smile and twinkling eyes, he said, ` The tablet seems to be playing hide and seek in my mouth!'

I now realize the techniques he used to train us to take an interest in the world and current affairs, without really seeming to. Every now and then he would ask us to listen to the news or read the newspaper and tell him the headlines. I was twelve when Quli Khan died, and I remember him making the request. I remember, at first, I did not have a clue about what was said in the News. Gradually I began to understand a little of what I heard. At the age of twelve I finally decided I had to seriously read the newspaper, I had become interested to know what was going on in the world around me.

Quli Khan's many virtues cannot be recounted in a single article. It is not possible to capture more than a hint of the man who built up an empire and a family, in one lifetime. There is not one individual of the Khattak family untouched by the magic of the man who prayed that his children should have many `hasids'. When his wife remonstrated he said that people would only envy them if they amounted to something. A curse or a blessing, his prayer has been answered.

His children and grandchildren have all inherited something from Quli Khan. Aslam Khan his art of gentle persuasion; Habibullah Khan his shrewd business acumen; Yusuf Khan his courage, idealism and integrity; Kulsum his magnanimity and sagacity; Bilquis his compassion and Surraya inherited his candour. Of Quli Khan's grandsons, Raza inherited his honesty and love of sports; Ali his piety and innate goodness; Ahmad his romanticism and Ayub his idealism. Shaheen his intellectual brilliance. I have the fond hope that I may have inherited his love of knowledge.

Each of his descendants has inherited some of genius. Yet one man combined all these virtues .... and more. No one in the Khattak Family of Peshawar quite matches up to Muhammad Quli Khan, he left a legacy few men can ever hope to surpass.




The Khattak tribe spans the southern districts of the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan. Most of the places mentioned, are small cities of the NWFP Peshawar is the Provincial Capital of NWFP.



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