were killed in Orakzai and Mohmand tribal regions
on 11th Nov 2010
An unknown soldier
was killed in Goak area of Orakzai Agency
on 11th Nov 2010
Both my ancestral lines – maternal as well as paternal – can be traced back to Pakistan. On my paternal side, my great-grandfather Bostan Khan had migrated from Campbellpur (present day Attock) to Singapore before the First World War. On my maternal side, it was my mother’s father who made the journey from Mansehra to Singapore. My maternal grandfather, Hayat Shah served in colonial police force like many other men from his country. He married my grandmother in 1950 – a second-generation Pakistani herself – and passed away in March 1969, when my mother was just thirteen.
This past June, more than 40 years since my grandfather passed away, I brought my mother to visit Pakistan, for the first time in all our lives!
Rekindling family ties
Years after he had somewhat established himself here, my grandfather was joined by his younger brother, Mohammed Younis Shah. Following in his elder brother’s footsteps, he too joined the police force and married a local here in Singapore. Yet three years after the death of my grandfather, my granduncle Younis Shah returned back to Pakistan, with his wife and four children. He used to correspond with my mother and her siblings until his death in 1994. After 17 years, we managed to renew correspondence.
It was a trip filled with much anticipation. For me, I had two very broad aims – to strengthen family ties and to learn as much as I could about our family history.
From the moment I head my name being called out by my uncle when exiting the airport in Islamabad, I just knew that the trip was worth the wait. It was a three-hour journey by road to Mansehra, and throughout the car ride, my aunt and uncles who had come to fetch us wasted no time in showering us with the warm Pakistani hospitality I had often read about. The cold night air was filled with warm chatter and laughter throughout.
Upon his return to Pakistan, my granduncle settled in Mansehra city, just a few kilometers away from his ancestral village of Hado Bandi. And it was in this house that my mother and I stayed in. On the first day, we were brought to visit numerous graveyards where we paid our respects to my granduncle, my great-grandparents as well as our forefathers who had first settled in Hado Bandi.
On the second day, we were brought to Oghi – a town about 30 kilometers away from Mansehra. Here, in the village of Bandi Sadiq, was the family of my grandfather’s only sister. She had been married off to a man from this village. Sadly, she passed away only last year. We were told that she often expressed hope that she would see the children of her eldest brother – my grandfather. It was a surreal feeling, to meet my cousins, who up to that point, had merely been an abstract idea in my thoughts. Again, like in Mansehra and Hado Bandi, we visited the graves of the departed and offered our prayers for them.
Love and lineage, the common languages between us
The only languages I speak are English and Malay. Over a hundred years of cultural assimilation had seen us lose the ability to speak in our native languages of Hindko and Urdu.
I suppose you can say we were truly fortunate, because even in Pakistan, we continued to speak English and Malay! My granduncle’s wife was a local from Singapore who spoke Malay. Thus, upon migrating to Pakistan, the language was still used within the family. The use of a language known only to us made my mother and I feel more attached to our family there. There is no doubt that despite the years of separation, there still was a level of cultural similarity between our families.
In Bandi Sadiq, we were also fortunate that many of our relatives there had gone through various degrees of education and could speak English proficiently. For those who were unable to communicate with us, they did so through my uncle who acted as an interpreter. And when he wasn’t around, we will attempt to speak in each other’s tongues anyway. I think we barely made it, but the smiles that resulted were priceless. When we left after three days in the village, tears were shed, as a testimony to the love that had been forged in that short period of time.
The research project – Pen, paper and photographs
It was a genealogical researcher’s dream come true. I had prepared myself with a notebook and a pen, as well as a camera if I needed it. Most of my uncles and aunts knew of my intention to research the family history and they were ever so patient to sit down with me to draw up the family tree and answer any queries that I had.
Additionally, my aunt who had known of my research project had brought me to visit an elderly 72-year-old man who knew the history of the people in the village, but also of Pakistani folk who had migrated to Singapore! In fact, his wife was born in Singapore and moved to Pakistan when she was 12. My aunt patiently acted as the translator and scribe as I asked questions about my late grandfather, his family as well as some other personalities who had migrated to Singapore.
I realised one of the best things I did was to have printed the pictures of my family, my grandparents, as well as other relatives and people of Pakistani origin in Singapore. Though not exactly comprehensive, it had helped me a lot in discovering information I had never expected to find.
A case in point was when one of my aunts saw the photograph of my mother’s maternal grandfather. She asked who the man in the picture was. And when we told her that it was the father-in-law of my late grandfather, she surprised us by informing us that she knew of his origin. She told us that he was from Tilli – the Black Mountain of Hazara (Tor Ghar). This was a golden nugget of information that not a single descendent of my great-grandfather knew, but was communicated by my late grandfather (his son-in-law) to his sister. This was a bonus I had never expected to discover.
Tips for genealogists visiting the ancestral land
Never leave behind any information back home. Though apparently painstaking, it may be worth to make copies, or back up of research you have done thus far, and bring the copy with you on your trip. You wouldn’t want to be in a situation where you stumbled upon a valuable lead, only that you cannot pursue it because some important information you require is sitting pretty at home, thousands of miles away from you. Even the most mundane of information can be frustrating to recall should you suddenly require it. It may be a name, an address, a relationship or a date.
Another tip is to strike a balance between research and recreation. Sometimes you may need to be firm and decline invitations, in order to pursue a particular lead – like visiting a place or interviewing a person. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to be completely immersed in research that you forget to enjoy the experience. Take the time to immerse yourself in the environment and imagine what it might have been like for your ancestor to live through it. After all, how often do we get to visit the ancestral land?
According to sources, 12 security men were injured in the clashes which continued till late Friday night. Two ‘commanders’ were reported to be among the dead militants.
But a Frontier Corps (FC) spokesman disputed the casualty figure and said: “Four of our soldiers and eight militants have been killed.” He said the assailants had attacked FC personnel whom were on duty in the area and firing continued till evening...Five of the FC men killed were identified as Ghulam Mohammad, Kashif, Faisal Tufail, Ahmed Nawaz and Rehmatullah.' (Dawn)
Unfortunately, the link to the obituary that was referred to in the blog post, is not working. What an interesting life she led!
Jennifer Musa, who has died aged 90, was an Irishwoman of modest stock who took over from her husband as head of a tribe in the remote borderlands of Baluchistan; unveiled and uncompromising, she dedicated her life to the conservative Muslim tribesmen among whom she lived for 60 years until her death….
Far from being a colonial figure who “stayed on”, and despite having been dubbed “the Queen of Baluchistan”, Jennifer Musa was a tough-minded, unassuming nurse who arrived at the parched fringes of the Indian subcontinent a year after Partition. When she arrived there, as she later recalled, locals believed that the British monarchy had gifted the “London lady” to their chief in return for killing a tiger.
She was born Bridget Wren at Tarmons, Co Kerry, Ireland, on November 11 1917, the daughter of smallholding farmers. She had four sisters and two brothers and received a Roman Catholic education. Known as Bridie, she later changed her name to Jennifer and left for England to train as a nurse. In 1939 she met Qazi Mohammed Musa in Oxford, at Exeter College’s May Ball.
Qazi Musa, who read Philosophy, was a ward of the Governor-General of Baluchistan and the eldest son of the prime minister to the Khan of Kalat, Baluchistan’s princely state. Jennifer took the Muslim name of Jehan Zeba and they married in 1940, despite some opposition from his otherwise “liberal” family.
Qazi had been married off to his first wife when he was 14 years old amid fears that he would be killed, most likely poisoned, by clan rivals. The marriage produced four sons and one daughter. Jennifer and Qazi’s first wife, a member of the neighbouring Kansi tribe, remained neighbours and friends in later years.
Qazi’s father had been a key figure in the Pakistan movement and the couple arrived there from England in 1948. The family stronghold at Pishin, a dusty, baked plateau 30 miles north of Baluchistan’s capital, Quetta, is a far cry from the banks of the Shannon. For centuries it fell under the suzerainty of tribes from the neighbouring city of Kandahar, where the Qazis once wielded influence before being expelled by the British. The area, which is hemmed in by russet mountains and tormented by dust devils and temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius, was retained within the borders of British India after the Second Afghan War in 1881.
Jennifer donned the shalwar kameez, but without wearing a headscarf or the all-encompassing burqa, and lived the rarified life of the frontier sardars (tribal chiefs).
In a land of camels, her family owned the only car; despite the austere surroundings, they lived in relative security within the thick, mud-walled, colonial-era home that was festooned with daggers, tigers’ heads and photographs of her extravagantly whiskered in-laws.
Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, stayed for several nights at the house, from where they often forayed across the border to the fashionable, Francophone court of the Afghan king at Kabul. But the idyll ended when her husband died in a motor accident in 1956. Despite her wish to return to Ireland, her husband’s family persuaded her to stay in Pishin with their 14-year-old son, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi [later to become Pakistan's Ambassador to USA].
Her independence of mind, often attributed to her “Irishness”, led her to enter politics. She joined the now-defunct National Awami (Freedom) Party (NAP) of the Pathan nationalist Wali Khan. At what are often called Pakistan’s “first and last free and fair elections”, in 1970, she won a seat in the national assembly. Her flaxen hair, grey-blue eyes and fair skin caused unease among its more bearded members.
Jennifer served as a parliamentarian for seven years, during which time she demonstrated her empathy for the underdog. She founded the area’s first women’s association and its first family planning clinic. “You can’t liberate women until you liberate men,” she said. More famously, she resisted strong pressure from the overbearing prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, to water down autonomous rights for Baluchistan.
Perhaps apocryphally, Bhutto was reputed to have mused whether she thought she was “the Queen of Baluchistan”. Then he added: “Fix that woman.”
She was a proud signatory of Pakistan’s 1973 constitution. But when Bhutto savagely crushed a Baluch insurgency during the 1970s Jennifer acted as a conduit for messages from the rebel leadership and jailed fighters to their families, because their women were cut off from public life as they were in purdah.
Democratic politics in Pakistan, and Jennifer’s political career, came to an end with the imposition of martial law at the end of the 1970s, and she turned her focus on her family home and lands. She grafted a rose garden among its pomegranate and pine trees. During the 1980s she worked among Afghan refugees who flocked to Pishin due to the fighting in the anti-Soviet jihad; she set up and managed an ice factory in a land that lacks refrigeration and electricity; and - to the chagrin of the mullahs - she promoted literacy for women.
But it was in her capacity as a traditional tribal administrator that she made her mark. She dispensed favours, settled disputes and signed chits for tribesmen who gathered at her gate. “You have to be astute dealing with the Baluch,” she remarked.
Her emphasis was on education, health and hard work. A local superintendent of police recalled how, when he was a schoolboy, Jennifer pinched his ear for missing class. In such a way she inspired a generation of local professionals who lived in fear of being “whacked”.
It remained a mystery to her family how she managed. She had little grasp of the local language, Pashto. A family retainer was amused to overhear the somewhat whimsical explanation for the town’s name of Pishin that she offered to a visitor - she said, erroneously, that it was derived from the Pashto for “cat”. When angry, her smatterings of Urdu and Pashto gave way to pure English.
Purposefully vague about when she “became Islamic”, Jennifer did not feel bound by religion, preferring to remark on the similarities of the various faiths.
She retained a faint Kerry brogue, but said she knew more about Pakistan than Ireland, which she last visited in the 1960s. She was an unfussy Irishwoman with a twinkly sense of humour who felt “very much at home” at Pishin. In Ireland, she noted, the women did not mix much with the men.
In her later years visiting foreign journalists mused about how the wild, tribal frontier, where women are in purdah and even goatherds carry Kalashnikovs, was an unlikely place to find an elderly Irish widow serving afternoon tea. The area has lately become a stronghold for the Taliban, and is generally out of bounds to foreigners.
Jennifer died on January 12. Her funeral procession was attended by thousands of burly, turbaned Pathans (many of them allied to the Taliban) who raised cheers of “Mummy Jennifer!” in her honour as the cortège passed through a shuttered Pishin. She was buried at the Qazis’ ancestral burial ground near the tomb of the family Sufi saint, Sheikh Farid Baba. President Pervez Musharraf telephoned Jennifer’s son, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, to offer his condolences for morethe death of a woman who, in one of her last interviews, said: “Mummy has had her innings.”
1 Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan (aka Mirza Ghalib) b. 27 December 1797 m. Umarao Begum (d/o Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh). He had 7 children, none of whom survived beyond infancy. He died in Delhi on February 15, 1869