Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jennifer Musa (1917 - 2008)

Have you been following the
blogging prompts from Lisa Alzo's blog which celebrate Women's History Month by asking bloggers to write about their female ancestors?

Today's blogging prompt is:
'March 13 — Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.'

I'm sharing the story of a female who is not an ancestor but deserves to have her story told as she was a strong woman living in a man's world.

Jennifer Musa was unknown to me until I read a post at written by Adil Najam. It's an interesting read which I encourage you to read here fully. Here's a glimpse of it:

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.”

Unfortunately, the link to the obituary that was referred to in the blog post, is not working. What an interesting life she led!

Note: This is a repost from 13th March 2010.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Urdu word of the month - Post 10

crooked; bent; curved; oblique
یہ ٹیڑھا ہے
'ye terha hai'
this is bent

Please feel free to provide any feedback for this theme. You can even introduce your own Urdu words or even make up sentences with the above word and blog about them on your own blog. Remember to post your links.

Or email me if you're shy: pakistani_g[at]

The next Urdu post will be on the 22nd May.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blog on hiatus

Hi there. This is just to say that due to circumstances blogging will be on hiatus for a while. To keep you going I'll be posting some old blog posts from previous years.

In the meantime..

Muslim Tommies

Muslim Tommies is a BBC program that was aired on the 2nd of September. Now, like me you're probably thinking 'what are tommies?' So before I go on I'll explain the term 'tommy'.

Tommy is a common term for a soldier in the British Army, usually associated with World War I.

What I learned from watching the program..

* The Indian army was mobilised Sep 1914 in Europe
* Soldiers were known as 'sepoys'
* The hardships of these men have been lost in history
* Accounts written by the men were translated and are now available
* The soldiers usually came from poor rural communities
* On 30th Oct 1914, Sepoy Khudadad Khan was awarded the Victoria Cross (it was the first ever to be awarded to an Indian soldier)
* The first purpose built mosque in England is in Woking (Shah Jahan mosque)
* A graveyard was built near the mosque for the burial of Muslim soldiers
* In 1968 the remains of the soldiers were removed to Brookwood cemetry nearby where nineteen first world war and five 2nd world war soldiers now rest
* In May 1915, soldiers moved from France to present day Iraq to fight Germany's Turkish allies
* They had to fight Muslim Turks
* They refused, and so 429 soldiers received long prison sentences
* 8,500 troops had died by the end, 1/3 wud have been Muslims
* A unique ceremony is held at Brighton to commemorate their bravery and remember the Indian troops who died
* It's called the Chattri memorial

Soldiers mentioned were:

Amir Khan - 129th Baluchis, France 1915
Subedar Muhammed Agia - 57th Rifles, May 1915
Havildar Abdul Rahman - 59th Rifles, France 1915
Juma Khan - 40th Pathans, France 1915
Sepoy Abdul Ghani - 125th Napier's Rifles, France 1915
Naubet Khan - 107th Pioneers, France 1915
Mohamed Ali Bey - 20th Deccan Horses, France 1915
Abdul Jabar Khan, Sep 1917
Mahomed Mazafar Khan - 19th Lancers, France, Oct 1917
Jemadar Shamsher Ali Khan - 34th Poona Horse, France, April 1917
Dafadar Fazi Khan - 19th Lancers, France Oct 1916
Havildar Ghufran Khan - 129th Baluchis, aug 1915
Abdul Ali Khan - 6th Cavalry, France Aug 1917
Rajwali Khan - Brighton, Sep 1915 (at hospital)
Raja Khan - 38th CIH, France oct 1917
Jemadar Hasan Shah - Hodson's Horse, France 1916
Kesu Shah - Rouen, May 1916
Rahimdad Khan - 19th Lancers, France, May 1916
Fateh Ullah - June 1916

All in all, this program really opened my eyes to the life of the Indian soldiers that fought the war for Britain. It's something that I was not taught in school which makes me think about other children who are studying about war at school and yet being unaware of the role played by these men who share their ancestry. Is it fair that their part in the war should be left out? Why shouldn't we acknowledge the loss of these men?

Get in touch. Did one of your ancestors serve in the World War I or World War II? Do you have written accounts of the war from one of your great grandparents or grandparents?

Note: This is a repost from 30th September 2009.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Remembering our shaheed .. 17

I'm posting more announcements of our shaheed (martyred) who are fighting for our country, our people and our freedom.

Thursday Apr 7th 2011

'Fifty militants and four security personnel were killed in bombings and clashes in parts of Mohmand tribal region on Thursday.' (Dawn)

Note: I can only provide you with names if I find them in the news articles I browse. If you think something needs correcting, please do leave me a message. I try my best.

We should all pray for these men and their families and recognise their courage and sacrifice for their country.

Are you related to a soldier? Do you have memories of a loved one dying in a war? Do you have a message for the soldiers fighting? Leave me a comment.

One year on (11)

Six unnamed soldiers
were killed in different parts of Orakzai Agency
on 3rd April 2010

Burials: Unknown

Three unnamed soldiers
were killed in the South Waziristan tribal region
on 10th April 2010

Burials: Unknown

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday

Today 'My Pakistani Ancestry' blog is officially 2 yrs old.

I started this blog in the hope it would attract other Pakistanis to the world of genealogy and as such I have tried to produce content that tailors to the Pakistani and that links with family history. In the last year I have posted about private family graveyards, message boards, family group sheets and much much more. I've now decided to re-start my Urdu posts which I hope will be interesting for readers.

Last year I had mentioned I was in search for another Pakistani genealogy blogger (or geneablogger). I did manage to come across a Pakistani genealogy blogger but as yet have not been able to contact him. Click here, if you would like to visit his blog.

As always I'm on the lookout for more readers and responses.

Lastly, thanks for reading :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

One year on .. (10)

Six unnamed soldiers
were killed in different parts of Orakzai Agency
on 3rd April 2010

Burials: Unknown

Three soldiers
were killed in South Waziristan tribal regions
on 10th April 2010