Category Archives: History

Kashmir Martyrs Day 13 July

By Akhtar Malik 13 July 2013
HAVE WE FORGOTTEN OUR MARTYRS IN KASHMIR?”جو قومیں اپنے شہیدوں کو بھول جاتی ہیں زمانہ ان قوموں کو بھول جاتا ہے”
اختر ملک

stillcoffinsarelessinnumber-becausestillkashmirisarekilledtoaccomplishmissionThe Martyrs’ Day, also known as Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir is observed on July 13 every year on both sides of the Line of Control and throughout the world by the Kashmiris to pay homage to 22 Kashmiris who were martyred in 1931 while protesting against the brutalities of Dogra rulers. The day carries lot of importance in the history of Kashmiri struggle against foreign occupation.

On 19 April 1931, Holy Quran was desecrated in Srinagar by the occupation Dogra forces. During a protest rally a Kashmiri youth Abdul Qadir pointed his finger towards the palace of Maharaja and shouted, ‘Destroy every brick of it’. The youth was charged with high treason and taken to Central Jail Srinagar. On 13 July 1931 thousands of Kashmiri Muslims gathered around the jail to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadir. When the time of prayers approached a Kashmiri youth stood up for Azan. The Dogra governor ordered his troops to fire. The youth got martyred before he could complete the Azan. Another youth stood up for Azan. He was also shot and killed. In quick succession 22 Kashmiri youths stood to complete the Azan and embraced martyrdom. The incident shook the whole State, Kashmiri people rose in protest and the traffic and life in the Valley came to standstill.

Like Kashmir and the world around, Pakistan has also been observing Youme Shudaha-e-Kashmir on July 13 in the past to show solidarity with the hapless Kashmiri. However with the passage of time as our media, the journalists and political paradigm has been influenced, rather taken over by pro-Indian lobby, such activity is no more visible at national level now. Today we are being ruled by PML-N in center, Punjab and Baluchistan who is considered to be guardian of Ideology of Pakistan. Have you seen any ceremony/ conference/ seminar being organized officially to show solidarity with Kashmiri people? Where is Chairman Kashmir Committee (Maulana Fazlur Rehman) on this historic day? Where are our freedom lovers and champions of human rights on this day? Have our TV channels conducted any meaningful programs in this regard?

We as a nation are committing the unforgivable crime of forgetting our martyrs. Remember, the life of a nation thrives on the blood of martyrs. A nation who forgets its martyrs virtually surrenders its right to live as a free entity in the comity of nations.

Akhtar Malik is a freelance writer and can be reached at

The Coup of 19 December 1971 -How General Yahya was Removed From Power

Editor’s Note: History has many faces. It may be written from different perspectives.The account by Brig. F.B Ali is one.

Also read:

By: Brig. F.B Ali

19 December 1971 was a remarkable day in Pakistan’s short and unfortunate history. It was the day on which the Pakistan Army removed the country’s military ruler and forced him to hand over power to an elected leader, the first and only time that such a thing has happened. It may be worthwhile revisiting this event after all these years for the benefit of the many who do not know what happened. To understand it, however, it is necessary to recall the context within which it occurred.

On 16 December Lt. Gen. AAK Niazi surrendered the army in East Pakistan to Indian forces, and half the country was lost. That night President Yahya Khan broadcast a speech in which, in a voice slurred with drink, he announced that though a battle had been lost the war would go on.

Next day he accepted the unilateral Indian offer of a cease-fire in West Pakistan. Yahya Khan’s shameful acceptance of defeat on behalf of an army that he and his generals had prevented from fighting during the 14-day war burst like a thunderclap over soldiers and civilians alike. While feelings of anger and betrayal were common among both, the soldiers felt in addition a deep shame that their cowardly and incompetent generals had caused them to let the country down so badly.

The true significance of the events of 19 December 1971 is that it was the Pakistan Army that rid the country (and itself) of this foul regime that had ruled in its name.

The overt action was taken by a small group of officers, but it depended for its success on the tacit support of the rest of the army. If even a small element of the military had acted to preserve the regime, our move could well have failed since we were determined that there would be no clash within the army. But no one lifted a finger to support the Yahya gang, in spite of the desperate efforts they made to seek help.

During the 1971 war I commanded an armoured division artillery in the Gujranwala-Sialkot-Shakargarh sector. On 17 December, after Yahya Khan announced the acceptance of the cease-fire, I was quite certain, as were most other people, that he and his government would accept responsibility for the debacle and announce that they were quitting. 

That evening I handed in my resignation from the Army, acknowledging my responsibility (shared by all other senior officers) for having silently acquiesced in the takeover and maintenance of power by these corrupt, self-seeking generals who had brought the country to this sorry state.

Next day, the 18th, I was stunned to learn that Yahya Khan had no intention of leaving; instead, he announced that he was going to promulgate a new constitution. Meanwhile, angry public demonstrations demanding that the regime should quit had erupted all over the country. There was a real danger that Yahya Khan might use troops to quell the public outcry, which would have imposed an unbearable strain on the discipline of the Army, itself angry and upset over what had happened. I became convinced that the regime had to be clearly told that it no longer had the support of the Army and must go.

I tried to persuade my division commander, Maj. Gen. MI Karim, to send such a message to the government through GHQ, but, although he appeared to share my views, he hesitated to take such a step. Finally, on 19 December, I could wait no longer, and took over effective command of the division from Gen. Karim. (He tacitly accepted this, and gave me valuable help during the subsequent events).

In this action I also had the support of some other senior officers who felt as I did. Our position was that the regime should quit and hand over to the elected representatives of the people, and that all those incompetent and corrupt commanders who had led us into defeat should be sacked. In practical terms this meant handing over power to ZA Bhutto and his People’s Party, who had won the 1970 election in West Pakistan. Even though I was by no means a fan of Mr. Bhutto’s, I believed that their elected status gave them the right to govern, and obtain the allegiance of the armed forces.

We decided that Cols. Aleem Afridi and Javed Iqbal would fly to Rawalpindi with a message from us for Yahya Khan : he should announce by 8 p.m. that evening his readiness to hand over power to the elected representatives of the people. In addition, all those generals who had led the army into this disaster should also quit. In case such an announcement was not made by 8 p.m. then we could not guarantee control of the situation, and any resulting consequences. 

The two officers met with Gen. Gul Hassan, Chief of the General Staff, that afternoon and asked him to convey this message to Yahya Khan. Gul Hassan went to Gen. Hamid, the Chief of Staff, who said he would arrange for a meeting with the President at 7 p.m. 
Gen. Hamid then went into a flurry of activity. He called several army commanders to see if they could help to restore the situation in our area, but they all expressed inability to do anything. Maj. Gen. AO Mitha, another stalwart of the regime, tried to get some SSG commando troops for action against our divisional HQ, but was unable to obtain any. The failure of these efforts, and the obvious absence of any support in the Army, left the Yahya clique with no option. Shortly before 8 p.m. the broadcast was made that Yahya Khan had decided to hand over power to the elected representatives of the people

After this announcement Gen. Gul Hassan and his friend, Air Marshal Rahim Khan, the Air Force chief, in consultation with GM Khar, a PPP leader, arranged for ZA Bhutto’s return from Rome, where he was sitting out the crisis, apparently because he was not sure about his personal safety if he came back. When Bhutto arrived on the 20th Gul Hassan and Rahim told him that the military was behind them, and it was they who had removed the Yahya regime.

That night Mr. Bhutto made a broadcast to the nation in which he announced the retirement of all the generals in Yahya Khan’s inner clique, saying that he was doing this “in accord with the sentiments of the Armed Forces and the younger officers“. He also made Lt. Gen. Gul Hassan the Army chief, and confirmed Rahim Khan as the Air Force chief, though they did not last long when they proved insufficiently pliable.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had a glorious opportunity when he became President. The people of Pakistan were shaken down to the roots of their national psyche. The country had splintered, but much worse was that the very basis of their nationhood, their justification for being a people, long chipped away, had finally been shattered. Their lives, devoted mainly to selfish, individual pursuits, suddenly stood starkly revealed in all their pettiness and worthlessness. Shorn of their illusions and their excuses, in their helplessness they looked longingly for a leader to guide them back to the right path; they were prepared to give up the weaknesses and follies of the past, to make a new beginning as a cohesive, caring people ready to work together again to achieve the vision that had created their homeland 25 years ago. All they wanted was a leader who felt the same pain and yearned for the same goal.

Bhutto could have rallied the people of Pakistan to Herculean effort, led them to reverse the decline of the past years, and recreated the nation that had, against all odds, established Pakistan in 1947. But at this great crossroads in history, the man of the hour was found pitifully wanting. His lack of vision, meanness of spirit, and pettiness of mind, all led him to see this historic moment as just an opportunity to grab personal power. Even the use of this power was affected by his limitations : for example, one of his first acts as President was the arrest and public humiliation of persons against whom he harbored personal grudges; and the childish reveling in the trappings of office, typically exemplified by the monkey uniforms in which he clothed himself and his ministers.

That the effort by this small group of officers to end an inglorious chapter in Pakistan’s history, and provide to the nation another opportunity under the leader it had chosen, ultimately failed to produce the desired results does not in any way diminish the great credit due to them. 

They risked everything (their careers, their liberty, their families, even their lives) to answer the call of this critical moment in their nation’s destiny. Even though their action succeeded, they still lost the promising careers they had in the profession they loved; Bhutto made sure of that. If ever a true history of Pakistan is written, then high up on the roll of honor of its true patriots should be inscribed the names of Lt. Col. Muhammad Khurshid, Col. Aleem Afridi, Col. Javed Iqbal and Brig. Iqbal Mehdi Shah.

Later on, other young, patriotic military officers tried again to stop the downward slide on which Pakistan was launched. They failed, and paid a heavier price. The cycle of feckless generals and politicians continues; the country founders from one crisis to another. Yet, the action of 19 December 1971 should neither be forgotten nor diminished. It was an affirmation that Pakistan was worth fighting for, worth risking one’s life for. We still need that affirmation today.

The Renowned Personalities of Pakistan Army – Lieutenant General Shah Rafi Alam

By Hamid Hussain
Lieutenant General Shah Rafi Alam (1932-2004)
6_4_2004_pic06Lieutenant General Shah Rafi Alam was a well respected officer and gentleman of Pakistan army. He was son of Shah Nazir Alam of Sehswani Sayed family and Irene. Nazir joined Indian Police Service (IPS) and was one of few senior police officers inherited by newly independent Pakistan. Nazir was Inspector General of Police of West Punjab and in 1950s was the founder and head of anti-corruption unit. In 1957, newly independent Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia) requested his services and he was instrumental in establishing the Special Crime Unit against corruption of the newly independent nation.
Rafi attended Atchison College before heading to military academy at Kakul to join 5th PMA course. He was commissioned in 1951 in 5th Probyn’s Horse. In 1955, 12th Sam Brown Cavalry was re-raised by Pakistan army. This regiment had a long history dating back to 1849. 2nd and 5th Punjab Cavalry Regiments were renamed 22nd and 25th Cavalry respectively in 1903 reorganization. In 1921 reorganization 22nd and 25th Cavalry were amalgamated to form 12th Sam Brown Cavalry. The class composition of the regiment was Dogra, Sikh and Punjabi Muslim squadrons. In 1937, it was converted to training regiment of 2nd Cavalry Group based at Ferozpur. In 1940, armored regiments of Indian army were further reduced. 12th Cavalry was absorbed into a training center along with 15th Lancers and 20th Lancers and ceased to exist. In 1955, the regiment was re-raised by Pakistan army. Shah Rafi transferred to 12th Cavalry which became his new home.
In 1965 war, 12th Cavalry fought on different fronts under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bashir Ullah Khan Babar. Shah Rafi commanded B Squadron of his own regiment and won gallantry award of Sitara-e-Jurat (SJ). Later, he served as Brigade Major of 4th Armored Brigade then commanded by Brigadier Muhammad Nisar of 25th Cavalry (Brigade commander and his Brigade Major were both winners of SJ). Shah Rafi commanded 12th Cavalry in 1971 war. After promotion to the rank of Brigadier, he commanded 3rd Armored Brigade and commanded a division in Sialkot at Major General rank.
In 1955, MGM studio embarked on a big movie project named Bhawani Junction. Original plan was to film on location in India but when Indian government hesitated and put many conditions, the venue was changed to Lahore. Film’s stars Ava Gardner and Stewart Ganger and other crew members spent several months in Pakistan and stayed at Flatties Hotel. Pakistan government supported the venture and a battalion of 13 Frontier Force Rifles provided some of its officers and soldiers for the film. Shah Rafi was member of Lahore Polo Club and some of the cast members visited the club. Ava Gardner made acquaintance with Shah Rafi that ticked off British born Hollywood actor Stewart Granger. Rafi and Granger ended up in a scuffle.
Shah Rafi married Tameez Begum; daughter of Brigadier Mirza Masud Ali Baig nick named Hesky Baig of 5th Probyn’s Horse. Hesky Baig was from an aristocratic family of Hyderabad Deccan and had married Nawabzadi Salima Begum from the family of Nawab of Surat. Rafi’s one son married a girl from the family of Nawab of Chitral. Rafi was an excellent polo player and introduced many officers to the game. It is not clear whether Rafi had some Taimurid blood in him or it was his passion for horses that he had special affection for Tartars. He gave his children Tartar names; Changez, Qublai, Taimur and Shamyl. His children carried the torch of polo and two of his sons were members of Pakistan’s national polo team.
There is some controversy about why Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Muhammad Zia ul Haq didn’t promote Rafi. Some are of the view that many officers like Rafi did not ascend to higher ranks because of their social habits as Zia promoted more conservative officers who were from humbler backgrounds. My view is that in view of several years of direct military rule under General Zia, many officers openly questioned continued direct military rule and these officers were not promoted further. Most of these officers were professional soldiers and expressed their views candidly and were not obsessed only with their own career. I disagree with the notion that officers like Rafi were not promoted solely because of their social habits. Many officers like Lieutenant General Jahanzeb ‘Bobby’ Arbab and Lieutenant General Fazle Haq had similar social habits. However, they agreed with Zia’s policies therefore they became close confidants of Zia. Bobby and Fazle Haq served as Corps Commanders and remained in charge of Sindh and North West Frontier Province respectively for several years during Zia’s rule.
Shah Rafi Alam was the representative of a generation of officers of Indian and Pakistan army who joined the armies of newly independent countries. This group was from the traditional aristocratic and educated elite who joined army out of passion and not as a good job opportunity. The outlook and manners of these officers were different and they were not submissive. They earned the respect of their fellow officers by professional code of conduct.
Lieutenant General Shah Rafi Alam was from 5th PMA course. In 1951, relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated and both countries moved troops to borders. This was later known as ‘1951 Flap’. It was decided to shorten 5th PMA course by one term and pass them out with 4th PMA course. In August 1951, 4th & 5th PMA courses passed out together. 5th PMA earned the nick name of ‘Nehru Commissioned Officers’. Gentleman Cadet (later Lieutenant General) Khusdil Khan Afridi of 4th PMA course was the winner of sword of honor. The course supervisor of 5th PMA later commented that if 5th PMA had passed out in normal course after completion of fourth term, Rafi would have been the top candidate for the coveted sword of honor.
Rafi was a young and restless soul fully enjoying life. Such young lads are like wild stallions. Sometimes, lucky ones get a life partner that brings stability to their lives. Rafi was lucky to get married to Tameez Begum; an educated and confidant lady from an aristocratic and military family. She brought the best out of him. She acted like an anchor and Rafi’s personal and professional life shined. There was now no looking back.
Rafi was a confident man and expressed his views candidly but also sometimes clashed with authority. Even as a young Lieutenant at the Armored Corps Center in Nowshehra, he got in trouble with then Lieutenant Colonel (later Lieutenant General & C-in-C) Gul Hassan. He was banished from the mess for two weeks. This trend continued throughout his career but probably polo provided a good catharsis for some of the mercurial tendencies.
In 1981, Rafi was serving as GOC of 15th Infantry Division in Sialkot at Major General rank. When Lieutenant General Ejaz Azim moved out of I Mangla Corps, Rafi was appointed officiating Corps Commander of Mangla Corps as army Chief general Muhammad Zia ul Haq deliberated about his promotion. There was a fairly strong lobby, consisting of some close advisers to Zia who favored Rafi’s promotion. It was expected that he will be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and given permanent command of the Corps. Rafi ruffled Zia’s feathers by candidly expressing his views in Corps Commanders conference.
The final straw came when during his division’s exercise, he marched all his officers and men on foot to Tilla firing ranges; a distance of some eighty miles. According to Major General ® Rizwan Qureshi then serving with the division, Rafi marched with his division during the day and every evening he drove to Kharian and played polo. On day four of the march he was limping but still marching on. When officer asked him about the cause of the limp, Rafi replied that the day before he had fallen off a horse and hurt his knee. However, he wanted to march with his troops otherwise ‘you fellows are going to say that our GOC ‘ham ko paidal chala ke khud gari mien baith gaya‘ (ordered us to march on foot while himself moving in his car). On the last lap, he joined the leading battalion on the last mile and ran with the troops till the finishing point. He boarded his jeep, drove back and did the same with some other units of his division. In an earlier exercise, he had marched back with his troops on foot from Chawinda. In Sialkot, he took the salute at the centre of the city from his troops marching back to their barracks that caused quite a sensation in the city. It was these qualities of head and heart that endeared him to his troops.
Many senior officers who had earlier given favorable opinion about his promotion now had second thoughts after the division’s exercise at Tilla ranges. The incident was interpreted by some senior officers as a naked display of bravado by a ‘maverick’ division commander and they changed their mind. Rafi’s candid and at times critical views at Corps Commanders meetings and his division exercise went against him and Zia decided not to promote him. Shah Rafi Alam’s course mate and buddy was Shams ur Rahman Kallue. Both had same initials; S R Alam and S R Kallue and both joined 5th Probyn’s Horse; however Alam (PA- 3873) was senior to Kallue (PA- 3903). Zia promoted S R Kallue to Lieutenant General rank and appointed him Mangla Corps commander. Rafi was superseded and retired. Rafi had officiated as Corps Commander on Lieutenant General’s pay scale for more than six months and as per Army rules; he had earned the right to the honorary rank of Lieutenant General, which was granted to him.


– Brigadier ® Z A Khan. The Way It Was (Karachi: Ahbab Printers, 1998)
– Lee Server. Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006)
Hamid Hussain
March 17, 2013
Defence Journal, March 2013
Acknowledgement: Author thanks many, especially Colonel ® A.J. Iqbal and Major General ® Rizwan Qureshi for valuable information and corrections.
March 25, 2013

Akleem Akhtar alias General Rani – The Woman Who Ruled The Heart and Mind of General Yahya Khan

By Ayesha Javed Akram

2rq22wg“The woman was a phenomenon. Easily the most influential figure during Pakistan’s second military regime, with the slightest gesture of her bejeweled hand she could guarantee employment, ensure promotions and bring about unwelcome transfers. Yet, interestingly, few even know her real name.

Akleem Akhtar. General Rani she was, and remains to all but an intimate few. There are enough reasons for the lady’s ascension to local legend status. In her glory days she seemed omnipotent and was brazen about her exploits. And now, even while suffering from breast cancer that has led to metastasis  in the liver and kidney, bedridden and in semi-seclusion, she remains spirited and outspoken. Yet, doing a story on her was probably the most difficult assignment I have undertaken. For one thing, everyone I was certain was acquainted with her, was reluctant to even own up to the fact that they knew her. So, for starters, I made a call to her daughter, Aroosa Alam, the defense journalist for the Pakistan Observer and the news coordinator for the Middle East Broadcasting Company, and pop star Fakhre Alam’s mother. Aroosa nipped all efforts at contact with her mother in the bud, claiming that not only was General Rani far too unwell to entertain visitors, but also, her brothers were completely against their mother appearing in the press. “My mother has been hurt sufficiently by the media already; we don’t want her private life exploited any further,” stated a stern Aroosa. A call to Naureen and Arshad Sami, Adnan Sami Khan’s parents, prove  equally unsuccessful. Although General Rani is Naureen’s maternal aunt, she politely but firmly denied even knowing the lady. There was a similar response from Zil-e-Huma, whose mother Madame Nur Jehan’s friendship with General Rani was legion. Huma completely denied any knowledge of the woman. A journalist working for the Jang group, Maqsood Butt nearly had an apoplexy when I mentioned the story I was working on. While in the past Maqsood Butt had written extensively on this topic and is said to have close ties with the family, he has for several years, refrained from even bringing up her name in an article. “I promised her that I would never talk about her or her family again,” he stated nervously and refused to help me in any way. Clearly, the woman I was seeking out was no ordinary woman. As I kept running into a blind alley and became increasingly despondent, General Rani’s lawyers, S. M. Zafar and Ijaz Batalvi, Mustafa Khar, and a few journalists and government officials who wish to remain anonymous, appeared  like beacons and lit my way. A sneak visit was arranged to General Rani’s house and thereupon begins this story.

The house General Rani resides in is rather small, with little more than a handkerchief-sized lawn in front, and the main door opening into a virtually non-existent hall that leads straight to her room. There was an air of neglect about the house; the garden was unkempt and the floor unswept. General Rani was lying in bed. My first impression was one of shock. Having visualized an elegant, elderly woman, I was instead confronted by a dark, overweight woman. Her hair had obviously suffered due to heavy doses of chemotherapy, and the loss of hair accentuated the pock-marks on her face. But though visibly ill, she was in good spirits and happy to entertain visitors – a commodity I suspect, is a rare treat nowadays. General Rani hails from a village in Gujarat. Her father was a ‘zamindar’ and the family was reportedly well-to-do. Those who knew her family describe their house as one of the bigger mansions in the area, with a number of servants running around to the residents’ bidding. From the outset, Akleem was an independent spirit. She was a tomboy, fond of outdoor sports and hunting. And though she did not even complete her matriculation, her sharp intelligence more than compensated for her lack of education. At a tender age she was married to a police officer many times her senior. Though the marriage lasted for some time and she bore six children, General Rani was never happy. Her husband was a traditionalist and believed that a wife’s primary duty was to serve her husband. A woman as strong and independent as she found this hard to digest, and squabbles were common between the two. The sham their marriage was eventually reduced to, collapsed one day – right on Murree’s Mall Road. One summer, when the family was vacationing in Murree, a ‘burqa-clad’ Rani and her husband went for a stroll on the Mall. As was customary for him, he walked a step or two behind her so as to keep an eye on her. Suddenly there was a gust of wind – “a lovely breeze” says she, and quite spontaneously Rani lifted the ‘naqab’ covering her face to allow the breeze to caress her cheeks. Her husband immediately tapped her with his walking stick to reprimand her.  Enraged and insulted, she threw caution to the wind and flung her ‘naqab’ to the ground, and her ‘abaya’ into a cracking fire. She then turned to face her husband with a defiant gleam in her eyes. She explains her reaction in these words: “I just felt I had had enough. The anger and frustration had been building up inside me for many months, but that day, it just all came oozing out. I wanted to tear my husband’s muffler into bits, scratch his face, pull his hair out, and do all sorts of damage to him. The only thing that stopped me were the people on the Mall.” Though this incident marked the end of her marriage, the official divorce  process (if there was one) took place later. Most sources agree that Rani was only married once, but one of her closest friends states that there was a second marriage, much later in her life and of an extremely short duration. Whatever the truth of that marriage, the dramatic end of her first proved a turning point in her life and transformed Rani irrevocably. She began to thrive on her independence and her life philosophy evolved into a specific ambition. As she puts it, “I was determined to beat men at their own game. Since my husband was in the police, I had been observing men in positions of power throughout my married life and I had realized that all men in positions of power needed a vent and the vent they require the most is a bed-mate provided through a reliable agency. The higher a man’s position, the greater his demand.” In one interview, Rani stated: “I knew that dumb, pretty girls who come with no strings attached are a universal failing of men in power. After my marriage collapsed and I had to find the means to support myself and my children, I decided to become the provider of such girls to men in need.” In yet another conversation, she talked about the understanding she gained of the workings of the government by listening to her husband’s complaints.  “I realized that in this country everything worked on mutual favors and the profession that I had chosen for myself entitled me to these favors.” This outspokenness notwithstanding, Rani maintains she personally never allowed herself to be used or even thought of as any man’s keep. She contends she maintained her dignity and saw herself as a sexless mother figure. She says she was always the woman behind the scenes, there to run the show and mop up the mess.

The gods were obviously smiling on her, because soon after she adopted this profession, the man who was soon to run the show took a shine to her. She  describes her first meeting with Yahya Khan. “At that time Agha Jani was posted at Kharian and I was living in Gujarat. We met by chance at a party in Pindi club. Though I would often frequent such parties, I never joined in the drinking and dancing. Rather, I preferred sitting some distance away from the party and usually found a seat near the men’s room, well aware of the fact that the more they drank the more visits they would have to make to the toilet and hence past me. “Agha Jani was in full swing at this party. He was completely drunk, and  was continually traipsing back and forth from the men’s room. During one of these visits, he saw me and took a fancy to me. I remember asking about him and after we were formally introduced, I invited him to Gujarat.” Thereafter Yahya Khan began making frequent journeys from Kharian to Gujarat. Somewhere along the way she earned the title of General Rani and the name stuck. While speculation about the exact nature of her relationship with Yahya Khan rages – they were said to be friends, lovers, shared a sibling relationship or one of demand and supply at various times through the course of their relationship – the general consensus among Rani’s more intimate circle is that they never had a physical relationship. Various explanations are put forth to explain this. “Yahya never desired her,” says a friend. “She was a woman of principles and from day one, she made it clear to him what her limits were,” states another.

Nonetheless, after he became the martial law administrator, Rani became  a cornerstone in his life. Yahya’s weaknesses were drink and women and Rani masterfully catered to both. Among the women she introduced him to were film actress Taranna – film actress Andleeb’s mother – Madame Nur Jehan and Nael Kamal. She relates how Yahya’s fascination with Nur Jehan began.“One night Agha Jani came to visit me and was somewhat agitated. The moment he entered, he inquired if I had heard the song “cheeche da chala” from the film Dhee Rani. I smiled and stated that I had no time to listen to songs. So, he called the military secretary and ordered him to have a copy of the song delivered to my house at once. It was two o’ clock in the morning and the MS had to specially have an audio shop opened up in order to obtain the album. But the command was obeyed and within an hour, Agha Jani was blissfully listening to the song. “Observing him I smiled and stated that since he seemed to enjoy the song so immensely, I would bring the singer to his house on his birthday. This greatly pleased him and so the very next day, I took a flight to Lahore. In those days, a suite at the Intercontinental Hotel was permanently reserved for me and so from the airport, I went directly to the hotel. From there I called Nur Jehan and asked her to come and meet me. Till now, I had never been formally introduced to her; I just knew of her, as she knew of me. Well, Nur Jehan came, and we talked, and the next week she arrived in Islamabad to dance and sing for General Yahya Khan.” Madame Nur Jehan’s relationship with General Yahya Khan subsequently came under great scrutiny. At first, Madame persistently denied that she was on friendly terms with the general, but when objectionable pictures of both of them were printed, she resorted to another defense and officially stated that General Rani, had time and, again tried to get her involved with the general. In response to this, Rani laughed and commented that Madame was hardly a suckling infant who could be coerced into doing what others wanted her to do. The Rani-Nur Jehan tussle was played up by the press, until eventually, some time before the latter’s death, the two made up. Following is an extract from an interview General Rani gave after Madame’s death.

Q: Why did you introduce Madame Nur Jehan to General Yahya Khan?
A: Some tax inspectors were bugging Madame Nur Jehan and the poor woman was  in great distress. She asked me to help her out and I introduced her to Agha Jani.
Q: How would you define your relationship with Nur Jehan?
A: She was just like my sister and I often called her baji.
Q: How would you describe her character?
A: She was an exceptionally brave and confident woman, who brought up her children single-handed. The only flaw she had was her greed for money.
Q: It is said that Madame tried to drive a wedge between you and Yahya Khan?
A: I don’t want to say anything on this issue. If Rani catered to Agha  Jani’s every whim, there is no question that she was royally compensated. During Yahya Khan’s time, General Rani prospered way beyond her wildest  expectations. There are endless reports of how she would use her ’special relationship’ with Yahya to fill her coffers. She would ask for a plot of land or a house in return for a favor and those desperate for a job or  promotion would readily fulfill her demands. During this time, politicians were also eager to win her approval and among the many who curried her favor were Mustafa Khar and Z. A. Bhutto. General Rani describes her relationship with these two men: “Both Mustafa Khar and Z. A. Bhutto would come and sit at my house for hours on end, begging me to introduce them to the General. Mustafa Khar was particularly fond of listening to the poems I used to write. In fact if you compare Yahya Khan to these two, I would say that I was closer to Bhutto and Khar and arranged more parties for them than I did for Agha Jani.” It was a closeness that was not to endure. As soon as Bhutto came to power, General Rani was put under house arrest and her telephone connection was cancelled. Her crime in the words of an eminent lawyer was that, “she knew too much.” Thus began General Rani’s downfall. Once the issue of house arrest was resolved (courtesy S. M. Zafar) and her subsequent jail terms ended (the  most recent for drug-trafficking), General Rani never really reverted to her former glory. By now the money that had so freely flowed into her hands had also freely flowed out. Financially wrecked, socially ostracized, dependent only on the kindness of a few whose affections for her have endured, General Rani lives largely in the past – in the memory of days of wine and roses”.

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Some Old and Memorable Photographs of Pakistan Before Partition



Bazaar street at Shikarpur in Sindh, taken by an unknown photographer in the 1890s.

The mud daub roof, supported on a wooden framework, is largely collapsed. The historic town of Shikarpur, founded in

the 17th century, was once an important trading centre.

Due to its strategic location on the caravan routes of the 17th century, Shikarpur became the greatest commercial city

in Sindh. Its merchants and bankers held commercial relations with all the principal markets of Central Asia,
including Khorasan, Bukhara and Samarkand. Commercial cities of the Muslim world were known for their central
covered bazaars and Shikarpur was no exception, its bazaar, lined with shops mostly run by Hindu merchants,
ran through the centre of the old city, which is now much decayed.
The bridge of boats across the Indus and the Attock fort, seen from Khairabad, taken by John Burke in 1878.
John Burke accompanied the Peshawar Valley Field Force, one of three British Anglo-Indian army columns deployed in the
Second Afghan War [1878-80], despite being rejected for the role of official photographer.
Shrine of Zind Pir at Sukkur in the Shikarpur District of Sindh in Pakistan, taken by Henry Cousens in 1896-7.
This view looks across the causeway towards the entrance to the tomb.

Cousens wrote in the Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey of Sindh, 1897, “Upon the upper side of Bukkur,

and joined to it at low water, is the compact little island upon which, under the cool shade of some large trees,
is the famous shrine of Zinda or ‘Jind’ Pir. The island has been raised and protected against the corrosion of
the river by retaining walls of strong rubble masonry all around. The great gateway facing Rohri is a far more
imposing structure than the mean little domed shrine itself. The latter occupies the centre of the island, and
is a remarkable plain small square building surmounted by a low dome…”
Photograph with a view looking over the houses of the town towards the Baluch Lines of the Karachi Cantonment, taken by
an unknown photographer, c.1900, from an album of 46 prints titled ‘Karachi Views’.

Karachi – one of the world’s largest metropolises.

View on approaching Lahore from West – 1908
Sukkur 1860’s
Lawrence and Montgomery Halls, Lahore. Two large Halls for public meetings built by subscription in honour of Sir John Lawrence and Sir Robert Montgomery.

The Nedous and Lawrence of Arabia – A Page From Pakistani History

By Mubashir Hassan

July 18, 2008

nedous-hotel“Not many are aware any longer that the present Avari Hotel in Lahore stands on the site of a magnificent hotel, the Nedous, built at the turn of the last century by Harry Nedous, an Austro-Swiss hotelier. The Nedous family had arrived in India at

the turn of the last century and invested their savings in this hotel – later there were hotels in Srinagar and Poona.Harry Nedous was the businessman; his brothers, Willy and Wally did not participate much in the enterprise; his sister, Enid, took charge of the catering and her ptisserie at the hotel was considered ‘as good as anything in Europe’.
Tariq Ali in his book Bitter Chill of Winter makes a startling revelation to add to the Nedous’ history: Col T.E. Lawrence, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was not the lifelong bachelor he has been made out as. He went through a brief marriage in Lahore. This was revealed to Tariq Ali by a senior civil servant from Kashmir who had been told by Benji Nedous, the brother of the bride. Ali said, ”While Lawrence was stationed in India he used to go to the city of Lahore like many other officers, to relax. It was known as the Paris of the East and the Nedous family had a hotel there that was popular with soldiers wanting to rest and drink and so on, and that is where he met her.
“Akbar Jehan was the daughter of Harry Nedous, and Mir Jan, a Kashmiri milkmaid. Harry Nedous first caught sight of Mir Jan when she came to deliver the milk at his holiday lodge in Gulmarg. He was immediately smitten, but she was suspicious. ‘I might be poor,’ she told him later that week, ‘but I am not for sale.’ Harry pleaded that he was serious, that he loved her, that he wanted to marry her. ‘In that case,’ she retorted wrathfully, ‘you must convert to Islam. I cannot marry an unbeliever.’ To her amazement, he did so, and in time they had 12 children (only five of whom survived). Brought up as a devout Muslim, their daughter Akbar Jehan was a boarder at the Convent of Jesus and Mary in the hill resort of Murree. Non-Christian parents often packed their daughters off to these convents because the education was quite good and the regime strict, though there is evidence to suggest they spent much of their time fantasizing about Rudolph Valentino.
In 1928, when a 17-year-old Akbar Jehan had left school and was back in Lahore, a senior figure in British Military Intelligence checked in to the Nedous Hotel on the Upper Mall.Colonel T.E. Lawrence, complete with Valentino-style headgear, had just spent a grueling few weeks in Afghanistan destabilizing the radical, modernizing and anti-British regime of King Amanullah. Disguised as ‘Karam Shah’, a visiting Arab cleric, he had organized a black propaganda campaign designed to stoke the religious fervor of the more reactionary tribes and thus provoke a civil war. His mission accomplished, he left for Lahore.Akbar Jehan must have met him at her father’s hotel. A flirtation began and got out of control. Her father insisted that they get married immediately; which they did. Three months later, in January 1929, Amanullah was toppled and replaced by a pro-British ruler.
On 12 January, Kipling’s old newspaper in Lahore, the imperialist Civil and Military Gazette, published comparative profiles of Lawrence and ‘Karam Shah’ to reinforce the impression that they were two different people. Several weeks later, the Calcutta newspaper Liberty reported that ‘Karam Shah’ was indeed the ‘British spy Lawrence’ and gave a detailed account of his activities in Waziristan on the Afghan frontier.Lawrence was becoming a liability and the authorities told him to return to Britain. ‘Karam Shah’ was never seen again. Nedous insisted on a divorce for his daughter and again Lawrence obliged. Four years later, Sheikh Abdullah and Akbar Jehan were married in Srinagar.The fact of her previous marriage and divorce was never a secret: only the real name of her first husband was hidden. She now threw herself into the struggle for a new Kashmir. She raised money to build schools for poor children and encouraged adult education in a state where the bulk of the population was illiterate. She also, crucially, gave support and advice to her husband, alerting him, for example, to the dangers of succumbing to Nehru’s charm and thus compromising his own standing in Kashmir.”

The Story of Iskander Mirza and Nahid A Page From Pakistani History

Nahid and the Secretary: Liaison d’Amour

  By Pervaiz Munir Alvi

156776_10151147300128091_190092221_nIt is London, June 4, 1953. The official delegation of the Dominion of Pakistan, headed by Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra, who also holds the portfolio of Ministry of Defense, is staying at the Claridge’s Hotel. Included in the entourage is the Secretary Ministry of Defense. Only two days earlier the Secretary, as part of the delegation, had attended the pomp and show filled coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II. Today a telegram from the office of Air-Vice Marshal Cannon, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Pakistan Air Force arrives stating that the Secretary has lost his twenty year old son in a tragic plane accident. The Secretary is devastated. Comforting him in this moment of grief are his few close friends and a thirty-nine year old women named Nahid. The Secretary is Colonel Iskander Mirza – future President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Not much is known about Nahid’s background except that she was the wife of one Lieutenant Colonel Afghamy – the Military Attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Pakistan. Also not known are the time and the circumstances under which Colonel Iskander Mirza and Nahid Afghamy had first met. It is a matter of conjecture that perhaps as Military Attaché Colonel Afghamy had frequent dealings with the Pakistan Ministry of Defence and also with Secretary Iskander Mirza. Perhaps Nahid and the Secretary had met near about 1951 in some social gathering of the diplomatic circle of Karachi. However, first knowledge of the personal connection between the two comes to the Mirza family only in early 1952.

The Secretary had sent his elder son Humayun Mirza to England for further studies and training whereas he and his wife Rifaat Mirza would regularly visit their son during their yearly summer sojourn. In early 1952 the twenty-four year old younger Mirza received a letter and some money from his father telling him that the wife of a Colonel Afghamy would be visiting London and he was to entertain her while she was in town. Later that year the Secretary again asked his son to find a suitable school in England for the young daughter of Mrs. Afghamy. In spring of 1953 Mrs. Rifaat Mirza would herself take the little girl Safia Afghamy to London to enroll her in a school.

Then came the fateful day of June 4, 1953. The younger son of the Secretary – Enver Mirza is killed in a plane crash. The next day Government of Pakistan moves Iskander Mirza to Selsdon Park Hotel in Croydon, Surrey for private grieving. To the surprise of his son Humayun, Nahid is present at this hotel as well comforting his father in a very personal way. Humayun Mirza is very upset and embarrassed by the situation and wants Nahid to leave the room to which friends of the Secretary advise the son to let it be. Few days later the son is sent back to Karachi to be with his mother and four sisters while Iskander Mirza and Nahid Afghamy stay behind in London. Finally a month later Iskander Mirza returns to his home and family in Karachi. There is no talk in the family about Mrs. Afghamy.

In April 1954 ruling Muslim League lost the general elections in East Pakistan and the province fell into chaos. To deal with the situation Prime Minister Bogra appointed Iskander Mirza as Governor of East Pakistan. Iskander Mirza moves to Dacca but does not take his family with him. Did he take Nahid with him? Were the two married by this time? Nothing is clear. According to Nahid the two got married by proxy on July 7, 1953 after Iskander Mirza’s return to Pakistan from England and the actual marriage ceremony took place on September 5, 1953. However there is no public record of her account.

After spending six month in East Pakistan, in September 1954 Iskander Mirza left for England supposedly for medical treatment of his ailing back. Also in late September, Prime Minister Bogra, Foreign Minister Sir Zafrullah Khan, Finance Minister Choudary Mohammad Ali, Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, General Ayub Khan and few other members of the administration had gone to the USA on an official visit. On September 21 the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan stripped the Governor-General off most of his administrative powers. Governor-General asked the Prime Minister to return to the capital immediately. On their return trip from the USA, Bogra, Ayub, Mirza, and Pakistan’s High Commissioner in the UK, Abu-al-Hassan Isphani, all met at the London Airport to discuss the political development back home. After the meeting they all decided to fly back to Karachi aboard a chartered Royal Air Force plane arranged by Iskander Mirza.

Upon its arrival, the team with a plan in hand went to the house of Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad. There an agreement was struck between the Prime Minister and the Governor-General. The two agreed to dissolve the Constituent Assembly and form a new government with all in presence getting important cabinet positions. Mirza got the Ministry of the Interior, Choudary Mohammad Ali Ministry of Finance and Ayub in addition to his position as C-in-C got the Ministry of Defence. The occasion marks the beginning of the direct involvement of sitting civil servants and military officers in the running of the government at the highest level.

Month of October 1954 brings some more dramatic developments for Iskander Mirza. His son Humayun is in the USA getting ready to marry the daughter of Horace A. Hildreth, American Ambassador to Pakistan. None of the groom’s family is present at the wedding. Mrs. Rifaat Mirza is away in China as part of a Pakistani women’s delegation. Iskander Mirza is at home in Karachi with his four daughters when the phone rings. Nahid has returned to Karachi and for Iskander Mirza a personal scandal is about to break open in the public. All of a sudden the power broker par excellence is now powerless. The Minister of Interior is embroiled in a domestic problem of his own. White as a ghost Iskander Mirza rushes out of the house without speaking a word to his daughters. The master of crisis must control the biggest crisis of fifty-five years of his personal life. Nahid is no longer willing to be ‘l’autre femme’.

After absence of one week Iskander Mirza returns home and informs his daughters that he has taken Nahid Afghamy as his second wife. The news of his father’s secret marriage is related to Humayun Mirza on his wedding day in the USA while the first wife, Rifaat Mirza learns that only after her return from China. Iskander Mirza leaves his broken family never to return home or to see his first wife again. Two months later a second reception is held in Karachi to receive the newly weds. In addition to the families of the bride and the groom are present the dignitaries such as the Governor-General and the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Conspicuously absent are the father-of-the-groom and his new wife Nahid.

The new Cabinet included a number of civil bureaucrats and military officers. Country’s politicians unhappy with this development took the matter to the Supreme Court. The Court upheld Governor-General’s action but directed the government to hold fresh elections. Elections were held in spring 1955 and Iskander Mirza was elected as member of the new Constituent Assembly. His friend Ayub Khan chose to stay with the army and did not run for the election. The new Constituent Assembly was formed in June 1955 and Ayub left the government in July 1955. Year 1955 brought more dramatic developments in the life of Iskander Mirza. Pakistan, along with Iran, Iraq and Turkey joined the Baghdad Pact thus formalizing its alliance with the West. In coming months Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad became increasingly ill. The Cabinet in its August 4 meeting decided to appoint Iskander Mirza as the Acting Governor-General; he was sworn in his new position on August 7, 1955. Bogra resigned from the Premiership and later on was reappointed to his old job as Ambassador to the United States.

In the new Constituent Assembly Muslim League had lost the majority status and was forced to form a coalition government in partnership with the United Front. On August 11, 1955 Choudary Mohammad Ali became the new Prime Mister of Pakistan. Ghulam Mohammad resigned as Governor-General and Queen Elizabeth on September 19 confirmed Iskander Mirza on that post. On September 30 the Constituent Assembly passed Establishment of West Pakistan Act. On October 6, 1955 Iskander Mirza took the oath of Governor-General and a week later all four provinces of West Pakistan were merged into single West Pakistan Province to create parity with East Pakistan.

The new Constituent Assembly drafted the constitution on January 8, 1956 and after some debate passed it on February 17. On March 6 Iskander Mirza was elected as President and the constitution was promulgated on March 23, 1956. Three days later on March 26, 1956 with Nahid on his side Iskander Mirza took the oath as President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.. Thus in a passage of two years, mostly through palace intrigues and backroom dealings, an ex-soldier and a career bureaucrat rose from the level of a department head to the position of the Head of the State. And the Iranian born Nahid Afghamy, the wife of a Military Attaché lifted by a government Secretary of the host country, became the First Lady of Pakistan. For the next two and half years Nahid Mirza as wife of the President will play significant role in the national and international affairs of Pakistan. A few years  back Zulfi a young advocate gifts a packet of a dozen bottles of Black Dog to the GG House on the new Year. He  is invited  to the GG house;  dances with the  Nahid’s cousin Nusrat, looking for a match, who fall for him and they quickly get married.  Zulfi’s after a few years told Nusrat  about his first wife Amir Begum. As Iskander Mirza, proclaims Martial Law on 7th October Zulfi gets into the cabinet  as Industries Minister. On unceremonious departure of Iskander Mirza, on 27th October 1958,  Zulfi remains in Ayub Khan’s  cabinet.