Tag Archives: 1947

Spotlight story : Humayun Khan [Rivaz 1941-1947]

imageHumayun Khan was born in 1932 to a Pashto-Hindko speaking family in Abbottabad, Hazara Division in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). His father was a District and Sessions Judge at the judicial commissioner’s court in NWFP, which is now known as the Peshawar High Court, and his mother was a homemaker. Mr. Khan’s paternal family is from the Yousafzai Clan, hailing from the village of Amazogray in Mardan. They were landlords with ownership of over two hundred acres of lands in the village that depended on wells and rainwater irrigation systems for harvesting wheat. Mr. Khan’s maternal ancestors hail from Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar. They were traders engaged in businesses with merchants from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Mr. Khan spent his early years of upbringing in Peshawar with two elder brothers and two younger sisters, and at age seven, he was sent to boarding school at Murree where he studied for two years. In 1941, he was enrolled at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla where he studied until Partition. Recalling life at the boarding school, Mr. Khan says that there were about two hundred boys from all faiths and backgrounds. “It was considered one of the best public schools. There was a great emphasis on teachings of morals and ethics like fair-play, being truthful, and self-sufficiency. I was always a good student and used to be first in the class,” recounts Mr. Khan. He was also an avid cricket player and competed on the school’s team. “We’d study in school for nine months out of the year and then be with our families. There was no such thing as discrimination in our school. We were never looked upon each other as anything but fellow classmates,” Mr. Khan recalls.

Speaking of his experiences at home during the holidays, Mr. Khan mentions that he enjoyed the traditional Peshawari way of life, including the food bazaars and the hujra (courtyard). “It used to be a romantic life. We would dine at my grandmother’s house, where she used to have these stoves on the ground. She would sit on a low stool all day and cook for the entire family. We never used knives or forks on the table,” he says. Mr. Khan spoke Pashto and Hindko at home.

At the time of Partition, Mr. Khan was at school in Shimla. “On June 3, 1947, all the senior boys were invited to the house of the senior master to listen to the broadcast on the radio, where Jinnah, Nehru and Baldev Singh spoke. We were so out of touch with reality there — we really didn’t take much interest in it. When the trouble started we remained unaware of it. We heard about riots in Shimla and Punjab but our political knowledge was heavily limited inside the school,” Mr. Khan remembers.

In early October of 1947, Mountbatten visited Shimla and spent one day at the Bishop Cotton School, as Mr. Khan remembers. “At lunch, the headmaster told him that he had 40 ‘odd’ boys who ought to be in Pakistan. Mountbatten advised to let those boys stay until they complete their studies. However, our parents in Pakistan were extremely worried. Some of them, including mine, were in powerful positions. They approached the then-acting governor of NWFP and urged them to get their children back from Shimla,” Mr. Khan says. In late October, the governor arranged a special convoy comprising of trucks under the supervision of Gurkhas to pick up the boys from Shimla. “We were loaded onto the trucks and taken to the Ambala Cantonment where we spent the night in barracks. The next day, a Dakota airplane was arranged by the governor to pick us from Ambala from where we flew to Lahore, and then Karachi. Some of the boys had families in Lahore and they were reunited with them. Some of them were flown to Karachi. There were seven of us from Peshawar, and we were dropped off at the Lahore airport and picked up by Mr. Leghari, the Commissioner for Refugees.”

Mr. Khan and the other boys stayed at the commissioner’s home for two days and slowly started to understand what was happening. “We didn’t initially realize the danger we faced because everything had always gone so smoothly for us, in our state of isolation. Two of Mr. Leghari’s sisters, who were students at the Auckland Girls High School in Shimla, had also travelled to Lahore, but by car. They had told him in our presence what they had seen on the road — the refugees and the violence. That was my very first impression of what was going on outside the walls of our school,” Mr. Khan recalls.

From Lahore, Mr. Khan and the other boys boarded on a train procured by the commissioner for refugees, and Mr. Khan was eventually reunited with his family at the Peshawar railway station.
“The clashes in Peshawar had died down by the time we arrived. My mother had very close relations with Hindu families. We used to virtually live at each other’s houses. My mother’s best friend was a Hindu lady. When I returned to Peshawar, I found out that they were all gone but had left their valuables — cars, furniture and carpets — with us,” Mr Khan recalls. “Some of the families managed to send representatives to Peshawar from India after Partition, so we were able to give them the belongings. Unfortunately, we’d later heard that these folks were looted at the border,” he says.

Sharing his observations on post-Partition life in Peshawar, Mr. Khan says that behavior patterns of the middle class remained very “English” for several years after their departure. “Even though there were very few Englishman left, the clubs and the cinemas kept going for several years after Partition and so did the civil structures — only now they were managed by Pakistani posts. We didn’t really find much of a difference in life. The roads and neighborhoods were safe. As boys, we used to go to the cinemas on bicycles at night. We did not live in any fear of being harmed,” Mr. Khan says.

Mr. Khan continued studying for his bachelor’s degree at Lawrence College, and then at the Edwardes College in Peshawar for one year. In 1950, Mr. Khan went on to study economics and law in the Trinity College in Cambridge, graduating with honors in 1953. His degree was later converted into a master’s degree, and in 1954, Mr. Khan joined the Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister of law. “I had dreams of being a successful lawyer but my complete lack of knowledge of reading legal documents in Urdu held me back,” he says. “At the Bishop Cotton School, we were only taught lower Urdu [basic alphabets and conversational phrases].”

In 1955, Mr. Khan became an officer with the Central Superior Services of Pakistan for the Frontier Cadre and offered his services for seventeen years in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [Waziristan and Malakand]. After 1971, Mr. Khan, secretary for the North West Frontier Provinces government at the time, was transferred to the foreign services office where he served for another eighteen years, beginning from his posting in Soviet Russia. In 1984, Mr. Khan was sent to India as the Pakistani High Commissioner. “Apart from Shimla, I’d never known India. This was my first chance to discover the country,” he says. He recounts his tenure in India to be the most difficult in the midst of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the resulting violence.

In 1961, Mr. Khan married Munawar Humayun Khan. (Read her story here: http://on.fb.me/21p1DGn They have three daughters. Sharing his thoughts, Mr. Khan offers, “We should…focus on the politics of reconciliation, instead of confrontation.”

This interview was conducted by Story Scholar Fakhra Hassan. The summary above provides a brief glimpse into the full interview. The complete video interview is expected to be public in 2017. Browse more stories on the STORY MAP: http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/browse


Appropriate written permission has been obtained from 1947partitionarchive.org to reproduce this article and photograph which are Copyright © of 1947 Partition Archive.


Hamayun Khan was at BCS Simla from 1941 to 1947 in Rivaz House.


BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE [at Bishop Cotton School]

The Best Years Of My Life:

My parents settled in Lahore decided to try for my admission at B.C.S where a nephew of my Late Father, Rustom Boga studied in the late 20’s. I was admitted to the Preparatory School situated at Chota Simla in March 1945 and recall Boarding a train at Lahore on around the 10th March,1945 and it was part of the Frontier Mail carrying fellow school mates who were travelling from Peshawar to Kalka via Lahore, Amritsar, Jullundar and Ludhiana to Kalka. We had a short stop at Kalka before Boarding the train around 6 AM to Simla which was about a 6 hour journey with numerous stops. It was an experience travelling on a mountain train which passed through about 100 tunnels. The main attraction was Jetoog/Behrogh where we had a short stop to fill the belly and thereafter I recall the stop at Tara Devi where Kevinter had their farm. We were escorted to the school around 2PM and after a tiring journey were moved to our Dormitory. I was admitted to Cotton House and my house Master was Mr. Shalom and later Mr.Murray. The Headmaster was Mr. Priestly with his wife in attendance to look after us. This was the first time I had left home and the first week was tough for most of the new faces. However, we were very comfortably looked after and fed and soon settled down to a very well organized and settled life. My first friend was Ramesh Bhasin who assisted me in settling down and finding my feet and as time went on the group of mates increased with Derek Crowl, Durrani, Ali Afridi, Niaz-ul-Haq, Persis, Ifti Malik, Mcdowell, Edrich etc.

Among the staff the name of a Mr.Shalom and Jones comes to mind who assisted us in our development and Dunda Hawkes-the Physical Training Instructor who had retired from the Army and was a boxing Champion in his day. I was at the Prep School for 2 years-1945 and 1946. In early 1946 Mr. Priestly left and an Old Cottonian Col. A.E.R Bruce took over as the Head Master. These 2 years at the School played a significant part in my development as the Staff were committed in assisting the country in producing men of character who would take the country and World forward. Apart from taking us for outings regularly to Chota Simla they also took us to some beautiful spots and the one I still recall is Brockhurst. We also visited the Main School on various occasions and they were mainly to view the Inter School fixtures between B.C.S. and Sanawar and we followed the path through the woods to the main school and entered where there was a Birds House in which a variety of birds were held. We watched the School’s matches against Sanawar from the 1st Flat which was covered and was the entrance to the Swimming Pool and the Gymnasium.

I moved to the Main School in 1947 and the year brought new challenges which added to my vision of the outside World as I witnessed the School go through a very traumatic and upsetting period. The School went through a very trying and difficult year in August 1947 at the time of Partition of India when a very large segment of our mates departed for their homes in Pakistan. The Head Master Mr. Drake and Staff at the time Mr. & Mrs. Fisher, Mr. & Mrs. Brown, Mr. Papworth, Mr. & Mrs. Murrey assisted us greatly in settling down. Continue reading

A School Boy’s Story

I was a young school boy studying at Bishop Cotton School, Simla when partition took place. After 60 years I was invited to the School for its 150th Anniversary and I then decided to write about myself and the journey from Simla to Lahore made possible by the kindness of many from both sides but mainly from the Indian side. The story is
factual. I shall be too glad to answer any queries.

Iftikhar Malik

A Schoolboys story – 1946/1947:

The winter of 1946 was spent with my grandmother and parents, brothers and sister in the  village on the banks of the river Chenab on the GT Road in District Gujrat. It was cold and frost covered the land in the mornings. The sun came up shortly before noon for a few hours before people retired and smoke from their homes wound  up and settled  at a height.

I was a boarder at BCS in Simla and as I had learnt the best way of spending holidays was to walk around the house, fag for my elder cousins Nasim and Akhtar, play football with the local schoolboys and read stories. The elders in the family excelled in medicine, civil service, engineering and were a source of inspiration for me and books around the house on the subjects were of some interest. Grandfather’s desire was that all his children excel in studies and they did not let him down. Visits to the fields were interesting especially where jaggery was prepared.

Off and on news from the city about a rebellion, civil disobedience, public meetings, hartals, tear gas and those who were arrested in the city defying the authorities filtered down to the village. Some of the village folk who used to go to the city  would return and tell us what happened. The word ‘Pakistan’ featured prominently and the village bard hoped to be sitting in the ‘Coamatee’ Hall ! Continue reading