Agha Showkat Ali's tryst with civil service

Begum Zafar Ali accompanied her father to Nishat where they had an audience with Quad-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. While her father remained engaged with Jinnah, Begum watched it from distance exchanging greetings with Miss Fatimah Jinnah. The meeting left a deep impression upon Begum Zafar Ali. After few days she met Jinnah again in a houseboat at Lal Mandi. She offered to facilitate a meeting of women with Fatimah who readily agreed to it.

The meeting of women with Fatima Jinnah was convened at Zananna Park (present day Secretariat Lawns). The organisers faced the wrath of nationalists and as a consequence Begum Zafar Ali had to resign from All India Women’s Conference.

To be in line with Kashmiri culture of those times her son Agha Showkat Ali accompanied her for her meeting with Jinnah at Lal Mandi. A male family member had to accompany a parda-nashin woman for all outdoor assignments. The way Nishat meeting mesmerized Begum Zaffar Ali, the same way the meeting at Lal Mandi proved to be a turning point in the life of Aga Showkat Ali. The relationship became more profound with the Quad-e-Azam visiting the family during his stay.

Agha Showkat Ali despite being in Civil Service became a restless soldier of the mission of Quad-e-Azam. He devoted all his capabilities towards understanding the man and mission of Jinnah and became a devoted fan of his ideology. It was not a one sided affair, the way Agha Showkat Ali had become fan of Quad-e-Azam and missionary of his vision, the same way Quad-e-Azam too visualized the potential of this young civil servant.

After leaving Kashmir, Quad-e-Azam wrote a letter to Agha Showkat Ali asking him to abandon the civil service and join the activities of Muslim Conference in Kashmir. Agha Showkat Ali was posted at Akhnoor (Jammu) as Tehsildar. Begum Zaffar Ali assigned the job of dispatching the letter of Jinnah to Akhnoor to her younger son Agha Ashraf Ali, who, out of mistake or for reasons best known to him didn’t post the letter to the proper address.  After some time Begum Zaffar Ali visited Akhnoor and came to know that the letter of Quad-e-Azam never reached to its destination.  She disclosed the contents to Showkat Ali who responded saying, since you have read it, it is an obligation for me to follow the wish of Quad.  He left the civil service and joined the ranks of Muslim Conference.

The state administration of Maharaja Hari Singh, though undecided about the future of Kashmir was keen to ensure that all potential supporters of accession with Pakistan remained under detention during crucial years preceding the partition. A signature campaign was manipulated within National Conference in order to identify pro-Muslim League elements within it. Ghulam Moh-i-din Kara who initiated this campaign along with all those who supported National Conference getting reconverted to Muslim Conference were imprisoned in the pretext of their pro-active role in Quit Kashmir movement.

The Muslim Conference leaders were also detained for their potential of influencing outcome of the state’s relation with the two emerging dominions. Agha Showkat Ali along with his brother Agha Nasir Ali too were arrested and put behind the bars. While most of the Muslim Conference leaders were in detention Sheikh Abdullah secured his own release through good offices of Mahatma Gandhi, tendered apology to the Maharaja, consented to the accession of the state with India and became its emergency administrator.

The autocratic rule of the Maharaja was succeeded by democratic despotism. Everyone who supported Muslin Conference became target of this despotism. They were killed, banished and their properties looted and plundered. The house of Agha Showkat Ali too became target of these state sponsored thefts to the extent that even medicines of the ailing parents were not spared.

Agha Nasir Ali and Agha Showkat Ali were in Jail. Unlike his elder brothers both of whom were alumni of Aligarh, Agha Ashraf Ali joined Jamia Milia at Delhi. On account of its proximity to the Congress party, Jamia Milia at that time was perceived to be a renegade Institution by the League dominated Muslim India.

With her ailing husband, mother of Aga Showkat Ali was left alone to run from pillar to post to rescue the family from this situation. On her visit to Central Jail, Srinagar, she had first-hand experience of the torture and trauma to which her son Agha Showkat Ali was subjected. She approached Sheikh Abdullah pleading that his son be either released or at least secured from torture within the jail. Sheikh Abdullah responded that the torture may be result of his own mistakes, obviously referring to his pro-Pakistan leanings, the same justification that he tendered for massacre of Jammu Muslims.

After some time, the state administration embarked upon a policy of exchanging pro-Muslim League detainees as Prisoners of War with Pakistan. K H Khursheed and Agha Showkat Ali where exchanged in lieu of Brigadier Gansara Singh, a close relative of Maharaja Hari Singh who had been captured by Azaad Kashmir forces at Gilgit.

As a result of this exchange Agha Showkat Ali landed in Pakistan. For a while he became a functionary of Muslim Conference. After the demise of Quad-e-Azam, he along with others from the Valley got marginalized and Muslim Conference of Azaad Kashmir became exclusive fiefdom of natives of that region.

Sheikh Abdullah on this side of the cease fire line too fell from the estimation of New Delhi.  Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru became suspicious of one another. “Diya ranj butoon nay tou Khuda yaad aya”, Sheikh Abdullah approached Begum Zaffar Ali seeking her help in motivating her son to come back with a promise of inducting him in the cabinet.  For this purpose he arranged her travel and meeting with Agha Showkat Ali at Wagah border in 1953.

The meeting didn’t yield any results. Incentive of ministerial berth, coming back to native home and enjoying life with his parents couldn’t distract him from the zeal and love for Pakistan. He refused to come back in spite of the fact that other family members had integrated with the system over here and held high positions in the administration.

Despite facing hardships he never repented on his decisions of leaving civil service and offer of ministerial berth. “Though basis of my steps was a motivation, the decisions worked to my advantage. Had I not left civil service I would have been consumed by communal carnage of Jammu like my incumbent. Had I accepted Sheikh Abdulla’s offer I would have landed in jail for decades along with him in 1953.”

During his stay in Pakistan he was given several assignments by the Pakistani state including one in London. Subsequently, he moved to the USA as a Fulbright fellow and international affairs remained the focus of his research. In Lahore he created Iqbal-Shariati foundation for propagation of thoughts of Allama Iqbal and Ali Shariati and remained associated with it up to his last breath. He expired on nineteenth of March 2013. Kashmir lost a prestigious son and me the lone fascination within Agha family.