By Ahsan ul Haq (Charvellendeh, Booni)
“When my fourth daughter came to this world, nobody bothered to congratulate me. All the villagers knew about the birth of my new child but they avoided congratulating me. The villagers thought I might not be happy to have another daughter, that’s why they refrained from visiting my home. I waited for the whole day and at last went up to the rooftop of my house and announced loudly: ‘’O villagers! God has blessed me with another daughter; why don’t you come to congratulate me.”
Upon hearing my voice, all the neighbours started visiting my home and congratulated me for the new baby. They also acknowledged the fact that they had assumed that I might be upset for having a daughter again. In fact, I wasn’t. Though Allah blessed me with two sons lately, I was never upset for having daughters because they too are marvelous blessings from Allah…”
My beloved grandfather (maternal) Mir Safdar Khan of Booni Gol (Gaziki Laal) shared this story with me when he was alive. This story is a very minute gesture of his matchless affection, tireless struggle and monumental affiliation which he demonstrated with his daughters throughout his life. During his entire life, he remained a staunch advocate of women empowerment, firm believer in women education and unequivocal proponent of gender equality.
Born with exceptional acumen, Gaziki Baba was a living embodiment of women empowerment. Being an innate rationalist, he believed that education was the only tool which can truly empower a girl.
During the late 1960s, it was unimaginable in the highly patriarchal society of Upper Chitral to send one’s daughter to school. My mother -being the first kid of grandpa – was among the handful female students studying at the Government High School Booni. Gaziki Baba repeatedly shared with me all the hateful comments which he faced for sending her daughter to school, but he never surrendered. Baba didn’t stop his quest for educating his daughters. He sends all his daughters to school.
Usually, many parents do not take further responsibility of their daughters once they are married. Interestingly, he remained engaged with his daughters, particularly for their educational purposes. Once their education was over, he rigorously supported them for going out for a job. A couple of decades ago, it was not easy for a female without strong support to go for a job, but Baba never let them feel dejected. He supported all of his daughters with all his capacity to pursue their desired profession.
By doing so, Baba not only set a distinctive example of women education but at the same time he also set a new illustration of women empowerment by backing his daughters to pursue their desired professions.
Gaziki Baba not only supported women on education and jobs but he was of the opinion that women should learn all the skills which are required for her to excel and prosper. He never undermined the potentials of women. He repeatedly suggested my Mom – his eldest daughter – to learn driving. It is indeed very tough to drive on the dangerous roads of Chitral but he believed that women can perform all those activities which a male does. His suggestion of driving to his daughter is again a very strong demonstration of his trust on women capabilities.
Historically, some misogynist societies see women as less intelligent creatures. Following an advice of a female is seen as a sign of weakness. But Baba throughout his life negated this idea. Most of the time he used to consult women members of his family and gave due respect and consideration to their point of view.
Gaziki Baba frequently used to quote the famous quotation of Sir Sultan Muhamad Shah Aga Khan-III which also accentuates his struggle. The quote says: “If you have two children: daughter and son and if you can afford education only for one child educate your daughter…”
Throughout his entire life, Baba stood by this Farman, and his submission to this Farman brought spectacular results. Today, all his children – both daughters and sons – are educated.
His eldest daughter – Mehru Nisa – became the youngest headmistress ever appointed in Chitral while his youngest daughter – Sarwar Jahan – procured the distinction of being the youngest lecturer of entire Malakand Division. Later, she served as the Principal of Government Degree College Booni. His other siblings are serving in different sectors, including health, education and NOGs. Moreover, his daughters played a cardinal role in educating their respective families while continuing the remarkable legacy of Gaziki Baba.
To some readers, this written piece might seem an aggrandized eulogy of my grandfather, or exaggeration of family achievements. But in reality it conveys a luminous message. If women are treated with equality, when they are encouraged to be independent, when their dignity is maintained, they can achieve milestones; even in a highly patriarchal and traditional world.
Gaziki Baba was the most grateful person I have ever seen in my life. Recalling the blessings of Almighty Allah and bowing his head in front of Him as a gesture of gratitude was one of his inspiring habits. More and often he used to present his gratitude with these words: “Thank God, my entire generation is educated.” Undoubtedly, he was the man who laid the foundation of education and transformed entire generation.
Napoleon was true in saying: “Give me an educated mother I shall promise you an educated nation.”
I believe Gaziki Baba is resting at the highest place at heaven because the Holy Prophet had himself promised that: “The person who brought up his daughters, or sisters, taught them good manners and treated them with kindness until they become self-sufficient. Allah will make Paradise obligatory for him.” (Muslim)