GILGIT: One of the major figures of the Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) liberation war against the Dogras in 1947, Group Captain Muhammad Shah Khan, was laid to rest in Gilgit on Sunday.
Khan passed away a day earlier in Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Gilgit at the age of 92. He is survived by three sons, two daughters, 15 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.
He was laid to rest at Chinar Bagh, where other freedom war heroes are buried, in the vicinity of G-B Legislative Assembly.
The burial ceremony was attended by Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, Commander of Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) Major-General Saqib Mehmood, Base Commander Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Kalabagh Tasawur Abbas Naqvi and other civil and military officials.
Group Captain Shah Khan joined Gilgit Scouts in 1942 as the Viceroy’s Junior Commissioned Officer and was Junior Adjutant of Gilgit Scouts during the uprising in November 1947, which led to independence of G-B, spread over 72000 square kilometers. He led the Eskimo Force (Gilgit Scouts) that conquered Kargil and Daras sector during the war of independence in 1947.
After the freedom war came to an end, with the liberation of 72,000 square kilometres of land, Shah Khan was commissioned in the PAF. He retired as a group captain in 1980. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Naltar Ski Resort which has been named after him.
He was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat, Pakistan’s second highest gallantry award in 1948 for his glorious role in the liberation of G-B.
Group Captain (retd) Shah Khan was the last of the leaders of the freedom struggle.
In his book titled The Gilgit Rebellion, Major William Brown, who was then commandant Gilgit Scouts, has mentioned Shah Khan on various occasions.
Governor G-B Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan and CM Hafeezur Rehman expressed deep grief and sorrow over the demise of the hero of G-B liberation war.
In their separate messages they paid tributes to his gallantry during liberation war against Dogra rule in G-B.
The ski federation also condoled the sad demise of late Shah Khan and a special condolence meeting will held and prayers offered for the departed soul.
Major William Brown, the Maharaja’s commander of the Gilgit Scouts, led a mutiny on 1st November 1947, overthrowing the Governor Ghansara Singh. The bloodless coup d’etat was planned by Brown to the last detail under the code name ‘Datta Khel’.
According to reports, the mutiny came on 26 October 1947, when Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir, faced with a tribal invasion from Pakistan, signed the Instrument of Accession, joining India. Gilgit’s population did not favour the state’s accession to India.
A provisional government was established by the Gilgit locals with Raja Shah Rais Khan as the president and Mirza Hassan Khan as the commander-in-chief. However, Major Brown had already telegraphed Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan asking Pakistan to take over.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2016.