Air Marshal (Retired) Sharbat Ali Changazi has served in Pakistan Air Force and made it to the highest military rank. His father left Afghanistan in 1880s due to ethnic subjugation of Hazaras, and joined the British Army in then India. Sharbat Changazi joined Pakistan Air Force after completing his education. He now spends his retirement years with his family in Karachi.
In 2007, Sharbat Changazi delivered a lecture in Quetta about the history of Hazaras. Here we are publishing, courtesy of Tanzeem-e-Nasle Nau Hazara Mughal, a part of his lecture about his memories as Air Attache in the Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, during the 1970s. Later on we will publish the other part of his lecture about the origin and history of Hazara.
“I had heard about the inhumane treatment meted out to our people by the rulers in Afghanistan. Most of it I learnt from my parents. My father left Afghanistan at the age of 18 and came to Peshawar, then British India. He had spent about 10 years in Kabul before leaving Afghanistan for good around the end of the nineteenth century, and, joined the British Indian Army in 1903 or so. My mother had left Afghanistan in the middle of winters, when she was seven years of age. By my reckoning she was born in 1892 and left Afghanistan around 1900. Their family settled in Fariman near Mashhad, Iran. My maternal first cousins still live in Farimen and Mashhad. Both my parents, though young, had seen firsthand some of the atrocities committed by the rulers of Afghanistan against the Hazara tribe. Similarly, I had heard harrowing stories from other Hazara people. Naturally the stories of atrocities committed against our people had left a major impact on my mind, like it did, I think, on every Hazara’s mind. The difference however, was that I was born and brought up at Quetta, in British India. My thinking was not subdued like hazaras under Durrani rule. Thus I could easily let out my frustration, which, I think, I did.
King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan had landed at Mauripur Base and was being entertained in the Officers Mess. Thus, in 1955, when as young Flying Officer (23 years old or so) in the Officers Mess Mauripur, the Station Commander Group Captain Steven Joseph, an Armenian Christian and Pakistani national, said to me that he would like to introduce me to the visiting King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan, I politely told the Station Commander that I did not want to meet the visiting King. When questioned why, I said that his ancestors had been extremely cruel to our people in Hazarajath of Afghanistan during the last 60-70 years. He chuckled at my reply and said that you must be a true Mongol to harbour a grudge for so long and that too about something their ancestors did to you ancestors! Group Captain Steven Joseph was a scholarly man and was well informed about the history of this region. He, as an Armenian, no doubt, knew about the treatment Armenians received at the hands of Turkish people. Having being persecuted in their history he could appreciate my state of mind so he did not insist. Little did I know that some 17 years later I would be posted as an Air Attache in Pakistan’s Embassy at Kabul, Afghanistan, when Zahir Shah would still be the King.
I was to arrive in Kabul in early 1972 to take over as the Air Attache in the Embassy of Pakistan, but due to exigencies of service my departure was delayed by ten months. I, along with my family, arrived at Kabul in January, 1973. After settling down we decided to go shopping. We were surprised to discover that most Hazara shopkeepers in Kabul not only welcomed us very warmly but also knew who we were and that they apparently were anticipating our arrival. Their warmth towards us was a very good feeling indeed.
During the period (1973-1976) while I was serving as Air Attache in our Embassy at Kabul, at a social gathering, Brigadier General Suleman Rokhai, a Mohamadzai, and married to the sister of the Queen of Afghanistan, thus, making him the brother in law (Hamzulf) of King Zahir Shah, asked me as to how come you call yourself Changezi. I asked him how come most Mohamadzai call themselves Durrani. He did not ask any more questions. He was a very good man, and as a Mohamadzai was connected to the ruling clique of Afghanistan. For nearly 100 years by then, they had been rulers. He may have, as an arrogant royalty, thought how can a Hazara dare call himself Changezi, when the Hazara tribe in Afghanistan had been brought down to serfdom, by Rakaie’s own ancestors.
We soon discovered that I was constantly followed by Afghan intelligence agencies. My residence was also under surveillance. The surveillance intensified after Daud took over in early 1973. Pakistan – Afghanistan relations were not good. Afghanistan indulged in propaganda against Pakistan through radio Kabul incessantly.
Then suddenly, on radio Pakistan, anti-Afghan propaganda started with equal or more vehemence, in Hazaragi and Dari. One night after a dinner at the residence of the Indian military Attache, as my wife and I came out of the house, General Rokhai Suleman and his wife, the sister of the Queen, bid farewell to the Indian Colonel and came out. It was bitterly cold and, and had in the earlier part of the day, snowed. General Suleman asked me as to why Pakistan continues to indulge in such intense propaganda against the ruling family and the Government of Afghanistan. In the Hazargi programmes you people even curse our ancestors like King Abdul Rehman and others. It is not a good thing. After all Afghanistan is your country as well. Why don’t you get these propaganda programmes stopped? I asked him how could I stop propaganda campaigns between two countries. He said all these progranmmes started after your arrival in Afghanistan. I was taken aback at such a direct accusation. I said that you are a very important person in Afghanistan. You are the Chief of Protocol in the Ministry of Defence. You are a general, besides being the brother in law (Humzulf) of the King. Could you get the Afghan radio propaganda against Pakistan stopped? He said that such things were beyond his authority. I told him if a general of such outstanding credentials like him cannot stop Afghan propaganda then how can a Group Captain of Pakistan Air Force have any influence in getting the Pakistani government’s policies changed? He smiled and his wife took a sigh of relief as she wanted to go home. It was bitterly cold. My wife also was impatiently waiting to go home, thus we quickly left for our cars after normal friendly salutations, etc.
After arrival at Kabul in January 1973, I, accompanied by my brief family, called on senator Nadir Ali Khan Jaghori, the leading Hazara of Kabul . He lived in the outskirts of Kabul near Silo. Silo was a grain storage facility. His daughter was married to Doctor Zamin who was the son of retired honorary Captain Ali Dost of Hazara Pioneers (British Indian Army) of Quetta. Nadir Ali Khan was an appointed senator in Zahir Shah’s political setup. Hazaras of Kabul did not trust the senator. He continued to remain a senator after Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin Sardar Daud. It was well known that immediately after Daud’s coup Mr. Nadir Ali Khan had gone to Sardar Daud to swear allegiance to the new regime. Thus he was allowed to continue as Senator. After Daud’s takeover, political tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan heightened dramatically, mainly , perhaps because of the very enhanced visible Russian influence in Afghanistan. During the uncomfortable political atmosphere, the verbal war through radio broadcasts between Pakistan and Afghanistan had immensely intensified.
One day, most unexpectedly, I received a message from Senator Nadir Ali that he wished to see me. This message was conveyed through the owner of a shop from where we used to purchase our groceries. The shop owner was a well known Hazara tribal loyalist. I was to meet the senator at night in a vacant plot of land at a certain place in Share Nau, Kabul. The messenger and I visited the specified location during daylight hours. The messenger told me not to trust Senator Nadir Ali as he is most untrustworthy. A message like this suggesting that I should meet a foreign senator (although a Hazara of Afghanistan), surruptiously, in the darkness of night, would naturally arouse suspicion in anyone’s mind. I was curious to find out what the senator had in mind. That could only be gauged after meeting him. I therefore decided to see him at the appointed place. I arrived at the appointed time at the vacant plot of land. The area was totally dark. A few minutes later the senator approached me. After usual pleasantries the Senator said that Daud regime was deadly against the Hazaras and the time has come for the Hazaras to rise. Government of Pakistan should give us weapons so that we can start a war of resistance against Daud regime. Such a dangerous suggestion coming from a person like Senator Nadir Ali obviously pointed to a more sinister plan. A man who would not travel from Kabul to Herat where his son was posted, without the permission of the ministry of Interior, was talking about a war of resistance against his own and his ancestor’s benefactors. That too, for the sake of Hazaras, was, to say the least, unbelievable. No doubt , he was the grandson of Sardar Sher Ali. I told the Senator the following:-
a) That, in the last ninety years or so the Durrani Kings have destroyed the very fabric of Hazara society in Afghanistan. In a monarchy, Hazaras had no voice. That, for the first time, the monarchy has been overthrown by the armed forces. Afghanistan has been declared a republic with Sardar Daud as the President. And, on taking over power the President of Afghanistan promised to introduce true democracy (Democracy- e- Haqiqi) in his very first address to the nation. That, Hazaras should ask President Daud for their rights and declare their allegiance to the new born republic.
b) That the job of Air Attaché is to cement brotherly relations between two Air Forces and the two countries. Air Attachés do not get involved in political intrigues.
The Senator was not satisfied. He asked me to think about it and let him know about my decision. We departed after usual pleasantries.
I had no doubt in my mind that he was doing all this on behalf of the Afghan government. The purpose was to trap me and get me declared as persona–non-grata. That would have created a huge diplomatic crises between the two governments, with Afghanistan having an upperhand . This also would have once again proved Senator Nadir Ali’s loyalty to Afghanistan at the cost of an innocent Pakistani Hazara Air Force officer’s future career. By the grace of the Almighty, senator Nadir Ali remained unsuccessful.
The shopkeeper met me soon thereafter and was extremely anxious to know about the Senator’s desire for the meeting, especially when the political tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan had become intense after Daud’s coup. I apprised him about what the senator had requested for, and, my response. He was relieved to hear about my response to the senator.
On my arrival in Afghanistan I had noticed that Hazaras were really downtrodden. They had suffered inhuman treatment at the hands of Abdul Rehman. Abdul Rehman wanted to subjugate all of Afghanistan. His natural allies were the British in India. British being wary of the expanding Russians Empire, wanted a buffer zone between the British Empire boundaries and Russian Empire limits. Abdul Rehman was helped by the British in every possible way to consolidate his power in Afghanistan. Abdul Rehman used excessive force even against his own people of Pashtun descent to subjugate them. He did not spare anyone, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, the Turkomans and the Hazaras. He was extremely cruel and treacherous in dealing with his opponents.
Besides the consolidation of his hold on entire Afghanistan he had another agenda of his own. He wanted the entire Afghanistan to be populated by the Pashtun people, therefore, de-population of other established tribal areas was absolutely necessary for his scheme of things to be achieved.
Hazarajat was not easily accessible, and independent Khans were ruling their own areas. They were powerful and they therefore resisted. Abdul Rehman levied extremely heavy taxes. People revolted. By various methods consisting of deceit, bribery, cajoling, honouring some Khans, treachery and extreme cruelty, he managed to eventually subdue the Hazaras. Then by a Fithwa, Hazaras were declared Kafirs. They were enslaved, their women and children were sold. Naturally the process of depopulation started. Following two maps will indicate how the Hazara territories were reduced to 1/3rd of its original size [Maps were displayed at the lecture, and are currently not available with Hazaristan Times].
However Amanullah Khan abolished slavery but by then Hazaras had been reduced to do only menial work and were looked down upon. Their status had become that of second class citizens. Hazaras had lost everything. The flow of migration continued to Russia, India, Iran and Central Asian countries. The resilience and deep rooted anger however remained as a part of the psyche of every Hazara.
No wonder, that as a young Flying Officer I had in 1955, refused to be presented to King Zahir Shah, who was at that moment present in the PAF Officer’s Mess Mauripur Karachi. No wonder that I wanted Changazi to be added to my name as my family name. I think the reason for both my decisions was the desire to be proud of being Moghol. I Suppose subconsciously I wanted to tell everyone that I am not ashamed of being a Hazara Moghol, irrespective of the degradation my people may have suffered at the hands of Pashtun kings and his tribesmen for 120 years or so.
No wonder that the most subdued Hazaras of Kabul were so warm and friendly towards me. They were proud to see a Hazara in that position. I, however, did not know that I was in fact witnessing the last few years of Hazara sufferings in Afghanistan. I did not know that after only three years i.e, in 1979, the cycle of Hazara resurgence will commence.
In my private thoughts I hoped that there should be communist takeover in Afghanistan. I was sure communist rule, as per its philosophy, had to treat the Hazaras as equal citizens. This seemed inevitable as Russain advisors were posted in all the ministries after Daud’s take over.
In 1979 the arrival of Soviets in Afghanistan was the beginning of Hazara revival. Monarchy had been abolished in 1973. Dictatorship of Daud was, in fact, a step further away for Hazaras from atrocities of Durrani monarchy. Since 1979 Hazaras have gone through many phases of revival. There were major upheavals. Rapid Changes kept most things out of focus. These rapid changes brought forward a Hazara to be Prime Minister of Afghanistan. This would have been impossible under Durrani Monarchy in Afghanistan.
The result of all those cycles, has been the revival of Hazara pride.
The persecution that started in the end of 19th Century lasted till 1990s. After the departure of Soviets, once the civil war started amongst the various tribes and tribal warlords, Hazaras started to reemerge. As expected, a misjudgment and a misplaced trust cost the Hazaras a tremendous loss. How could Abdul Ali Mazari trust his historically known enemies, is beyond my comprehension. Rise of Taliban once again made Hazaras faced with persecution and genocide. It is sad that the United Nations never took notice of this genocide. One lesson, however, must never be forgotten by the next generations of Hazaras. Never trust the treacherous people that have always failed you in your past history, even if they are Hazaras.
In Afghanistan of post 9/11, status of the Hazara people is totally different from the one they had to suffer under the Durrani rule for 120 horrible years. Today Hazaras are found in every walk of life. They hold their head high with pride. I hope and pray that Hazaras elsewhere learn a lesson from the long sufferings of our forefathers in Afghanistan.
Special thanks to Mirza Azad, General Secretary of Tanzeem-e-Nasle Nau Hazara Mughal, for providing exclusive photos to Hazaristan Times.