By Nasim Yousaf
In the early hours of April 12, 2018, Allama Mashriqi and Wilayat Begum’s son, Inayatullah Khan Asghar, died. He was 84 years old. He was the last of the unsung freedom fighters from Mashriqi’s family; he was arrested at least twice during the independence movement of the Indian sub-continent (now Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh). During his lifetime, he crossed paths with all levels of society – from the working poor to the upper echelons.
Asghar was born on August 25, 1933 in Lahore. Since his birthday was the same as Mashriqi’s, his parents named him after Mashriqi. In his youth, Asghar was part of his father’s Khaksar Tehrik (founded on August 25, 1930), which fought British rule in the subcontinent until the nation obtained its independence. As a young boy (in the 1940s), Asghar was arrested for parading in Khaksar uniform and promoting his father’s mission. He was sent to a Juvenile jail along with other boys. When the police brought him to court, the Magistrate told Asghar, “I have great respect for Allama Mashriqi and I am freeing you.” Asghar replied, “I will not leave the jail until you release all the other arrested boys.” The Magistrate was impressed at his courage and confidence. Knowing that the jailed boys were not criminals, he ordered their release. Thereafter, some other juveniles also used Mashriqi’s name and sought their release. In 1947, Asghar was once again arrested. Jawaharlal Nehru came to know of Asghar’s arrest and on October 09, 1947, wrote a letter to Vallabhbhai Patel. Below is an extract from Nehru’s letter:
“…I am told that among the Khaksar prisoners there is Allama Mashriqui’s son Asghar Inayatullah, aged eleven years. If this fact is correct, the boy need hardly be kept in prison. His sister is in the Jamia.”
As an adult, Asghar emerged as a handsome and talented individual who was an outstanding communicator. In the 1950s, when he was in his early 20s, he was appointed as Deputy Director in the Government of Punjab in Pakistan. Six months later, he was promoted to Director. His rapid rise did not end there, as a few months later, he was offered an even higher position. Upon learning of this offer to Asghar, one of his colleagues jokingly remarked, “If you continue to be promoted like this, I am worried about Sikander Mirza [who was then in power], whom you could be replacing soon.”
Asghar left government service for personal reasons and traveled to Europe. During his lifetime, he held various professions – ranging from Government servant to journalist to successful businessman. While in Europe, he launched an industrial magazine entitled Today and Tomorrow. It was published from Netherlands and Norway. The publication promoted joint ventures between Europe and Pakistan and was well admired in Pakistan and abroad. Asghar had a wide range of connections with European manufacturers, industrialists, and businessmen. From Europe, he moved to New York and bought a mansion in an affluent area of Westchester County, where he continued with his business ventures. He held exclusive distributorship rights for the United States and some other countries from prominent corporations in Pakistan.
I also have many personal memories of Asghar. Asghar admired Eastern culture and traditions and enjoyed going to festivals and meeting people at the grassroots level. When he visited from the USA, he used to stay with me (in Pakistan) and immerse himself in cultural activities. For example, we went to the famous Mela Chiragan at the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, where he tasted all kinds of street food – from chaat to seekh kebabs to dahi barras. Although Asghar lived abroad for years, his heart remained with his own people and land. Eventually, he moved back to Pakistan and lived in Lahore Cantonment and later in Defence Housing Society. He was blessed with caring children (four sons and two daughters) who visited him periodically. As a result of Asghar’s advancing age, about five years ago, his eldest son moved to Pakistan to take care of him. His other children also remained actively involved. His caretaker, Zafar, also looked after him for over 30 years and became like family.
Overall, Inayatullah Khan Asghar lived a full live. His only regret was that Pakistan and India buried the memory and tremendous personal sacrifices and contributions of his father (Allama Mashriqi) to the struggle for freedom of the Indian sub-continent. He lamented that even leading and well-respected historians and media of the East and West did not do justice to his father’s role or portrayed him negatively.
Asghar will be remembered as an incredibly friendly and kind-hearted person. On the night of his death, he was talking (per usual) with his son and daughters (who were visiting him from abroad). He went to bed late at night. At some point in the night, Asghar woke up his children and Zafar. After speaking with them for some time, he again went to sleep and passed away peacefully at about 5:40 am. On April 12, around 8:00 pm, he was laid to rest at the feet of his mother (per his desire) in Miani Sahib Graveyard, the same location where his other family members and the Khaksar martyrs of March 19, 1940 (who gave their lives in the fight for freedom) are buried. His passing was condoled by people from all walks of life. It is sad to think that historians missed the opportunity to document his firsthand accounts and experiences from the freedom movement. With his death, a chapter of South Asian history came to an end.
The author, Nasim Yousaf, is Allama Mashriqi’s grandson and Inayatullah Khan Asghar’s nephew. Mr. Yousaf has published a book entitled Allama Mashriqi’s Sons & Daughters: British India’s Young Freedom Fighters that includes a piece honoring Asghar’s role in the freedom movement.
Copyright © 2018 Nasim Yousaf