Nawab of Sherpur State

Barrister Sameen Khan — a ruler, freedom fighter and diplomat

By Jamil Khan | KARACHI

THE last ruler of Sherpur State, once a princely state in UP, India, near the Nepal border, Sameen Khan, 80, spent his youth as an active member of the Pakistan Movement and was seen to be close to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on many occasions.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Times, Barrister Sameen Khan laid open his entire life story. He has been a ruler and an active member of the Pakistan Movement, representing Pakistan in many international conferences in different corners of the world and visited Afghanistan as a Mujahid during the Russian invasion and later as a state guest of the Afghan government during and after the Taliban rule.
Sitting in the magnificent living room of Sherpur House located on Nawab Ismail Khan Road, Khan narrated his story spanning almost eight decades. The walls of the room were decorated with old pictures depicting family members, school life, renowned personalities of the 20th century and awards for various achievements. The most remarkable piece on the wall was the skin of a hunted tiger.
His ancestors belonged to Rohilkhand and took part in the Panipat War in the Third Cavalry and settled in Rampur State after the war. Saleh Muhammad Khan founded the new Sherpur State on 325 square miles in Uttar Pradesh near the Nepal border.
In 1773, the East India Company fought against Rohilkhand and seized Sherpur State but returned it to the family in 1801. According to Khan, Sherpur was once inaccessible to outsiders and before 1949, there was only one rail link. After Partition, the Indian government constructed roads to Sherpur.
“My father, Nawab Zaheeruddin Khan was anti-British and took part in the Khilafat Movement and later in the freedom movement. He was married in 1920 to Noorus Sabah Begum who belonged to a notable family of Rampur and she also took part in these movements with my father,” he said.
Barrister Khan, who was born on January 11, 1928 in Sherpur State, was educated in English institutes and become a prominent member of the super elite class of Muslims. He was enrolled in Aligarh University in 1942, where he first met Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was invited in as chief guest.
“The following year, a group of students of the Aligarh University met the Quaid-e-Azam at Habib Manzil, where he was staying and were photographed with him. Unfortunately, the picture was not included in my personal belongings,” he recalled.
“It was a tradition among Muslim rulers to educate their children with high standards and to this end, my father inducted an Englishman, Colonel A.E. Ward, who introduced British culture to me and taught me high society manners,” he said.
“Even though I was not a member of All India Muslim League since I was underage at the time, nor was I a member of the All India Muslim Students, I still had much contact with the Quaid-e-Azam and become one of his confidantes,” said Khan.
While recalling those days, he said, “I was once with my friend, Naseem Ahmed, when the Quaid asked me to check his car, which had some problems and when returned after seeing to the faults, the Quaid insisted that we accept payment and gave us a check worth Rs 57. When we returned, Ahmed said that he will not draw the check, but rather will keep it, for the check had the Quaid’s signature,” he said.
Khan, who got married after partition, visited Pakistan and stayed for some months and when returned to Sherpur, Indian government officials visited him and said that the government had seized the state as his family took part in the independence movement.
“At that time, we lost everything and came to Karachi to purchase this house and started life anew as the government of Pakistan did nothing even for those who were active in the independence movement,” he stated.
After getting married, Khan was called to bar with a law degree and double LLM degrees. He was the leader of the first delegation from Pakistan to Afro-Asian Conference held in India in 1967. “On that platform, I got a position which later allowed me to represent Pakistan at a large number of conferences,” he said.
He chaired the copyright board, whose members were Jameeluddin Aali, Ataur Rehman and Sheikh Niaz Ahmed. During the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, Khan visited the war-torn country four times and took part in Jihad.
“A friend visited me in 1982 and asked me to educate the Afghans, who were unable to understand international politics and recognize the conspiracies that were being hatched around them. To gain the trust of the high-ranking Afghans, I took part in Jihad and visited the country four times for Jihad and even after the Russian evacuation, I visited the country many times and met with President Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ahmed Shah Masoud and others on their invitations,” he said. “That the defense minister, Ahmed Shah Masood, used to say that I taught him the tactics of negotiations reflected the level of confidence that they had in me,” he recalled.
The government of Pakistan issued a commemorative postage stamp in 2004 of Noorus Sabah Begum under the title of ‘Tehreek-e-Pakistan Ki Mujahida’ (female freedom fighters of the Pakistan Movement).
-Published in Daily Times | Aug 14, 2008

~ by jamilkhan on August 15, 2008.

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