H.H. SIR SHUJA-UL-MULK, K.C.I.E.
Mehtar of Chitral
By the death on the 13th October 1936 of His Highness Mehtar Sir Shuja-ul-Mulk, k.c.i.e., the Himalayan Club lost one of its most distinguished members.
Colonel Mason has done me the honour of asking me to write an obituary notice for this Journal, and as the oldest of the late Chief’s English friends I welcome the opportunity of paying a tribute to the memory of a very faithful friend. My last meeting with the Mehtar was at Peshawar in 1908, and more than twenty years have elapsed since I left India. I feel therefore that I am not very well qualified to undertake the task entrusted to me. However, with the aid of the notice which appeared in The Times last October, and the kind help of my friend Colonel Kennion, I make the attempt.
Shuja-ul-Mulk was the younger of two sons born to Mehtar Aman-ul-Mulk by his marriage with a daughter of the Khan of Asmar. Amir-ul-Mulk, the elder son, instigated the murder of his half-brother, Mehtar Nizam-ul-Mulk, in January 1895 and for a brief period became de facto ruler. Owing, however, to treacherous behaviour after the invasion of Chitral by his brother-in-law, Umra Khan, the Chief of Jandol, and after the arrival on the scene of his uncle Sher Afzal, Dr. Robertson, the British Agent, decided that, even if his participation in the murder of Nizam-ul-Mulk during the presence of his Assistant (myself) at the head-quarters of the State could be condoned, the recognition of Amir-ul-Mulk by the Government of India could not be recommended. Negotiations with his uncle, Sher Afzal, then in alliance with Umra Khan, and the only other possible claimant to the masnad, having failed, Shuja-ul-Mulk was provisionally recognized by Dr. Robertson as Mehtar, subject to the approval of the Government of India, at a Durbar held in Chitral Fort. I am now the only survivor of the small band of British officers present on that occasion and I have a vivid recollection of the dignified and self-possessed behaviour of the subject of this memoir, then, I think, aged not more than fourteen. About fifty Chitralis including six or seven of the most important men in the country-princes and officials-were present in the Fort during the siege which began on the 3rd March, and Dr. Robertson considered it essential that some member of the ruling family should be recognized by us as Chief in order to contradict the persistent rumours then current that our Government intended to annex the country.1
Although of such a tender age when his public career began Shuja-ul-Mulk was old enough to have a vivid recollection of the tragic events which followed the death of his father, the Lut Mehtar, in August 1892-I refer here to the murders of his half-brothers Shah-ul-Mulk, Wazir-ul-Mulk, and Bahram-ul-Mulk by his half- brother Mehtar Afzal-ul-Mulk after the banquet to which he had invited them in the Fort, and to the sudden termination of the latter’s reign in November when he was killed by the followers of Sher Afzal on the occasion of that Prince’s totally unexpected dash across the Dorah pass and his midnight entry into the Fort. Several other of his half-brothers and many influential men met similar untimely ends during this period of fratricidal strife, and it was always a marvel to me that Shuja-ul-Mulk’s nerves remained unaffected by all the treachery and tragedies of his early years. There is, I think, little doubt that these events helped him to realize to the full the advantage of the support of the Government of India.
That Ghitral since those far-back days up to the present time, though primarily without doubt due to the presence of Government troops, has enjoyed a degree of peace and quiet without parallel in the neighbouring parts of the North-West Frontier, must be attributed to a great extent to the Mehtar’s natural wisdom and sagacity-he had in the early years of his reign no lack of bad advisers!-and also, as I have already indicated, to the experiences of his young days which engendered in his mind a complete confidence in the power and benevolence-or, to use the comprehensive Persian expression, in the iqbal-of the Government of India. He fully appreciated the advantages obtainable from the introduction of aircraft and motor-cars, and on at least one occasion he returned to his own territory from India by air. In this connexion I may mention that when I asked him in a private letter whether, after his own decease, he had any anxiety as to the possible recurrence of disturbances similar to those experienced in 1895, wrote to me that he was quite confident that the existence of aircraft would prevent any such troubles. He wrote that the Political Agent had recently lunched with him, and had been able, travelling both ways by air, to return to Malakand in time for tea on the same day. Shuja-ul-Mulk had no hesitation in availing himself of the help offered by the Government of India in the education of his sons- I may mention here that his eldest son and successor, the present 1 For an interesting account of the events that led to this situation see Colonel Gurdon’s two papers ‘Chitral Memories’, in Himalayan Journal, vols, v and vi, 1933, 1934.- ruler, H.H. Mehtar Mohamed Nasr-ul-Mulk, now aged thirty-eight, is an honorary Gaptain in the Indian Army, and a graduate of the Punjab University. Other events during his reign which had a marked effect on Shuja-ul-Mulk’s general attitude towards his own duties and responsibilities were the visits to Chitral of the Commanders-in-Ghief Lords Kitchener and Rawlinson. Here mention must be made of the body of Chitral Scouts, first raised in 1903 for local defence. Paid by the Government of India and trained by British officers, the Scouts not only provided useful employment for the feudal nobility of Chitral (Adamzadas), thrown out of a job by the Tax Britannica’, but proved of great value for the protection of the Frontier with Afghanistan, extending from the Dorah pass to the Kunar river-witness their admirable behaviour during the third Afghan War in the spring of 1919, when within ten days they repulsed the Afghan invaders with considerable loss, including the capture of several guns. It is idle to suppose that such a result would have been possible if the Mehtar had wavered in his steadfast loyalty, or had failed in the intervening years to take a deep interest in the Scouts.
Shuja-ul-Mulk was a devout Sunni, and made the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1924, but the bigotry and fanaticism of the North-West Frontier Pathan finds little place in the Chitrali character, and it certainly did not do so in his. Pressure was doubtless brought to bear on him in the opposite direction, but without result. So it followed that his many Maulai subjects-followers of the Aga Khan -suffered no disabilities. Even the Kafir families, fugitives from the oppression and forced conversion of the Afghan Amir, were given unmolested domicile in Chitral territory.
A love of sport is characteristic of the peoples of the Hindu Kush, and it was shared by the late Mehtar. Shooting, falconry, polo (local rules), chess, and listening to singing accompanied on the sitar, all came within the ambit of his relaxations. Falconry, perhaps, was his favourite sport, and he was very proud of the unrivalled skill of his falconers.
He was naturally courteous, and was a charming host. By the not very large number of our countrymen who knew him well, and not least by myself, the death of Mehtar Shuja-ul-Mulk will be very much regretted. I personally shall very much miss the friendly letters which he addressed to me with unfailing regularity.
Shuja-ul-Mulk’s outstanding loyalty to our Government was rewarded by his creation as K.C.I.E. and the grant of a personal salute of eleven guns in 1919, with the title of His Highness the Nawab a year later. Both the salute and the title were made hereditary in 1932. He had been made a C.I.E. in 1903. He visited India for the Delhi Coronation Durbars in 1903 and 1911, and on several other occasions.