BY: T.C.A. Rangachari
Miangul Aurangzeb was a proud Pakistani and a friend of India
You must be the new Indian deputy high commissioner,” said the stocky, somewhat imposing, well-dressed Pakistani at the Italian National Day reception on June 2, 1986. “I know everyone at the Indian embassy. I knew a new DHC was coming,” he continued, without a pause in his bantering way, “and you are a new face. So you must be THE ONE. Tell me your full name.”
Taken aback by his directness, I said my name is Rangachari. “Pura naam batao,” the gentleman insisted. I said it was rather long and it was hardly fair to inflict it on him. “From your name, I can make out you are a south Indian. I know many of them and they all have long names. So go ahead.” I gave him my name: Tirumalai Cunnavakum Anandanpillai Rangachari. He asked me to say it once more and was able to repeat it back. “I can make use of your name.” And make use he did. Every time we played bridge together with other Pakistanis, he would take impish delight in springing it on one of his unsuspecting guests. He once infuriated the venerable old industrialist Ardeshir Cowasjee, who wanted to refresh his drink, with the line: “You first pronounce his name in full so that I know you are not drunk. Only then can I allow you another drink!”
That was Prince Miangul Aurangzeb, the wali ahad (crown prince) of the state of Swat and son-in-law of the former president of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, who passed away on Sunday, August 4, at the age of 86. He was an alumnus of the Doon School and St Stephen’s College who went on to serve Pakistan in different capacities, including as an army officer, aide de camp to then president Ayub Khan, member of the National Assembly, and governor of NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Baluchistan. Yet, above all, he remained a man of the people, mingling freely with the mighty and the aam aadmi, giving to and winning the friendship and affection of all he came in contact with. He once shocked our Indian cook by hugging her in appreciation for a meal she had cooked for him.
Miangul had an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything and of everyone in Pakistan. He was a raconteur par excellence, not always diplomatic, and yet never would anyone fault him for malice. Irreverent towards authority, he once left our house after dinner, only to be held up by the omnipresent intelligence operatives hanging around at the end of the road to monitor everyone who visited the embassy or its officials. He told me later that when they asked him “Kya karne gaye thhe?” he replied, “Pakistan ka sauda karne gaya tha. Lekin yeh Hindu sab baniye hain. Sahi daam nahin de rahe thhe. Toh maine nahin becha.” It is difficult to imagine even the dourest operative not finding this amusing.
This irreverence was not reserved only for the lowly. He pricked the ego of officialdom with flair and finesse. But because he never hesitated to tell a
joke, even if it showed him in a less than flattering light, everyone took his humour in stride. He found, for instance, that when accompanying President Ayub on his visit to the UK soon after he had married his daughter, Naseem, he was assigned a room befitting his official position as the president’s ADC rather than as a member of the family. The contortions with Buckingham Palace’s protocol officers that resulted before he was finally allowed to share his wife’s bedroom — in the strait-laced 1950s — made for rare hilarity, as did his discovery of the palace facilities in the middle of the freezing cold night.
A quintessential subcontinental who transcended boundaries — geographic, religious, social — Miangul lived life with an effortless ease. Although a proud Pakistani, he never felt it necessary to be anti-Indian. At the most tense moments of Indo-Pak relations, one could find solace in his company and realise that this, too, was a passing phase between the two nations. Miangul despaired at bigotry of any kind and railed against the growing Islamisation of Pakistan.
He and Naseem were inestimably warm in their hospitality, as we repeatedly discovered at their homes in Islamabad and Saidu Sharif, the capital of Swat. One visit to Swat coincided with the elections to the National Assembly in 1988, following the death of Zia-ul-Haq. Miangul was a candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif; his opponent was from the Awami National Party led by Wali Khan, the son of Frontier Gandhi, who had died in January that year.
The Pakistanis were convinced that India was supporting the ANP. At his campaign rally, to which he took me (Naseem took my wife separately to the rooftop to watch the rally as women were not supposed to attend), he spoke of the need for Pakistan to stand up to India and protect its interests, and in the process criticised Indian policies. With a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, he translated all that he was saying from Pushto into English and said, “I have told you fellows off.”
Not that that helped his campaign, because the ANP candidate was saying at his rally (which too I attended) that the PML candidate was indulging in doublespeak, as he had the Indian deputy high commissioner staying with him at that very time! It was a strange but not uncommon situation. Public and private postures did not always coincide. Neither political party felt it mattered beyond a point.
Prince Miangul Aurangzeb was a friend not just to me but to all of India. As his eldest son Adnan told me, his life is to be celebrated, not mourned. As long as people like Miangul are around, the prospect of friendship between India and Pakistan will always remain worth pursuing.
The writer is a former ambassador to Algeria, France and Germany. From 1986 to 1991, he was deputy high commissioner in Islamabad
For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now