Speaking of the Khans, so to speak

If the above-mentioned two could be called double-barrelled Khans, then our current Khan, the one who allegedly fathered the “illegitimate child”, has to be an artillery Khan, for sheer ballistic power and bluster, not to mention machismo.

(Daily Times, 26 June 2018)

I have often pondered over our Khan conundrum, but not until I read an opinion piece on these pages have I been moved to actually write about it. The op-ed in question is titled: “Khan’s illegitimate child is not our business”.  Of course, Khan’s whatever child is Khan’s business. But that is another matter. What matters now is, which Khan’s business is it?

Obviously, the Khan referred to has to be a famous, a very famous Khan, to warrant an op-ed with an illegitimate child in tow. Lucky Khan he may be, but in a country of many millions of Khans, one would like to know from the caption itself, which Khan is this Khan.

Such a sexy caption would undoubtedly attract hordes of readers, as ants to sugar. Truth be told, in our Islamic Republic, “illegitimate children” cause tremendous fascination, bordering on envy, if they carry the genes of Khans and Choudhrys. But the bastards who spring forth from the immoral, un-Islamic acts of the less fortunate deserve nothing but contempt and condemnation.

Be that as it may, most Pakistani readers would know from the caption of the op-ed in question which “lucky Khan” is the author referring to. I do not make this assumption because this Khan is exceedingly macho, although this is true. I say so because people in Pakistan devote more time to reading, watching, listening to and debating current political and politician-related affairs than any other nation I can think of.

Pakistan may have the distinction of being the country with the most TV anchor-persons and talk shows per capita on current affairs. Politicians are not just fair game, but there now seems to be an open season on them, on a few of them at any rate. Presently, this particular politician Khan and most other professions are totally exempt from scrutiny by our army of talk-show hosts. Heaven knows why.

Now, let me deal with the confusion with the name Khan. Khan is an honorific, a family name or surname and, usually but not always, a last name. Sometimes, like Chowdhry or Syed, it appears as a first name, as in Khan Mohammad. Occasionally, it pops up somewhere in the middle, like Malik Feroz Khan Noon.

Then there are the double Khans, such as Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan and Khan Abdul Wali Khan. Many referred to them as double-barrelled Khans, some lovingly, others pejoratively.

Don’t get me wrong but, if the above-mentioned two could be called double-barrelled Khans, then our current Khan, the one who allegedly fathered the “illegitimate child”, has to be an artillery Khan, for sheer ballistic power and bluster, not to mention machismo.

In a country without a custom or legal requirement of family names, I find the practice of referring to people merely as Khan, a bit awkward and confusing.

Take the number of Khans who have ruled Pakistan (lucky Pakistan!) in its brief history: Liaquat Ali Khan, Feroz Khan Noon, Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan. Musa Khan and Tikka Khan retired as Pakistan Army chiefs without, mercifully, seizing the reins of government. Quite a few Khans have headed the Pakistan Air Force: Asghar Khan, Nur Khan, Rahim Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Khan, Feroze Khan, Mujahid Anwar Khan. The navy has had two Khans as chiefs: Saeed Mohammad Khan and Tariq Kamal Khan.

An exhaustive list of all the Khans who have held very high positions in Pakistani government, armed forces or politics will take many pages, but just to mention a few more here: Zafrullah Khan, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Azam  Khan, Nawab Amir Mohammad Khan, Ghulam Jilani Khan, Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, Choudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

In sports, we have had the Great Khan aka Imran Khan, Mohsin Khan, Younus Khan, Junaid Khan, Shadab Khan, Jahangir Khan, Jansher Khan, Samiullah Khan and Hanif Khan. In the world of music, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Adnan Sami Khan come to mind.

And which Pakistani worth his salt does not know of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the country’s nuclear bomb!

And if memory serves right, they were never referred to as just Khan, but always as Liaquat Ali Khan, Zafrullah Khan, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Asghar Khan, Musa Khan, Nur Khan or Qadeer Khan.

Across the border, in India, Bollywood is saturated with Khans: Shahrukh Khan, Amir Khan and Salman Khan, to mention but three super stars. Some other famous Indians with the name Khan: Zaheer Khan, Bismillah Khan, Amjad Ali Khan and Zakir Khan.

Overseas, there is Prince Karim Agha Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London. According to Wikipedia, “Khan is the surname of over 108,674 British Asian people, making it the 12th most common surname in the United Kingdom and one of only a handful in the 100 most common surnames which are of neither British nor Irish origin.”

Wouldn’t it be better and more correct to refer to Imran Khan as Imran Khan, just as Ayub Khan was always Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan was Yahya Khan? If economy of words is paramount, then Imran, Ayub or Yahya is more appropriate in a country with a surfeit of Khans.

Although it is no longer fashionable but, not so long ago, a multitude of women in our subcontinent carried the last name “Begum” or “Bibi”. But no newspaper headline ever announced “Begum (or Bibi) gives birth to her tenth child”! With so many Begums and Bibis strutting the stage, we would always, correctly, refer to her as so-and-so Begum or Bibi.

May I, therefore, humbly request our honourable newspaper editors to refrain from mechanically imitating the western practice of using last names only and refer to people not just as Khan, but as so-and-so Khan. I hope no Khan takes umbrage at my suggestion.

I know the feeling, a Khan is a Khan, but we ordinary people find it a bit confusing, not knowing which Khan is the matter at hand. Give legitimate credit where it is due, right away, even if the issue is “illegitimate”! This is no child’s play.

But particularly when it involves fathering an “illegitimate child”, more clarity at the very outset is highly desirable, lest some Khans get a bit nervous. Who knows, a Khan or two might even be struck down with a heart attack before they can even get to the body of the article to find out the identity of the Khan in question. After all, we live in an Islamic Republic, where fathering an illegitimate child is a most serious criminal offense!

Ever read the story about “chor ki darhi mein tinka”* in school?

*Translation for non-Urdu speakers: Literally translated, this Urdu proverb means: a speck in a thief’s beard; meaning: a guilty conscience needs no accuser.

by Razi Azmi

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11 Responses to Speaking of the Khans, so to speak

  1. Razi Azmi says:

    Mawish Moulvi, the author of the op-ed in question (“Khan’s illegitimate child is not our business,” Daily Times, 24 June), sent me this response:

    “I read your Op-ed today in response to mine. For the record I would like to mention I titled my piece ‘Fifty Shades of Imran Khan’. However, Daily Times changed it. I agree with you completely- Khan is a widely applicable name. I also think no child is illegitimate, it’s the parents who are illegitimate.”

  2. Nasadiq Naamin says:

    Abbasi disqualified because he is not Sadiq or Amin. Papers have to be careful in attaching Imran to Khan that might be remotely critical. CJP is holding court to build Kalabagh dam in weeks. No one has a clue what anyone is going to do if PML-N wins. And because they do not, it won’t because unlike last time the voting boxes will be stuffed and as usual for us everyone will know and not say anything. And that is an illegitimacy of the Khan that will be our business and for which we will pay a heavy price.

  3. JAMAL HAIDER says:

    I think you forgot the best khan in the world, Is “Louis Farrakhan” he is American religious leader, black nationalist, activist, and social commentator, I was listening his interview with Barbara Walters, he give very bold statements if you get chance please listen that.

  4. Mir Mohammad Ali Talour says:

    Beautiful piece Razi Azmi Sahib.

  5. Pradeep Kalra says:

    Well researched article. Made interesting reading and at the same time a very informative one.

  6. Carl says:

    Outrageously funny Razi! I love this article particularly, despite having no idea who the illegitimate father alluded to might be. (Not up on Pakistani celebrities & politicians.) Very wonderful writing!

    • Razi Azmi says:

      Carl, just google the name of the Great Khan, I mean Imran Khan, and you will have enough juicy reading for a week. He is a cricketer-turned-politician.

  7. Sayed Chowdhury says:

    Witty, humorous and utterly satirical. However, you could at least briefly mention Genghis Khan, the Mongol mass murderer and the original or genuine Khan, although none of your Khans, (single/double/multiple-barrelled Khans or artillery Khan) I’m sure, are even his illegitimate descendants but simply fakes or usurper of the name. Genghis had only one queen, whom he had married as a teenager and always gave her the status of his formal and number one wife. Later on, after vanquishing many lands he had acquired another 13 0r 14 secondary wives (all of whom had the last name “Khatun”) and a harem of 400-500 women. Compared with Genghis, your Khans are not worthy of the name.

    • Razi Azmi says:

      You say “your Khans”, which I take to mean Pakistani Khans. But Khans are not confined to Pakistan. I have mentioned Indian Khans in my article. And I remember two famous Bangladeshi Khans, including a double-barreled one: Khan Abdus Sabur Khan, who was a federal minister in the days when Bangladesh was a province of Pakistan, and Monem Khan, governor of East Pakistan. The current minister of home affair of Bangladesh is Asaduzzaman Khan.

      • Sayed Chowdhury says:

        Yes, Khans are plentiful everywhere in the subcontinent and the Banglsdeshi Khans you mentioned were no less notorious than Paki Khans. The current Bangladesh Home Minister (Asaduzzaman Khan) however, displays some lesser traits of Genghis Khan through his murderous acts of forced disappearance/kidnaps and killings and then trying to cover up by describing these as casualties in encounters.
        However, my point is these are all fake or pseudo Khans and not even illegitimate children of any original Khans.

  8. Nazar naqvi says:

    Very nice article. Enjoyed reading it.

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