Exclusive: Photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 1960 Visit to Hunza by the Late Abdul M. Ismaily (“Papa Jaan”)

Editor’s note: The following exclusive photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Hunza were captured in 1960 by the late Abdul M. Ismaily, lovingly known as “Papa Jaan” by his family and friends, and are published here with the permission of the Ismaily family. We are thankful to the Ismaily family for their generosity, and appreciate the efforts of our regular contributor, Mr. Muslim Harji, for facilitating the publication of the photos on this website.

Please click on photos for enlargements

untitled-2-1930The Jamat of Hunza accept the gracious deedar (glimpse) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he visits the Princely State in the Northern Areas of Pakistan in 1960. Hunza was then governed by the Mir of Hunza, who is seen following Hazar Imam. The kingdom was then abolished, coming under the direct rule of  the Pakistan Federal Government in 1974.  The entire Northern region is now known as Gilgit-Baltistan with Karimabad (or Baltit), being the capital of Hunza. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.

scan0289-2The volunteers of the Hunza Jamat with the photographer, Papa Jaan, seated third from right, during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Hunza in 1960. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.

untitled-2-1922Mawlana Hazar Imam conversing with the Mir of Hunza on stage, as other leaders and volunteers look on during his visit to Hunza in 1960. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.


(Excerpt from the “Dom of Hunza” by Anna Schmid, published in “Disapperaring Peoples,” edited by Barbara Brower and Barbara R. Johnson)

To his [the Aga Khan’s] followers, his speeches as well as his other oral advices to his followers, are not just reminders but guidelines for the conduct of daily life. His advice on specific topic is read out in jamaat khana, and every follower is expected to observe it (e.g. when the Aga Khan decreed that drugs should be abandoned, the Ismaili community stopped selling cigarrettes).


scan0298-2In a salutation style reminiscent of his beloved late father, Prince Aly Khan (1911-1960), Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, acknowledges the respect and warmth by which he is received during his arrival to meet with the Ismailis of Hunza in 1960. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.

scan0288-2-2The brother of the Mir of Hunza, Col. Ayash Khan in uniform, is seen standing with their family members outside the bungalow where Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, resided during his visit to Hunza in 1960. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.


(A personal recollection by Watson Sims)

“I thought of an incident in 1961, when I was Associated Press bureau chief for that area. Prince Karim, newly-installed as the Aga Khan, decided to visit his Ismaeli Muslim followers in the ancient land of Hunza, then, as now, part of Pakistan, and I was invited to come along.

With the Aga Khan sometimes personally at the controls, we flew in a twin-propeller plane to the mountain outpost of Gilgit.

Next came a journey by Jeep over narrow and often dizzying trails to the Hunza River, southern border of the ancient kingdom. There an awesome prospect lay before us.

Years earlier, the river had flooded and washed away the only bridge to Hunza. Hundreds of feet above the river, three steel cables had been stretched 1,000 yards to connect hills on each side. Suspended from two cables were hooks to carry cargo such as our Jeep.

untitled-2-1917The dangerous crossing of the Hunza River. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.

Attached by pulley to the third cable was a wooden box, five feet square, with sides rising 18 inches. This was our only way to Hunza.

The five journalists in the party, which included one other American, were horrified, and despite urging from Pir Ali Allana, the Aga Khan’s advance man, none would get into the box.

“Come on, Sims,” pleaded Pir Ali. “We’ve GOT to do this.” He sat in the box, and, fearfully, I climbed in beside him.

Far across the river, men pulled on a rope, and, swaying and shaking, the box shot out over the swift-flowing stream. During World War II combat in submarines and torpedo boats, I had rarely known a more uneasy experience. Then came another yank on the rope, and the box flew farther over the river.

Pir Ali’s teeth had chattered as loudly as mine, but then he suddenly became astonishingly calm. “It’s all right,” he said. “We are going to make it.”

“H-h-h-do you know that?” I asked.

“I’ve had my horoscope read,” he said. “It is not God’s will that I should die here.”

Having never had my horoscope read, I was less reassured, but Pir Ali’s faith proved justified, and after a passage that seemed to take years, we reached the other side.”

Account reproduced from Ismailimail.


untitled-2-1929-2Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, graciously presents an opportunity to lady members of the Hunza Jamat to receive his affectionate blessings and deedar during his visit to Hunza in 1960. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.


Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is presented with a Nazrana (gift) by the Mir on behalf of the Hunza Jamat. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.

untitled-2-1931Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, approaches a banner making a reference to the Qur’anic verse 174 in Chapter 4 (Sura an-Nisa) during his visit to Hunza in 1960. A.J. Arberry’s translation of  verse 174 reads: “O men, a proof has now come to you from your Lord; We have sent down to you a manifest light.” Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.  

Date posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2016.
Date updated: February 11, 2016 (the date of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Hunza as well as some of the captions have been updated based on corrections we have received from numerous readers. See feedback from M. Schaukat Hayat and Gul Baig. If readers come across other errors, we ask that they send us a note at simerg@aol.com or complete the feedback form at the end of this post. We apologize for our errors, and are happy to stand corrected.
Last updated: December 26, 2016 (04:10 am, EST, fomatting).


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