SquashTalk > Pakistan Squash > Khans Family Genealogy Part I

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The Khan Family, A Squash Dynasty

by Rob Dinerman. © September2001 |
may not be reproduced without express permission of SquashTalk
Photos: Fritz Borchert (top), Debra Tessier (bottom right), Stephen Line (second from bottom right), & SquashTalk archives, all © 2001

 

   
 
 
 

PART I: Hashim the Pioneer            [Part II]       [Part III]        [Part IV]

IMPOVERISHED IN PESHAWAR
The province of Peshawar, in Pakistan's northwest frontier, is the last area one traverses before passing into Afghanistan, and now a focal point for Afghani refugees fleeing the Taliban-led nation. It is on several levels a rocky region, ruggedly mountainous and home to the Pathan tribe, a fiercely independent race of herdsmen, farmers and warriors known for their keen eyesight and steady hands, and reputed to be among the finest marksmen in the world.

It was this tribe that ferociously and successfully defended the Khyber Pass - prized as a gateway to India and its lucrative markets - from British attempts to control it, this tribe that provided the spirit that allowed used old muskets and obsolete equipment to repulse a vastly superior Russian army, and this tribe that spawned probably the greatest extended-family dynasty in the history of competitive sport.

This latter phenomenon traces its roots to 1916, or thereabouts, when the wife of Abdullah Khan, Head Steward of the Club (a favorite outpost for British officers stationed to guard the nearby Khyber Pass), gave birth to their first son, Hashim by name, in the tiny village of Nawakille. The Peshawar Club offered a wide range of sports for the officers' amusement (from lawn tennis, Abdullah's favorite game, to hard racquets to billiards) but the roofless squash courts commandeered the youngster Hashim's primary attention when he was just eight years old, for it was there, perched on the back wall while the officers played, that he could make a few rupees returning errant shots.

THE BALLBOY
When the oppressive sun became too onerous for the officers to bear, or when the onset of evening drew them back to the club-house for dinner, the courts would empty out and Hashim, playing barefoot on cement floors often in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F, would knock a broken or over-used squash ball around. Who would Hashim play? As he said in his autobiography, it was "Hashim versus Hashim."

His father Adbullah met an untimely death in an auto accident when Hashim was only 11, but by then Hashim's dedication to squash was so firmly embedded that he quit school one year later to pursue his dream of becoming a squash professional.

Eventually, in 1942, he was given a coaching position at the Air Force Officers' Mess and in 1944, at age 28, he participated in (and won) the first All-of-India Championship in Bombay. He successfully defended this title each of the next two years but sports were then suspended for several years due to the widespread fighting caused by the creation of a new state, Pakistan, out of those areas of India that were predominantly Moslem.

THE WORLD STAGE FOR PAKISTAN
The partitioning of India and establishment of Pakistan were complete by the turn of the decade (with Hashim being appointed squash pro at the Royal Pakistani Air Force and winning the first Pakistani Championship in '49), and when Abdul Bari, playing for India, advanced to the final of the British Open in 1950, some Pakistani government officials decided that Pakistan should also be represented in this Wimbledon of squash. Pakistan was a new and poor country, and it fell to a private citizen to fund the trip to England. Though nearing his 35th birthday, Hashim was selected to play in the 1951 British Open, which he won in a one-sided 9-5, 9-0, 9-0 final against four -time winner and Egyptian great, Mahmoud El Karim, whom he also decisively beat in the '52 British Open final en route to six straight Open titles and seven overall, the last of these occurring in '58, when Hashim was an unbelievable 41 years old.

LOTS OF SILVERWARE
In addition to his septet of British Opens, Hashim won the US Open (later renamed the North American Open and now again called the US Open) in '56, '57 and '63 --- at age 48! --- as well as three Canadian Open and five British Pro championships. All this from a man who didn't enter his first major championship until just months before his 35th birthday, when most top-flight players in this most grueling of sports have long since passed their prime. Yet for all the superlatives that deservedly describe the exploits and longevity of this soft-spoken and seemingly ageless protagonist, Hashim's greatest legacy arguably lies not in his own competitive record but rather the role he would come to play as patriarch of the Khan clan and progenitor of the Khan dynasty.

[Go to THE KHAN FAMILY . PART TWO ]

   
Hashim over the years and with nephew Mo Khan (far left) and cousin Roshan (third from bottom, right). (photos from SquashTalk archives)

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