This photo does not show Nawaz Sharif’s mother or grandmother
Image is actually of two khawajasira folks from British colonial rule in the Subcontinent
Claim: A photo shows the mother and grandmother of former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Supremo, Nawaz Sharif, and claims they played the drum in the streets of Amritsar in colonial India.
Fact: The picture, in fact, shows two people from the khawajasira community. The image, which was taken between 1890 and 1894, has also appeared as a cover photo for author and historian Dr Jessica Hinchy’s book, ‘Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India; The Hijra, c.1850–1900’.
On 5 January 2023, Twitter user ‘نصرُاللہ وسیم ڈار’ (@wsyinm) posted a visual showing a mix of text and images of different women, including one where a man is seen bowing down in front of an elder and another showing an old woman wearing black headgear.
The different texts found in the viral picture are:
- “بڑی مشکل سے ملی ہے یہ تصویر اسکے لئے مجھے انڈیا رابطہ کرنا پڑا پٹواریو یہ تمہارا باپو جی سوری باو جی وہیں بھول آیا تھا [I found this picture with great difficulty. I had to contact India for this. Patwario! Forgot your Bapu Ji — sorry, Ba’u Ji — there.]”
- “جس کا خاندان ماں ڈھول بجانے والی ہو اس میراسی خاندان سے کیا گلہ [What grudge can one have from a ‘mirasi’ family where the family, the mother, is someone who plays drums?]”
- “شریف کی ماں اور نانی کی ایک یادگار تصویر امرتسر میں گلی گلی ڈھولکی بجایا کرتیں تھی [A memorable picture of Sharif’s mother and grandmother, who played the drum in the streets of Amritsar.]”
Bapu Ji and Ba’u Ji both mean father in the Punjabi language, with the former being more popular in the Eastern or Indian Punjab province and the latter in the Western or Pakistani Punjab province.
Moreover, Mirasi are a community from the pre-partition subcontinent — now divided into India and Pakistan — as well as traditional singers and dancers. The word originates from ‘miras’ in the Arabic language and can mean ancestry or inheritance. Currently, it is also used in a derogatory manner and to mock someone’s familial background or upbringing.
The second of the three sentences can be understood as a double entendre, given that Mirasi is connected to singing and dancing, as well as to inheritance. The linkage to inheritance can be observed through the Sharif family’s preference to keep power in the PML-N among blood relatives.
Fact or Fiction?
Soch Fact Check used reverse image search tools to ascertain the source of three main photos; two of the five are the same screenshots and a fourth one is a cropped version of the two same ones.
The Bridgeman Images website describes the picture as showing “Hinjra (Dancers and Singers)” from the 1890s and credits it to ‘Report on the Census of 1891, Volume II. The Castes of Marwar Illustrated, Jodhpore. Marwar Darbar, 1894.’
The artist section states that the picture was taken by an English photographer between 1890 and 1894.
The image has also appeared as a cover photo for author and historian Dr Jessica Hinchy’s book, ‘Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India; The Hijra, c.1850–1900’.
As for the other two images, the one in the bottom-right position shows Begum Shamim Akhtar — the mother of former premier and PML-N Supremo Nawaz Sharif — and the one in the bottom-centre shows Sharif bowing in front of her.
Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, shared the picture of her grandmother in a Facebook post here. Multiple media outlets also posted the same images here, here, and here; all three claimed the photos were file images. One of those was also shared in 2018 when the former PM met his mother before going to prison.
My great mother & dear brother. 2 very special ppl in my life. Infinit respect & love! Tx maryam beti 4 this pic -ss pic.twitter.com/m7Vp6Q1D8a
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) April 13, 2016
Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the last 12-month period since 16 January 2022 using the following search terms:
- “بڑی مشکل سے ملی ہے یہ تصویر اسکے لئے مجھے انڈیا رابطہ کرنا پڑا پٹواریو یہ تمہارا باپو جی سوری باو جی وہیں بھول آیا تھا”
- “جس کا خاندان ماں ڈھول بجانے والی ہو اس میراسی خاندان سے کیا گلہ”
- “شریف ماں نانی تصویر امرتسر ڈھولکی”
The search terms turned up 874, 1,077, and 430 interactions across 39, 65, and 33 posts on Facebook, respectively. We found the earliest posts for each respective term on 16 May 2022, 6 May 2022, and 24 May 2022.
Some of the popular posts carrying the image can be found here, here, here, here, and here. Other results via Facebook’s organic search option are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Conclusion: A photo does not show Nawaz Sharif’s mother playing a drum in the street of Amritsar in colonial India.