The Quixotic dreamer
In Pakistan, few people seem to be interested in facts. Most of us have our version of events which reflects opinion rather than reality. Some of the confusion that prevails in our country is a by-product of this convoluted thinking. There is also much myth-making and what is astonishing is that there should be myths even about events that are part of living memory. This is one reason there is no agreed version of either history or politics. To this day, over six decades after the passage of the Pakistan Resolution in Lahore, there is still a debate going on as to why Pakistan was demanded and what brought it into being. Since most of us already believe that our version of history is correct and all other versions are not only wrong but possibly unpatriotic, if not downright treacherous, it is only natural that almost all discussions involving history and politics should become shouting and slanging matches.
I have written this long preamble to distinguish between Chaudhry Rehmat Ali as he was and as some imagine him to have been. Recently Ihsan Aslam, who lives in Cambridge and in his own words is “interested in biography and history” (he also writes periodically for Daily Times), wrote: “With the passage of … time, it seems that the contributions of the likes of Rehmat Ali have been obliterated from Pakistan’s history. Pakistan chooses to forget its national heroes, or turns heroes into zeroes, but Cambridge remembers.” A meeting held there recently to pay homage to the man who is said to have coined the name Pakistan also credited Rehmat Ali with having championed the Kashmir cause after independence (though of that there is no record). Aslam Khattak, Rehmat Ali’s contemporary at Cambridge, has repeatedly rejected Rehmat Ali as the man who invented the name Pakistan, insisting that it was he and not him who thought it up.
My theory that what appears in newspapers has little lasting effect is once again proved considering that what I am about to write, I have written on at least two occasions in the past. It is obvious that those who are celebrating Chaudhry Rehmat Ali as a great and unsung hero whom the country he helped create has failed to honour, do not allow facts to stand in the way of their imagination. So let me make another attempt at setting straight the record. In 1933, Rehmat Ali wrote a pamphlet called Now or Never; it bore three signatures, one of the signatories being Aslam Khattak. He criticised Iqbal for proposing an Indian federation in which the Muslims would be a minority. He castigated other Muslim leaders whom he called camp followers of British imperialism and blind imitators of Congress who had placed the Muslims at the mercy of British imperialism and caste Hindu nationalism. Since all Muslim leaders had failed, he wrote, “Allah has assigned that fateful task to me, that He commanded me to do it; that He wanted me to challenge the might, to oppose the Indian federation, to propose the Islamic federation.” He called his mission divinely inspired.
Rehmat Ali’s concept of Pakistan was nebulous, impractical and fantasy-ridden. It was to include the entire northwest of India, Kashmir, the Kathiawar peninsula, Kutch, several enclaves deep within UP, including Delhi and Lucknow. There were to be two independent Muslim states besides Pakistan: Bangistan comprising Bengal and Assam in the east and Osmanistan in the south. These two were to form a federation with Pakistan. The 243 principalities or Rajwaras were to be divided among caste Hindus and “others” and then herded together in a ghetto called Hanoodia. As for the Sikhs, they were to be pushed into an enclave called Sikhia. Other races and religions were to inhabit an encampment by the name of Hanadika. Every non-Muslim was to remain subservient to the master race he called “The Paks”. And yes, the subcontinent was to be renamed Dinia. He did not say how he was going to bring all that about.
Exactly six days after the Muslim League’s acceptance of the June 3 Plan in 1947, Rehmat Ali denounced the Quaid-e-Azam in venomous language. Ten weeks later, he published a pamphlet called The Greatest Betrayal condemning the Quaid and the League for having written “the most shameful and treacherous chapter” in Muslim history. He said Mr Jinnah was responsible for betraying the Millat and for having committed “the blackest treachery” by re-enacting the fall of Islam in Spain 455 years earlier. He wrote, “Mr Jinnah has acted the Judas and betrayed, bartered and dismembered the Millat, animated by ambition for recognition as the Quisling-i-Azam of Pakistan and Bangistan.” He said the Quaid was a “far worse traitor than Miss Janki in 712, Mir Jaffer in 1757 and the Muslim aristocracy in 1857.” He said Mr Jinnah had shattered the foundations of Muslim nationhood and sabotaged the future of 100 million Muslims living in the “continent of Dinia and its dependencies”. He called on all Muslims to rise against Jinnah and “repudiate and nullify his treacherous plan”.
Rehmat Ali said Mr Jinnah had dealt six “deadly blows” to the Muslims. He had destroyed Muslim unity, and paralysed and battered Bengal and Assam, turning them into dominions bearing allegiance to “the King of Britain”. Mr Jinnah had abandoned the Muslim seats of learning, Muslim forts and citadels and Delhi, Agra and Lucknow. He had left the Hindus free to plan the “division, degradation and exploitation of the Millat”. Mr Jinnah had surrendered Muslim shrines and mosques to the Hindus and turned Muslim victories of the past into defeats. He said the Quaid had perverted the verdict of history and was making “desperate attempts to whitewash the betrayal”. According to him, Mr Jinnah “is asking the Muslims to treat Marg-i-Millat as Jashn-i-Jinnah,” adding, “Little does he realise he is adding the smear of shame to the sorrow of disaster suffered by Islam.” He wrote that Mr Jinnah had not accepted Pakistan but “PASTAN, the shadow of Pakistan”. He denounced the founder of Pakistan for having “done British and Bania bidding” and “playacting” throughout to divide the Millat.
Rehmat Ali called the creation of Pakistan “the blackest and bloodiest treachery in our history”. He denounced Pakistan as a “slave state” which owed allegiance to a foreign master, as did Mr Jinnah, whom he called “a loyal, glorified servant of the King of Britain who is witless, powerless and weaponless”.
Dr Ashiq Hussain Batalvi used to tell me in London in the late 1970s that in Pakistan Rehmat Ali used to spend most of his time abusing the Quaid and calling him names that even his worst non-Muslim detractors had never called him. The Quaid ignored both the abuse, of which he was aware, and the man who was heaping it on him. It is ironic that Chaudhry Rehmat Ali chose to return to the land of the very imperialists whom he had denounced. He died in anonymity, a bitter and unhappy man. It is best that his bones rest where they lie and those who are trying to resurrect him as a hero, at least read what he wrote.