Let Chaudhry Rehmat Ali lie in peace
I have long had a theory, which now borders on conviction, that those whom fate chooses to exercise power and take decisions that affect the rest of our country either do not give a row of pins about what newspapers print, or else they pay attention only when they read – or are read to – what they have already done or what they would like to do. Anything and everything that falls outside of this category is ignored as if it did not exist.
One recent example of this is the question of bringing back Chaudhry Rehmat Ali’s remains from Cambridge to Pakistan. The man credited with coining the word ‘Pakistan’ – a claim questioned to this day by that master politician of the old guard, Aslam Khattak, and denied by another of his Cambridge class fellows of the time – died in straitened circumstances in Cambridge in 1951 and was buried there. There are those who claim that he was exiled from the new country and must, therefore, now be brought back and buried with full honours, if not next to the Quaid-e-Azam himself, then perhaps close to Iqbal or at least at the Minar-e-Pakistan, the site of the 1940 Lahore Resolution. This is a serious matter and should be examined with care.
The move to rebury Chaudhry Rehmat Ali gained a certain amount of attention in London some years ago when a group of Pakistani settlers there, on learning that like them the Chaudhry was a Gujjar by caste, decided that his remains should be dug up and reburied in Pakistan. A visit to Cambridge was undertaken, my friend the journalist Habibur Rehman tells me, and the small group had itself photographed and written about in the London Urdu press. Another friend, Tariq Azim, then a London businessmen and a British citizen, and now a senator, minister of state and information secretary of the ruling party, was part of this little excursion. The event caused no ripples, either in Pakistan or England.
When circumstances made Tariq Azim part of the ruling circle, he whispered into Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s ear that the interim prime minister would go down in history if he brought Rehmat Ali to Pakistan as a returning hero. The interim PM obviously believed what he was told because he knew no better and on August 21 declared that he would bring back this great hero of the Pakistan movement “this very year”. “He was a hero of the Muslim League and it will be the Muslim League that will repatriate him to Pakistan,” he said (or so did the PML website). Game, set and match to Sen Tariq Azim, who was and remains innocent of who the “heroes” of the Pakistan movement were, or what Chaudhry Rehmat Ali had written about Pakistan and its founder. I doubt if either Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain or the senator knew of the vile abuse their hero had hurled at the Quaid (“Mr Jinnah has acted the Judas and betrayed, bartered and dismembered the Millat, animated by ambition for recognition as the Quisling-e-Azam of Pakistan and Bangistan… a far worse traitor than Janki in 712, Mir Jaffer in 1757 and the Muslim aristocracy in 1857.”)
One of Chaudhry Rehmat Ali’s apologists recently wrote: “… in October, the year was 1948, the man was hounded out of Pakistan for raising a voice against the ruling elite.” If you want to know what the phrase “ruling elite” means, it means the Quaid-e-Azam himself, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar and, in fact, the entire leadership of the Quaid’s Muslim League. The Chaudhry’s apologists do not have the intellectual honesty to make mention of the abuse he heaped on Pakistan and its founder. I think it is a shame that this should happen and that the interim prime minister should have had the naïveté to make the August 21 announcement. Perhaps the instigator, Sen Tariq Azim, feels that because he is now also minister for overseas Pakistanis, Rehmat Ali falls in his jurisdiction.
I spoke to Prof Anwar Syed last week and he said, “This is frivolous. It is a non-issue and speaks sadly about those who should be dealing with Pakistan’s real problems, not chasing shadows.” After all, there have been so many governments in Pakistan, civil and military. How come none of them has ever expressed any such intent? It is simply because they knew about the scandalous book, The Greatest Betrayal, written by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali weeks after the announcement of the June 3, 1947 plan. The book denounced the Quaid as a British and “Bania” agent and called Pakistan “Pastan”: the shadow of Pakistan. Chaudhry Rehmat Ali was a deeply disturbed man and I recall Dr Ashiq Hussain Batalvi, one of the great historians of the events that led to Pakistan’s creation, that after he came to Pakistan Rehmat Ali spent most of his time abusing the Quaid and pronouncing a hundred curses on the country which he asserted was a betrayal of the Muslims of India.
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, and 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.
It is ironic that Chaudhry Rehmat Ali chose to return in disgust to the land of the very imperialists whose agent in his eyes the Quaid was, dying there a bitter and unhappy man. It is best that his bones rest where they lie. In any case, it is un-Islamic to exhume a body for reburial.
One of the best analyses of this subject was made by writer and journalist Munir Ahmed Munir and published in Nawai Waqt on 31 August this year. He writes, “The problem with Chaudhry Rehmat Ali’s admirers is that they consider him the inventor of the word ‘Pakistan’, whereas inventing a name and founding a state are two different things. He had no role to play in the creation of the state where we all live. Even the authorship of the name is controversial. The late Mian Abdul Haq from Sahiwal who knew Chaudhry Rehmat Ali well wrote in Nadai Millat, Lahore, in June 1970 that the word Pakistan was invented by Khawaja Abdul Rahim and he obtained Allama Iqbal’s blessings for his coinage. On 21 December 1987, Rahim told a meeting at the Aiwan-e-Nawai Waqt in Rawalpindi that he it was who had invented the word Pakistan and that this name was first announced at a meeting of the Khyber Union of Students over which he was presiding… If the mere writing of a pamphlet could create countries, the map of the world would change every day.”
Munir writes: “In every respect, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali’s Pakistan was quite different from the Quaid’s Pakistan. The Chaudhry himself admitted that Jinnah’s Pakistan was not his Pakistan because there were seven or eight other imaginary and utopian ‘…stans’ linked with his. Behind the Quaid’s demand for Pakistan lay realism, statesmanship, wisdom and the 1,000-year sweep of Muslim history in India…. A man who abuses the founder of Pakistan and accuses him of having destroyed his Pakistan plan, is described by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as, ‘a great leader of the Pakistan movement and a hero of the Muslim League.’ If that be so, then why not also dig up the remains of Mir Sadiq and Mir Jafar and bring them to Pakistan for reburial?”