03:11 pm - Tuesday 18 June 2013

Choudhry Rahmat Ali

Choudhry Rahmat Ali (November 16, 1897 – February 1951)
was a Pakistani Muslim nationalist who was one of the earliest proponents of the creation of the state of Pakistan. He is credited with creating the name “Pakistan” for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia. He propagated the Scheme of Pakistan with a missionary zeal since its inception in 1933. He also founded Pakistan National Movement to propagate his ideas. A political thinker and an idealist who wanted to save every Indian Muslim from Hindu domination, he condemned Muhammad Ali Jinnah for accepting a smaller Pakistan in 1947. In 1933, he wrote his ideas in the famous pamphlet entitled “Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever”, also known as the Pakistan Declaration. The pamphlet started with this famous sentence:

“ At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN – by which we mean the five Northern units of India, Viz: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. ”

Education and career

Chaudhry Rehmat Ali as a young man at Cambridge University
Rehmat Ali was born into a Muslim Gujjar[4] family in the town of Balachaur in Hoshiarpur District of Punjab (now Nawanshahr District), India. After graduating from Islamia Madrassa Lahore in 1918, he taught at Aitchison College Lahore before continuing Law studies at Punjab University. In 1930 he moved to England to join Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1931. In 1933, he published a pamphlet, Now or Never, coining the word Pakistan for the first time. In 1933, he founded Pakistan National Movement in England. Subsequently, he obtained a BA degree in 1933 and MA in 1940 from the University of Cambridge. In 1943, he was called to the Bar, Middle Temple Inn, London. Until 1947, he continued publishing various booklets about his vision of the South Asia. The independence process disillusioned him due to the mass killings and mass migrations. He was also dissatisfied with the distribution of areas among the two countries and considered it a major reason for disturbances.


Choudhry Rahmat Ali believed that the Muslims of India had to undergo a reformation politically in order to remain a viable, and independent community there. Ali noted that Hazrat Muhammad had succeeded in uniting fractured Arab tribes and that this example was to again be used by Muslims of India to pool together in order to survive in what he perceived to be an increasingly hostile India.
As such, Choudhry Rahmat Ali’s writings, in addition to those of Iqbal and others were major catalysts for the formation of Pakistan. He offered “Bang-i-Islam” for a Muslim homeland in the Bengal, and “Usmanistan” for a Muslim homeland in the Deccan. He also suggested “Dinia” as a name for a South Asia for various religions.[5]
Ali dedicated a lot of time and energy to the idea of Pakistan, and after its formation in 1947, he argued on its behalf at the United Nations over the issue of Kashmir, and the rights of Muslim minority of India.

Conception of ‘Pakistan’

In 1932 he moved to House no 3. On Humberstone Road, Cambridge. It was one of the room of this house that he wrote the word PAKSTAN for the first time. There are several accounts to the conceptualization of the name. According to a friend (Abdul Kareem Jabbar) the name came up when Rehmat Ali was walking along the banks of the Thames in 1932 with his friends Pir Ahsan-ud-Din and Khawja Abdul Rahim. According to Rehmat Ali’s secretary Miss Frost, he came up with the idea of the name ‘Pakistan’ while riding on the top of a London bus.

The front page of Now or Never pamphlet

In the early 1930s, Ali began writing about the formation of a Muslim nation in India. On January 28, 1933, he voiced his ideas in the pamphlet entitled “Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?”.[7] The word ‘Pakstan’ referred to “the five Northern units of India, viz. : Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan”".[8][9] By the end of 1933, ‘Pakistan’ become common vocabulary where an i was added to ease pronunciation (as in Afghan-i-stan).[10]
In a subsequent book Rehmat Ali discussed the etymology in further detail.[11]
‘Pakistan’ is both a Persian and an Urdu word. It is composed of letters taken from the names of all our South Asia homelands; that is, Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan. It means the land of the Pure.
According to Khalid Hasan, the authorship of the name is controversial. The late Mian Abdul Haq from Sahiwal who knew Choudhry Rehmat Ali well wrote in the daily “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”.[12]
But Professor K.K.Aziz writes[13] that “Rahmat Ali alone drafted this declaration[14] (in which the word Pakistan was used for the first time), but in order to make it “representative” he began to look around for people who would sign it along with him. this search did not prove easy for “so firm was the grip of ‘Muslim Indian Nationalism’ on our young intellectual at English universities that it took me (Rahmat Ali) more than a month to find three young men in London who ……..offered to support and sign it .”[15] Later on, his political opponents used the name of these signatories and other friends of Rahmat Ali, as creator of word ‘Pakistan’.
One of the analyses of this subject was made by writer and journalist Munir Ahmed Munir and published in Nawai Waqt on 31 August this year (2004). He writes, “The problem with Choudhry 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…….Munir writes: “In every respect, Choudhry Rehmat Ali’s Pakistan was quite different from the Quaid’s Pakistan. The Choudhry 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 [16]
It is better to quote Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself. In his presidential address to the All India Muslim League annual session at Delhi on 24 April 1943, he said:[17]
“ I think you will bear me out that when we passed the Lahore, resolution we had not used the word ‘Pakistan’. Who gave us this word’? (Cries of “Hindus”) Let me tell you it is their fault. They started damning this resolution on the ground that it was Pakistan. They are really ignorant of the Muslim movement. They fathered this word upon us. . . . You know perfectly well that Pakistan is a word which is really foisted upon us and fathered on us by some section of the Hindu press and also by the British press. Now our, resolution was known for a long time as the Lahore resolution popularly known as Pakistan. But how long are we to have this long phrase? Now I say to my Hindu and British friends: We thank you for giving us one word. (Applause, and cries of hear, hear.)
What is the origin of the word Pakistan? It was not Muslim League or Quaid-i-Azam who coined it. Some young fellows[18] in London, who wanted a particular part of north-west to be separated from the rest of India, coined a name in 1929-30, started the idea and called a zone Pakistan. They picked up the letter P for Punjab. A for Afghan, as the NWFP is known even today as Afghan, K for Kashmir. S for Sind, and Tan for Baluchistan. A name was coined. Thus, whatever may have been the meaning of this word at the time it is obvious that language of every civilized country invents new words. The word Pakistan has come to mean Lahore resolution. We wanted a word and it was foisted on us and we found it convenient to use it as a synonym for Lahore Resolution.

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