Choudhry Rahmat Ali (Urdu: چودھری رحمت علی) (16 November 1895 – 3 February 1951) was a Pakistani Muslim nationalist who was one of the earliest proponents of the creation of the state of Pakistan. He is cr .ed with creating the name “Pakistan” for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia and is generally known as the founder of the movement for its creation. He is best known as the author of a famous 1933 pamphlet titled “Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever”, also known as the Pakistan Declaration. The pamphlet started with a famous statement:
“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.”
”At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian delegates are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that Sub-continent, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, and on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKISTAN by which we mean the five Northern units of India viz: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan. And we ask for your sympathy and support in our grim and fateful struggle against political crucifixion and national annihilation. Our brave but voiceless nation is being sacrificed on the altar of Hindu Nationalism not only by the non-Muslims, but also, to their lasting shame, by our own so-called leaders with a reckless disregard of our protests and in utter contempt of the warnings of history. The Muslim Delegates at the Round Table Conference have committed an inexcusable blunder and an incredible betrayal. They have agreed, in the name of Hindu Nationalism, to the perpetual subjection of the ill-starred Muslim Millat in India. They have accepted, without any protest or demur and without any reservation or qualification, a constitution based on the principle of an All-India Federation. This acceptance amounts to nothing less than signing the death-warrant of Islam and of Muslims in India. To justify their action they have taken shelter behind the so-called Mandate from the Millat. But they forgot that suicidal Mandate was framed and formulated by their own hands. It was not the Mandate of the Muslims of India. Nations never gave Mandates to their representatives to barter away their very souls; and men of conscience never accept such self-annihilating Mandates, even if given, much less execute them. At such a time and in a crisis of this magnitude the foremost duty of saving statesmanship is to give a fair, firm, and fearless lead—a lead which has persistently been denied to our eighty million co-religionists in India by our leaders during the last seventy-five years. In fact, for us, these have been the years of false issues, of lost opportunities, and of utter blindness to the most essential and urgent needs of the Muslim interests. This because the leaders’ policy has throughout been defeatist in spirit, nerveless in action, and subservient in attitude. They have all along been paralyzed with dishonesty, fear, and doubt, and have, time and again, sacrificed their own political principles and our national patrimony for the sake of sheer opportunism and sordid careerism. To do so even at this fateful juncture is a policy of betrayal. It will be fatal for. us not to look this tragic truth in the face; for the tighter we shut our eyes, the harder that truth will hit us. At this critical moment, when this tragedy is being enacted, we earnestly appeal to you for your practical sympathy and active support for the demand of a separate Muslim Federation—a demand which is a matter of life and death for all Muslims of India, and which is outlined and explained below.”
Education and career
Chaudhry Rehmat Ali as a young man at Cambridge University
Ali was born into a Muslim Gujjar family with Gorsi clan 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 joining Punjab University to study law. 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, from Middle Temple, London. Until 1947, he continued publishing various booklets about his vision for South Asia. The final Partition of India disillusioned him due to the mass killings and mass migrations it ended up producing. He was also dissatisfied with the distribution of areas among the two countries and considered it a major reason for the disturbances.
Ali believed that the Muslims of India had to reform politically in order to become a viable, independent community. He was inspired by Islamichistory, particularly the example of the Prophet Muhammad’s success in uniting various Arab tribes during the founding of Islam. He believed that Indian Muslims should similarly unite to survive in what he perceived to be an increasingly hostile India.
As such, Ali’s writings, in addition to those of Muhammad Iqbal and others were major catalysts for the formation of Pakistan. He offered the name “Bangistan” for a Muslim homeland in the Bengal, and “Osmanistan” for a Muslim homeland in the Deccan. He also suggested Dinia as a name for a South Asia of various religions.
Ali is known for his steadfast dedication to the idea of Pakistan. 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, Ali moved to a now famous house in Cambridge, on 3 Humberstone Road. It was in one of the rooms of this house that he is said to have written the word ‘Pakistan’ for the first time. There are several accounts of the creation of the name. According to a friend, Abdul Kareem Jabbar, the name came up when Ali was walking along the banks of the Thames in 1932 with his friends Pir Ahsan-ud-din and Khwaja Abdul Rahim. According to Ali’s secretary Miss Frost, he came up with the idea while riding on the top of a London bus.
On 28 January 1933, Ali voiced the idea in a pamphlet titled “Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?”. The word ‘Pakistan’ referred to “the five Northern units of India, viz. : Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan“”. By the end of 1933, ‘Pakistan’ had become common vocabulary, and an i was added to ease pronunciation (as in Afghan-i-stan).
In a subsequent book, Ali discussed the etymology in further detail.
‘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 Paks – the spiritually pure and clean.
According to Ali’s biographer, K.K.Aziz writes that “Rahmat Ali alone drafted this declaration (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 intellectuals 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 .” Later on, his political opponents used the name of these signatories and other friends of Ali, as creator of word ‘Pakistan’.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah addressed the origins of the moniker in his presidential address to the All India Muslim League annual session at Delhi on 24 April 1943, he said:
“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 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.”
Iqbal and Jinnah
Choudhry Rehmat Ali (seated first from left) with Muhammad Iqbal (center), Khawaja Abdul Rahim (right) and a group of other young activists during Iqbal visit to England in 1932.
On 29 Dec 1930, Muhammad Iqbal delivered his monumental address. He said:
I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.
According to some scholars, that Iqbal had not presented the idea of an autonomous Muslim State; rather he wanted a large Muslim province by amalgamating Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Baluchistan into a big North-Western province within India. They argued that “Iqbal never pleaded for any kind of partition of the country. Rather he was an ardent proponent of a ‘true’ federal setup for India…. And wanted a consolidated Muslim majority within the Indian Federation”.
Another Indian historian, Tara Chand, also held that Iqbal was not thinking in terms of partition of India but in terms of a federation of autonomous states within India. Dr. Safdar Mehmood also fell a prey to the same misconception and in a series of articles he asserted that in an Allahabad address Iqbal proposed a Muslim majority province within the Indian federation and not an independent state outside the Indian Federation.
The Continent of DINIA by Choudhry Rahmat Ali, M.A., L.L.B., Barrister-at-Law
On 28 January 1933, Choudhry Rahmat Ali voiced his ideas in the pamphlet titled “Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?” The word ‘Pakistan’ referred to “the five Northern units of India, viz. : Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan””. By the end of 1933, the word “Pakistan” became common vocabulary where an “I” was added to ease pronunciation (as in Afghan-i-stan). In a subsequent book Rehmat Ali discussed the etymology in further detail. “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”.
The British and the Indian Press vehemently criticized these two different schemes and created a confusion about the authorship of the word “Pakistan” to such an extent that even Jawaharlal Nehru had to write: “”Iqbal was one of the early advocates of Pakistan and yet he appears to have realized its inherent danger and absurdity. Edward Thompson has written that in the course of conversation, Iqbal told him that he had advocated Pakistan because of his position as President of Muslim League session, but he felt sure that it would be injurious to India as a whole and to Muslims especially.”
In 1934, Choudhry Rahmat Ali and his friends met Muhammad Ali Jinnah and appealed for his support of the Pakistan idea. He replied; “My dear boys, don’t be in a hurry; let the waters flow and they will find their own level.”
After the creation of Pakistan
Headstone of Ali’s Grave
While Choudhry Rahmat Ali was a leading figure for the conception of Pakistan, he lived most of his adult life in England. He had been voicing his dissatisfaction with the creation of Pakistan ever since his arrival in Lahore on 6 April 1948. He was unhappy over a Smaller Pakistan than the one he had conceived in his 1933 pamphlet Now Or Never.
After the creation of Pakistan he returned to Pakistan in April 1948, planning to stay in this country, but he was ordered by the then Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan to leave the country. His belongings were confiscated, and he left empty-handed for England in October 1948.
He died in February 1951 and was buried on 20 February at Newmarket Road Cemetery, Cambridge, UK.