Monday October 02, 2023

Unveiling historical truths : A glimpse into Pakistan's archival riches

By Our Correspondent
August 14, 2023

Born on August 10, 1957, in the bustling city of Karachi, Aqeel Abbas Jafri’s life journey is a testament to his relentless quest for knowledge, research, and a deep love for his country’s history. A writer, poet and architect, he served as the Chief Editor of the Urdu Dictionary Board from 2016 to 2019. During his tenure, the Urdu Dictionary Board digitised the six volumes of the Urdu dictionary and improved its pronunciation. The Dictionary Board also published an abridged version of the 22-volume Urdu Dictionary, along with a book titled ‘Sahi Talaffuz Aur Durust Imla,’ intended for anchorpersons and journalists. In 2022, he was awarded a PhD degree based on his research thesis on “Pakistan Ki Urdu Filmi Sanat”. This thesis has also been published in the form of a book.

One of Jafri’s remarkable literary accomplishments is his book, “Pakistan Chronicles,” in which he meticulously compiles significant events from Pakistan’s history. Spanning from 1947 to 2018, the book encompasses 5000 pivotal events and showcases 4000 rare pictures.

Jafri was honoured by Pakistan Quiz Society with Quiz Excellency Award in 2004. Wisdom Pakistan Forum awarded him with Heroes of Pakistan Award in 2010. The Centre of Civic Education granted him an award for civic education in 2005.

Jafri took his first steps into the world of research by participating quiz programs in school. As an avid reader, a sense of inquisitiveness took root in his mind. For instance, once he read about Edison’s discovery of electric bulb. However, upon further investigation, it became evident that the invention of the electric bulb was actually credited to another individual. Edison’s contribution lay in refining the invention, ultimately leading to its association with his name.

In one of his interviews Aqeel Abbas Jafri mentioned that one of his mentors, Mushfiq Khwaja Sahib, advised him that pursuing a PhD on any unknown poet could earn him significant recognition within literary circles. However, his mentor encouraged him to continue his pursuit of research, especially due to a scarcity of scholarly research in that domain. Alongside literary topics, his interest is predominantly driven by topics related to Pakistan’s history and unravelling its unknown aspects.

Who coined the name of Pakistan?

One of his notable works emerged in an Urdu article titled: “Kiya Pakistan ka naam akele Choudhry Rahmat Ali ne tajveez kiya tha (Did Choudhry Rahmat Ali alone coined the name of Pakistan).” The focus of his research was the NOW OR NEVER pamphlet, which proposed the establishment of an independent Muslim state in India. Jafri’s research reveals that Chaudhary Rahmat Ali derived the title of this booklet from the book “Auto-Emancipation” by the nineteenth-century Jewish political thinker Leon Pinsker, which was published in 1882. In his work, Pinsker mentioned that now our guiding phrase will be “Now or Never”. Jafri quoted this piece of information from Chaudhary Rahmat Ali’s biography, penned by a notable historian, Khurshid Kamal Aziz. Jafri further mentioned in his work, “The four companions who signed this leaflet were Chaudhry Rahmat Ali, Sahibzada Sheikh Muhammad Sadiq, Khyber Union Trustee Inayatullah Khan (of Charsaddah) and Khyber Union President Muhammad Aslam Khan Khattak. Khattak and Inayatullah dissociated themselves from this booklet in March 1933. At the Third Round Table Conference, this booklet was distributed to the British and Indian participants. Sir Reginald Crook, an English delegate to the Round Table Conference, took serious note of this pamphlet and questioned the Muslim delegates attending the conference about it, but most of the Muslim delegates, including luminaries such as Allama Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, called it “a frivolous and impractical proposal.” As time progressed, this seemingly unviable proposal transformed into an aspiration of thousands of Indian Muslims and the leaders who dismissed it became fervent champions of the idea.

Continuing to debunk information widely considered as historical facts, Jafri revealed another piece of information related to the origin of the name of Pakistan. He wrote that Khwaja Abdul Rahim, father of the former Governor Punjab, Khwaja Tariq Rahim studied the book of the famous British Orientalist, Sir Olaf Carew about the states of Central Asia. At the back of the book, the name of the Central Asian state, Qaraqal-pak-stan was in front of him. Qaraqalpakstan is currently an autonomous republic in Uzbekistan, situated southeast and southwest of the Aral Sea. Khwaja Abdul Rahim discussed this book with Chaudhary Rahmat Ali who took inspiration from the name of this Central Asian republic, and published a pamphlet titled “Now or Never.” In the said pamphlet, he demanded the creation of a separate homeland with the name of Pak-Sitaan. The “I” was later added to the name. He quoted this information from the book, “The Bridge of Words” written by a linguistic expert, Khalid Ahmed.

Another meticulous research by Jafri unearthed an earlier declaration bearing the name of Pakistan. Aqeel Abbas Jafri asserted that the name Pakistan was coined by a Kashmiri journalist, Ghulam Hassan Shah Kazmi in 1928, and not Choudhary Rahmat Ali in 1933. Jafri, according to Kashmir Life, an online magazine, said that it was during Kazmi’s stay in Bombay in 1928, that he moved an application on July 1, 1928, before the government in Abbottabad seeking a sanction for publishing a weekly newspaper, Pakistan. Jafri wrote that this was the first time the word Pakistan was used anywhere in the subcontinent. However, the reason for controversy is that the newspaper, Pakistan, did not come into being in 1928, as it was rejected by then government. It was in 1935, when Kazmi applied again that the weekly Pakistan started publishing from Abbottabad.

Though the name of Pakistan was officially coined by Chaudhary Rahmat Ali, however, its precursor forms had been used by people before his conceptualisation. This revelation, along with relevant images and documents, garnered widespread acclaim and earned him the prestigious APNS Award. Notably, Jafri became the first freelance journalist to receive this honour, highlighting the depth and impact of his work.

Who proposed for the establishment of Pakistan for the very first time in Indian subcontinent?

One remarkable focus of his research was “Taqseem-e-Hind ki Pehli Baqaidah Tajweez Kis Ne Pesh Ki Thi?” In this article, Jafri informs, “In June 1958, while participating in the British parliament in a debate on the government of India, John Bright, a member of the British parliament said that a vast country like India cannot be kept under British rule for long. Hence, it is necessary to divide India into five separate provinces on an administrative basis, instead of continuing as an empire. A similar proposal was also made by Jamaluddin Afghani. He proposed the establishment of a Muslim state in India in 1879 and said that the proposed Muslim state should also include the Muslim majority areas of Central Asia, Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. At the same time, few similar proposals were presented by WS Blunt, Theodore Beck and Muharram Ali Chishti, but the most important proposal in this regard was presented by Maulana Abdul Haleem Sharar on August 23, 1890. In 1890, when Hindu-Muslim riots were at peak in India, Sharar proposed a solution to these differences in the form of partition of India. In his editorial in the weekly “Muhazzab” published on August 23, he wrote, “the circumstances are such that neither of the two dominant religious communities, Hindus and Muslims can enjoy religious rights without hurting the sentiments of other sects, nor the common people have so much tolerance and harmony that they forgive the insult of their sentiments by others.” Over the course of history, this very idea found its way to the momentous Lahore Resolution in 1940, culminating in a popular aspiration of Indian Muslims.

Where was Jinnah born?

In his another insightful piece, Aqeel Abbas Jafri researched about the original birthplace of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Contrary to several narratives about the Quaid’s birthplace that he was born at Wazir Mansion or Jherruck, a riverine port located on the Indus, about 100 kilometres from Karachi, Jafri detangled the confusion related to Jinnah’s birthplace by digging deeper into the matter. By exploring numerous sources, he revealed that Jinnah’s birthplace is the present-day six-story building of Ali Plaza in Karachi, which used to be a small house in that period.

Pakistan Ka Qaumi Tarana: Kiya Hai Haqeeqat, Kiya Hai Fasana

Aqeel Abbas Jafri has corrected many historical errors in his career, he ended the conspiracy of Jagan Nath Azad writing any official national anthem of Pakistan and he has also publically commented on the debate of Pakistan’s Independence day being celebrated on the 14th or the 15th of August. The conspiracy of the national anthem began with the poet, Jagan Nath Azad, claiming that the first tarana (anthem) which was broadcasted on the night of August 14 and 15, 1947, was penned by him. A sensational story gained traction according to which Azad was supposedly called to the Lahore Radio Station a few days before independence - August 11, 1947 to be exact - and quite dramatically asked to write the official national anthem because Quaid-i-Azam wanted it to be written by a Hindu. However, there is no evidence of the said narrative. This story was circulated by the award-winning Indian journalist Luv Puri, about a month after the death of Azad, with quotations from an alleged interview with the dead poet. Jafri discussed the matter of Pakistan’s national anthem in his book, “Pakistan Ka Qaumi Tarana: Kiya Hai Haqeeqat, Kiya Hai Fasana.” He tells his readers that Pakistan did not have a national anthem in the lifetime of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the present national anthem of Pakistan was the first and only one adopted by the state, and there is absolutely no evidence to show that any poem written by Jagan Nath Azad was played from radio on August 14 or 15 at all. Jafri also presents an additional piece of evidence in the form of an announcement made by the Quaid himself during his lifetime. In his announcement, he promised a reward for whoever would write the national anthem of Pakistan. Hence, this confirms the absence of an official national anthem at the time of Pakistan’s independence and also eradicates any claims of Jinnah asking Azad, in particular, to write the tarana.

The contested date of Pakistan’s Independence Day

Furthermore, Aqeel Abbas Jafri also cleared the air around the confusion about the exact date of Pakistan’s Independence Day. He recalls the morning of August 14, when the last British Viceroy Mountbatten attended a ceremony at the Constituent Assembly Building (now the Sindh Assembly) in Karachi. There he “transferred the power” to the Governor-General Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and the elected representatives of the people. At this moment, Pakistan had technically become a free nation. However, birth of Pakistan was announced at the appointed hour of midnight, following which, the flag of Pakistan was hoisted on August 15. The debate stemmed from this point on. Jafri has seen the national archives in which an official circular that was properly circulated the next year stating that although Pakistan came into being on August 15, it would be more appropriate if it celebrates its “Independence Day” on August 14, since the nation had technically become independent with the transfer of power by the last Viceroy. Therefore, Aqeel Abbas Jafri stands by the fact that the people of Pakistan became independent on August 14, 1947 AD (Ramazan 26, 1366 AH).

Through his unwavering efforts, Jafri not only corrected historical narratives but also left an indelible mark on Pakistan’s intellectual landscape.