Chaudhary Rehmat Ali was a teacher employed by the Mazaris, a feudal family of Punjab, and was a one-man crusade for Muslim homelands. He had a dozen carved out of the map of India, with suggested names such as Osmanistan for Hyderabad, Bangistan for Bengal and Maplistan for Kerala, and so on. Rehmat Ali had gone to London to convince the colonial authorities of his scheme, where he met Khawaja Abdur Rahim, who suggested the name ´Pakistan´ to him. Rahim was a student who was well into the ´stan´ business. (´Stan´ is Urdu for ´land´.)   ´Pakistan´ had occurred to Rahim while reading a book in a London bus, when he came upon what must have been a 1930 map of Central Asia under Stalin. A new autonomous area created by the Soviet Union in the territory anciently associated with the Karakalpak tribe was called Karakalpakstan, but the spine of the book had separated the portion "pakstan". Since ´pak´ means pure in Urdu, the name immediately struck Rahim as most appropriate. Rehmat Ali liked the proposal so much that he put it in his pamphlet as " Pakstan"; the ´i´ was included later after transliteration into Urdu which rendered "stan" as "istan" in the same manner as ´school´ beomes ´iskool´.

Rehmat Ali showed his borrowed formulation to Allama Iqbal, who was in London for the Round Table Conference. Iqbal thought it was a good name, but the other Muslims in the delegation dismissed it as a "student´s dream". Bengali Muslim students in London objected, claiming that Pakistan was really an acronym which omitted reference to Bengal. This was, of course, not true, for it was just a coincidence that ´p´ stood for Punjab, ´a´ for Afghania (the North-West Frontier Province), ´k´ for Kashmir, ´s´ for Sindh, and ´stan1 as the last syllable signifying Balochistan.

This writer came to know that ´Pakistan´ was taken from Karakalpakstan through Azim Hussain, son of Unionist Party leader Sir Fazle Hussain. This was in the 1970s when Azim Hussain, who retired after a career in India´s foreign service, was visiting Pakistan. It was on the authority of his cousin, Arshad Hussain, who had been Pakistan´s foreign secretary, that Azim Hussain had imparted the information. The writer then located a version of the map of Central Asia in the 1963 edition of Olaf Caroe´s Soviet Empire: The Turks of Central Asia and Stalin (see left).

After this new insight was presented in Lahore´s weekly Viewpoint, Azim Hussain wrote back to repudiate his statement fearing he might be refused a visa to Pakistan. The ´discovery´ of ´Pakistan´ by Khawaja Abdur Rahim during a bus-ride in London was revealed to this writer by Muhammad Jehangir Khan, who was an eye-witness. The late Jehangir Khan was the father of Pakistan´s former cricket captain, Majid Khan. Since Khawaja Abdur Rahim was a civil servant, Rehmat Ali was allowed to ´own´ the discovery. The latter later turned on Jinnah for being conciliatory towards the Congress and called him "Quisling-e-Azam".

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian