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At Quaid’s service

At Quaid’s Service is a biographical account written on the life of M. Rafi Butt. It deals primarily with the life and times of the young entrepreneur. The 1930’s and 1940’s were dominated by the conflict and aftermath of World War II. Thus, most of the focus of that era had been war-centric, and very few texts provided a prospective view on the culture of the Pakistanis, who gave birth to this country and their struggle against insurmountable odds to survive. Even fewer texts provide an insight into the dealings and preparations for the nation of Pakistan to become a state, along with all stately machinations and responsibilities, and virtually no text exists of the Quaid’s laborious ‘behind the scene’ plans to physically realise that successful, progressive Muslim homeland he saw in his visions.

The book tells Pakistan’s tale from a very different perspective. It is the story of a young Punjabi entrepreneur, who demonstrated economic genius on numerous occasions and had garnered great success in a culture where the odds were stacked almost relentlessly against the Muslims.

Born in 1909, in Lahore, Rafi’s father died while he was still at the young tender age of 16. He had to take over his father’s surgical instruments and supplies business, and soon developed it into an empire within a decade. Rafi went on to establish the Central Exchange Bank in Lahore, in 1936, and expanded it into other cities of the undivided India as well. He travelled extensively to the US and Europe in order to discover the latest innovations in the industry, and kept Jinnah informed on any economic and industrial revelations that could aid the future of Pakistan after its establishment.

It also provides a vivid and unique account of Lahore in the 1930’s and 1940’s, along with the names, places and independent accounts of the happening of the Muslim elites at the time of the Pakistan Movement. The Quaid was a messiah to the masses, but to the elites he was still a politician. Since Rafi was a high flyer in the Indian society, he had an insider view of the way the elites saw the Quaid and Pakistan.

At the same time, it narrates a story of how Jinnah inspired the youth of all segments of the Muslim society, and promised them that if they would follow him they will inherit a homeland with freedom, security and opportunity.

Then the book reveals how Jinnah planned on fulfilling those promises through people like Rafi Butt, who had the capability and the means to create an economy from the ground. It gives a detailed account of Rafi’s trips through Europe and the US, and displays the intensive efforts of the research teams to locate the long lost correspondence between Rafi and Jinnah on the progress made by the young entrepreneur in his quest to find allies and ideas for Pakistan's economic base. Unfortunately, Rafi died in an airplane crash around Vehari two months after Jinnah's death, at a relatively young age of 39, while his son Imtiaz Rafi was only two months old. Had he died in the Quaid’s lifetime, I’m certain Jinnah would have recognised his contributions and Rafi's legacy would not be lost to time for the next five decades.

The Jinnah Rafi Foundations research has been recognised by world leaders and diplomats, as a passionate and important contribution to Pakistan's history, and a tribute to its founding fathers and their intended idea of Pakistan. The foundation’s team worked relentlessly on the archives in Islamabad and London, supervised by Imtiaz, who started research on his father, remarkable job done by a son to put his father in history where he belonged, with an unrelenting passion and zest for the truth. The late Syed Razi Wasti had done a marvellous a job with compiling and writing the book with the limited resources recovered from such a chaotic time in history, as the partition was.


By Tahir Farooqi - The Nation

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