Remembering a freedom fighter

Published: April 5, 2011

The writer retired from PIA in 2008 after 33 years of service malik.tariq@tribune.com.pk

My grandfather, Malik Barkat Ali, died on April 5, 1946. At a special session of the Muslim League in 1946, attended by 470 elected members of all provincial assemblies, Quaid-i-Azam paid the following tribute to him: “I am deeply grieved to hear the very depressing and sad news of the sudden death of Malik Barkat Ali. He was from the very beginning a true and loyal member of the Muslim League, and on all occasions, he rendered the greatest service to Muslim India. His advice and staunch support on all occasions was of greatest value to the League and myself. Muslim India has lost in him a great man, and I have lost in him not only a colleague, a collaborator, but also a great friend.”

He belonged to a middle-class family and, after a distinguished academic career, joined FC College as assistant professor of English after doing his MA and later served in Islamia College. Barkat Ali joined government service in 1907 after sitting in a competitive examination in which he stood first. While posted at Lyallpur, he developed differences on principles and resigned in 1914. On April 13 of that year he joined English weekly The Observer as editor, which gained him prominence in Punjab politics.

His editorials annoyed the Punjab governor who asked proprietors to sack him or face closure, but they preferred ceasing publication. On December 22, 1919 he enrolled in the Punjab High Court and started active politics. He participated in annual sessions of the Muslim League, held in 1924, 1925 and 1926. In 1929, when Bhagat Singh was tried, a resolution condemning the trial was moved jointly by Allama Iqbal, Barkat Ali, Nanka Chand and Norang in the Lahore High Court Bar. He was an ardent supporter of Allama Iqbal and this association continued till the latter’s death in 1938.

Malik Barkat Ali was elected on a Muslim League ticket to the Punjab Assembly from the eastern districts of the province, in 1937. For seven years, he alone represented the Muslim League and opposed the Unionists. In Lahore, there was only one pro-League Urdu newspaper, Daily Ehsan and to fill this vacuum an English weekly The New Times was launched.

Malik Saheb actively campaigned on the Masjid Shaheed Gunj issue and on instructions of Allama Iqbal, filed a suit with the district judge in Lahore, who ruled against them. He later filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The LHC decided against him, in January 1938, with Justice Din Mohamed dissenting. Allama Iqbal instructed him to present the Islamic Mosques Protection Bill in the assembly. However, Premier Sikandar Hayat, fearing trouble for his government, advised his governor to block the presentation of this bill. A civil disobedience movement was launched to protest the issue of Masjid Shaheed Gunj, and the Quaid in a letter to Allama Iqbal, dated March 2, 1938, desired that a special session of the All India Muslim League be convened in Lahore to discuss this matter. Allama Iqbal sent a formal invitation for holding this special session to be hosted by the Punjab Muslim League. However, history is testimony to the fact that this special session was never allowed to take place.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th,  2011.

Reader Comments (5)

  • M. Tauseef Barlas
    Apr 5, 2011 - 1:31PM

    in our country, freedom fighter does not have place, unfortunately.Recommend

  • Pakistan Khan
    Apr 5, 2011 - 4:52PM

    From which angle he was a freedom fighter?. Joining Muslim League and launching a news paper does not give you a status of freedom fighter!Recommend

  • Apr 6, 2011 - 9:05AM

    For the info of Pakistan Khan, please go to British Archives or visit the All India Library and you will find out the role of men like Allama Iqbal and Malik Barkat Ali, who stood up and faced the tyranny of Unioionists and the Gov Punjab, when no one dared to oppose them. Those who chose to side with the British Raj were given lands and titles. When Bhagat Singh was being tried in a fake trial it were Allama , Barkat Ali and two other hindu lawyers, who opposed this travesty of justice and condemned this injustice. in 1937 elections, only two candidates of Muslim League were elected to Punjab Assembly. While the other defected to become a parliamentary secretary, malik Barkat stood up like rock on the floor of Punjab Assembly to defend Muslim League. His bold stand on Masjed Shaheed Gang and decision to support Allama Iqbal on this issue tells to you about the committment of these people. History of Punjab Muslim League is none other than the role of men like allama Iqbal, Malik Barkat Ali, Ghulam Rasool, Pir taj etc. Read the Struggle for Freedom and Iqbal Kay Akhro Doh Saal, if u want to know about the role of Malik barkat Ali, Recommend

  • Apr 6, 2011 - 9:48AM

    Men like Sher e Bengal Maulvi Fazal e Haq, Allama Iqbal, Khalifa Shuja, Malik Barkat Ali, Haji Abdullah Haroon, Abdur Rab Nishtar from muslim majority areas played a very vital role, because nations can only be created if you have land. If we are not aware with our history and role of those who played a part in our freedom movement led by Quaid E Azam, than the fault is with us. I dont agree with Pakistan Khan’s comments. Recommend

  • Apr 6, 2011 - 2:19PM

    May I suggest Pakistan Khan to go to the British Archives in London or study the records available in Punjab Assembly of proceedings conducted between 1936 to 1946, or records of All India Muslim League between 1919 to 1947 to access for himself whether Malik Barkat Ali, one of the pioneers of our freedom movement qualifies or not. History is based on facts, whether we like them or not. Countries are created on land and not on mere wishes. The role played by workers and leaders from Muslim majority areas such as men like Sher e Bengal Maulvi Fazal Haq, Allama Iqbal, Haji Abdullah Haroon, Malik Barkat Ali, Maulana Zafar Ali, Ghulam Rasool, Abdur Rab Nishtar, Suharwardhy etc is as significant as was the role of icons like Nawab Ismail, Nawab Liaquat Ali Khan etc from muslim minority areas. We should never distort history. The Quaid e Azam Mohd Ali Jinnah himself belonged to muslim majority part of Sind. The tribute paid by Quaid e Azam himself while addressing the All india Muslim League 1946 session which was attended by all muslim elected members of all provincial assemblies of undivided India is testimony to the role of Malik Barkat Ali and it is on records.Recommend

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