Prof. R.A. Khan
M. Rafi was born in 1909 in Nivan Katra, a modest locality of Lahore. He assumed the reins of his father’s business at the age of 16. By dint of hard work, exceptional business acumen and a grain of luck, he transformed what was a modest paternal inheritance into a flourishing business empire. His meteoric rise was, indeed, amazing. Rafi became a business tycoon at 24, founded the first Muslim bank in northern India, the Central Exchange Bank, at 27, met the Quaid at 31 and was appointed member of the prestigious Muslim League Planning Committee at 34.
Business and politics occupied a place of primacy in his life. It was in the late 30s that Rafi came in touch with Quaid-i-Azam and became aware of the magnitude of the task that he had undertaken of liberating the Muslim’s from the combined yoke of the British and the Hindus. Rafi clearly discerned that the Quaid was the one and only leader, who had the vision to guide the Muslims in the struggle for Pakistan. The Quaid’s charismatic personality, unrivalled integrity and sincerity of purpose made a profound imprint on his mind. Since that day and till the end, Rafi remained an ardent follower of the Quaid and a strong supporter of the Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. The Quaid’s mission kindled a new fire and awakened him to the sense of a new reality. He threw himself whole-heartedly into the struggle.
Rafi began corresponding with the Quaid in the early 40s and developed a close rapport with him. Rafi was a man of ideas. In his letters, he offered the Quaid timely suggestions of much economic and political import. For instance, he urged the Quaid to bring out a daily from Lahore for publicising Muslim League policies; set up a publicity cell in New York to counter Congress propaganda; enlist the services of eminent economists in the Planning Committee; develop the country economically on the same lines as the USA; and set up an industrial and commercial finance corporation. Rafi held the Quaid in great reverence and seldom took a political decision without consulting him.
Rafi knew that industrial growth was a must for the new state of Pakistan. Economic development became the focus of his deliberations. He wanted the Muslims to awaken from their slumber, develop their industry and bring it on a par with that of foreign nations. He lamented that the Muslims were far behind in the economic field and deplorably short of genuine scientists.
The Quaid valued Rafi’s judgments and flair for economic planning. The Quaid had confidence in him and knew that he would be useful in furthering the cause of Muslim uplift and the goals of future Pakistan. Rafi was, perhaps, the first among the state planners to foresee that metals are the key to the future and could radically alter the economy of the state.
Rafi Butt traveled extensively while still young. He travelled to the US, Europe and England, studying many industrial units and acquiring the latest know-how to expand and run his business concerns, which now included air-conditioning, cold storage and fertiliser plants. The fact that he was included in the Indian industrial delegation to Germany in 1946 indicated the status he enjoyed in undivided India. He also attended the ILO moot at San Francisco in 1948, and had the opportunity of visiting the UK to approach the Board of Trade in his personal capacity for the supply of steel to Pakistan.
So, the classic story of Rafi’s life - his unflinching faith in the leadership of the Quaid, his key role as an industrialist, and above all, his faith in the future of Pakistan - should serve as a beacon for our younger generation. Rafi belonged to that breed of entrepreneurs, who placed a high premium on the love of the country. Today, we need men like Rafi Butt to translate the Quaid’s vision into reality and build a strong, dynamic and progressive Pakistan.
n The writer is an academic.