What Is up,
By Sir Cam
happened to that Pakistani man's grave?" asked
Mr David Swainston, a Cambridge pensioner who frequents
the Newmarket Road Cemetery, where his wife is buried.
He was intrigued by what had happened to grave B8330:
the marble headstone had disappeared, the stone
border had gone, and the green stone coverings had
been removed. It was as if it had been vandalized
Choudhary Rahmat Ali's grave had been desecrated.
So this, then, is how we honor the dead. This is
how we pay our respects to a major player in the
Pakistan Movement. Instead of flowers or dua's and
prayers, what we got now was a most depressing sight
of freshly dug up earth and gasps of anguish and
shock upon visiting the grave. You wouldn't even
wish this on your enemies.
Arrangements had been made for Rahmat Ali's remains
to be exhumed in Cambridge on August 12 (the headstone
etc had been removed in preparation for this) and
then flown out for reburial in Lahore on August
14. This process was somehow abruptly halted. It
was reported, "In the end, it was President
Pervez Musharraf who put his foot down." Seems
rather unbelievable, this.
What! The highest authority in the land, with his
hand on the nuclear button, the ongoing War against
Terrorism, and engaged in other high-level tasks,
bothering about a piffling matter such as the reburial
of a poor man’s remains! Surely, not. But,
then, this is the age of Enlightened Moderation,
is it not? Pakistan can't also have declared a War
against Reburials. Whatever next?
It would pain me immensely if Rahmat Ali's remains
were ever removed from Cambridge for I have been
regularly visiting the grave for almost 25 years.
He is a part of Cambridge and British history. However,
since the very burial was a temporary measure under
special circumstances I can appreciate the call
for a proper reburial in the land he named and worked
for all his life. It was the Master of Emmanuel
College, University of Cambridge, who arranged Rahmat
Ali's burial and ultimately arranged for the College
to pay off his debts "as a matter purely of
its sense of responsibility for an oriental member
of the College who in his middle life suddenly died
In a letter to Rahmat Ali's brother in Pakistan,
Edward Welbourne writes in 1953, "The burying
of Mr. Ali was undertaken by the College at my desire
at a time when we had no reason to suppose that
anyone was interested in seeing him properly buried.".
Edward Welbourne writes in 1951, "I authorized...
his burial in the Newmarket Road Cemetery in such
a way as to allow of his subsequent removal to any
other place where any properly authorized person
desired him to be reburied". Welbourne expected
the Government of Pakistan to recognize the contribution
of Rahmat Ali and take him back for proper burial.
In fact, Welbourne expressed an interest to participate
in a reburial ceremony. In 1963, he wrote, "If
there was a ceremonial removal of Rahmat Ali's coffin
back to Pakistan there should be no practical difficulties,
and if there is to be a formal ceremony I would
myself if I was about undoubtedly attend it.".
This then is the view of the man who authorized
and arranged the burial of Rahmat Ali in Cambridge.
Reburial is not a new phenomenon. It has happened
throughout history. There are numerous examples
from many lands and faiths, recent as well as old.
So why put obstacles in the way of Rahmat Ali? And
why desecrate his grave if you're not going to do
anything? Leave him in peace! Pakistanis have a
lot to answer for. And Emmanuel College cannot be
thanked enough for all it has done for it's former
(Thanks to Emmanuel College for access to the Rahmat