Pakistan ’s Memon Benefactors
By Dr A. Q. Khan
This column is about the Memon community who wholeheartedly supported newly-born Pakistan, firstly by bringing in badly needed hard cash and then by putting up a variety of large industrial concerns in both wings of Pakistan. They are, as a community, one of the greatest benefactors of Pakistan.
When my mother and younger sister came to Pakistan, my elder brother, who was with the Karachi Police, hired a flat in a neat and clean building near Jubilee Cinema opposite the Police Hospital. There was a covered market at Ranchor Lines, where a large Memon community resided.
Most of our younger generation is not aware of the sacrifices made by so many people and of their contribution towards sustaining its very existence and creating viable circumstances for the newborn country. From Bengal to the Frontier and from Kashmir to Malabar, people supported the establishment of Pakistan with their wealth and blood. Some of these benefactors were Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Nawab Ismail Khan, Sir Abdur Rehman, H S Suhrawardy, Fazlul Haq, Sir Aga Khan, Raja Sahib Mahmoodabad, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar, Qazi Isa, Sir Abdullah Haroon, Pir Sahab Manki Sharif, Dr Abdul Rahim Bangash, the Nawab of Bhopal, and many more. The undisputed leader of this struggle was, of course, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Many of the refugees coming from UP and Hyderabad were well educated and experienced, and they provided the manpower for the administration. People used to bring pencils and pens, and even babool thorns were used as pins.
Mr Maratab Ali had also given generous financial support to the newly-born Pakistan. The building of the new country was undertaken with missionary zeal by all – including Parsis and Christians and other communities. They set up many welfare projects, educational institutions, etc. The Valikas set up industrial units to provide a sound base.
Now more about the Memons. During our stay near Jubilee Cinema I came into close contact with many of them. Most of the inhabitants of the area were middle-class. In the evenings they sat outside teashops drinking innumerable cups of tea, chewing pan and chatting. More often than not, they would be dressed in suits but with no tie, with shirt collar over their jacket collar and, surprisingly, complimented with open sandals, or chappals. The well-to-do gave financial assistance to cash-strapped Pakistan and established important large industrial units, enabling the country to grow economically.
After completing my B.Sc. from DJ Sindh Government Science College, I joined the Karachi administration as inspector of weights and measures. At one time the whole industrial area was under my jurisdiction and I regularly visited the factories and mills located there. It was here that I realized just how much the Memon community was doing for Pakistan.
When I returned to Pakistan from abroad and was appointed head of the uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta, this business/friendship circle widened and deepened. I became fond of many Memon dishes. Their food, though hot and spicy, is very delicious, especially their memni pulao. After knowing them at close quarters, I became interested in their history, culture, etc. I first read what the Quaid-i-Azam had said about them in 1937: “The Memon community, being hardworking and courageous, have started taking an active interest in politics, which is very encouraging, and this is the key to success in the world. I wish you all success in your noble endeavors.”
There are various stories about the community’s conversion to Islam. Some say that in the 15th century about 700 families from the Lohana caste converted to Islam at Nagar Thatha at the hands of Pir Yusufuddin. Some say that they converted to Islam at Mansura during the reign of Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA). British historian Richard Burton wrote that they embraced Islam in Kutch. Some say that they did so during the period of Muhamad bin Qasim and that the “me” in the word “memon” stands for business and “mon” for diamonds. Some historians claim that the people belonging to the Banu Tamim tribe in Memna later settled in Thatta and were known as Memons. Most members of the Memon community in undivided India lived in Sindh, Gujarat and Kathiawar. They were known as Sindhi Memon, Gujarati Memon and Kathiawari Memon, respectively. Those living in Kenya are known as Nasarpuria Memon.
Upon getting to know them better, one soon realizes that they are soft-spoken, amicable, kind and very patriotic. It would take a thick volume to describe all their services to the people and our country. Suffice it to say that whatever they have done for the economic, social, etc., welfare of Pakistan since its creation is highly praiseworthy and to be proud of.
Ordinary people connect the word “Memon” only with trade, but their services in other fields have been exemplary. After Partition they set up a number of important industrial units in East Pakistan: Bawa Jute Mills, Adamji Jute Mills, Adamji Tea Gardens, Karnaphuli Paper Mills, Karnaphuli Jute Mills, Dawood Rayon Mills and Chemical Factories, to name but a few.
After the independence of Bangladesh many of them lost everything. However, they did not give up and concentrated all their efforts in building up the industrial infrastructure in (West) Pakistan. We are all familiar with names like Adamji, Pakola, Dawood, Fecto, Al-Noor, Dada, Hussain, Dadabhoy, Abdullah, Jaffer, Bawany, Machiara, Tabani, and many more. That is not to forget the many small and medium-sized industries set up by others. They are very active in social welfare and have set up many colleges, hospitals, schools, mosques, etc. – a list too long to mention. According to available data, there are about 1-1/2 million Memons outside Pakistan. There are about 600,000 in the country, about 700,000 in India, about 13,000 in America and about 25,000 in England. I am thankful to my friend, Merchant Navy Captain Kamal Mahmoodi, for the information about the Memon community.
Some famous Memons, past and present, are Haji Sir Abdullah Haroon, Haji Abdul Sattar Seth Adamji, Haji Dawood, Haji Abdul Ghani Beg Mohammad Bawani, Usman Isa Bhai Vakil, Haji Dada Wali Mohammad Modi, Ahmad E H Jafar, Yusuf Haroon, Mahmood Haroon, Ashraf Wali Mohammad Tabani, Zain Noorani, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Alhaj Zakaria Kamdar, Haji Hanif Tayyab, Dr Farooq Sattar, Nisar Memon, Kassim Parekh, Abdullah J Memon, Ghulam Ali Memon, Ahmad Dawood, Hussain Dawood, Abdul Qadir Lakhani, Aqil Karim Dedi, Razzaq Balwani, Aziz Tabba, Abdul Razzaq Thalpawala, Hussain Lawai, Amin Ghaziani, Justice A Hafeez Memon, Justice Rahim Bux Memon, Justice M Bachal Memon, Justice Rahim Bux Munshi, Gh ulam Mohammad. Adamji Fecto, Ahmad Ibrahim Wali Mohammad Bawani, Haji Ilyas Memon, Hussain Ibrahim, Latif Ibrahim Jamal, M Ibrahim Tabani, Yaqub Tabani, Usman Salman, Haji Abdul Razzaq, Amin Lakhani, and many more.
Most people are not aware that the father of Urdu poet Wali Dakani (born in Gujarat 300 years ago), whose real name was Shah Mohammad Waliullah, belonged to the Memon community.
I am proud to be and have been a friend of the late Mr Ghulam M Fecto, Mr Aziz A Munshi, Mr Hussain Dawood, Mr Yaqub Tabani, Haji Hanif Tayyab, Mr Hussain Lawai and Haji Abdul Razzaq. In the nineties, when Pakistan was in great financial crisis, Haji Razzaq, the “Golden Boy” of Dubai, lent $185 million to the country. While many people have done much for Pakistan, the Memon community stands out in its prominence as a benefactor of the country. Courtesy The News,