Birthplace of Pakistan - in a Cambridge Family's Semi That's Now a Place of Pilgrimage
By Raymond Brown

A family’s semi-detached house in Cambridge has become a hidden place of pilgrimage – because it is the birthplace of Pakistan.

The home of Juliet Mills in Humberstone Road was where the name of the nation was first coined by its occupier at the time, Choudhary Rahmat Ali.

And Tuesday is the anniversary of the day in 1933 when the Cambridge academic published a pamphlet entitled ‘Pakistan Declaration’ in which the country’s name was used for the first time.

The declaration was circulated with a covering letter signed by Rahmat Ali alone, dated January 28, 1933, and addressed from 3 Humberstone Road.

Now the terraced house in the street famed for the claim of having the shortest double yellow lines at 33cm (13in) in England, is also celebrated for being the founding place of a nation.

Mrs Mills, 49, told the News: “We found out about it from the people we bought the house from but they didn’t tell us until after the money was transferred – I don’t know why. I think they wanted to keep it low key. They were quite private people.

“We do get people coming to the door asking to look around and one even asked if they could come to tea. We did think about but were away when they wanted to visit.

“Sometimes we do make them a cup of tea and let them look around but is just an ordinary family house inside and we do like our peace and quiet – although we are sociable.”

The financial worker’s son Guy, 11, a pupil at Sancton Wood School, is proud he lives in the historic house.

He said: “I really think it’s cool and I have told my friends at school.”

The family moved to the house in 2003 and may have some tea and cake to celebrate the anniversary.

Mrs Mills said: “It is amazing to think that the house is famous for this. And we also have the shortest double yellow lines outside. They are ridiculous.”

The word Pakistan grew in popularity and led to the commencement of the Pakistan Movement and the creation of Pakistan as an independent state in 1947.

Ali returned to the country in April 1948, planning to stay, but he was ordered to leave by the then Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan.

A Muslim nationalist from Punjab, he died in a flue epidemic on February 3, 1951 and was buried at Newmarket Road Cemetery.

Pakistan was formed out of the partition of India in 1947.

The name means land of the Paks and by the end of 1933, ‘Pakistan’ had become common vocabulary, and an i was added to ease pronunciation.

The Muslim state of East and West Pakistan was created at the end of British rule but East Pakistan later broke away and became Bangladesh.

In the obituary of Choudhary Rahmat Ali published in The Emmanuel College Magazine 1950-51 it said: “It may not be the function of a College magazine to awaken the rancours of the politics of other lands, but it would be absurd not to record the fact that this obscure and single-handed undergraduate of Emmanuel College, who died in Cambridge in the influenza epidemic of the spring of this year and who is buried in the Newmarket Road cemetery, has influenced world events, and may yet influence the future, more than falls to the lot of most men.”

The obituary added: “It may well be that invention of the name (Pakistan) was his essential feat. For some years all that could be officially allowed was that this was mere student folly, but as its popularity grew, Ali’s invention was seized by men of perhaps greater political gifts.

“By mere accident, we may have made the College a place of pilgrimage to the faithful or the curious, and have added another name to be misunderstood by the guide books – “This College was the College of the founder of Pakistan”.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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