When my father left to practice law in Karachi we moved to Mian Bashir Ahmad’s house, ‘Al-Manzar’, in front of Bagh-i-Jinnah, as Mian Bashir had left for Turkey as ambassador of Pakistan.
It was here that Mian Bashir hosted the Quaid-i-Azam and recited his famous poem to him:
‘Millat ka pasban hay Mohd Ali Jinnah
Millat hay jism, jaan hay Mohd Ali Jinnah
Sad shukr sar garm-e-safar apna karavan
Aur Mir-e-Karavan hay Mohd Ali Jinnah
Millat hui hay zinda phir uski pukar se
Taqdeer ki azan hay Mohd Ali Jinnah
Lagta hay theek ja ke nishanay pe uska teer
Aisi kari Kaman hay Mohd Ali Jinnah
Aye qaum apne quad-e-Azam ki qadar kar
Islam ka nishan hay Mohd Ali Jinnah
Tasveer-e-azm jan-e-wafa rooh-e-huriyat
Hay kon be guman hay Mohd Ali Jinnah
Millat ka pasban hay Mohd Ali Jinnah ‘
Mian Bashir Ahmad belonged to the famous Arain Mian family of Baghbanpura, Lahore, who had been given the task of looking after Shalimar Bagh by the Emperor Shah Jahan and the title of Mian. His father was the famous Justice Shah Din, who was the first Muslim from Punjab to go abroad for education. In London he did his Bar and joined Sir Abdul Rahim and others to form the Anjuman-i-Islamiya, London, on 10 November 1889. This was the first Muslim organization in the United Kingdom and Shah Din was elected as its vice-president.
On his return he took a prominent part in Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's educational movement. He presided over the session of the All-India Mohammedan Educational Conference at the early age of twenty-six in 1894, and later in 1913. He was fellow of the Punjab University, Lahore, in 1895 and worked as a Trustee of the Aligarh College in 1896.
When Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulik organised a Muslim Deputation to represent and advocate the claims of the Muslim community at Simla Deputation in 1906, Mian Shah Din was one of its members. After the All-India Muslim League was established, and a provincial branch was organized in Punjab on 30 November 1907, Shah Din was elected its president. He was appointed as the first Muslim judge of the Punjab Chief Court in October 1908.
He also launched a monthly magazine called ‘Humayun’. When he died Allama Iqbal wrote a poem called ‘Humayun’, which was published in the magazine. Mian Bashir Ahmad had also named his elder son, Humayun, after his father, Justice Shah Din Humayun, who went to England for study and died in a swimming accident.
The office of the magazine was in the annexe of Al-Manzar where I spent a lot of time going through the store where all the past copies of the magazine were kept. It introduced me to a number of writers and artists whose work had been published in ‘Humayun’. It is a pity that this historic house was sold and demolished.
Mian Bashir was married to Geti Ara, the daughter of another member of the famous Baghbanpura Mian family, namely, Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi, KVSI, CIE (1869-1932). He also went to London to do his Bar in August 1889, where he joined Anjuman-i-Islamiya and was elected its president for a term. He went to Dacca to attend the annual All India Muhammadan Educational Conference where the All-India Muslim League was founded on 30 December 1906. Mian Muhammad Shafi established the Punjab Provincial Muslim League in November 1907, as a branch of the All-India Muslim League in the Punjab with himself as the General Secretary and Shah Din as President.
The Muslim leaders from Punjab stood for preservation of Muslim rights without alienating the sympathies of the British government, which had been till then also the main objective of the Muslim League. However, when Muhammad Ali Jinnah became its president, he signed the Lucknow Pact on Dec. 28, 1916 to join hands with the Indian National Congress to demand more authority for Indians.
It was opposed by Muhammad Shafi, and it split the Muslim League into two groups – the Jinnah group and the Shafi group, with Sir Muhammad Shafi as president, and Sir Muhammad Iqbal as general secretary.
Sir Muhammad Shafi served in the Imperial Legislative Council and the Viceroy’s Executive Council. His other daughter was the famous Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz. Begum Shahnawaz was part of the All India Women’s Conference, set up in 1927. In 1932, she was nominated to represent Indian women at the Round Table Conference. In 1937, she was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary. Then in 1942, she was appointed member of the National Defence Council by the British Government. When Jinnah asked Muslim members to resign she refused. In 1946 she was again elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly, and in 1947, she took part in the Muslim League’s civil disobedience movement and was arrested with other Muslim League leaders. She and Begum Ikramullah were the only two women members of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in 1947. She was also one of the first Asian women to preside over a parliament session on 18 March 1952.
Begum Shahnawaz wrote on 20 January 1933 from Queen Anne’s Mansions, St James Park London, SW 1, to Sir Findlater Stewart, ‘For all my father’s forty years services to the Government and his country, a nomination for his son ought not to be very difficult to obtain, and we hope that both the Secretary of State and the Government of India will consider his case favourably’. Sir Findlater Stewart replied on 25 January 1933, ‘... there will, at the most, be only one appointment by nomination this year (to be made in June), and that if, when the results of the examination held at Delhi this month are published, it is found that a member of one of the minority communities has been successful, no nomination will be required. I think therefore, that your brother will be advised to enter for this year’s London examination, especially as he will be too old to take part in next year’s Delhi examination.’ R. A. Butler (future Deputy Prime Minister) wrote a note on 16 February 1933, saying, ‘I attach a great importance to Sir Muhammad Shafi’s son getting the nomination if possible’. Begum Jahan Ara Shah Nawaz wrote from Iqbal Manzil on 3rd March 1933 to Sir Findlater Stewart, saying, ‘I am glad to say that situation in India is improving every day and people are beginning to realize that the time has come when they should devote themselves to constructive work and give up the attitude of non-co-operation. A meeting of women is to be held in Bombay and I am trying my best to make them agree to our proposal’. However, her brother never received the nomination.