A Nation Forgetting its History Tends to Loose her Geography .....

By Majid Sheikh

The first time I heard of the "Khaksars" was from my neighbor Haji Abdur Rehman, a gentleman of the type they do not make any more. As a teenager I experienced my first sight of them after Eid prayers at the Badshahi Mosque. My father whispered in my ear: "He was a friend of Hitler". The awe of Mashriqi had set in.

Just last week, my friend Syed Sikander Shah lamented the fact that Pakistan is probably the only country that loves to forget its heroes. He mentioned Mashriqi, and being a true Icchra (Lahore downtown) dweller he subtly pushed forward the proposition that Mashriqi had a beautiful car presented to him by Adolf Hitler. That was bait enough for me to set off on a hunt for the gift from Adolf Hitler. On Thursday evening I walked through the narrow streets towards Zaildar Road.

Just before the main crossing, among the hundreds of vendors, is a cemented house with a red flag. A forbidding grey iron door awaits. I pushed open the small gate and before me, just as in a showcase, stood a rust battered car. There is no doubt about its vintage, for it is of the very highest order. I had managed to reach the car that the Fuhrer had presented to "a mind of the very highest caliber, a man whose integrity can lead India to great glory".
Just next to the old decaying masterpiece is the grave of Allama Inayatullah Khan Mashriqi and his wife. It is simplicity itself. His grandson is constructing a research library over the grave. Work stopped long ago, for money is scarce among these exceptionally honest followers of the great Allama, and they are not given to asking ... begging they call it. It is a desolate place. It makes one think about how we honour our greatest minds.

The car is a 1942 model Renault-Benz. For those not interested in vintage cars, let me inform that when the Nazi forces took over France , they manufactured a limited number of high quality Pullman versions of the Mercedes Benz. As they were made in the Renault factory, the car was named a Renault Benz. On the decaying front the name Renault is boldly written. The tyres, now decayed, are on old spoke wheels. There is a starting handle very much in place just below the front grill.

I climbed into the driving seat, those beautiful leather seats had decayed, and below the seat the chassis is very much intact. The chassis number is 381967. I shot off an email to the Renault company and promptly got a reply that the car chassis number, according to their archives, was a gift given by Adolf Hitler to Mr Inayatullah Khan Mashriqi of Lahore , India . It was one of only 1,000 produced in the world, and was a Pullman six seater class of the Renault Nervasport. It was a 4278cc-powered super luxury version.
The original paint was cream on the engine and sides, and black on the wheel covers, front lights and back. The present condition is such, that rust has eaten into the entire paintwork. Adolf Hitler himself had six of them, and he presented over 150 of them to honoured guests from all over the world. He even presented Field Marshal Rommel with one after his triumphal return from the African campaign in the Second World War.

The company had offered US$500,000 to the Mashriqi family for the car, but they refused as ownership was disputed. That was way back in the 1970s. Since then a new generation has come forth, and there seems little interest in this million dollar vintage car. Locals report that till recently it was in a garage with "pigeons living in it". It had become a reflection of our times.
Just who exactly was Allama Mashriqi? I rang up five middle-aged "educated" persons, and only one of them had a faint clue about the great man. The man labelled as "the great test brain of British India" belonged to Lahore , and yet Lahore does not know, or own, him. In case you label him with Hitler, let me inform you that Cambridge University and the British newspapers of the 1930s called him a "genius of untold possibilities".

The fact is that he was a liberal scientific person who expounded the theory that the "cultural ethos and history of India is such, that the people behave exactly in direct proportion to the behavior of their leaders. To imagine that the people do not know what their leaders are up to is a gross fallacy. They get to know every detail".

Allama Mashriqi was born in a wealthy family on August 25, 1888, in Amritsar and died on August 27, 1963 in Lahore . A brilliant student, he set new academic records that stunned everybody in Britain and the sub-continent. He completed his masters ' degree in mathematics in one year at the age of 19. He joined the Cambridge University and completed his Tripose barely in four years.

Though he passed all subjects with distinction, his real fame were his ability in mathematics. Due to his academic achievements, he earned a "Foundation Scholar" and "Wrangler" from Cambridge University . The Times of London and The Daily Telegraph wrote editorials on "this brilliant mathematician from Lahore ".

After completing his education at the age of 24, he came back to India and served on different government positions under British rule. Keeping in view his personality, it was not a surprise even for British officials when he slapped the then British deputy commissioner, Peshawar , for using slanderous and abusive language.

He even did not shut his mouth as a "government official" on the massacre of Pathans in the Kissa Khani Bazaar, Peshawar , on April 23, 1930, and revealed the truth of mishandling the situation by writing in British papers about the reality of the situation. These columns shocked the British public. When Punjabi leaders criticized him for his views, he wrote: "The British government has hired my knowledge for the salary and not my heart or conscience". It was in this context that he refused knighthood.

In 1931, Allama Mashriqi founded the Khaksar Tehrik (Movement of Humbles) and abandoned the luxurious life that he was used to. The ideology of his party was based on egalitarianism. There was no status quo and no wall between the privileged and the unprivileged. Allama Mashriqi was among those people who accepted the hard fact that " Pakistan would face immense racial and provincial prejudices because of the supremacy of feudalism and class-based bureaucracy". "The end result of this equation is total and complete disintegration. If they are removed, the end result will be prosperity of untold proportions.

The choice is stark". The mathematician instinct wrote in 1953: "East Pakistan , by my calculations, will declare its independence in 1970". He did not live to see that day. He also warned not to take the Kashmir issue to the UN, because we would never be able to liberate it from India . "Accept this fact now and you will be better off. It must remain a Pakistani province, and we must struggle to regain portions of our lost province, or one day we will accept the partition of Kashmir like we accepted the partition of the Punjab ".
Need one say more about this remarkable Lahori who lived in a small, obscure lane in Icchra. Years later his nephew, the great Akhtar Hameed Khan set up the Orangi Project. The ideas of the great man were at work. The results were astounding. That Adolf Hitler presented him with the very best car did not come as a surprise to the British. The condition of that very rare car today is for all to see. It is about time that it was taken over by the State, restored and exhibited in a science museum. I can already hear a loud silence.