It is important to remember the people who have paid sacrifices for this country. This stands true particularly of the people who contributed in the forming, struggle and achievement of this country. Malik Barkat Ali is also a name among those. He rendered valuable services during the Pakistan Movement. Malik Barkat Ali, born in 1886, belonged to a middle class Kakezai family from Lahore. He could not live to see the emergence of Pakistan as a sovereign state for which he had struggled all his life as he died on 5th April, 1946. His political career and association with the Punjab Muslim League started in 1915.
At a special session of Muslim League 1946, attended by 470 elected members of all provincial assemblies, Quaid-e-Azam paid the following tribute to him: “I am deeply grieved to hear the very depressing and sad news of the sudden death of Malik Barkat Ali. He was from the very beginning a true and loyal member of the Muslim League, and on all occasions, he rendered the greatest service to Muslim India. His advice and staunch support on all occasions was of greatest value to the League and myself. Muslim India has lost in him a great man, and I have lost in him not only a colleague, a collaborator, but also a great friend. My deepest sympathies go out to his family in their bereavement for their irreparable loss.”
He started as an Assistant Professor of English in the FC College after completing MA in English from the same place. He then joined Islamia College as an Assistant Professor, which provided him a chance to pursue his law classes. Barkat Ali joined government service in 1907 after standing first in the competitive examinations and completed his law classes. While posted at Lyallpur, he developed differences with influential Hindus and a British DC on principles and resigned in 1914. On 13 April he joined The Observer as editor, which gave him prominence in the Punjab politics. His editorials irritated Gov Punjab ODwyer, who asked proprietors to sack him or face closure, but they preferred ceasing publication.
On 22 Dec 1919, he enrolled in Punjab High Court and started active politics. He participated in annual sessions of Muslim League held in Bombay, Aligarh and Delhi in 1924, 1925 and 1926. He was member Reforms Committee All India Muslim League in Dec 1915 and participated in Muslim League delegation to All Parties Convention called by Indian National Congress at Calcutta in 1928. In 1929 when Bhagat Singh was tried, a resolution condemning trial was moved jointly by Allama Iqbal, Barkat Ali, Nanka Chand and Norang in Lahore High Court Bar. He was an ardent supporter of Allama Iqbal and this association continued till Allama Iqbals death in 1938.
He was a member of All India Muslim League working Committee, which under Quaid-e-Azam approved the draft of Pakistan Resolution. Malik Barkat Ali was elected on Muslim League ticket to PA from eastern districts of Punjab on 9 Feb 1937. Only two Muslim League candidates were elected, the other being Raja Ghazanfar, who immediately joined the Unionist Party. He participated in all the sessions of All India Muslim League held till his death in 1946. At the Lucknow session of All India Muslim League held on 15-16 Oct 1937, what later came to be known as Jinnah-Sikandar Pact, Sikandar promised that on his return all Unionist members would submit affidavits declaring their allegiance to Muslim League and sit in the assembly as part of Muslim League.
This was just a ploy to overcome the difficulties he was facing. Allama Iqbal wrote a letter to Quaid on 10 Nov 1937 stating that ” I am now definitely of the opinion that Sir Sikandar wants nothing less than the complete control of the league and provincial parliamentary board. The pact has already damaged the prestige of the league in this province.”
The politics of Punjab and Pakistan suffers till today because of the role of Unionists and their scions. It was a victory for Malik Barkat Ali when Quaid later publicly denounced the pact and stated, “He had his own doubts about Sikander-Jinnah Pact being carried outand now it is beyond doubt that Muslims stand solidly behind the Muslim League organisation”.
For 7 years Malik Barkat Ali alone represented ML and opposed the Unionist Party. In Lahore, there was only one pro-League Urdu daily newspaper Ehsan and to fill this vacuum an English weekly The New Times was launched which was edited by Malik Maratab Ali, his eldest son, while Allama Iqbal remained its patron. Malik Barkat Ali was elected unopposed to Punjab Assembly in 1946.
The Shaheed Gunj mosque issue created turmoil when it was demolished by Sikhs with connivance of police and army on the night of 4 July 1935, with a coalition including Feroze Noon, Muzaffar and Shahabuddin ruling Punjab. Several were killed by police firing and thousand arrested, which included Maulana Zafar, while activists of Majlis-e-Ahrar abstained. Quaid arrived in Lahore after a gap of 8 years on 21 Feb 1936, on joint appeal of Muslims of Punjab. His intervention led to release of Muslim prisoners and the formation of Reconciliation Committee.
Malik Barkat Ali actively campaigned for the issue and on instructions of Allama Iqbal filed a suit with the District Judge Lahore, who ruled against them on 25 May 1936 and later filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court, which was taken up by full bench comprising of Chief Justice Young, Bhade and Din Mohammad. Barkat Ali and Barrister Coltman on recommendation of Quaid pleaded the case. The High Court decided the case in favour of Sikhs in Jan 1938 with Justice Din dissenting. Allama Iqbal instructed him to present a bill called Islamic Mosques Protection Bill in the assembly. Premier Sikandar Hayat fearing trouble for his government advised Governor to block the presentation of bill. A civil disobedience movement was launched to protest the issue of the mosque.
Quaid in a letter to Allama Iqbal dated 2 March 1938 desired that a special session of All India Muslim League be convened at Lahore to discuss this urgent matter. Allama Iqbal sent a formal invitation for holding this Special Session hosted by Punjab Muslim League. It is an unfortunate fact of history that the Punjab Muslim League, which was formed by Allama Iqbal, had its affiliation cancelled on 3rd April 1938 by a sub-committee headed by Liaquat Ali Khan at Delhi, few weeks before Allamas death on 21 April 1938. History is testimony to the fact that that Special Session on Masjid Shaheed Gunj to be convened at Lahore was never allowed to be held.