Muhammad Rafi Butt, a young and enterprising industrialist from Lahore, belonged to that distinguished brand of honest, well-meaning, patriotic young men who rallied around the Quaid-e-Azam and fought the battle for independence. It says much for the Quaid’s extraordinary charm and total devotion to the cause of Muslim freedom that he was able to inspire a whole generation of young professionals lawyers, businessmen, journalists, intellectuals with a sense of selflessness and social commitment. Raft Butt became an ardent disciple of the Quaid and staked his all for the cause of Muslim uplift.

M. Rafi was born in 1909 in Nivan Katra, a modest locality of Lahore. He lived in a modest house, received a modest education and assumed the reins of his father’s modest business at the age of sixteen. By dint of hard work, exceptional business acumen and a grain of luck, he transformed what was a modest paternal inheritance into a flourishing business empire. His meteoric rise was indeed amazing. Rafi became a business tycoon at 24, founded the first Muslim bank in northern India, the Central Exchange Bank at 27, met the Quaid-e-Azam at 31 and was appointed Member of the prestigious Muslim League planning Committee at 34.

Business and politics occupied a place of primacy in his life. It was in the late 1930s that Rafi came in touch with the Quaid-e-Azam and became aware of the magnitude of the task that he (the Quaid) had undertaken, that of liberating the Muslims. Rafi clearly discerned that the Quaid was the one and only leader who had the vision to guide the Muslims in the struggle for Pakistan. The Quaid’s unrivalled integrity and sincerity of purpose made a profound impact on him. Since that day and till the very end, Rafi remained an ardent follower of the Quaid and a strong supporter of the Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement. The Quaid’s mission kindled a new fire and awakened him to the sense of a new reality. He threw himself whole-heartedly into the struggle.

Rafi began corresponding with the Quaid in the early 1940s and developed a close rapport with him. He was a man of ideas. In his letters, he offered the Quaid timely suggestions of much economic and political importance. For instance, he urged the Quaid to bring out a first-rate daily from Lahore for publicizing Muslim League policies; set up a publicity cell in New York to counter Congress propaganda; enlist the services of eminent economists in the Planning Committee; develop the country economically on the same lines as the US and set up an industrial and commercial finance corporation. Rafi held the Quaid in great reverence and seldom took a political decision without consulting him.

Rafi Butt knew that industrial growth was a must have for the new state of Pakistan. Economic development became the focus of his deliberations. Rafi wanted the Muslims to awaken from their slumber, develop their industry and bring it to par with that of foreign nations. He lamented that the Muslims were far behind in the economic field and deplorably short of genuine scientists.

The Quaid valued Raft’s judgments and flair for economic planning. Rafi was perhaps, the first amongst the’ state planners to foresee that metals held the key to the future and could radically alter the economy of the state.

Rafi Butt traveled extensively while still young. He traveled to the US, Europe and England, studying many industrial units and acquiring the latest know-how to expand and run his business concerns which now included air conditioning, cold storage and fertilizer plants. The fact that he was included in the Indian industrial delegation to Germany in 1946 indicated the status he enjoyed in undivided India. He also attended the I.L.O. moot at San Francisco in 1948, and took the opportunity of visiting the U.K to approach the board of Trade in his personal capacity for the supply of steel to Pakistan.

A prominent social figure of his time, Rafi’s friendship and liberality cut across commercial barriers. His list of friends included persons from all segments of society. His companions and colleagues held him in the greatest esteem. To Mian Muhammad Khan Daultana, Rafi Butt was a man of great charm and influence. To Sardar Shaukat Hayat, he was the self-made man who broke the business monopoly of the Hindus. Malik Tajuddin, his close friend felt that Rafi would go down in the economic history of the Punjab as a pioneer in the field of Industry.

The classic story of Rafi Butt’s life – his unflinching faith in the leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam, his key role as an industrialist, and above all, his faith in the future of Pakistan should serve as a beacon for our younger generation. Rafi Butt belonged to that breed of entrepreneurs who placed a high premium on love of country. Consider, for example, this excerpt from a letter that Rafi wrote to the Quaid on 21 October 1947: “My dear Quaid-e-Azam if you feel that I can make a positive contribution to the restoration of the economic life of the nation by drawing on my contacts in the United States I am prepared to go to the U.S.A. at your command but at my expense to assist Isphani. My services are completely at your disposal.” Today we need men like Rafi Butt to translate the Quaid’s vision into reality and build a strong, dynamic and progressive Pakistan.