Unfortunately many of the Pakistanis who arrived in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s - the pioneers - have died over the last few years. It was these individuals who made us see what was possible, what could be done, and where our
Yaqub Ali, OBE
Unfortunately many of the Pakistanis who arrived in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s - the pioneers - have died over the last few years. It was these individuals who made us see what was possible, what could be done, and where our community might go in the future. The legacy of their lives has been passed on in the activities of many of our outstanding businessmen and we commemorate them with honour.
Running your own business is the aim of many Pakistanis abroad. Their ambitions might run to a corner shop, may be two or three, but few will be able to match the Empire of Late Ch. Yaqub Ali. His Glasgow-based Castle Cash and Carry was one of the most prominent businesses in Scotland.
His situation was a far cry from his humble beginnings. Ch. Yaqub Ali arrived in 1952, in the wake of the inter-communal upheavals following the partition of India. Like a number of other post-war Pakistani immigrants to Scotland, now decidedly making their mark on businesses in the twenty first century, he began his career selling clothing and cotton goods door to door.
And he had walked a long road from the days when his selling netted him five pounds a week, to a wholesale complex employing, directly or indirectly, 500 people. He reflected that his first earnings “wouldn’t buy a decent lunch today.”
“There are two sides to being an immigrant. You’re a stranger in a new country, and raising finance can be difficult. But, the advantage is that with no family to depend upon, you have to stand on your own two feet.”
Yaqub Ali Had stood on his own two feet and saw Scotland’s Pakistani business people working hard and making progress. The key to progress however lays not just with hard work, professionalism counts. Professionalism linked with innovation and diversity. “Pakistani business people in Scotland can move from the restaurant trade or the grocer’s shop”, argued Yaqub Ali. The task, even in these traditional sectors of Pakistani business activity, is to improve the standards of premises and service. He regretted that expansion into such growing fields of enterprise as the hotel and tourist business, the small manufacturing sector, and the fast food market still seem very slow.
The man who built Castle Cash and Carry had some advice: “you must diversify – if you sit back, you will go back.” He had other message for the Scottish Pakistani community, “tolerance is the heart in business and social life.”
He declared that he had few worries about the long term future of the Scottish Pakistani community. “After the second generation they are Scots, only identified by their skin colour.” Scottish Pakistani community should be proud to be Scottish and to demand equal rights. For that to be achieved they must become a full part of the democratic system. He always looked forward to seeing a Scottish Member of Parliament from a Pakistani background and believed Government has a duty to see Pakistani people involved in civic life: “When you give responsibility to people, they grow to become more responsible.”
Separation is problematic. Yaqub Ali believed that all that matters is people. The task ahead for Scotland’s Pakistani community is to evolve into the political system of Scotland. The aim is to look after the total Scottish community, and not simply advocate a Pakistani cause.
Strife in the community deeply concerned the man, who held the OBE through his service to others. Yaqub Ali died in Pakistan in 2003, leaving behind one son, Rafiq Ali.