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Celebrating Independence Day — how many of us know?

Most of us celebrate Independence Day, August 14, as if by habit, which is not a bad thing in itself. However, very few actually ask themselves a couple of  rather important questions: “Why are we celebrating Independence Day? And what exactly are we celebrating?” What are we celebrating Independence from in 2015 and how has being an independent state for 68 years impacted the lives of its citizens?

Have we fulfilled the promises and pledges that our Founding Fathers made when the country came into being or have we fallen short? The answer may be different for every Pakistani but here is one vision — often quoted — that the Quaid had about the country he helped create.

For instance, how many of us know or have read the much-spoken-about speech that Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave on August 11, 1947, to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan? In it, among many things he said the following:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State”

Furthermore, how many of us know that according to the India Independence Act of 1947 — which formalised the partition of the Subcontinent into two sovereign states India and Pakistan — the bifurcation was to take place at midnight between August 14 and August 15. This, technically, would make it August 15.

The first page of the India Independence Act, 1947

 

Furthermore, the Press Information Department of the newly-formed nation of Pakistan issued a commemorative flyer on the country’s first independence day celebrations and the date is clearly mentioned August 15, 1948.

A commemorative flyer issued by the Government run Press Information Department for Pakistan’s first anniversary

 

Also, the country’s first stamp carried the date August 15, 1947 and a scan of the stamp can be seen below

Pakistan’s first stamp

 

Furthermore, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of Pakistan in 1989 published a collection of speeches by Jinnah. In this, titled “Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah: Speeches and Statements as Governor-General of Pakistan 1947-48″ is one with the heading “Peace Within, and Peace Without” on pages 55-56. Here is an excerpt from from it:

“Inaugurating the Pakistan Broadcasting service on August 15, 1947, Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah issued following message to the nation: ‘It is with feelings of greatest happiness and emotion that I send you my greetings. August 15 is the birth day of the independent and sovereign state of Pakistan”.

Those from the older generation say that for a couple of years Independence Day was indeed celebrated as August 15 but this was soon changed to a day before, so that the country could celebrate its independence a day earlier than India and that it would be separate from its eastern neighbour. Secondly, there has always been a view that August 14 in 1947 was the 27th of Ramazan, i.e. Lailatul Qadr and hence that was a very august day for the birth of a state premised on being a homeland for the Subcontinent’s Muslims.

While there is no controversy over the date now, one wonders how many people even know about it, given that the kind of history that is taught in schools and colleges is not exactly objective and free from ideological direction.

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