Dawn The Review, August 9, 2001
The ’15 August’ Controversy
“August 15 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign State of Pakistan,” said the Quaid-e-Azam inaugurating the Pakistan Broadcasting Service on 15 August, 1947. He had been sworn in as the Governor General of Pakistan, just a few hours ago.
However, a year later, the government decided to celebrate the Independence Day on 14 August. They had a good reason to, since the last British Viceroy Lord Luis Mountbatten had left Karachi on 14 August 1947, after announcing the King’s message that the country was “about to become independent.”
uaid-e-Azam’s message to the nation on 14 August 1948 (when the Independence Day was suddenly announced a day earlier than expected), included a subtle but firm justification: “A year ago complete power was transferred to the people of Pakistan, and the Pakistan Government, under the present Constitution as adapted, took over charge of the affairs of the country in its own hands.”
Celebrating the Independence Day on 14 August also gave Pakistan an edge over India, who was celebrating its independence on the 15th.
Indeed, many nations across the globe have chosen their independence days for symbolic rather than historic values. The American War of Independence lasted many years and the Americans could have chosen from any of the several important days to mark their independence. The same with France. If Pakistan had wished, it could have chosen 23rd March as its Independence Day and claimed that it was on that day in 1940 that the nation mentally became “independent” by getting rid of the vision of a united India!
Hence we can say that the decision of the Pakistani government in 1948 to celebrate its Independence Day on 14 August was not a distortion of history but merely an attempt to boost the morale of the nation.
However, what was a shameful distortion was the whole bundle of historical fallacies perpetuated by another government fifty years later. As the nation was celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 1997, the entire drama of independence was re-enacted on the electronic media telling the nation that the historic “midnight” when independence was granted to Pakistan and India occurred between 13 and 14 August.
The Pakistan Television even played a new recording saying, “This is the midnight of 13 and 14 August 1947,” (or something to that effect), and gave an impression as if that was an authentic relic taken out from archives.
There could be nothing more shameful for a nation than to lie on such a grand scale about its very birth! It would be interesting to find out if any other nation in the modern history has been insulted by its government the way the Pakistani nation was insulted by the regime of Mr. Nawaz Sharif in the name of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
The Dawn of People
Newspapers form the backbone for any objective study in recent history. Not very surprisingly, it is extremely difficult (when not entirely impossible), to find old newspapers in Pakistan. Even our national libraries rarely have complete records of past issues.
One thing that is specially surprising is the lack of attention paid to the newspapers of the historic day when the country came into existence. One could have expected that the newspapers of that entire week of August 1947 would have been preserved at least in all educational institutions and public libraries to educate and entertain all tastes of people. But alas, no such luck.
For this special issue of The Review, we have taken out some interesting excerpts from two historic issues of Dawn. They belong to Friday 15 August and Sunday 17 August 1947 (no issue came out on Saturday 16, since it followed a public holiday).
On the pages of these two issues, the story of the transfer of power unfolds dramatically as witnessed by those present. As we were looking through old files it was quite amusing to notice how almost everyone tried to relate themselves with the theme of “independence.”
The results could sound especially fantastic in the case of advertisements such as this one: “Dawn of liberty and our congratulations! Just as it is the birth right of every nation to be Independent throughout the ages, it is the birth right of every woman to have freedom of work and play throughout her life. Klin Sanitary Towels safeguard your love, liberty and leisure. Patronize, and keep going!” This quarter page advertisement was illustrated with the picture of a sarhi-clad woman emerging from a map of the Sub-Continent, holding the torch of liberty in one hand and a carton of the Klin product in the other.
Scenes of great rejoicing and enthusiasm greeted the address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on Thursday morning by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, on the eve of the birth of the new sovereign and independent Dominion which, with its 70 million inhabitants, will be the 5th largest state of the world. The historic event took place in the Sindh Assembly Hall, Karachi, at 9 a.m., fifteen hours before the new dominion actually came into existence.
Thursday dawned with the air of jubilation and the whole city of Karachi irrespective of religious and political complexion, turned out to take part in the celebrations. Large and cheerful crowds lined the route from Government House to the Sind Secretariat. Men from the Royal Indian Navy and police formed double cordons on both sides to keep the road clear.
Wearing a cream-colour sherwani and a grey cap, Qaed-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, President of the Assembly and Governor General designate, Pakistan, was greeted by deafening shouts of “Allah-o-Akbar,” “Qaed-e-Azam Zindabad,” “Pakistan Zindabad” by a mass of people as he arrived at the Sind Secretariat punctually at 9:00 a.m. in an open Buick car accompanied by his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah.
Five minutes later came Lord Louis Mountbatten, accompanied by his wife and daughter. They were greeted with cheers by the friendly crowd… while the Royal Scots played the British national anthem.
The Viceroy, who spoke for 20 minutes facing a glare of flashlights, was heard with rapt attention in complete silence. A burst of cheers broke out as he ended his speech. The Qaed-e-Azam’s reply as President of the Constituent Assembly was brief but full of promise to the minorities in Pakistan.
STATE DRIVE THROUGH CITY
A three-mile state drive by the Viceroy and the Quaid-e-Azam through the main parts of the city marked the end of the morning celebrations. The entire route was lined with British and Indian military units, detachments of the Royal Indian Air Force and the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Indian Navy. A flight of RIAF planes flew over the procession and dipped in salute as it passed. Every point of vantage was occupied by people who at places stood twenty deep. League flags dominated the decorations on buildings but the new Pakistan flag was prominent. The Citizens’ Celebrations Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. M. H. Gazdar had erected sixteen gates on the route. These were named after Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, Mulla Tahir Saifuddin, Malik Feroz Khan Noon, Mr. I. I. Chundrigar, Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman, Sir Mohammad Iqbal, Dr. Hemandas Wadhwani, Mr. Jamluddin Afghani, Tipu Sultan, Pir Manki Sharif, Mr. M. A. Khuhro, Mr. Jamshed Mehta, Mr. Mohammad Ismail Khan, Maulana Mohammad Ali, Mr. M. H. Gazdar, and Mr. Ghulam Husain Hidayatullah.
The Management of DAWN (Karachi) regret to announce that, owing to the breaking of a major and vital part of their new rotary machine, during a last minute trial run, it is impossible to print the paper at their own press. A replacement has been ordered to be sent by air from the USA. Meanwhile, in a generous spirit of cooperation which is greatly appreciated, the proprietors of the SINDH OBSERVER have come to the rescue and offered to print DAWN so that it may appear on this historic day as planned. To print two daily newspapers at the same press involves serious technical difficulties and, for the next week or two, DAWN will necessarily be limited in size and it will be impossible to include all the news and features intended. Readers and advertisers are asked to be good enough to put up with this temporary inconvenience.
FREEDOM AND AFTER
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][The following is an excerpt from the editorial that appeared on the morning of 15 August 1947, from the pen of the veteran journalist Mr. Altaf Husain, who was then the editor of the newspaper]:
The long awaited day of freedom has dawned. From the flagstaffs of two independent States fly the standards of sovereignty newly attained. Of the two nations who have achieved deliverance, the Muslims have the greater cause to rejoice because… they fought on a double front and on both they achieved complete triumph. August the Fifteenth will remain for ever memorable in the annals of the world because it adds to the number of the world’s free peoples 400 millions more – a staggering number. It sees a miracle accomplished – the birth of Pakistan, the largest State in the Muslims world… Britain divides and quits… and with her departure dies finally the illusion that India was one. It never was one and will never be one, however glibly some politicians may talk of having divided today to unite tomorrow. This parting is forever, for Pakistan has come to stay…
QUAID-E-AZAM SWORN IN
The ceremony opened with a recitation from the Holy Quran by Pir Elahie Bux, a Minister in the Sindh Government. The oath of office was administered by Justice Sir Abdur Rashid, Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, after the Secretary-General, Mr. Mohammad Ali, had read out the King’s Commission under the Royal Sign Manual, appointing the Quaid-e-Azam as Governor-General.
As the Quaid-e-Azam moved to the flagstaff, the Guards of Honour provided by the Pakistan Navy and the 7th Baluch Regiment presented arms, and the flags of the Pakistan Dominion and of the Governor General were simultaneously unfurled. The Secretary-General then sought permission that a proclamation announcing His Excellency’s assumption of office shall be issued… Permission was granted by the Quaid-e-Azam.
The Pakistan Cabinet of seven ministers was then sworn in. Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, Premier, was the first to take oath of office and secrecy. He then signed the roll…
A Royal salute of 31 guns was fired by the 14th British Field Regiment, the only British unit taking part in the Pakistan Dominion Day Celebrations. After retiring for a few minutes the Quaid-e-Azam came out to shake hands with the guests. A burst of applause greeted him as he again appeared on the balcony a few minutes later.
INFORMALITY KEYNOTE OF GOVERNMENT HOUSE RECEPTION
Informality was the keynote of the reception given on Pakistan Independence Day by His Excellency Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Miss Fatima Jinnah at Karachi Government House. The people’s Governor-General dispensed with the tiresome ceremony of individual presentation of guests. This gesture might have disappointed a few of the “old guard” but was greatly appreciated by an overwhelming majority. The Quaid-e-Azam and Miss Jinnah moved freely among the thousand guests and spent about half an hour with them. The fireworks arranged on the polo ground by the Citizens Celebrations Committee added to the gaiety of the party, which dispersed about midnight.
KARACHI LOOKED A FAIRYLAND ON NIGHT OF PAKISTAN’S BIRTH
The city of Karachi looked more like a fairyland on Friday night, when the illuminations to celebrate the birth of Pakistan were held. All residential houses, business premises, Government offices, Public clubs and cafes, the ships in the harbour and the shore establishments, both on Kaemari and Manora, were profusely lit up and gave one the impression of their being something celestial. From the air the city looked like a bouquet of lights. The additional load on the Karachi Electric Corporation caused by the illuminations was more than 600 kilowatts each night… Large crowds went about seeing the illuminations last night in cars, victories, trams or even on foot. Karachi had, it seems, no night. The people were up for the better part of the night, doing night walking and enjoying the celebrations which marked the birth of the independent state of Pakistan.
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Photographs of all official functions and celebrations in connection with the creation of Pakistan; now on sale at I. Sequiera, Official Photographer to Dawn, Inverarity Road, Karachi. Souvenir Albums containing 24 photographs selected by customers prepared at a cost of Rs. 25. Albums containing a wider selection of Photographs by arrangement. Come and see our selection!
On Sunday the Quaid-e-Azam, Miss Fatima Jinnah and ministers of the Pakistan Government will attend a special thanksgiving service at St. Mary’s Church, Karachi.