Dr. Hasan Askari
PakistanandIndiacelebrated their Independence Days on August 14 and 15 respectively. The people of both countries paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for achievement of independence and they vowed to work for the glory of their respective nations.
Many Pakistanis may not know that bothIndiaandPakistangot independence on the same day, August 15, 1947. The basic formula for the partition ofIndiainto two sovereign states was laid down in the June 3, 1947 which was announced by the last British Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, after consulting the Indian leaders and getting the approval of the British government. This formula and related matters for setting up two governments ofIndiaandPakistanwere given legal cover by the British Parliament by passing the Indian Independence Act in July 1947.
The date for the end of the British Rule and the emergence of the two independent and sovereign states ofPakistanandIndiawas set for August 15, 1947. As Lord Mountbatten was to be present in Karachi and Delhi for the transfer of power ceremony and he was to take the oath as the first Governor General of India in Delhi on August 15, it was decided that the ceremony for transfer of power in Karachi would take place on August 14 and then Mountbatten will fly back to Delhi for the Indian ceremony after the midnight on August 14-15.
Though the ceremony for transfer of power toPakistantook place on August 14 butPakistancame into existence as a sovereign and independent state on August 15. Quaid-i-Azam Muhamad Ali Jinnah took the oath of Governor General ofPakistanon the morning of August 15. Later, Liaquat Ali Khan and his cabinet were sworn-in by Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah.
Pakistancelebrated its Independence Day on August 15 for first couple of years and then it was decided to shift to August 14. This decision was shaped by the desire to have an Independence Day different fromIndia, although the argument was that the transfer of power ceremony took place on August 14.
The British had floated the proposal of keeping a joint military for both countries because they were not in favor of division of the British Indian Military. They thought that the division of the British Indian Military will weaken the military and make it difficult to provide effective defense to both countries. However, both the Congress Party and the Muslim did not agree with the proposal. Once the decision about the partition was taken both demanded two separate militaries under the control of their respective governments. The British accepted the demand, and on August 15, 1947, two independent militaries ofPakistanandIndiacame into existence. Both countries retained British officers for several years because of shortage of Pakistani and Indian officers.
Pakistanwas established on a ‘homeland’ concept. It was to be a homeland for the Muslims to protect their socio-cultural identity, rights and interests from being overwhelmed by an unsympathetic majority in a unitedIndia. This insecurity was caused by the political experience of a large section of the Muslims that converted their concerns into political demands.
Islam was invoked for political identity formation for the Muslims to distinguish them from the followers of other religions in the politics ofBritish India. It was also used for political mobilization for the attainment of the political goal of protection and advancement of the identity, rights and interests of the Muslims.
It is erroneous to argue thatPakistanwas created for implementation of Islam or in the name of Islam. This argument was put forward after independence, originally by Islamic political parties to justify their role. There is no resolution of the Muslim League in the pre-independence period that says that they wanted a separate country to protect Islam or implement Islam. There is no resolution of the Muslim League that says that the Sharia would be the constitution ofPakistan.
While demanding a separate state for the Muslims, the Muslim leadership and especially the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, always assured equal citizenship to non-Muslims that were to stay inPakistan.
The well-known phrases like “Pakistan Ka matlab Kaya: La-e-la Illal-La” or “Muslaman Ha to Muslim League main Aa” were the slogans of the Muslim League for election campaigning and support building in the Punjab and NWFP in 1945-46 because the Muslim League was weak in these provinces, although these were Muslim majority provinces. It wanted to win the 1946 provincial elections. In Sindh, these slogans were used at a limited scale.
General Zia-ul-Haq and a number of orthodox religious leaders invoked these slogans to change the nature of the Pakistanstate. However, the Zia government did not accept the demands of orthodox religious leaders for observing the Independence Day on 27th Ramzan and the inscribing of the Kalima onPakistan’s national flag in the tradition of Saudi flag.
Instead of getting into these debates, we should strive hard for creating a genuine democracy in Pakistan that upholds constitutional liberalism, civil and political rights, socio-economic securities for all, free education and healthcare and equal citizenship irrespective of caste, creed, ethnicity, region, religion, sect or gender.