On the morning of August 14, the last British Viceroy Mountbatten attended a ceremony at the Constituent Assembly Building (now the Sindh Assembly) in Karachi. There he “transferred the power” to the Governor-General designate Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the elected representatives of the people.
The nation had become independent but technically speaking, Pakistan was not yet born. The Viceroy flew off to New Delhi the same afternoon. The Union Jack was still flying in the Governor-General house when it was suggested to the Quaid that it should be removed now that British had left. He refused, since such discourtesy would have been beneath his dignity. Hence the British flag was brought down at its appointed hour of the sunset and not without due respect.
That sunset also marked the beginning of the 27th of Ramadan – the “Night of Power”, which according to the Quran was better than a thousand nights, when angels and the Spirit descend on the earth in order to carry out every task under the direct command of the Creator. It was a night which, according to the Quran, is peace till the dawn. The Quran itself had been revealed on this night more than 1300 years ago.
The radio station of Lahore went on announcing itself as “All-India Radio” till shortly before midnight.
The birth of Pakistan was announced at the appointed hour, which was the midnight. The next morning, i.e. August 15 (Ramazan 27th), the newspapers felicitated the people on the birth of an independent state. Quaid-i-Azam was sworn in as Governor-General. Liaquat Ali Khan took oath as Prime Minister. The flag of Pakistan was hoisted. The Quaid addressed the nation on radio. And, therefore, “the evening and the morning were the first day.”
The question then arose whether the “Independence Day” should be celebrated on August 14th or 15th in the future? My friend Aqeel Abbas Jafri tells me that he has seen in the national archives an official circular that was properly circulated the next year stating that although Pakistan came into being on August 15, it would be more appropriate if it celebrates its “Independence Day” on August 14, since the nation had technically become independent with the transfer of power by the last Viceroy.
This practice has been followed since 1948. Unfortunately there is no dearth of sensationalists who distort these facts in order to gain quick attention. They raise objections to the celebration of the Independence Day on August 14.
I almost became a victim to one myself when I read his book The Murder of History in Pakistan in the early 1990s. The author made much of the fact that Pakistan was born on August 15, and therefore it was wrong to celebrate the Independence Day on August 14. This author did not care to address some basic questions which any historian with a shred of self-respect would have tried to answer before raising the alarm: When was the date of the Independence Day changed to August 14? Who changed it, under what authority and was any reason given? Documents are available in the national archives and they leave no room for ambiguity.
The argument presented in The Murder of History in Pakistan has been picked up by countless other sensationalists. Neither of them has the self-respect to even raise these basic questions. We cannot say whether they fail to raise the questions because their real intention is not to set the record straight; they just feel sorry for having become independence, since they have been raised up with a slave mentality and therefore it hurts them when they see everybody else celebrating independence.
On our parts, it is our duty to know the facts. The people of Pakistan became independent on August 14, 1947 AD (Ramazan 26, 1366 AH). As an independent nation they themselves created Pakistan the next day, August 15, 1947 AD (Ramazan 27, 1366 AH). The birthday of Pakistan is August 15 just as the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah mentioned in his inaugural address to the nation that morning. The “Independence Day”, in all fairness, cannot be the same date. It has to be the day when power was transferred to us (at least to those of us who are willing to have it). That was August 14, 1947.
This is just one of the several questions that are shamelessly thrown at the patriotic Pakistanis, very often by some who know neither shame nor self-respect. End of the day, the answer to all such questions boils to down to one counter-question: Are you happy that you are free? Let’s stop at saying that an answer beginning with “Yes, but…” counts as “No.”
Postscript: My answer is “Yes”, and I hope that so is yours. Happy Independence Day, August 14, 2011.
Special announcement: August 14 next year will fall again on Ramazan 26. Once again, the night of the Independence Day will be the “Night of Power”.