Pakistanis celebrate Independence Day

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PAKISTANIS within their country and abroad recently celebrated their country’s 72nd Independence Day. Several functions and seminars were held during which dignitaries and officials delivered speeches and poets recited verses to mark the historic occasion.

Pakistan’s independence was declared at the end of a bitter struggle and great sacrifices made by the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent to establish their own nation after realizing that the unity of Hindus and Muslims was not possible in an independent India. Even though Hindus and Muslims joined together in their heroic struggle to put an end to the British colonial rule, it was evident that Muslims would not get equal rights with Hindus after the independence. Muslims had genuine concerns that the independence was useless for them as it would simply be replacement of the British rule by that of the Hindus. This prompted Muslims to raise the demand for partition of the subcontinent in accordance with the two-nation theory along with their struggle for securing independence from the British colonial rule. In the year 1947, Muslims of the subcontinent were successful in achieving their own separate nation of Pakistan together with independence from the British rule.

I was invited as a guest of honor for three functions organized by the Pakistani expatriate community in Jeddah to mark the Independence Day celebrations. The first event was organized by the Pakistan Journalists Forum (PJF), while the second was conducted by the Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) and the third by a prominent community member, Eng. Khaled Javed, at his residence.

All the three events were held to celebrate a single occasion — Pakistan’s Independence Day, and hence what I spoke in all these events were almost similar. I spoke briefly about the joint struggle of Muslims and Hindus against the British rule.

In the beginning, Muslims fought along with Hindus for the independence of India as a united country against British colonial rule. The British rule began with administration by the East India Company and later the subcontinent came under the direct rule of the British government. The situation of Muslims deteriorated after the failure of the rebellion, known as the First Independence Struggle, carried out by Muslims and Hindus. The British, who mercilessly repressed the rebellion, blamed Muslims for this struggle and consequently the latter had to pay a heavy price for it.

The British used the policy of divide and rule, by coming closer to Hindus and staying away from the Muslims. The Muslim feeling of the need for independence was awakened by the thought of a homeland of their own. This was the beginning of the demand for Pakistan. The creation of the All India Muslim League in 1905 was the main platform for Muslims.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah started his political career with associating with the Indian National Congress Party and he was a champion of unity between Muslims and Hindus. However, with the passage of time, he came to realize that Muslims would not be able to obtain their full rights under the Hindu-dominated Congress party. Therefore, he left the Congress Party and joined the All India Muslim League. After assuming the presidency of the Muslim League, he did not respond to the attempts by the leaders of the Congress Party, headed by Mahatma Gandhi, to abandon the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims. On the other hand, he emphasized that Muslims are a nation different from the Hindu nation in every sense and must have their own country.

The annual conference of All India Muslim League, held in Lahore, adopted the Pakistan Resolution, which is also known as Lahore Resolution, in 1940. The resolution, presented by A.K. Fazlul Haq, chief minister of Bengal, was endorsed by the conference unanimously. Following this, Muslim League leaders under Muhammad Ali Jinnah led the struggle for the creation of a separate nation for Muslims by incorporating all the Muslim majority regions in the subcontinent. They insisted that anything other than a separate nation for Muslims was unacceptable. The struggle continued until the partition of the subcontinent along with securing Independence from the British rule. The new nation of Pakistan consisted of West Pakistan and East Pakistan.

The last part of my speeches in all these three functions was focused on the problem of Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh following the secession of East Pakistan. These Pakistanis have been languishing in around 66 squalid camps since the creation of the new state of Bangladesh, which considers them as traitors and as such gives them no place in the Bangladeshi community. All successive governments in Pakistan have promised to repatriate and rehabilitate them in Pakistan, but nothing has been achieved on the ground.

In the light of the results of the recent general elections in Pakistan and assuming office of prime minister by Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, there is a big hope that he would do justice to these miserable people after considering the great sacrifices they made for the sake of Pakistan ever since they migrated to the new nation after its creation in 1947. Later, they stood by the Pakistan’s army to maintain the unity of the country and were forced to live in camps without having access to their basic necessities of life since the Fall of Dhaka.

Obviously, it is the moral, national and humanitarian responsibility of both the Pakistani government and people to come forward for the rescue of these hapless people. The first thing to do for them is to grant Pakistani passports and it is the simplest of the rights they are entitled to. Then, there should be initiatives to repatriate and rehabilitate them in Pakistan because they are Pakistanis just like other Pakistanis.

Everybody should remember the famous words of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who said: “Had the massacre in Bihar not happened, Pakistan would not have been there.”

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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