1947: A teenager’s memories of Independence

I remember the stench of death permeating the streets of Lahore. But more importantly - I remember the hope.

Aslam Hayat February 01, 2011
After all these years I can still smell the stench of death and half burnt timber. I still see mountains of rubble as if it was August 1947 in Lahore.

I was 13 years old, tense and worried. I could see columns of smoke rising over the city’s rooftops.

Speculations were ripe. They said Lahore was going to be a part of Pakistan but the inclusion of Gurdaspur, the area where my relatives lived,  was doubtful. I did not know what would happen to the rest of the Muslims all over India. My own relatives lived in East Punjab, and I anxiously wondered what would happen to them.

The night that changed history

We knew an announcement was to be made. We had a tiny, hopelessly old Ecko radio - the only medium that keep us informed in a desolate city called Lahore.

One evening, the viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten declared the independence of India and creation of Pakistan. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru's voice followed his and our beloved hero Quaid-e Azam spoke last. They all spoke in English but Jinnah’s distinct voice rose at the end dramatically as he said “Pakistan zindabad!”

Nehru had forgotten to say “Jai Hind.”

Everyone in the family cried out “Pakistan zindabad!, Quaid-e-Azam zindabad!

On the night of August 14, at twelve minutes past one Mustafa Ali Hamdani’s proud voice announced the first broadcast of Pakistan Broadcasting Service. We were now sure that we had finally got "our Pakistan."

Dreams of freedom and the future

I was a teenager like millions of others, but I had little doubt about the future of Pakistan. I believed that with this freedom, we - the Pakistanis - would transform our country into a model Muslim country where there would be equal opportunities for education and employment. It would be free from discrimination.

Over the past few years, a great fuss has been made about the Islamic character of Pakistan. For me, at the time of the creation of Pakistan there was no ambiguity about our national identity.

In the first cabinet there was a Hindu minister and the first foreign minister was a member of the Ahmaddiya community - facts nobody can deny. We are all Muslims and we have proven this more than any other nation in the world.

We produced scientists, sportsmen, poets, musicians and a nation who stood united in all kinds of crisis - in war and in peace.

Today, we lack enlightened visionaries, so instead we have created caricature leadership. Perhaps Pakistanis must look back to those long ago days when our identity seemed so plain. It is time to clear away all the ideological rubble and find ourselves again.
Aslam Hayat A retired accountant who lives in Vancouver, Canada. Hayat writes for a local Pakistani community newspaper.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Raj | 13 years ago | Reply I wish Nehru had not given the special status to J&K. If he had allowed all Indians to move with in India, many Punjabis ( Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims ) have developed the Indian Kashmir and we would not have the problems we face today.
rehan | 13 years ago | Reply Aslam Saab..great article. @Manoj.//Nehru had forgotten to say "Jai hind"//..this is probably not digested by you.Yes E.tribune is a very good newspaper and appreciates veterans like Aslam to speak their mind. @Vidyut. Nice shut up call. @Parvez. Give a second thought to your comments when you reach Mr.Aslam's age...Have some respect for his feelings after seeing his Pakistan not become what he had wished it to become.
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