Pakistan Day: What are we celebrating?

Is the 1940 Lahore Resolution the only reason that we celebrate this day? Perhaps we need to rethink the holiday.

Gulraiz Khan March 23, 2011
March 23 is a tricky day. For years I believed we marked the day to commemorate the Lahore Resolution passed in 1940 at the location where the Minar-e-Pakistan now stands.

Friends from Islamabad shared their fascination at attending the impressive military parades at the Constitution Avenue, the ones we woke up early to watch on television. But is March 23 really about the Lahore Resolution? And how did the military take ownership of the day?

A fascinating story I learnt only recently (and I’ve received 16 years of schooling) was that March 23 has not always been Pakistan Day.

Our first constitution, the one that turned the Dominion of Pakistan into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, was passed on March 23, 1956. The day, therefore, was marked as the Republic Day – until, of course, the constitution was abrogated and martial law declared.

So, how do you erase the remembrance but salvage the day, thought the general-in-charge. Well let’s call it Pakistan Day! — Generic enough to be hijacked by any institution that is powerful enough to do so.

I spoke to a former diplomat and foreign secretary and asked him if he recalls celebrating Pakistan Day before 1956. Save a few articles in the newspaper, there was nothing the gentleman could recall. He had interesting insight into what he called “the convenience of March 23.”

The middle of August was extremely hot and uncomfortable for the men in uniform to parade in. Breezy March was perfect to mark the occasion, he quipped. Also, India had shifted the thrust of its national celebrations to its own republic day on January 26, leaving the August day merely to mark the independence. We had to follow suit, given our India-fixation.

Thanks to the volatile law and order situation, we’ve been skipping the display of our military might to our impoverished citizens for the past few years. But once things return to normal, will we go back to celebrating a doctored national holiday? Or can we sit down and rethink the ‘Pakistan Day’?
Gulraiz Khan A sub-editor on the business desk of The Express Tribune who is interested in visual journalism and hopes to turn newspapers in to works of art
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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