The audio recordings of every speech of the Quaid-e-Azam are with Radio Pakistan – except for one.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s landmark speech at the Constituent Assembly’s first meeting on August 11, 1947 in Karachi has been missing for decades and all recent efforts to retrieve it have so far been in vain.
These days, Radio Pakistan runs an Urdu translation recorded in somebody else’s voice of the same speech. Where the original speech disappeared, and whether this was deliberate, remains an unanswered question.
It may be no coincidence that the missing speech has these famous words in it: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan …You may belong to any religion or caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
It was also in this speech that the founder had said that the first duty of a government was to maintain law and order, “so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state.”
Radio Pakistan Director General Murtaza Solangi told The Express Tribune that ever since he took over the state broadcaster, he had been looking for the record of the speech, but in vain.
When the Constituent Assembly’s session was held in Karachi on August 11, special teams from Delhi’s All India Radio station and the BBC had arrived in the then capital city to record the event.
Last November, Solangi approached his counterpart in India and requested him to look into his archives for the speech. After a few months passed without any result, he approached the speaker of India’s Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar, during her visit to Pakistan in February and requested her to push for the record.
Unfortunately, however, the Radio Pakistan DG was told in June that India’s radio archives don’t have the record either, and he must look for it elsewhere. Solangi received the same bad news at the archives department of the BBC.
The former journalist says the speech is of paramount importance, especially given the current climate of extremism, terrorism and ethnic divide prevailing in our country.
Significantly, no one before Solangi made an attempt to recover the recording. “None of my predecessors at Radio Pakistan made any effort to retrieve such an important record of our history simply because nobody was interested in preserving it. It’s possible that the people before me wanted us to forget about it, but I will leave no stone unturned in getting it,” he said, adding that he hadn’t lost hope and would continue his search.
Meanwhile, Jinnah’s birthplace in Karachi is a picture of neglect, where his message of tolerance seems to have been lost in the labyrinth of a polluted neighbourhood.
When the bearded old rickshaw driver was asked to go to Jinnah’s home in Kharadar, he had no idea that the Wazir Mansion was his birthplace. And when he finally reached the destination, he hurled the choicest of expletives on the nation’s founder, while gazing angrily at the two-storey building.
He said: “Jinnah had promised Pakistan to be a fortress of Islam. But is this what you call a fortress of Islam?”
The situation around Wazir Mansion is graver. Graffiti of various religious and political parties is scribbled on the walls nearby. Like the rickshaw driver, a large number of men gathered outside after offering afternoon prayers didn’t know that the building next door to the mosque was a national monument.
There is no signboard outside the building; only a rusted fence.
Inside, a small museum of Jinnah’s artefacts is present. There are no visitors, which is the norm. The reading room on the ground floor is empty and complimentary copies of newspapers that would arrive every day no longer do so.
Wazir Mansion museum in-charge Tanveer Sajjad says that although it is open to the general public six days a week, these days he is wary of allowing groups of young men to enter the building together. “The poor law and order situation in the area has forced us to take these extreme measures,” he says.
But who would want to steal from such a place? The few treasures housed here include a cigarette case, a few of Jinnah’s clothes; Ruttie Jinnah’s furniture set; a table clock and tortoise shell spectacles.
The renovation work at Wazir mansion began in 2004 and ended in 2008. However it was yet to be formally inaugurated and therefore no signboard can be installed until that happens, the in-charge says.
Every year, the area’s union councillor, if available, is invited to hoist the Pakistan flag at the building on August 14.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2012.