August 14 takes me down the memory lane to the first Independence Day. The day Pakistan emerged as an independent state to the delight of its proud citizens who had to go through many sacrifices.
It was a memorable day for my family as my father took charge as the first deputy commissioner of Pakistan’s Gurdaspur District, which was his first posting as deputy commissioner. Before Partition, he was posted as Additional District Magistrate at Jhelum. Our family was left behind at our ancestral village, Sahowala, close to Sialkot. We were supposed to join our father at Gurdaspur after summer vacations.
The day was celebrated by Pakistani citizens of Gurdaspur district with prayers and celebrations. The Pakistani flag was hoisted on all government and private buildings, sweets were distributed and festivities continued till late in the night. My uncle, Haji Tufail Ahmad, the elder brother of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, was already in Gurdaspur with his family, posted as a sessions judge much before the Partition.
Then on August 17, tragedy struck. The treacherous Cyril Radcliffe serving as the chairman of the Boundary Commission appointed under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, transferred the whole of Gurdaspur District to India save for the Shakargarh Tehsil. Gurdaspur and Ferozpur districts with a Muslim majority became part of India. The final boundary, known as the Radcliffe Line, allotted some 62 per cent of the area of undivided Punjab to India.
This arrangement was planned by then viceroy Lord Mountbatten and executed via the Radcliffe Award. When my father took over as the deputy commissioner of Gurdaspur, his predecessor, a Hindu officer, requested that he should be allowed to stay with his family at the deputy commissioner’s residence as arrangement will soon be made for transfer to other area. As a gesture of goodwill, my father stayed at the Government Rest House and beefed up security at the residence of the Hindu deputy commissioner.
My father handed over the deputy commissioner’s charge to same Hindu officer and gloomily lowered the Pakistani flag to the grief of Pakistan citizens at Gurdaspur and was then appointed as liaison officer in Gurdaspur District for the evacuation of Pakistani citizens.
At the time of Independence Sahowala was a reasonable size village with majority Muslim population and a fairly large Sikh community. The young generation of our surrounding villages, hearing about atrocities on Muslims being committed in India specially by Sikhs, wanted to take revenge in the true Muslims “spirit”. They were stopped by the village panchayat committee, headed by my grandfather, Nabi Ahmad Cheema, sensing there will be needless casualties of Muslims of our village. One night, at the end of August, the younger generation (equivalent of modern Jayalas) armed with bamboo and hockey sticks raided the Sikh fortress. My father was eventually relieved of his liaison duties in Gurdaspur and was posted as the deputy commissioner of Jhang District. Jhang at that period was flooded with Muslim refugees from India and long convoys of Hindu/Sikh refugees migrating to India and the locals were quite compassionate. It was so peaceful.
Those days are now history. We are now fighting one another with zero tolerance. Where is the spirit of independence? Can we call our self, Pakistani? Indians and Jews with all their might do not want to finish us, we are capable of devastating our self, bringing a complete end to Jinnah’s Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2014.