SOCIETY asked H.E. Aftab Ahmad Khokher, Ambassador of Pakistan, about his country’s National Day celebrations and the origins and history of the day.
How did you celebrate this year’s National Day?
The National Day of Pakistan (on 23rd of March) was celebrated at the Embassy of Pakistan. Messages of the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the occasion were read out. The ceremony, which is traditionally attended by members of the Pakistani community in Austria, took place with Embassy officials only due to COVID-19 related precautions.
Do you have special traditions regarding your National Day?
Pakistan National Day is marked by fervour, passion and commitment. Pakistan Day starts with special prayers in mosques, churches and temples for progress and prosperity of the country. In the federal capital Islamabad and four provincial capitals, Pakistan Day starts with heavy guns’ salutes.
A joint military parade is being held in Islamabad and broadcasted live by the news media all over the country. The President of Pakistan is the Chief Guest, furthermore, it is also attended by the Prime Minister of Pakistan alongside the Cabinet Ministers, Parliament members, Military Chiefs of Staff, and Chairman Joint Chiefs. Sometimes, some foreign dignitaries like Presidents or Prime Ministers of a friendly country are also invited to attend the military parade as Guests of Honour.
After the parade, the President confers national awards and medals on the awardees. Wreaths are also laid at the mausoleums of Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founders of Pakistan.
Celebrations in the country begin many days before the 23rd of March. The national flag (in various sizes) is hissed on balconies, cars and iconic landmarks. Green and white fairy lights illuminate the streets and shopkeepers offer Pakistan Day t-shirts, green and white traditional clothes and badges representing Pakistan’s flag.
In schools and universities, students gather to sing the national songs and to take part in poetry competitions and other activities. Portraits of Quaid-e-Azam, Allama Iqbal and other prominent leaders of the Independence struggle are displayed on buildings and their pictures are printed on everything from t-shirts to bumper stickers. Similarly, events are organized across the country and in Pakistan’s Embassies in all parts of the world to commemorate Pakistan Day.
What is the history of your National Day? What does it relate to?
The National Day of Pakistan commemorates the Pakistan Resolution passed by the Muslim League on the 23rd of March 1940 at Lahore. The resolution called for establishing an independent federation comprising provinces with Muslim majority located in the north-western and north-eastern region of British India. The resolution stated that Muslims in India wanted independence from British rule and to establish a separate homeland.
The British plan to partition the Indian subcontinent into two countries – Pakistan and India – was announced on the 3rd of June 1947. Consequently, Pakistan came into being on the 14th of August 1947. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, became first Governor General of Pakistan and Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The dispute of Jammu and Kashmir between Pakistan and India is part of an unfinished agenda of the partition plan. Being a Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir was to become part of Pakistan according to the provisions of the Partition Plan. However, on the 27th of October 1947, India had forcibly occupied Jammu and Kashmir by landing its army in Srinagar – against the will of the Kashmiri people.
The resilience of Kashmiri people against illegal Indian occupation forced India to approach the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on January the 1st, 1948. UNSC, in its successive resolutions, called for the holding of an impartial plebiscite under its supervision to allow the Kashmiris to exercise their right of self-determination. Kashmiris are now waiting for implementation of the UNSC resolutions.
Key photo: Unsplash/Muhammad Quaan