1947: A teenager’s memories of Independence

Published: February 1, 2011

One evening the independence of India and creation of Pakistan was declared.

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

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 necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • faraz

    The founding party was composed of opportunist feudals who had joined the league only to protect their landholdings; atleast they successfully managed to achieve their aims. Later the British trained army and bureaucracy joined the party. And when the corrupt civil-military elite lost all kinds of political legitimacy; they invited mullahs to redefine the purpose of indpendence. So people were told that its not about welfare, but ideology. Although, the ideology can be practiced in India or any other part of the world. Recommend

  • Rajat

    Nice post by a septuagenarian elder, who still remembers the freedom from the British. One thing that caught my eye was the unabashed childish pleasure of the author in quoting “Nehru had forgotten to say “Jai Hind.” I don’t mind selfless patriotism, but patriotism vis-a-vis another country (in this case a “supposed” rival) breeds a certain rhetoric of pseudo-patriotism damaging the country and brainwashing the people. (I don’t say its not prevalent in India, but people here have a more condescending attitude toward Pakistanis, rather than comparative patriotism)
    In defence of Nehru, I can just say, the man had his mind full with how to run the country, and if I were a youth living at that time, I would have been more interested in listening to his speech, rather than how he ends his speech.Recommend

  • http://billaytoot.wordpress.com Bilal

    Loved the blog absolutely…Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    Pakistan Zindabad, I hope your family in East Punjab made it across the new border. My family too has immigrant heritage from Eastern Punjab, and to this day, I hear tales of the blood shed and the ethnic cleansing committed by Sikh and Hindu mobsters on the other side.Recommend

  • Shahbaz Younis

    Very well write up! keep writing nice articles….Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/ask-super-sis/ Selina Gilani – Relationship

    Nice post!! Great writing SirRecommend

  • Manoj

    What was the purpose of this article? How long people of Pakistan, keep on diging the irelevant part of History?

    Any article which is not for public good should not be published. I respect a lot to the editorial team of Express Tribune and I am of the firm opinion that ET is one of the best new paper of the Indian subcontinent.

    Hence, I would request the editorial team of ET to kindly restrict the publishing of unnecessary self serving article based on History and Religion.

    Mankind need to look forward for the betterment of the self and the human race. A backward looking man / society breeds backward looking nation.

    In my humble opinion, except some extraordinary situation history and religion should not be discussed in public space.Recommend

  • parvez

    Nostalgia does not count for much today. Recommend

  • http://aamjanata.com Vidyut

    Sheesh Rajat! What did the poor man do other than to remember what still stays in mind? Of course, if someone is waiting for news of India and Pakistan, they will remember these things – our leader came across well in the company he spoke in, he remembered to raise our slogan, we are a new country, etc. What is the issue of Nehru forgot? Quite strange that this is all you noticed, and you are pointing fingers at him. Its not like he can now unremember what he remembers because you somehow happen to know what was going on in Nehru’s mind at that time.

    Give yourself a break okay? It doesn’t mean that India didn’t become free if Nehru forgot to say “Jai Hind”. It doesn’t even mean Nehru forgot (if it makes you feel better) – it may simply have not registered in the earlier speech till the declaration of “Pakistan zindabad” for the first time – its a highly charged memory of hope at the birth of a nation along with its concerns. Its a treasure, because we have few people this age to talk with us of these things – whether India or Pakistan. Let’s not turn this into a pissing contest over who had better speech writers or more concerns etc.Recommend

  • http://aamjanata.com Vidyut


    The purpose of this article was precious. It is sharing the circumstances of the birth of Pakistan as an important reference for looking at where they have reached. Was this really a backward looking or religious article, even if it mentions religion and speaks of the past? I think it was nice, because it shows that it wasn’t the great Pakistani dream to become the limited vision version everyone is suffering from. And the great hope that drove the original version, and the huge, huge thing it was to become free that people like us take for granted.Recommend

  • Talha

    It must have been great to hear Jinnah say Pakistan Zinadabad with authority.

    This is why we must flush out the anti-Pakistan elements like the religious parties and reclaim a tolerant, progressive and just nation.Recommend

  • http://www.formerlydelirious.wordpress.com Delirium

    A stirring piece of writing from someone who has been through the transition physically.

    Pakistan was achieved on the basis of Unity, Faith & Discipline. It is such a pity that we- as a nation – have divided ourselves in multiple of compartments and silos such as religion, caste, creed, sects, pedigrees and lineage.Recommend

  • rehan

    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. Recommend

  • Raj

    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.Recommend