Friday July 19, 2024

The joys of freedom

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
August 11, 2023

Every year in the month of August, all patriotic Pakistani citizens feel a sense of joy and pride when they see national flags everywhere – on roads and waving from cars and homes. A national flag is a country’s identity, and nations struggle hard to keep their flag high.

Exactly 76 years ago, a meeting of the constituent assembly of newly-formed Pakistan was held Karachi, presided by one of the founding fathers of Pakistan, Jogendra Nath Mandal. After the approval of the Partition of India Act in the British parliament, the decision was made to divide the Subcontinent into two independent and sovereign states, India and Pakistan.

On this occasion, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was elected as the leader of the House and the proposed design of the national flag of independent Pakistan was presented by the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan for approval.

The historical resolution presented by Khan was unanimously passed and thus the August 11 emerged as ‘Flag Day’ in our national history. The newly proposed national flag was presented before the assembly just a few days before independence when some extremist elements in the Subcontinent became thirsty for each other’s blood on religious grounds. In such a critical situation, the eyes of the world were also focused on the leadership of Pakistan to see what kind of flag they were going to adopt.

History suggests that the last viceroy of British India Lord Mountbatten informed Quaid-e-Azam that several British colonial countries were willing to allocate one-fifth of their national flags for the Union Jack after independence. However, Quaid-e-Azam, after consultation with his companions, decided that including the British flag in the national flag of Pakistan would be a reminder of the era of colonialism and imperialism.

The final decision was that the crescent moon and the star would remain the same as that in the flag of the All India Muslim League. However, a white stripe would be added. It is a common perception that the white stripe in our flag represents minorities. However, let me clarify that the green colour in our national flag represents all Pakistani citizens including minorities, while the white colour represents peace and prosperity.

Quaid-e-Azam in his famous speech of August 11 assured the residents of the new country that all the people living in Pakistan would be treated as equal citizens of Pakistan. Their lives, property and honour would be protected by the state, which would have nothing to do with the religious faith of any citizen. Responding to the call of Quaid-e-Azam, a large number of non-Muslims living in Pakistan decided to not migrate and adopted the green crescent flag of Pakistan.

The national flag was first raised on the foreign soil on August 14, 1947 at an event of international scouts in France. The green cloth for the preparation of the flag was provided by Madan Mohan, a Hindu scout, from his turban, while the white colour was provided by Abbas Ali Gardezi, a Muslim scout, from his shirt. DM Mathur – a Christian – had the honour of hoisting the Pakistani flag in that ceremony held in Paris.

I believe that was an amazing demonstration of interfaith harmony and religious tolerance among nationals of newly-formed Pakistan having diverse backgrounds.

Being a patriotic citizen, I wish to see the Pakistani flag high among all the flags of the world. While celebrating the independence of Pakistan, let’s pledge that we will consider ourselves only ‘Pakistanis’ regardless of the minority or majority debate.

We will not only live a prosperous life but also provide equal opportunities to all Pakistani citizens to live freely and play their active role in the development of the country. Happy National Flag Day!

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

He tweets @RVankwani