Pakistanis celebrate Independence Day


The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a symposium to celebrate Independence Day, the day when Pakistan became an independent republic. The new independent nation was the result of a long struggle and great sacrifice made by the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. In the beginning, Muslims fought along with Hindus for the independence of India as a united country against British colonial rule that lasted for almost two centuries. Colonial rule began with administration by the East India Company and later the subcontinent came under the direct rule of the British government, based in London. The situation of Muslims deteriorated after the failure of the revolution, known as the First Independence Struggle, carried out by Muslims and Hindus under the leadership of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1857. The British blamed Muslims for this struggle.

The PRC symposium began with the recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an. Then, some religious songs were sung, eulogizing the Prophet (peace be upon him). The speakers also dealt with some of the problems plaguing Pakistan and called for their resolution. The most important of these problems was Kashmir that dates from the day Pakistan secured its independence.

Kashmir would have become a part of Pakistan in accordance with the agreements and conditions under which the subcontinent was divided but the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir connived with Hindu leaders who were not in favor of India’s partition. This was not acceptable to Pakistan and eventually it led to the first war between India and Pakistan. The war came to an end with the intervention of the United Nations. A ceasefire came into force and it was decided to hold a plebiscite under which the people of Kashmir would be given their right to self-determination.

Although all parties had agreed to the plebiscite, India retreated from what it had previously agreed upon. As a result, relations between the two neighboring countries continued to remain tense and the neighbors fought two more wars over the contentious issue of Kashmir. In the third war with India over Kashmir, Pakistan lost its eastern part and that gave birth to another issue – the problem of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.

These Muslims migrated to East Pakistan from the Indian state of Bihar during the time of partition. They stood by the Pakistani army in order to safeguard united Pakistan. These people were the worst losers following the creation of the new state of Bangladesh, as Bengalis treated them as betrayers and eventually drove them out of their homes. This forced these hapless people to languish in squalid camps with the hope that one day they would be repatriated and rehabilitated in Pakistan.

When my turn came to speak about Pakistan and its Independence Day, I thanked the organizers of the symposium for their invitation. I said that Pakistan came into being after a long struggle and great sacrifices made by the Muslims of the subcontinent. Pakistan’s roots can be traced back to the arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim Al-Thaqafi to Sindh, but the idea of a Muslim state could be seen in the writings of the world-renowned Muslim scholar and philosopher of the medieval era Abu Al-Rayhan Muhammad Bin Ahmad Al-Biruni, known as Al-Biruni, who wrote that there were big differences between Hindus and Muslims and as such they cannot live together in a single country.

With the passage of time, Muslims became one of the most backward communities in the subcontinent during British rule. After the failure of the First Independence Struggle in 1857, they were deprived of their basic rights and were neglected in every sphere of life. At that time, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan launched the Aligarh Movement with the aim of helping Muslims to regain a respectable position in society.

Later, Muhammad Ali Jinnah came to save Muslims when they were denied their basic rights, especially political representation. When he realized that rallying behind the Indian National Congress would not help them, he quit the party and joined the Muslim League. He worked with other Muslim leaders who adopted the Pakistan Resolution or Lahore Resolution in 1940. With this, Muslim League leaders under Jinnah led the struggle for the creation of a separate nation for Muslims by incorporating all the Muslim majority regions in the country. They insisted that anything other than a separate nation for Muslims was unacceptable.

In the last part of my speech, I mentioned that Pakistan must be for all Pakistanis. No one can be excluded or denied their rights in the country. Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh sacrificed and suffered much when they left their homeland in India. They chose Pakistan and later sacrificed and suffered when they stood with the Pakistani army so as to ensure the unity of Pakistan. But, unfortunately, they have been subjected to suffering and hardship since the secession of East Pakistan. They have a strong feeling that Pakistani politicians and military officials have betrayed them.

It was the duty of the Pakistan military to guarantee the rights and safety of these people before its surrender to the Indian army. As for Pakistani politicians, they deceived them by breaking their promise to repatriate and rehabilitate them in Pakistan. I have repeatedly called on Nawaz Sharif, especially when he took over as prime minister of Pakistan for the third time, to complete the work that he initiated in his first two terms with regard to the repatriation and rehabilitation of stranded Pakistanis. However, he did not do anything during his third term.

Though Sharif has recently resigned, he still holds influence over the ruling party. Hence, I appeal to him as well as to all other politicians, military officials, writers, media persons, judges and all other Pakistanis to work to resolve the problem of their brothers, the stranded Pakistanis. I want to reemphasize that Pakistan has a national, moral and humanitarian responsibility toward these Pakistanis.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at