Independence Day (Urdu: یوم آزادی; Yaum-e Āzādī), observed annually on 14 August, is a national holiday in Pakistan, commemorating the day when Pakistan achieved independence and was declared a sovereign nation, following the end of the British Raj in 1947. Pakistan came into existence as a result of the Pakistan Movement; the Pakistan Movement aimed for creation of an independent Muslim state by division of the north-western region of the South Asia and was led by All-India Muslim League under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The event was brought forth by the Indian Independence Act 1947 in which the British Indian Empire gave independence to the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) which included the West Pakistan (present Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
In the Islamic calendar, the day of independence coincided with Ramadan 27, the eve of which is regarded as sacred by Muslims. The main ceremony takes place in Islamabad, where the national flag is hoisted at the Presidential and Parliament buildings, which is followed by the national anthem, and live televised speeches by leaders. Usual celebratory events this day include flag-raising ceremonies, parades, cultural events, and the playing of patriotic songs. A number of award ceremonies are often held on this day, and citizens often hoist the national flag atop their homes or display it prominently on their vehicles and attire.
Cover of a press release; “Independence Anniversary Series” by the Press Information Department of Pakistan, in 1948 in relation to the country’s first independence day which was celebrated on 15 August 1948.
The area constituting Pakistan was historically a part of the British Indian Empire. The East India Company begun their trade in the South Asia in the 17th century, and the company rule started from 1757 when they won the Battle of Plassey. Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control over India. All-India Muslim League was founded by the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference at Dhaka, in 1906, in the context of the circumstances that were generated over the division of Bengal in 1905 and the party aimed at creation of a separate Muslim state.
The period after World War I was marked by British reforms such as the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms, but it also witnessed the enactment of the repressive Rowlatt Act and strident calls for self-rule by Indian activists. The widespread discontent of this period crystallized into nationwide non-violent movements of non-cooperation and civil disobedience. The idea for a separate religion-based state was introduced by Allama Iqbal in his speech as the President of the Muslim League in December 1930. Three years later, the name “Pakistan” as the name of a separate state was proposed in a declaration made by Choudhary Rahmat Ali. Like Iqbal, Bengal was left out of the proposal made by Rahmat Ali.
In the 1940s, as the Indian independence movement intensified, an upsurge of Muslim nationalism helmed by the All-India Muslim League took place, of which Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the most prominent leader. 195–203 Being a political party to secure the interests of the Muslim diaspora in British India, the Muslim League played a decisive role during the 1940s in the Indian independence movement and developed into the driving force behind the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim state in the South Asia. During a three-day general session of All-India Muslim League from 22–24 March 1940, a formal political statement was presented, known as the Lahore Resolution, which called on for the creation of an independent state for Muslims.
In 1946, the Labor government in Britain, getting exhausted by recent events such as World War II and numerous riots, realized that it had neither the mandate at home, the support internationally, nor the reliability of British Indian Army for continuing to control an increasingly restless India. Reliability of the native forces for continuing their control over an increasingly rebellious India diminished, thus the government decided to end British rule of India. In 1946, Indian National Congress, being a secular party, demanded a single state. The Muslim majorities, having disagreement with the idea of single state, gave stress to the idea of Pakistan, as a response to Congress’ demand for a single state. In 1946, a Cabinet Mission was sent to try and reach a compromise between Congress and the Muslim League, proposing a decentralized state with much power given to local governments, but it was rejected by both the parties. This also resulted in many communal riots in the South Asia.
Eventually, in February 1947, Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced that the British government would grant full self-governance to British India by June 1948 at the latest. On 3 June 1947, the British government announced that the principle of division of British India in two independent states was accepted. The successor governments would be given dominion status and would have an implicit right to secede from the British Commonwealth. Viceroy Mountbatten chose the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the World War II as the date of power transfer. He chose 14 August as the date of the ceremony of power transfer to Pakistan because he wanted to attend ceremonies both in India and Pakistan.
The Indian Independence Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo 6 c. 30) passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, divided British India into the two new independent dominions; India and Pakistan. The act provided a mechanism for division of Bengal and Punjab provinces between the two nations, establishment of the office of the governor-general, conferral of complete legislative authority upon the respective Constituent Assemblies, and division of joint property between the two new countries. On 14 August 1947, the new Dominion of Pakistan came into existence and Muhammad Ali Jinnah was sworn in as its first governor general in Karachi. Everyone rejoiced the independence, but the atmosphere remained heated as communal riots marked the independence of Pakistan in 1947. The act later received royal assent on 18 July 1947.
The date of independence:
Since the power of transfer took place on the midnight of 14 and 15 August, the Indian Independence Act 1947 recognized 15 August as the birthday of both Pakistan and India. The act states;
“As from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, two independent Dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan.”
Jinnah in his first broadcast to the nation stated;
“August 15 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign state of Pakistan. It marks the fulfillment of the destiny of the Muslim nation which made great sacrifices in the past few years to have its homeland.”
It was on 15 August that the nation celebrated its birthday, however in subsequent years 14 August was marked as the independence day. The first commemorative postage stamps of the country, released in July 1948, also gave 15 August 1947 as the independence day. The night of 14–15 August 1947 coincided with 27 Ramadan 1366 of the Islamic calendar, which Muslims regard as a sacred night.
The independence day is one of the six public holidays observed in Pakistan and is celebrated all over the country. To prepare and finalize the plans for independence day celebrations, meetings are held in the provincial capitals by local government which are attended by government officials, diplomats, and politicians. As the month of August begins, special stalls and shops are set up across the country for the sale of national flags, buntings, banners and posters, pictures of national heroes, and other celebratory items. Vehicles, private buildings, homes, and streets are decorated with the national flag and buntings. Various organizations, educational institution, and government departments organize seminars, sports competitions, and social and cultural activities leading up to the independence day. In Karachi, drives are initiated to clean and prepare the Mazar-e-Quaid (Jinnah Mausoleum) for the celebration.
The day begins with special prayers for integrity, solidarity, and development of Pakistan in mosques and religious places across the country. The official festivities take place in Islamabad and commence with the raising of the national flag on the Parliament House and the Presidency followed by a 31-gun salute in the capital and a 21-gun salute in provincial capitals. The President and Prime Minister of Pakistan address the nation in live telecasts. Government officials and other political leaders deliver speeches during various rallies and events highlighting Pakistani achievements, goals set for the future, and praise the sacrifices and efforts of national heroes. National flags are displayed on Shahrah-e-Faisal, Shahara-e-Quaideen, and Mazar-e-Quaid Road leading up to the Jinnah’s mausoleum in Karachi. Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, where Pakistan Resolution was passed in 1940, is fully illuminated on the eve of the independence day to signify its importance in the creation of Pakistan.
Citizens attending independence day parades and other events are usually dressed in Pakistan’s official colors, green and white. Various government buildings including the Parliament House, Supreme Court, and President House are decorated and illuminated with lights and bright colors. Streets and houses are decorated with candles, oil lamps and pennants, national flag as well as firework shows occur as a part of celebration. Along with flag hoisting, the national anthem is sung at various government places, schools, residences, and monuments on the day. Homage is paid to the people who lost their lives in migration and riots during the independence of Pakistan in 1947, martyrs of Pakistan Army and recipients of Nishan-e-Haider, political figures, and famous artists and scientists.
A change of guard takes place at national monuments. In the cities around the country, the flag hoisting ceremony is carried out by the nazim (mayor) belonging to the respective constituency and at various private organizations the ceremony is conducted by a senior officer of that organization. The Pakistani diaspora also celebrates independence day in various countries throughout the world, especially in countries which have large Pakistani communities.