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Jagan Nath Azad (1918-2004) was known for his fascinating Urdu poetry. His contribution to Iqbal Studies was equally important. But what gave him renewed fame a year after his death was the controversy that raged in the Indian and Pakistani media for quite some time and Azad was at the centre of the controversy.

A few days before his death in 2004, Jagan Nath Azad gave an interview to Luv Puri, an Indian journalist, in which he claimed to have written Pakistan's first national anthem. According to the interview, published in The Milli Gazette 's issue of 16-31 August, 2004, at the time of Independence Jagan Nath Azad was in Lahore, his beloved city, and did not want to leave it. Some of his Muslim friends asked him not to migrate to India and stay on, instead. They also took the responsibility for his safety and security. On August 9, 1947, a 'friend' (not named in the interview) working at Radio Pakistan's Lahore station brought him a message from Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, saying that the Quaid wanted Azad to write Pakistan's national anthem.

Jagan Nath Azad claimed in the interview that he wrote the anthem within five days and the Quaid approved it within a few hours. He also claimed that it was Pakistan's first national anthem and was broadcast (the interviewer has used the word 'sung') from Radio Pakistan's Karachi station (the interviewer has used the words 'Pakistan radio, Karachi') since Karachi was then the capital of the newborn nation. Later, due to the worsening law and order situation, his friends advised Azad to migrate to India and he took their advice.

The interview did not have much impact at that time but Luv Puri got a report based on the same interview published in the June 19, 2005 issue of ' The Hindu ', one of the leading newspapers of India. Titled 'A Hindu wrote Pakistan's first national anthem', the report somehow struck chords among some Pakistani media persons and intellectuals and they began spreading the report, some of them feeling quite overjoyed over Quaid's gesture of asking 'an Urdu-knowing Hindu' (to borrow the words from Puri) to write the national anthem of the nascent Muslim country. Well, this is indeed something one should be quite proud of.

But there was a little problem: there were a few odd pieces that did not quite fit into the puzzle because the overjoyed writers did not bother to crosscheck the historical facts. Aqeel Abbas Jaferi in his new book ' Pakistan ka qaumi tarana: kya hai haqeeqat kya hai fasana ' (Pakistan's national anthem: what is fact, what is fiction) has candidly listed all these facts ignored by Puri and his Pakistani counterparts while debating the issue. Jaferi has yet again come up with a book based on research and has very unemotionally presented his point of view, though it was quite possible for him to get emotional since he, as we all know, is a 'pakka Pakistani'. But, at the same time, he is a level-headed and fair-minded research scholar, too. What disturbs him, however, is that many of our friends get too emotional when bent upon proving something that suits their stance and in the process tend to forget their facts.

Jaferi has built his case like an intelligent lawyer. First he enlists the interview and report, translates their certain parts into Urdu, then he reproduces some excerpts from the writings of Pakistani intellectuals, such as Mahreen F. Ali, Zaheer Qidvai, Aadil Najam and Beena Sarwar. He also quotes from a write-up in PIA's in-flight magazine 'Hamsafar' and the reader is convinced that they all looked too eager to accept Azad's claim without any serious research. Jaferi also refers to a TV talk show anchored by Hamid Mir wherein everybody, except for Dr Khwaja Muhammad Zakaria, tried to prove that Jagan Nath Azad had written Pakistan's first national anthem on the Quaid's request and it used to be broadcast from Radio Pakistan till 1954. Pointing to yet another TV channel, Jaferi comments that the programme it aired on the issue was full of errors that it does not merit a mention even. This is the first chapter of Jaferi's book and after summing up all the incorrect notions he ends it with the words: “repeat a lie till it becomes truth”.

Then in the following chapters he slowly unfolds the facts one after another and after partially dismissing Azad's claim tells the story of how and when Pakistan's first, official national anthem was conceived and approved. As for Azad's claim, he invites readers to consider some facts before deciding. He says, for instance, Radio Pakistan's Karachi station had not even begun its transmissions in August 1947 and it was exactly a year later that it started its formal broadcasts, let alone broadcasting Azad's newly composed national anthem. Secondly, the authentic record shows that neither Radio Pakistan's Lahore station nor Peshawar station broadcast any anthem on the night of Independence. The maiden broadcast by Lahore station on the occasion included Iqbal's poetry, a Punjabi song by Sehrai Gordaspuri and a poem by Zafar Ali Khan. In the case of Peshawar station, two nationalistic songs written by Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi were broadcast on the night between August 14 and 15, 1947. So even if we give the benefit of doubt and suppose 'Karachi station' was wrongly mentioned by Azad, it is incorrect after all. Dr Safdar Mahmood, an authority on Pakistan's history, carried out a thorough research on the issue and it was confirmed by him that no anthem composed by Azad was broadcast on the night of Independence.

What seems strange, according to Jaferi, is that Azad remembers the names of all his friends except the one who conveyed the Quaid's message to him. He never mentioned the name in any of his interviews or writings. Also, Azad traveled to Pakistan many times after migrating to India and attended many mushaeras here. He composed many poems about Pakistan in the later part of his poetic career. In ' Watan mein ajnabi ', he has collected all his poetry on Pakistan but it does not contain Pakistan's 'first national anthem'. In fact, it is not included in any of his books. In 1993, 'Uni-Karians Pakistan' arranged a function in Jagan Nath Azad's honour in Dubai and on the occasion Azad said that the first 'tarana' (anthem) of Pakistan broadcast at the zero hours of August 14, 1947 was written by him. Here Jaferi concludes that Azad had used the word ' tarana ' (song or anthem) and not ' quami tarana ' (national anthem).

Before concluding the debate, Jaferi has mentioned that there were many poetic compositions titled ' Pakistan ka tarana ' in the run-up to the independence. Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz was the first poet who wrote ' Pakistan ka milli tarana '. Later, many poets tried their hands on writing national songs for Pakistan. They were Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Raees Amrohvi, Mian Basheer Ahmed, Asgher Saudai and many more. A few of the anthems were even titled ' Pakistan ka tarana ' but no poet claimed to have written Pakistan's first national anthem. To cut a long story short, Jaferi has proved that the anthem written by Hafeez Jallundhry was officially approved in 1954 as Pakistan's first national anthem though it too has a long story behind it. Before the anthem was approved, a tune composed by Ahmed Ghulam Ali Chagla was approved as official tune and poets were invited to write an anthem that went with it.

Published by Virsa Publications, Karachi, the book contains some rare photographs, too.

drraufparekh@yahoo.com