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Remembering Pakistan Day

March 23, 2013

LAST year on March 23, I spent quite some time looking at newspaper eulogies on independence and on our electronic media but I found no mention of March 23 being our Republic Day.

With the promulgation of our first constitution on this day in 1956, Pakistan became the world’s first Islamic Republic. On that day we ended the status of British dominion and became fully sovereign. Why have we forgotten our Republic Day?

To our east, India wriggled out early of its semi-independent status of a British dominion when it adopted its constitution on Jan 26, 1950, a day it marks every year as its Republic Day or India Day.

The date was chosen to commemorate the declaration of independence adopted by the Indian National Congress in its Lahore session on Jan 26, 1930.

We chose to promulgate our first constitution on March 23, 1956, though the document was ready in February.

The day was declared our Republic Day so that it could coincide with the day the Lahore Resolution was adopted by the All-India Muslim League. March 23 was also notified to the world as the Pakistan Day as our embassies/high commissions the world over arrange national day receptions.

I see deep confusion in all the official messages issued on the Pakistan Day by our presidents, prime ministers, governors and ambassadors. None of them mentions the republic day.

Why? I feel that there are two factors, both very powerful, which have deprived us of this concept.

The long periods of martial law have made us forget our Republic status. Gen Pervez Musharraf loved to excoriate sham democracy. Could he have made a fool of himself by reminding the nation that it once was a republic? Nor would his companions think of spoiling the mood of their patron by reminding him of any such bitter fact.

The political ulema, too, would not want the nation to be reminded of their republic status. Their objective is to keep us chained to our minority mindset pickled in the vinegar of 1857.

Because this half-literate cohort does not like the implications of republichood -– the first of which is pluralist democracy, the second is popular democracy.

According to Dr K.K. Aziz, our body politic is suffering from many such mnemonic wounds, wilfully inflicted by courtiers and government employees passing off as historians.

Their rectification need not proceed at the rate of strengthening  of our democracy. By putting facts correctly we may see a better democracy in the country than one which is sham.

TOHEED AHMAD Lahore