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EXCERPT: Historic steps

May 30, 2010


The silvery Dakota of the viceroy of India's fleet carrying the most precious human cargo touched down at Mauripur airfield on the evening of August 7, 1947, amidst unprecedented scenes of enthusiasm and rejoicing, the like of which was never witnessed before. There was a huge crowd waiting at the tarmac to greet their leader and governor general-designate of the yet to be established state of Pakistan.

Quaid-i-Azam watched this spectacle from his window seat. I guessed, he did not approve of this indiscipline, and I was right. The door of the aircraft was flung open and the first whiff of fresh 'independence' air from the promised land acted as a tonic on the four occupants who could not wait to step out as proud independent Pakistanis.

Outside, the crowd was waiting patiently for the Quaid-i-Azam to appear in the doorway of the aircraft. The unduly long delay was taxing their patience and they were getting restless. In the melee, many VIPs were jostled out of their ringside positions into the rear.

The Quaid's wish to clear the area was conveyed to the organisers outside and there was a visible panic in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft, with some uniformed policemen using their batons of authority. After some struggle, they managed to thin the area around the gangway, and the Quaid-i-Azam was informed. He appeared in the door of the aircraft followed by Miss Jinnah behind him. Tumultuous applause and vociferous slogans of 'Quaid-i-Azam Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad', broke out. Ahsan and I followed him immediately. It was a great moment and I was so overwhelmed by the occasion that it was with great difficulty that I controlled my sentiments and the tears of emotion which threatened to trickle down my cheeks. I felt very elated and proud.

The reception was simply tremendous. I could not believe my eyes, and was proud of my luck which had placed me so near the centre of the stage on this historic day. But the moment of real triumph belonged to the Quaid-i-Azam. It was a memorable sight, the memory of which I shall always cherish with gratitude to God.

While descending the gangway, I could recognise Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Mr Yousuf Haroon and a few others, who greeted the Quaid-i-Azam as he set foot for the first time on the soil of the new state of Pakistan. The rest of the VIPs, familiar and well-known faces of the Pakistan Movement, could be seen in the crowd, struggling desperately but fruitlessly to edge into what was left of the reception area. 

There were no formal ceremonies. It was the arrival of a public leader and the reception was also a public reception of a free people. The Quaid-i-Azam had hardly finished meeting the handful of VIPs who had been lucky to retain their places in the vast crowd, when a fresh tide of people swept me and Ahsan off our feet.

We landed near the tail of the aircraft, where our colleagues were waiting their turn to be introduced to the governor general-designate. An Englishman, in a colonel's uniform, stepped forward and introduced himself as Col. Birnie,
military secretary to the governor general-designate. He then introduced us to Capt. Gul Hassan, and to Maj.


McCoy, comptroller of the household.


Excerpted with permission from
Jinnah Through my eyes
By Ata Rabbani
Ferozsons, Lahore
ISBN 978-969-0-02215-8
175pp. Rs300