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A Hindu wrote Pakistan’s first national anthem

Sunday 19 June 2005, by PURI*Luv

How Jinnah got Urdu-knowing Jagannath Azadto write the song.

JAMMU: "Aey sarzameen-i-pak Zarrey terey hein aaj sitaron sey tabnak Roshan heh kehkashan sey kahin aaj teri khak."("Oh land of Pakistan, each particle of yours is being illuminated by stars. Even your dust has been brightened like a rainbow."’)

These are lines from Pakistan’s first national anthem - written by Jagannath Azad, a Lahore-based Hindu, acceding to the wishes of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the country’s founder and first Governor-General.

As the debate about Jinnah’s secular August 1947 vision of his country rages on, this little known fact will be of public interest. Days before his death last year, Azad recalled, in an interview to this correspondent, the circumstances under which he was asked by Jinnah to write Pakistan’s national anthem: "In August 1947, when mayhem had struck the whole Indian subcontinent, I was in Lahore working in a literary newspaper. All my relatives had left for India and for me to think of leaving Lahore was painful. I decided to take a chance and stay on for some time. My Muslim friends requested me to stay on and took responsibility of my safety. On the morning of August 9, 1947, there was a message from Pakistan’s first Governor-General, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It was through a friend working in Radio Lahore who called me to his office. He told me `Quaid-e-Azam wants you to write a national anthem for Pakistan.’ I told them it would be difficult to pen it in five days and my friend pleaded that as the request has come from the tallest leader of Pakistan, I should consider his request. On much persistence, I agreed."

Why him? "The answer to this question," Azad said in the interview, "has to be understood by recalling the inaugural speech of Jinnah Sahib as Governor General of Pakistan. He said: `You will find that in the course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.It is for historians and analysts to judge what made Jinnah Sahib make this speech. But clearly as understood by the speech was the fact he wanted to create a secular Pakistan, despite the fact the whole continent, particularly the Punjab province, had seen a human tragedy in the form of communal massacres. Even I was surprised when my colleagues in Radio Pakistan, Lahore approached me. I asked them why Jinnah Sahib wanted me to write the anthem. They confided in me that `Quaid-e-Azam wanted the anthem to be written by an Urdu-knowing Hindu.’ Through this, I believe Jinnah Sahib wanted to sow the roots of secularism in a Pakistan where intolerance had no place."

The national anthem written by Jagannath Azad was sent to Jinnah, who approved it in a few hours. It was sung for the first time on Pakistan Radio, Karachi (which was then the capital of Pakistan).

Meanwhile the situation in both east and west Punjab was becoming worse by the day. The same set of friends told Azad in September 1947 that even they would not be able to provide him protection, and that it would be better for him to migrate to India. He followed their advice.

The song written by Jagannath Azad served as Pakistan’s national anthem for a year and a half. After Jinnah’s death, a song written by the Urdu poet Hafiz Jallundhari was chosen as the national anthem.

See online : The Hindu

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