Our Heroes by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Every year, March 23 is celebrated as Pakistan Day. On March 23, 1940, the All India Muslim League, under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam, passed a resolution through which it demanded a separate Muslim-majority homeland.

Many people believe that the Pakistan Movement was managed by only Muslims of the Subcontinent and that Pakistan was created for the sole purpose of serving Muslims’ interests. Interestingly, large numbers of non-Muslims supported the Quaid in the movement. In the historic Muslim League session held on March 23, 1940, non-Muslim politicians, including S P Singha, R A Gomesand and F I Chaudhry, were all present to support the demand for Pakistan.

These non-Muslim activists, including Diwan Bahadur Sittia Parkash Singha, Rajkumari Amrit , Chandu Lal, CE Gibbon, Alfried Purshad , F.E. Chaudary and SS Albert, were of the view that the formation of Pakistan, on the basis of Two Nation Theory, would ensure regional stability. They believed that non-Muslim citizens would be more secure and prosperous in a Muslim-majority country. In his speech on August 11, 1947, the Quaid made clear that there will no discrimination against citizens that belong to minority communities, and all will be equal in the eyes of the state. Thousands of Hindu families, in response to his appeal, postponed the plans of migration and made Pakistan their beloved homeland.

Among non-Muslims who took active part in the movement, Jogendra Nath Mandal was one of the prominent politicians and founding fathers of Pakistan, who aligned himself with the movement. Being a trustworthy companion of Quaid-e-Azam, he believed that Pakistan would be a role model for peace-loving democratic countries, where equal rights to every citizen would be ensured regardless of their religious affiliation. After Independence, he was given the portfolio of the law ministry. In addition, his presence as a non-Muslim minister on the platform of the Muslim League in British India also played a pivotal role in both strengthening the Pakistan Movement and countering anti-Pakistan propaganda.

The Christian community also supported the idea of a separate Muslim state and took active part in the movement. At the time of the partition, the Christian speaker of the United Punjab Assembly, SP Singha, cast his decisive vote in favour of Pakistan. C E Gibbon and Fazal Elahi along with Singha also mobilised the Christian population to be included in Pakistan. It was quite unfortunate that despite all sacrifices for Pakistan, SP Singha had to step down from the position of Speaker of the Punjab Assembly due to his religious identity.

Sir Victor Turner was one of the central Christian leaders in the Pakistan Movement. He served as the first finance secretary of Pakistan and chairman of the Central Board of Revenue. Being a statistician and economist, he reorganised state departments and financial institutions. Pakistan’s first official rupee currency note had also carried his signature, V A C Turner.

Alvin Robert Cornelius was another notable Christian figure in the Pakistan Movement, who dedicated his entire life to the creation of Pakistan. He was a jurist, legal philosopher and judge, and also served as the law secretary for Law Minister Jogendra Nath Mandal. Quaid-e-Azam had elevated him as chief justice of the Lahore High Court bench. He also became the first Christian chief justice of Muslim-majority Pakistan. He is acknowledged as a symbol of how the rights of minority communities should be protected and how the communities should be given religious freedom.

Only a few people know that the Pakistan Resolution was penned by Sir Zafarullah Khan, who belonged to the Ahmadi community. Many may not know that the first national anthem of Pakistan was composed by a Hindu poet, Jagan Nath Azad, on the personal desire of the Quaid. It was broadcast on Radio Pakistan on August 14, 1947 and was officially used during the first one-and-a-half years.

Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta, who belonged to the Parsi community, was the first elected mayor of Karachi and known as the ‘maker of modern Karachi’. He played a significant role in the rehabilitation of refugees migrating to Karachi. There is no denying that the list of non-Muslims who contributed towards the success of Pakistan is endless. Pakistan Day demands we pay tribute to all heroes – both Muslim and non-Muslim – of the Pakistan Movement.

The writer is patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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