Pakistan was granted independence on 14 August and India on 15 August – the difference of a day being planned so that the British viceroy could attend both transfer of power ceremonies.
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After gradually acquiring the vast territories of South Asia and then ruling them for a century, the British finally relinquished control in August of 1947. Today, Independence Day is celebrated in Pakistan, and by Pakistanis around the world, as a day of great patriotism and fanfare. It is a day to promote national unity and celebrate the nation’s existence.
Pakistan was sectioned off from India due to the efforts of “the Pakistan Movement”, which sought separate nation status for the Muslim areas of the Indian subcontinent. Originally, Bangladesh was also a part of Pakistan, known as “East Pakistan,” but it soon became its own nation. The name of the remaining “West Pakistan” was soon officially changed to “the Islamic Republic of Pakistan” to reflect the nation’s religious fervor. Interestingly, August 14th fell on the 27th of Ramadan in 1947, and the day before was a holy day of Islam called “Laylat Al Qadr.” This coincidence only tends to strengthen the religious overtones of Pakistan’s independence day.
Independence day beings, in the mosques, with a special time of prayer for the future unity and prosperity of the country. Soon to follow is the “main event,” which is the raising of the Pakistani flag over the President’s house and over Parliament House. These events are followed by a thirty-one-gun salute in the national capital of Islamabad and twenty-one-gun salutes in all province capitals. The national anthem is then sung, patriotic speeches given, and numerous parades begun. The flag of Pakistan is soon raised over the homes of ordinary citizens as well, and it commonly seen in cars and on clothing all the day long.
Public and private buildings alike are decorated and well lit. Homes and the streets are lit up with candles and oil lamps, and fireworks light up the sky. Those who attend the parades dress in the national colors, green and white. Green is said to represent prosperity and white to represent peace, and they are the colors of the Pakistani flag.
People also visit many of the nation’s monuments and historic sites to remember their country’s past. Those who lost their lives in the struggle to obtain independence are especially remembered. Family and friends are also visited, and gifts are exchanged.
Some of the events you may wish to take part in if in Pakistan during its independence day celebrations include:
- The flag-raising in Islamabad with its 31-gun salute, along with the large parade that passes by Parliament House.
- Change of the guard ceremonies at various monuments, including the Mausoleum Mohammad Iqbal and of the “founder and supreme leader” Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
- Speeches that are given in public, televised, or broadcast on radio. That is, if you have an interpreter or understand Punjabi, it will interesting to listen in. Otherwise, you can just watch the crowd’s reaction and attend accompanying events.
- Visit the Minar E Pakistan (“Tower of Pakistan”), which is located in Iqbal Park in Lahore. This is the place where, in 1940, those working for a separately independent Muslim state passed the Lahore Resolution to officially call for such. The tower was later built over the site in the 60s and is brightly lit up every independence day.
As people will be travelling about to take part in independence day events and to visit recreational areas, traffic will be somewhat congested. However, public transit routes stay open, despite other public facilities generally closing down on this day. You will want to pay attention to protocol of both the Pakistani government and of your home country to avoid any unsafe areas, but there are many events that you can safely attend. Spending Independence Day in Pakistan will be a learning experience where you absorb some Pakistani history and culture. It will be a trip you will long remember, but be sure to book your flight early to ensure holiday traffic doesn’t prevent you from arriving in time.