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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

My last wish is to write a song of peace for both India & Pakistan: Azad

By Luv Puri 

Prof. Jagannath AzadJammu City: Jagannath Azadís (85) death on Saturday night is a loss to the entire Indian sub continent and all those who genuinely champion the cause of promoting peace between India and Pakistan. Although his achievements in the field of Urdu poetry are well known particularly in the field of Iqbaliat which is universally acknowledged, many less people know that he was the author of Pakistanís first National Anthem which gives him a special place in neighboring countryís history. Days before his death in an interview with the writer he recalled the circumstances on the eve of creation of Partition, when he was asked by founder of Pakistan and its first Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah to write his countryís national anthem. Excerpts from one of his last interviews. 

Few people know this fact of history that you are the author of Pakistanís first National Anthem. Can you shed light on the exact events in which you wrote the anthem? 

Jagannath Azad: In August,1947 when mayhem had struck the whole Indian subcontinent I was in Lahore where I was 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 stay on for some time and take a chance by staying back . Even 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, in Lahore through a friend working in Radio Lahore who called me to his office. The friend told me that "Quaid-e-Azam wanted 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 do you think Pakistanís first Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah asked you to pen down their national anthem?

The answer to this question has to be under stood by recalling inaugural speech of Jinnah sahib as first governor general of Pakistan. Jinnah said: ďYou will find that in the course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would 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.Ē It is for historians and analysts to judge what made Jinnah sahib to make this speech. But clearly as understood by the speech was the fact he wanted to create 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 that Jinnah sahib wanted me to write Pakistanís national anthem. Inquisitively, I asked them why Jinnah Sahib wanted me to write the anthem. They confided 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. 

What happened to the National anthem?

The National anthem was written by me in five days time. It was too short time for me but I tried to do full justice to it keeping in mind the road map charted by Jinnah sahib for modern Pakistan.The national anthem was sent to Jinnah sahib who approved it in a few hours. It was sung for the first time on Pakistan radio, Karachi (which was the capital of Pakistan then). Meanwhile the situation in both east and west Punjab was becoming worse with every passing day and the same set of friends told me in September 1947 that even they would not be able to provide protection to me and that it would be better for me to migrate to India. I decided to migrate to this side. The song written by me continued to be the national anthem for one and a half years. The first few lines of my anthem are the following:

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." After Jinnah sahibís death, a new song written by the Urdu poet Hafiz Jallundhari was chosen as the Pakistanís national anthem.

Do you think Pakistanís history of last fifty years is close to the vision of Pakistanís first Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah and your comments on Indo-Pak relations in the same period? 

Every new nation has to go through the process of nation building and Pakistan is no exception to this phenomenon. But the fact remains both India and Pakistan remain bonded to centuries old heritage, which cannot be broken so easily. No matter what happens, I believe the natural bonds between the two countries would continue to exist. 

What is your last wish?
As a person who has got the love and affection of both Indians and Pakistanis, it would be my last wish to bring the two nations together. As a poet, I want to make a humble contribution by penning a "song of peace" that is common to both countries. It will be sung by millions of Indians and Pakistanis. It is my wish that one day the people of the two countries will sing the songs of love instead of hatred.

See also: Tribute to Jagan Nath Azad

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