By Mahnoor Saleem
If you think that you know enough about Pakistan’s national anthem then hold on! There might be something you’re yet missing out. Pakistan’s national anthem is celebrated as one of the most rejuvenating musical compositions around the world. For seven long years after its independence, Pakistan did not have an official national anthem. Historians argue that the primary hurdle behind such extensive delay was, multi linguistic population of the new state. For Pakistan back then included Bengali speaking ethnic Bengalis of East Pakistan, in addition to culturally and linguistically diverse Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochis and Pathans of West Pakistan. Despite Muhammad Ali Jinnah, declaring Urdu as Pakistan’s national language; linguistic diversity was still being taken into account before finalizing the national anthem.
In 1948, the government of Pakistan created a National Anthem Committee (NAC) which was supposed to produce and compose an anthem for Pakistan. The committee was chaired by then information secretary and included multitudes of poets, musicians, singers and artists like Ahmed Ghulam Chagla, Hafez Jalandhari and Abdur Rab Nishtar, as its essential members. With the committee at place, authorities were of the view that an anthem would soon be compiled. However, the race against time was only just beginning at that moment.
President Sukarno of Indonesia was to visit Pakistan in 1950, it was an imminent diplomatic visit and first of its kind. While every arrangement was made with extreme dedication and delicacy, what was missing at the venue was a national anthem - required to greet foreign dignitaries as part of diplomatic protocol. Considering it as an embarrassing situation and in order to ignore such incidents in future, the government of Pakistan urged NAC to burn midnight oil and formulate an anthem before the expected visit of another dignitary - the Shah of Iran on 1st March 1950. It took Ahmed Ghulam Chagla two weeks of constant effort and work before he composed official melody and submitted it to NAC. And thus, the face was saved and the Shah was welcomed in full diplomatic protocol. It has also been reported that Reza Shah Pahlavi, even looked impressed when he heard navy bands playing the music for the first time.
Ahmed Ghulam Chagla’s melody was an intrinsic amalgamation of eastern and western harmonies. Chagla studied music at the renowned music academy in England - Trinity College of music - under the scholarship of Sir Henry Wood. His excellent comprehension of theories and techniques of modern as well as classic music, made him the most competent candidate to do the deed. He succeeded in hitting the right chords because his composition was influenced by European musical trends and classic subcontinental frequencies, almost simultaneously. Chagla’s zoroastrian friend Sohrab H.J. Rustomji from Karachi was the first Pakistani who played national anthem’s melody on piano.
Two years later in 1952, the government of Pakistan set a prize money of Rs. 10,000 and opened entries for anthem’s lyrics submission. From around 723 submissions in total, Hafez Jalandhari’s lyrics were selected. Hafez Jalandhari is also regarded as one of the most notable poets of united India, his literary and poetic contributions during and after the independence of Pakistan are significant to this day. After fulfilling several necessary bureaucratic and administrative obligations in 1954; the cabinet of Pakistan approved the adoption of Jalandhari and Chagla compiled anthem. By then, Ahmed Ghulam Chagla had already passed away (he died on 5th February 1953) but his composition immortalized him for eternity. On 23 March 1997, during the premiership of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto he was honoured with the posthumous presidential award.
The anthem we hear today is one that truly encompasses the beauty of Pakistan: cultural diversity, faith, unity, discipline, togetherness, hope, prosperity. One thing we must learn, however, is to continue to respect these fundamental principles of our nation as we progress towards a better Pakistan, and appreciate the depth of each and every aspect of our history.
The National Anthem of Pakistan
“Pak sar zameen shad bad, Kishwar-i ḥasin shad bad
Tu nishan-e azm-i ali shan, arẓ-i Pakistan!
Markaz-i yaqin shad bad,
Pak Sar Zameen ka Nizam, quwat-e-Akhuwat-e-Awam
Quam, Mulk, Sultanat, paainda Ta Binda Baad,
Shad Baad Manzil-e-Murad,
Parcham-i sitarah o-hilal, Rahbar-i taraqqi o-kamal
Tarjuman-i maẓi, shan-i ḥal, Jan-i istiqbal!
Sayah-yi Khuda-yi Ẕu l-jalal”
“Blessed be the sacred land, magnificent be the rewarded domain,
You, the symbol of absolute resolve, O beloved Pakistan
Blessed be the citadel of faith,
Order of this sacred land, The strength of its people united
May the nation, the country, and the state, shine in everlasting glory!
Blessed be the goal of our ambition,
Flag of the crescent and star, pathway to progress and excellence,
Interpreter of our past, glory of our present, inspiration for our future!
Shade of God, the Glorious and Mighty.”
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