India and Pakistan attained freedom from the British colonial rule on August 15. They celebrated their first Independence Day on the same day in 1947. However, Pakistan later advanced its Independence Day by a day.
The Indian Independence Act of 1947 gave birth to two nations, India and Pakistan, on August 15. The two countries came into existence at the stroke of midnight. However, Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on August 14 instead of August 15 when India does.
The Act mentions August 15 as the Independence Day for both India and Pakistan. It states, “As from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty seven, two independent Dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan.”
That August 15 was the day of Independence for Pakistan is confirmed from the radio address of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan. In his Independence Day speech, Jinnah had said, “August 15 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign state of Pakistan. It marks the fulfillment of the destiny of the Muslim nation which made great sacrifices in the past few years to have its homeland.”
The day was special for Muslims in Pakistan as August 15 was the last Friday of the Islamic month of Ramzan that year. Therefore, the Independence Day for an Islamic country for Muslims was an added reason for a bigger celebration. This may be the reason many in Pakistan still believe that the August 14 was the last Friday of the month of Ramzan in 1947.
Commemorative stamps released by Pakistan till July 1948 mentioned August 15 as the Independence Day of Pakistan, same as for India. But in the same year, Pakistan advanced its Independence Day to August 14.
It is not clear why the Pakistani government advanced its Independence Day. Different reasons are offered for the decision.
BUSY SCHEDULE OF MOUNTBATTEN
Under the original scheme of partition of India, the British were to transfer power to India and Pakistan before June 1948. However, during a press conference, the last British viceroy Lord Mountbatten announced that Independence would come on August 15, hastening the transfer of power.
Mountbatten was scheduled to formally transfer power to Indian leaders at midnight of August 14 and 15 in New Delhi. Pakistan was to announce its Independence from Karachi, its first capital.
Mountbatten had to transfer power of governance over to Pakistan to Jinnah in Karachi. Mountbatten could not be present at both the places at the same time. A solution was found in advancing Mountbatten’s visit to Karachi, announcing transfer of power that was to take effect at the same time in both the countries.
He reached Karachi on August 13 and addressed the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 14. In his speech, Mountbatten said, “Tomorrow the government of the new Dominion of Pakistan will rest in your hands”
Clearly, Pakistan’s Independence came on August 15. However, some argue that since Mountbatten announced transfer of power to Pakistan on August 14, the government decided to advance its Independence Day.
There is another version, according to which, a section of Pakistani leadership wanted to celebrate Independence Day before India does. A group of ministers in Pakistan’s first cabinet held a meeting in June-end, 1948.
Then Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan presided over the meeting, where it was decided to advance the Independence Day of Pakistan by a day. The proposal was to be put to Jinnah, upon whose approval the date was to be shifted to August 14. Jinnah gave his nod and Pakistan’s Independence Day changed for celebrations, but of course not in historical records.