This year on August 14, millions of Pakistanis are marking the 74th anniversary of the country’s independence from British rule and the day it was declared a sovereign state. Unlike the past, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on the celebrations like the previous year.
Despite that, various political, religious, and government organizations, and the public at large, have decided to celebrate the occasion with the same enthusiasm by following the coronavirus Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) suggested by the government.
Celebrations will be mainly around the country’s capital Islamabad where the national flag will be hoisted above the presidential and parliament buildings, followed by a rendition of the national anthem and speeches from President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister, former cricket player, Imran Khan.
Across the country parades and celebrations will take place, while millions of residents will host the distinctive green and white Flag of the Crescent and Star above their homes.
What are the origins of Independence Day in Pakistan?
During much of the 19th century, the area making up modern-day Pakistan was ruled by the British Empire. Following the Government of India Act in 1858 the British crown assumed direct control of the Indian Subcontinent. Throughout the early 20th century popularity grew for a Muslim state independent from the rest of India.
Calls for independence from British rule growing through to the 1940s alongside increased Muslim nationalism and in 1940 the Lahore resolution was presented which called for the creation of an independent state for Muslims. In 1947 Clement Atlee announced that India would be divided into two separate states, India and Pakistan, a decision which would result in the displacement of millions. On August 14, Pakistan became independent and Muhammad Ali Jinnah was sworn in as the country’s first Governor General.
Prayers for the country
14th of August is of immense importance to every Pakistani, therefore it is celebrated with the same traditional passion. People begin their day with prayers in the mosque for the development and prosperity of the country. Alongside Muslims, all minorities celebrate Independence Day with equal zeal and passion.
Cathedral Church Lahore is one such place for Pakistani Christians where children from the Sunday Choir sing songs and perform tableaus in the church, while special prayers are offered for the national security of Pakistan. Kashmiris are also specially remembered in everyone’s prayers during this day. The people of Kashmir are the one awaiting independence for last 75 years under United Nations plebiscite pledge.
Akin to the past, the Pakistani flag has been hoisted on the roofs of different public buildings across the country. Many buildings have also been decorated with colorful lights. Government building, parks, amusement parks, national monuments are decorated for the event.
People also love to hoist flags on their residences and lit these with green and white lights. Apart from these, a traditional flag-lowering ceremony takes place at Lahore's Wagah border, but visitors will not be allowed due to pandemic tough restrictions.
In Pakistan’s largest and coastal city Karachi, Independence Day celebrations have been organized by governmental and non-governmental organizations, schools, colleges, and the private sector. On the morning of August 14, the main ceremony will be held at the mausoleum of the Founder of Pakistan, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Parks and public places will remain open but the government has urged people to observe the SOPs for their own and others’ safety. All the main public buildings across Islamabad and Rawalpindi will be decorated with lights and the Pakistani flag.
Besides the decoration of buildings and opening of recreational spots in different cities of Pakistan, people also celebrate their own small ways by decorating their homes, shops, and vehicles with the Pakistani flag to exhibit their patriotism.
For the purpose, roadside stalls selling flags, badges, stickers, and clothes for adults and children alike, have been set up in almost all cities of Pakistan. Typically, in the build up to August 14, shop stalls and shops are set up across the country selling bunting, banners and posters emblazoned with the green and white of the Pakistani national flag.
On this day, celebration parades are visible all over the country, with citizens typically dressed in green and white. Family and friends’ gatherings are also held to enjoy Pakistani food at home or in public places following the COVID-19 restrictions.