We all know that Pakistan was officially given independence on the 14th August 1947, yet when I visited the Pakistan High Commission on the 23rd March I was surprised to see that the Embassy was closed and a loud function was taking place in a tent in their garden area.
Concerned that someone had broken into their compound I investigated and found a large marquee from which loud music was pumped into the local environment.
People were feasting and enjoying a period of merriment on a scale that I have never seen at the High Commission. The High Commissioner himself was dressed in fine apparel as were his senior men.
Apparently I had inadvertently entered a celebration the High Commission of Pakistan and it's nation hold dear to. The day is termed Pakistan Day and bizarrely and this might shock you, it is a celebration of the day that Iskander Mirza (first President of Pakistan)formed the constitution of Pakistan in 1956. This constitution reformed the nation from the Dominion of Pakistan into the more endearing Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Endearing for some I should say.....
Why should be shocked at what the celebration is about? I will clarify my point for you.
When I asked the High Commissioners staff about the derivation of Pakistan Day they tried to fob we off with a whimsical notion that the day was a commemoration of the Lahore resolution, yet the Lahore Resolution took place over 3 days from the 22-24 March 1940.
The Lahore resolution, for those of you that are a little discombobulated by this reference, called for greater Muslim autonomy in British India. However, although the term Pakistan was first mentioned by Choudhary Rahmat Ali in his Pakistan Declaration (A pamphlet calling for Muslim independence) in 1933. Mohammed Jinnah at the time of the Lahore Resolution was still committed to Hindu-Muslim Unity and Pakistan as a concept did not feature in the resolution.
Now some of you might say well why is the 28th January 1933 not celebrated as Pakistan day, as many would argue, the distribution of this pamphlet was the major trigger for Pakistani independence. If so, I believe most scholars would agree with you. Again the questions arises so what exactly is Pakistan Day meant to celebrate?
As I thought about the perplexing confusion around the celebration and in an attempt to make some sense of it all, I fell into a deep trance (figuratively speaking). I cleared away the opaque images in my mind and concentrated on what was around me, immediately a grave concern arose. I noticed that I could not see any Christians at the High Commissioner's event? Why is this I thought? The lack of any fellow Christians was disconcerting, especially considering that Pakistan has suffered the loss of a great Christian humanitarian. His death has sent shock waves around the globe yet during the celebrations the High Commission did not think of holding a 1 minutes silence. Perhaps they did not want to blemish the taste of the halwa puree?
Pakistani Christians have contributed well to British and Pakistani culture and society and were pivotal to it's creation. SP Singha speaker for the Punjab Legislative Assembly cast the deciding vote after a stalemate that included 4 Christian MP votes - yet even here in our egalitarian UK, Pakistani officials are placing class barriers in our way.
At times like this, I think about how fortunate those of us in the UK are... As a consequence of this behaviour the BPCA is joining the boycott of any Pakistan High Commission functions (unless they are memorials for Shahbaz Bhatti), it is clear that the High Commissioner and his cronies are providing lip service to our concerns about the treatment of minorities. Some in our community have for too long disrespected the work of Shahbaz Bhatti who forged Minorities day Pakistan, with great struggle I am sure.
This day recognises the achievements and contribution Christians and other minorities have made in and for Pakistan.
Some groups have protested on this date before and termed it "Black Day", I call on those groups to stop this diabolical activity which undermines Mr Bhatti's work and our communities in Pakistan - give our people back their day please!
Surely their can be no blacker day for our people than the day we were told that despite Jinnah's promise, we were to be made second class citizens and that it would be officially written into the Constitution of Pakistan.
Maybe global Christians outside Pakistan should unite and hold "Black Day protests to the fore of Pakistan High Commissions and Pakistan Embassies (outside Commonwealth), every year on the 23rd of March. Please share your thoughts...