Another time, another anthem

Beena Sarwar writing for the DAWN

Most people are unaware that prior to Hafeez Jullundhri’s Persianised lyrics being adopted as the national anthem in the 1950s, Pakistan had a national anthem — commissioned and approved by no less a person than Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

The lyricist was the Isa Khel (Mianwali)-born Jagannath Azad, son of the renowned poet Tilok Chand Mahroom (who won accolades for his rendering of naat at mushairas). A few bloggers have made mention of this in the past but I learnt of it recently through an unexpected source — an article on the history of Pakistan’s flag and national anthem in PIA’s monthly Hamsafar magazine (‘Pride of Pakistan’, by Khushboo Aziz, August issue).

‘Quaid-i-Azam, being the visionary that he was, knew an anthem would also be needed, not only to be used in official capacity but [to] inspire patriotism in the nation. Since he was secular-minded, enlightened, and although very patriotic but not in the least petty, Jinnah commissioned a Hindu, Lahore-based writer Jagannath Azad three days before independence to write a national anthem for Pakistan. Jagannath submitted these lyrics:

Ae sarzameene paak

Zarray teray haen aaj sitaaron se taabnaak

Roshan hai kehkashaan se kaheen aaj teri khaak

Ae sarzameene paak’

(‘Oh land of Pakistan, the stars themselves illuminate each particle of yours/rainbows brighten your very dust.’)

As Jaswant Singh’s recent book on Mr Jinnah created ripples in mid-August, The Kashmir Times, Jammu, published a short piece, ‘A Hindu wrote Pakistan’s first national anthem — How Jinnah got Urdu-knowing Jagannath Azad to write the song’ (Aug 21, 2009). The reproduction of a front-page report by Luv Puri in The Hindu (Jun 19, 2005), it drew on Puri’s interview of Azad in Jammu city days before his death, published in Milli Gazette, New Delhi (Aug 16-31, 2004).

Azad told Puri that he was working at a literary newspaper in Lahore ‘when mayhem had struck…. All my relatives had left for India and for me to think of leaving Lahore was painful…. My Muslim friends requested me to stay on and took responsibility [for] my safety.’ On the morning of Aug 9, 1947, he received a message from Pakistan’s first governor-general, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, through a friend working in Radio Lahore ‘who called me to his office. He told me ‘Quaid-i-Azam wants you to write a national anthem for Pakistan’.’

Azad felt it would be difficult to do in five days, but agreed upon his friend’s insistence as the request had come from the Quaid.

Why him? Azad thought the answer lay in Jinnah’s speech of Aug 11, 1947, stating that if everyone saw themselves ‘first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges, and obligations … in the course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will 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’.

‘Even I was surprised when my colleagues in Radio Pakistan, Lahore approached me,’ recalled Azad. ‘… They confided in me that ‘Quaid-i-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.’

Mr Jinnah approved Azad’s lyrics within hours, and the anthem was broadcast on Radio Pakistan, Karachi.

Increasing insecurity forced Azad to migrate to Delhi in mid-September 1947. He returned to Lahore in October, says his son Chander K. Azad in an email to this writer. ‘However, his friends advised him against staying as they found it difficult to keep him safe…. He returned to Delhi with a refugee party.’

Azad had a distinguished career in India — eminent Urdu poet, journalist and editor, authority on Allama Iqbal, author of over 70 books, government servant (retired in 1997), and recipient of numerous awards and honours. His last wish, he told Puri, would be to write a song of peace for both India and Pakistan.

His lyrics survived in Pakistan barely six months beyond Mr Jinnah’s death in September 1948. ‘The people and the constitutional bodies of the country wanted to have a more patriotic and more passionate national anthem that depicted their values and identity to the world,’ explains Hamsafar.

The National Anthem Committee (NAC), formed in December 1948, took two years to finalise a new anthem, finally choosing NAC member Hafeez Jullundhri’s poem from among 723 submissions.

The anthem commissioned by Mr Jinnah was just one of his legacies that his successors rejected, along with the principles he stressed in his address to the Constituent Assembly on Aug 11, 1947 — his political will and testament according to his official biographer Hector Bolitho.

Pakistan’s inherited problems that Mr Jinnah outlined in that speech included the maintenance of law and order (the state must protect ‘the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects’), the ‘curse’ of bribery and corruption, the ‘monster’ of black-marketing, and the ‘great evil’ of nepotism.

This speech, literally censored by ‘hidden hands’ as Zamir Niazi documents in Press in Chains (1986), also contains the famous ‘fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state’, where religious identity becomes secondary and where religion, caste or creed ‘has nothing to do with the business of the state….’

In March 1949, the Objectives Resolution laid the basis for recognising Pakistan as a state based on an ideology.

In all these deviations from Mr Jinnah’s vision, perhaps discarding Azad’s poem appears minuscule. But it is important for its symbolism. It must be restored and given a place of honour, at least as a national song our children can learn. After all, Indian children learn Iqbal’s Saarey jahan se accha. Such symbolism is necessary if we are to resurrect Mr Jinnah’s vision of a nation where religion, caste or creed ‘has nothing to do with the business of the state’.

The writer is a freelance journalist and documentary film-maker.



Filed under Pakistan

40 responses to “Another time, another anthem

  1. YLH

    I have been harping about this for four years…

    It is yet another slap in the face of those who want to reinvent Jinnah as some sort of religious ideologue.

  2. Bobby

    “His lyrics survived in Pakistan barely six months beyond Mr Jinnah’s death in September 1948”

    “In March 1949, the Objectives Resolution laid the basis for recognising Pakistan as a state based on an ideology.”

    Was there no senior leader in the Muslim league who wanted a secular Pakistan apart from Jinnah? It seems almost as if the League was waiting for Jinnah’s death to undo his vision of Pakistan.

  3. mazhur

    As the fruits of ‘victory’ began to rippen Mr Jinnah seemed to have changed his ‘ideas’ about an ideology for which he fought throughout the struggle! Some of his later thoughts conflict with his own initial ideas which led to the creation of Pakistan.

  4. yasserlatifhamdani


    That is just poor understanding of what Jinnah struggled for….

    I think most scholarship now has pooh poohed the ideology lie that people like you try to sell unsuspecting and illiterate people of Pakistan.

  5. mazhur

    @ yasserlatifhamdani

    It is NOT poor understanding. It is a fact that Pakistan was created as a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. Either our leaders lied at the time of struggle for Independence or people like you are lying now!

  6. Bobby

    I have to thank “Pak tea house” which I have been following for about a month or so. My understanding of Jinnah and partition is much clearer now, thanks to my following the discussions on this blog as well as some further reading I indulged in, inspired by the discussions here.

    I wish all Pakistanis who want Pakistan to become a secular nation along the lines of what Mr Jinnah wanted, all the very best in their efforts.

    A secular Pakistan is in the best interest of India as well, since fundamentalists of all religions really derive strength from each other.

  7. yasserlatifhamdani


    If you have limited brain capacity or are ignorant of history…. it doesn’t mean others are lying.

  8. mazhur

    @ yasserlatifhamdani

    <<<<<<<<limited brain capacity or are ignorant of history<<<<<<<<
    History is as corrupt as deranged and disillusioned 'functionally illiterate' people like you!

  9. Hayyer

    Lets call a truce for a couple of days:

  10. Anwar

    Does it really matter now what Jinnah thought and spoke in private or in public long time ago? He had a mission and he accomplished it.

    Have the Pakistanis not matured in these 60 plus years to take responsibility and carve a destiny for themselves?

    The tautological hubris about patriarchal proclamations of the past need to be replaced with practical goals for the future by the present generation – or else someone else will determine it!

  11. yasserlatifhamdani

    Mazhur mian,

    I am afraid just abusing me is not going to change the facts.

  12. mazhur

    @ yasserlatifhamdani

    Only you started it all. Try to be more responsible with the use of your tongue…
    Hum bhi moonh mein zabaan rakhtey hein!

  13. yasserlatifhamdani

    I called a spade a spade. You have limited brain capacity.

  14. mazhur

    @ yasserlatifhamdani

    Stop being your own judge and stop being personal.
    It is better to have limited brain capacity than none at all!

  15. Ummi

    Expecting any brain capacity from Yasser is just like expecting an infertile woman to give birth a baby

  16. Anwar

    Perhaps some learned guys can explain why, after independence, Mohamad Asad was assigned the responsibility to draft shariah based “Islamic Constitution” for Pakistan. He has some insights in his short book ‘This Law of Ours”

    On a different note, entropy rise will be minimum if the discourse remains civil…

  17. yasserlatifhamdani

    In the 1950s, Asad might have done some work as one of the Ulema … he was not “appointed” by anyone to “draft shariah based Islamic constitution”… and certainly not by Pakistan’s first government. Muhammad Asad was briefly associated with the foreign ministry but never in anything concrete.

    Pakistan’s first Law Minister was a Hindu appointed by Jinnah himself… Jogindranath Mandal and he headed the whole exercise. His shameful departure from Pakistan in 1950 is a matter of great shame for all of us.

  18. yasserlatifhamdani

    Also I did a search and it turns out that some “department of Islamic reconstruction” is being purported in West Punjab (Adil Najam wrote West Pakistan but other sources seem to suggest West Punjab – besides West Pakistan became one province only 1956 and there it could only be west Punjab or just Pakistan)

    Did the government of West Punjab set up a department of Islamic reconstruction? This is the first we’ve heard of it… but a provincial government certainly cannot infringe on the constituent assembly’s working…. so the constitution-making stuff seems like patent lie.

  19. Anwar

    Thanks YLH. I read Asad’s book fairly long time ago and perhaps need to revisit him – time permitting.

  20. Muhammad Abdur Rasheed

    Allama Muhammad Asad was a member of Pakistan Foreign Ministry. As per rules Foriegn ministry employees were not allowed to marry foriegners. After maryring an American lady he left foreign ministry and left Pakistan shortly.

    Interestingly Jinnah did not create the committe and it was Liaqat Ali Khan who have done this on the pressure by Ulema. He accepted the pressure because he was already losing political and civil & military burecracy control.
    The commitee members are Allama Shabir Ahmed Usmani, Dr. Hamed Ullah, Maulana Zafar Ahmed Ansari, Allama Suleman Nadvi, Mufti Muhammad Shafi, Mufti Jaffar Naqvi etc.

  21. Danial Burki

    Interesting post; didn’t know about the ‘original’ anthem. I wonder if there are any surviving recordings, would love to hear it.

    And on that note, we really need a better anthem, something more rousing and and in a language understood here. More people would get our anthem in Afghanistan and Iran than in Lahore and Karachi!

  22. Majumdar


    Was there no senior leader in the Muslim league who wanted a secular Pakistan apart from Jinnah? It seems almost as if the League was waiting for Jinnah’s death to undo his vision of Pakistan.

    This is a true statement of facts.


  23. mazhur

    <<<<<<<<<<Was there no senior leader in the Muslim league who wanted a secular Pakistan apart from Jinnah? It seems almost as if the League was waiting for Jinnah’s death to undo his vision of Pakistan.<<<<<<<<<<<

    Wouldn't this mean to reflect that all others except Jinnah were 'dishonest' in their 'conviction' in so far as it related to the true 'ideology of Pakistan'??

    All I gather from facts is that Jinnah was for a separate 'Muslim state' withing India but circumstances later led to the birth of the existing Pakistan 'by default'. This is why there is so much confusion about its status as a Muslim state or otherwise?

  24. yasserlatifhamdani

    That is correct. Jinnah wanted was a recognition that a unitary center was British creation. He wanted instead two federations in one confederation…and settled for one federation with three groupings/sub-federations (ie CMP).

    This was all post 1940. Before 1940, he would have settled for uniform autonomy, residuary powers and reservation for Muslim minority for a period of 10 years …

  25. mazhur

    @ yasserlatifhamdani

    How sweet of you, Yasser!
    Good to see we agreed at least on this one crucial point
    thank you

  26. Majumdar

    Mazhar mian,

    Wouldn’t this mean to reflect that all others except Jinnah were ‘dishonest’ in their ‘conviction’ in so far as it related to the true ‘ideology of Pakistan’??

    Not really. The other leaders never ever hinted that they shared MAJ (pbuh)’s version of Pakistan esp as it relates to “secularism”. So they cannot be blamed for turning their back on something they never agreed to in the first place.


  27. mazhur

    @ Majumdar

    Does that mean that those ( Maulana Azad, Maudoodi, Bacha Khan, etc etc ) who had dissented with the MAJ were correct in their assessments on the creation of Pakistan? Why didn’t the batch who joined MAJ during and after the formation of the new state did not voice their ‘motives’ in secularizing the country? Why all ‘judgments’ are based and flouted on the basis of a few lines of MAJ’s Aug. 1944 speech only? Couldn’t MAJ or his batch mates sincerely feel the need to tell the people straight away the reason for the creation of Pakistan? Why was the ‘ideology of a separate homeland for Muslims’ continuously taught in educational institutions to several generations until
    1971 when Pakistan lost its eastern wing on the basis of ethnic and linguistic reasons?
    Maybe it’s now too late to mend!

  28. Majumdar

    Mazhur mian,

    You misunderstand me.

    The Maulanas you mentioned were opposed to the creation of Pakistan and they were certainly entitled to their view. But my point was that many who became part of AIML bandwagon post 1937 and without whose support Pakistan wud have been a student’s fantasy created Pakistan for their own purpose and not for the motives for which Jinnah sahib created Pakistan.


  29. mazhur

    @ Majumdar

    I know the Maulanas had their own reasons against creation of Pakistan but to some extent their late apprehensions seem to have taken shape.
    Could you please cite some examples where other people too endorsed MAJ’s views about a secular Pakistan, from 1937 till MAJ passed away?? Relying totally on the ‘sporadic’ words of a any person during his speech only BEFORE Pakistan was created and that too backed by least among his league sounds odd and incredible.

  30. yasserlatifhamdani

    Please refer to my earlier comments about your limited brain capacity.

  31. mazhur

    Voltaire seems to have said this for you: “It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.”

  32. Bloody Civilian

    I know the Maulanas had their own reasons against creation of Pakistan but to some extent their late apprehensions seem to have taken shape.

    what were their ‘reasons’… and what were these ‘apprehensions’, exactly?

  33. Majumdar

    And to add to Civvie mian, what is the evidence that these apprehensions are coming good?


  34. yasserlatifhamdani


    You don’t even understand how ironic that quote is given your inability to break away from the established “nazaria e Pakistan”.

  35. mazhur

    @ yasserlatifhamdani

    It’s no shame for me to stay what I am….ashamed should be those who are bound with the ‘chains ‘ of the West and look down at their faith and principles…shame for those who are intellectual flirts and disgrace to their faith; those who are self-opinionated and suffer from suffer conceit; those who are averse to difference of opinion; those who
    try to ‘enforce’ their views on others; those who are bereft of the ethics and morals of gentlemanly communication with others.

    yasser, I am shocked how Rumi tolerates you on this forum..there is a host of aggrieved posters due to your roguish and truculent conduct… I really at a loss to understand how Rumi has given you the ‘blanket’ to offend posters with your stinking thoughts and ideas!

  36. mazhur

    @ Majumdar/Bloody Civilian

    I don’t have the time nor am I here to explain to you everything…you ought to know the facts. Better research and read Maududi, Bacha Khan and Azad for a start. I can perceive the ‘motive’ behind your ‘approach’ in asking such childish questions notwithstanding the given lead and that is regrettable for some people on this forum who try to bully other posters with their know-all attitude.
    Needless to say, any overture to gang up against a few posters by some Aristocratic brains here would not only tend to destroy the sanctity of the forum but will also reflect upon the conduct of the people behind it. No one is oblivious of what some people here are upto but I bet they won’t succeed in their
    tricks unless they do what at the most they can do by way of blocking them…

  37. mazhur

    @ Majumdar

    your name has been inadvertently included in the caption of my previous comment which please ignore.

  38. mazhur

    Better be a man of limited cognitive ability
    Than ‘a parcel of court dirt, a heap and mass
    Of all vice hurled together’;
    ‘Proud false and treacherous, vindictive, all
    That thought can add, ‘self-conceited’, ‘the laystall
    of putrid flesh alive! Of blood, the sink!
    So I leave to stir him, lest he stinks!”

  39. Noman A. Burney

    EDITED for nonsense.

    {{Mr. Burney, Safdar Mahmood loves denying history. He is a liar and a crook. His arguments make no sense as usual. That Jagganath Azad wrote the anthem is well known and there are many people who sung it as well. My conscience is clear. Is Safdar’s ? I don’t think so.

    -YLH }}

  40. Noman A. Burney

    OMG! Such a fascist 😀

    Mr. Hamdani, who are you to decide what is nonsense and what isn’t? 🙂 Just because you’re ‘moderating’ this place, you find yourself authorized to mouth off whatever, in place of the actual comment? I can sense the kind of ‘fascistic havoc’ you’ll create if likes of you would be given the power in any other domain.

    BTW it’s Jagannath Azad. I can see how well-known he’s or his alleged anthem 🙂