Prior to March 1956, Pakistan never celebrated March 23 and there never was a gazetted holiday on this day.
On February 29, 1956, Pakistan’s constituent assembly adopted the first constitution and on March 2, 1956, a resolution was passed by the same assembly to commemorate March 23 as republic day. The chief guest at the “republic” day celebrations was President Iskander Mirza, an ex-General turned bureaucrat, while the first Prime Minister, Chaudhary Mohammad Ali, a hardcore bureaucrat also graced the occasion.
March 23 was originally supposed to commemorate the adoption of the first constitution of Pakistan and thus the declaration of Pakistan as a republic. However, when Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan abrogated the constitution on October 27, 1958 – barely 30 months after its adoption – and declared martial law, there was no constitution and no rationale for the “republic” day. Hence, in order to justify celebrating the national day, Ayub Khan’s regime changed it to commemorate the 1940 landmark; when on 23rd March All India Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution which is considered the foundational document in the making of Pakistan.
Hence, a military dictator redefined “Republic” day which the entire nation celebrates now. It is also interesting to note that the Lahore resolution was passed on March 24 and not March 23. Moreover, there was no mention of the word Pakistan in it. The only thing which was sought in the resolution was a greater autonomy for the Muslim majority areas of the Indian Sub-Continent.
The welcome address at the general session of the Muslim League was made by Sir Shah Nawaz Mamdot who had left the Unionist Party two years back in 1938 and was made the President of Punjab Muslim League.
A. K. Fazal-ul-Haq, a Bengali politician heading the Krishak Praja Party presented the Lahore resolution. Later, he was dismissed from public office by Governor-General Iskander Mirza on charges of inciting secession, and was later banned from politics by General Ayub Khan.
Interestingly it is controversial as to who authored the Lahore resolution. Some say that it was written by Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, KBE, MBE a Unionist and a British loyalist. However, the dominant view is that the resolution was penned by Sir Zafarullah Khan. In the 1953 bloody Lahore riots, religious extremists called for Zafarullah Khan’s expulsion due to his adherence to the Ahmadiyya faith. The pressure from religious extremists finally led to Zafarullah’s resignation as Foreign Minister in October 1954.
It was only the Sindh Assembly, amongst all the provinces of undivided India, which passed a resolution on March 3, 1943, presented by the late G.M. Syed on the lines of the Lahore Resolution, in support of Pakistan. On June 26, 1947 the Sindh Assembly, at a special session, decided to join the new Pakistan Constituent Assembly. Thus, Sindh became the first province to opt for Pakistan.
On April 26, 1948 the government of elected Chief Minister of Sindh Mr. Ayub Khuhro which enjoyed the support of majority of the members of the provincial assembly was dismissed as MA Jinnah ordered the Governor Hidayatullah to dispose him off.
The man behind passage of the Pakistan resolution in the Sindh assembly was G. M. Syed. Being a nationalist he was labeled as a traitor by the establishment. Later he suffered 33 years of imprisonment, sometimes even in solitary confinement. He died in police custody at Jinnah Hospital Karachi on April 25, 1995 at the age of 91.
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