It was the speech in which Muhammad Ali Jinnah set out his vision for the nascent Pakistan, a nation he hoped would be prosperous, tolerant and where corruption would find no home.
Sixty-six years later Jinnah’s vision has all but disappeared, and so has his speech. While transcripts of the words he delivered on 11 August 1947 are easily available, whatever recordings there might once have been appear to have been lost.
For many years, broadcasters and activists in Pakistan have been scouring various archives in a hunt for the “lost speech”, adamant that the words and vision of the country’s founder have never been more sorely needed.
This week, in a partial breakthrough, officials at Radio Pakistan, part of the state-owned broadcaster, announced that they had been sent two important Jinnah recordings from staff at All India Radio (AIR), their counterpart in India.
The recordings were made in 1947 and are of considerable historical importance, but they are not the missing speech of 11 August. The head of the Indian broadcaster, Leeladhar Mandloi, said his staff had no knowledge of that recording. “They are pretty important and significant,” said Javed Khan Jadoon, of Radio Pakistan’s current affairs department, speaking from Islamabad. “Every speech delivered by him is an important one.”
The first of the two recordings given to Radio Pakistan by AIR dates from 3 June 1947 when Jinnah, who trained as a barrister in London and spoke in a clipped, accent-less style, talked in Delhi about the decision to hold a referendum in the then North- West Frontier Province on whether it would join India or Pakistan.
The other was made on 14 August, the day Pakistan was born, in which he addressed the country’s constituent assembly in Karachi and in which he talked of different religious communities living together.
“The tolerance and goodwill that the great Emperor Akbar showed to all non-Muslims is not of recent origin,” he said. “It dates back 13 centuries, when our Prophet, not only by words, but by deeds, treated the Jews and Christians handsomely after he conquered them.”
That address echoes the missing speech he made three days earlier, again to the constituent assembly, and which today is clung to by those Pakistanis who decry the way in which religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan face widespread discrimination and frequent violence.
In it, Jinnah, who would die just 13 months later, told the assembly members that he dreamt of a time when people would not be described as Hindus or Muslims, simply as citizens of Pakistan.
“You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan,” Jinnah declared. “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
The search for the missing recording gathered pace in 2008 when Murtaza Solangi became director-general of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. He learnt that because in the summer of 1947, the AIR studios in Lahore and Peshawar were not equipped with recording equipment, engineers were dispatched from the Delhi headquarters to capture and broadcast Jinnah’s speeches. The BBC also reportedly broadcast the speech.
Mr Solangi raised the issue with various Indian officials and broadcasters and was led to believe AIR might have a copy. “The speech matters to Pakistanis who want a pluralistic, tolerant Pakistan,” said Mr Solangi.
Mr Solangi said over the years the story of the lost recording had taken on mythical status. He said many people believe copies of it were deliberately destroyed during the rule of military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, whose desire to increasingly “Islamicise” Pakistan would have been at stark odds with Jinnah’s wishes.
Mr Solangi had speculated that if AIR did not possess the recording, it might be elsewhere in Delhi. However, the BBC Delhi bureau and the National Archives of India said they did not have it. An official at the Nehru Memorial Museum said they thought they only had recordings of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
Mr Solangi, whose term as director-general expired earlier this year and who now works as writer and analyst, said he was not disheartened and that he would “keep on trucking” in his quest to find the recording.
Meanwhile, officials at Radio Pakistan now have to figure out what to do with their two new treasures. Some have suggested that the recordings should be broadcast to mark Jinnah’s birthday on 11 September.
Mr Jadoon said: “We have to decide when to run them and how to do that. An editorial judgement will be made.”
‘You may belong to any religion...’: Extract
If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in cooperation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.
I cannot emphasise it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community – because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis, and so on – will vanish. Indeed, if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free peoples long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.
As you know, history shows that in England, conditions some time ago were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some states in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.