Iftikhar Ali The joyous ceremony in Dera Ismail Khan, or D.I. Khan, heralding the birth of Pakistan 64 years ago is forever etched in my mind. I witnessed that historic event as an 11-year-old boy with my father, who was serving at that time as Income Tax Officer in that beautiful, date-tree-dotted town on the bank of the Indus River. As compared to the hot and humid month of August in D.I. Khan, the day was surprisingly cool. More than 1,000 people from all walks of life had assembled on the spacious lawns of the Deputy Commissioner's office-cum-residence. Prominent among them were Mahsuds and Waziris from the adjoining agencies of both South and North Waziristan, who responded to the Quaid's message and pledged their loyalty to Pakistan. The gun-carrying, turban wearing tribesmen in long shirts and baggy shalwars lent colour to the crowd. There was excitement in the air. All eyes were fixed at the flagpole flying the Union Jack over the house of the Deputy Commissioner, who was the highest ranking official at that time. One could sense the feelings of elation as the Union Jack was being lowered on the pole, with buglers trumpeting the retreat. Then there was a burst of vociferous Pakistan Zindabad" slogans from the excited crowd as the crescent and star went up. The tribesmen fired their guns in the air, as the people continued to chant Zindabad. The occasion had come after months of demonstrations and rallies in D.I. Khan demanding independence from the British Raj. The town had substantial Hindu population -- some of them very rich people like Bagai, the transport magnate, and businessman Seth Jaisa Ram. Just days ahead of August 14, 1947, Birla's Dakota planes evacuated the Hindus to Delhi. A virtual air bridge had been setup, and after every hour or so a plane would land and take off from the Dera's 'kutcha airstrip blowing clouds of dust into the air, and for days the town remained enveloped in dust. While most of the demonstrations and marches -- many of them led by Muslim League leader Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan -- remained orderly, despite police baton charges, some elements began to burn and loot the Hindu properties even though they were leaving. And I could not understand: Why were they burning the properties, which would be falling into Muslim hands? Anyway, lets come back to the ceremony that was held at the Deputy Commission's house. As the proceedings came to an end, the people started hugging and kissing each other. There were celebrations all around and the entire town was decorated with Pakistani flags. Bahadur Khan, a local photographer, recorded the Independence Day events and displayed the pictures outside his shop. Hundreds of people would gather around his shop to see those photographs. One shot of celebrating people taken from Chaughala (the central tower) was particularly popular. Later, many bought copies and took them home. Afterwards the flag hoisting ceremony ended, we went home to listen to the first broadcast of the Quaid, who proclaimed the establishment of a sovereign State of Pakistan. His voice came faintly over the only means of communication - the radio, since there were no televisions. Moreover, because there were no powerful radio stations, we had to content with the disturbances caused by the strong winds as well as the noise produced by the electrical gadgets, such as fans. Despite this, we understood the central theme of his message that was Unity, Faith and Discipline. But none of them, unfortunately, exist in today's Pakistan. We certainly have moved away from the teachings of our beloved Quaid and that is what ails Pakistan. Ahead of the Independence Day, I also witnessed another important event. The British conducted referendum in which the people of NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) WERE given an option either to vote for Pakistan or India. I was not a voter, but accompanied my father to the polling station where hundreds of people had lined up. When a section of the people started chanting Pakistan Zindabad, the British officials asked them not to do so as campaigning was prohibited in and around the polling stations. But the votes were overwhelmingly in favour of the State of Pakistan. I left D.I. Khan in 1949, a year after Quaid-i-Azam's visit to the town. It was a matter of great honour and privilege for me to be a part of the Boy Scouts contingent that, along with army and police detachments, greeted the Father of the Nation on his arrival in April 1948; we marched also past the dais where he stood. Everyone was so moved to see the Quaid between them. Undoubtedly, it is really hard to describe those feelings in words. After a quarter of century, I returned to D.I. Khan in 1974. But since it was a brief visit, I did not get an opportunity to see the town, which seemed to have grown into a city. At the dawn of independence, the people of D.I. Khan were ecstatic and confident about their future in the new country; they had great hopes. However, I believe that the people have now realised that they received a stepmotherly treatment from both the provincial and federal governments. Therefore, I suggest that more attention should be given to the backward regions of the country so that the grievances could be redressed in an effective manner. The writer is an independent columnist.