This is the second in a two-part series of articles. The first piece titled ‘A tale of two anthems – Part I’ can be read here


Pakistan's anthem is much younger but quite interesting to discuss. There are quite a few misconceptions about it, the most prevalent being that it was so selected because it is in Persian and this is because it was to be performed during the Shah of Iran's visit. This is not true.

Pakistan formed a National Anthem Committee in 1948. A. R. Ghani, a Muslim from Transvaal, South Africa, had offered two prizes of five thousand rupees each for the poet and composer of a new national anthem for the newly independent state of Pakistan. The prizes were announced through a government press advertisement published in December 1948. However the committee composed of politicians, poets and musicians could not select a suitable combination of lyrics and tunes.

When president Sukarno of Indonesia visited Pakistan, embarrassingly there was no anthem to play! In March 1950 when the Shah of Iran came on a state visit to Pakistan the authorities were desperate to have an anthem. Now a tune by AG Chagla had already been selected earlier and this anthem without any lyrics was played in front of the Shah by Pak navy band in Karachi on March 1, 1950. It is often quoted by various sources that the anthem was first performed with lyrics in front with of the Shah in 1954. This is not true, for the Shah did not visit Pakistan in 1954.

The anthem however did get its words in 1954 when poet Hafiz Jallandhari's lyrics were approved and it was Jallandhari himself who first publicly performed the anthem on Radio Pakistan, on August 13, 1954.

As for the allegation it is in Persian, now that we have busted the Shah of Iran myth let us see what the lyrics are:

Pak sar zamin shad bad

Kishwar-e-hasin shad bad

Tu nishan e azm e alishan


Markaz-e-yaqin shad bad

Pak sar zamin ka nizam

Quwat e ukhuwat e awam

Qaum, mulk, sultanat

Pa-inda tabinda bad!

Shad bad manzil e murad

Parcham e sitara o hilal

Rahbar e tarraqqi o kamal

Tarjuman e mazi, shan e hal



So are they really in Persian?

Well the question is what makes a certain text or poem part of a specific language? I am no linguist but in my opinion to be written in let us say language X the piece should fulfill two criteria:

1. The words used in it should be part of an accepted dictionary of language X.

2. The piece should be understandable to a native speaker of language X.

Now applying these criteria to the anthem I can deduce that all the words in it are included in the Urdu dictionary (lughat). Now it is possible that all of these words are also part of Persian (or 97% of them as some claim), and it is also certain that all of them were borrowed by Urdu from Persian. But nevertheless they are accepted words of Urdu language and existed in Urdu before the anthem was written.

And I am sure the anthem can be understood by an Urdu speaker, native or not. Furthermore a person who knows only Urdu and cannot understand a poem written in Persian can still understand the anthem. I am not sure if a person who knows Persian but does not know Urdu can also understand it. Only an Iranian can answer this.

Therefore, I do not think that the charge of the anthem written in Persian sticks. Sure it contains almost entirely Urdu words of Persian origin, and here we can accept that for whatever reason Jallandhari wrote the anthem in words of Persian origin a bit like Tagore who wrote his poem only in nouns, but the anthem is still in Urdu and not Persian in my opinion.

In the recent past there seems to be an attempt to replace the Persian origin words of Urdu where possible with Arabic words, a classic example is the change of Khuda Hafiz to Allah Hafiz. One wonders when there will be an attempt to change the last line of the anthem to ‘Saaya-e-Allah-e-zuljalal’?

The second controversy about the anthem is even more intriguing. The famous poet Jagan Nath Azad kicked it off when he wrote in his book Hayat-e-Mehroom (published 1987):

“I was still in Lahore, living in my house in Ramnagar with the intention of never leaving Lahore. In those days Pakistan probably had only two radio stations: one in Lahore and the other in Peshawar. When Radio Pakistan (Lahore) made the announcement of the founding of Pakistan that night, it was followed by a broadcast of my National Anthem ‘Zarre tere hein aaj sitaaron se taabnaak, Ai sarzameen-e-Pak’. The other side of this image is that on the next day, 15 August 1947 – when India was celebrating its independence – Hafeez Jalandhari's anthem 'Ai watan, Ai India, Ai Bharat, Ai Hindustan' was broadcast by All India Radio (Delhi)."

Then in 1993 Indian scholar Dr Khaliq Anjum writing his foreword to a book on Azad Sahib wrote:

“Not many people know that, while still in the land of his birth, Azad sahib wrote Tarana-e-Pakistan at the behest of the people with authority in Pakistan”

According to Dr Anjum Azad Sahib in an interview disclosed that he was approached by some high up officials (From Qaid's office?) who wanted him to write Pakistan's national anthem which they wanted to broadcast on 14th August. However this was just 5 days before the event and Azad sahib initially said it can't be done but then managed to accomplish the task on the 11th hour. The poem was approved by the Qaid within hours and broadcast the same night.

The call to recognize Azad Sahib's poem as the first anthem of Pakistan has been fervently taken up by human rights activist Beena Sarwar who also leads the Aman Ki Asha project.

In a very well written article Beena Sarwar tells us:

'The anthem commissioned by Mr Jinnah was just one of his legacies that his successors swept aside, along with the principles he stressed in his address to the Constituent Assembly on Aug 11, 1947.'

A month after his death, the Safety Act Ordinance of 1948, providing for detention without trial – the draft of which Jinnah had in March angrily dismissed as a “black law” – was passed. The following March, the Constituent Assembly passed the ‘Objectives Resolution’ that 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 miniscule. 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 jehan se accha’. Such symbolism is necessary if we are to claim the political spaces for resurrecting Mr Jinnah’s vision about a nation where religion, caste or creed “has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

While the case of Azad Sahib writing Pakistan's first anthem on behalf of the Qaid looks persuasive it has been challenged by historian Dr Safdar Mahmood who writes:

''Thinking about the claim by Azad sahib that he wrote the first national anthem of Pakistan I asked myself, 1. The Qaid had always taken decisions in consultation, so how come, not even knowing much Urdu or Persian, he made a unilateral decision (as claimed by Mr Azad) to approve this poem as the national anthem of Pakistan? 2. Qaid had lived most of his life in Bombay and Delhi, at the time of the above incident he was around 71 years old, so how come he was aware of a rather unknown Urdu poet of 29 living in Lahore and asked him to write the anthem?''

Dr Mahmood then goes on to tell us about his research to find evidence supporting Azad Sahib's clam. He referrers to a book by Professor Ahmed Saeed titled 'Visitors of Qaid' which covers all those who visited Jinnah till April 1948 and he found that there is no mention of Jagan Nath Azad ever meeting Jinnah. Dr Mahmood also met Captain Rabani who was the ADC of Qaid during those days and would have known of Jinnah's activities and Rabani denied Jinnah ever meeting Azad or asking him to write Pakistan's national anthem .

Dr Mahmood then claims that he thoroughly went through all records and archives of Radio Pakistan and found out that no song or poem written by Azad Sahib was broadcasted by radio Pakistan between 1st August 1947 and April 1949!

According to official records, Dr Mahmood claims, the first song broadcasted by Radio Lahore after announcing the creation of Pakistan was Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi's ''Pakistan bananay waalay, Pakistan mubarik ho''

Neither, he states, is his poem mentioned in any book or journal of that time.

So what really is the truth? And here I must mention that some other people have also remembered hearing Azad Sahib's poem from Radio Pakistan and thus we are reminded of Oscar Wilde's quote that, ''Pure and simple truth is seldom pure and never simple''

It just illustrates how difficult it is to conclusively prove a historical incident just a few years old even when the eyewitnesses are still alive; for memories often get muddled with time and people frequently remember time and dates incorrectly. In the same way records and archives can be doctored and full evidence not disclosed when someone asks for it.

Jagan Nath Azad who was originally from Mianwali and who very reluctantly left his beloved Lahore in November 1947 to move to India certainly was in Lahore at the time of Partition. And just like I have no reason to doubt the word of the great man Tagore that he did not write Jana Mana Gana to praise king emperor I have no reason to disbelief Azad Sahib that he was asked to write a poem on the occasion of Pakistan's creation – the question is who asked him to do this?

And here I very much doubt it was Mr Jinnah. In fact I am quite sure that the Qaid was not even aware of any such project. I believe that some of Azad Sahib's friend's who admired his skills as a poet and who may have had links with Radio Pakistan asked him to write a poem. It is quite possible that this poem made into a song was broadcasted by Radio Pakistan (there is no information on who was the singer and who composed the tune), even if it was not the first or even the second song broadcasted on the night of 14th August.

As such I cannot see Azad Sahib claiming anywhere that he ever met the Qaid personally and thus Dr Mahmood's laborious investigation into such a meeting was a bit of a wild goose chase.

Leaving aside the controversy what I fully accept is that a song in praise of Pakistan was indeed written by Azad Sahib. This poem is part of our cultural heritage in the same way that Iqbal's Saray Jahan say Acha is part of India's cultural heritage and it is time that we acknowledge this and cherish it. Let is read it and enjoy it:

Aye sar zameen-i-Pak

Zare tere hain aaj sitaron se tabnak

Roshan hai kehkashan se kahin aaj teri khak

Tundi-e-hasdan pe ghalib hai tera swaak

Daman wo sil gaya hai jo tha mudaton se chaak

Aye sar zameen-i-Pak!

Ab apne azm ko hai naya rasta pasand

Apna watan hai aaj zamane main sar buland

Pohncha sake ga is ko na koi bhi ab gazand

Apna alm a hai chand sitaron se bhi buland

Ab ham ko dekhtey hain atarad hon ya samaak

Aye sar zameen-i-Pak!

Utra hai imtehan main watan aaj kamyab

Ab huriat ki zulf nahin mahiv-e-paich-o-taab

Daulat hai apne mulk ki be had-o-be hisaab

Hon ge ham aap mulk ki daulat se faiz yab

Maghrib se hum ko khauf na mashriq se hum ko baak

Aye sar zameen-i-Pak!

Apne watan ka aaj badalne laga nizam

apne watan main aaj nahin hai koi ghulam

apna watan hai rah-e-taraqi pe tez gam

azad, bamurad jawan bakht shad kaam

ab itr bez hain jo hawain thin zehr naak

Aye sar zameen-i-Pak!

Zare tere hain aaj sitaron se tabnak

Roshan hai kehkashan se kahin aaj teri khak

Aye sar zameen-i-Pak!

Now how much of this is in Persian and how much is in Urdu? I leave that for you to decide.