Pak Broadcasting Corp turns to AIR for Jinnah speech

Islamabad: Pakistan`s state-run broadcaster has turned to All India Radio for a copy of the historic 1947 speech by the country`s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in which he had said people would be free to practice any religion without interference by the state.

Murtaza Solangi, the Director General of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, has written to his counterpart in All India Radio seeking a copy of Jinnah`s address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 three days before the emergence of Pakistan as an independent nation.

Jinnah`s speech, which includes a charter of rights of minority communities, was suppressed and even removed from text books during the regime of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

The current PPP-led government has commemorated August 11 as Minorities Day but no audio copy of the important speech is available in the country. "This speech is very important for people who want to direct the country to the goal of a modern, pluralistic, democratic state," Solangi told PTI.

Solangi initially contacted the BBC for a copy of the speech but the British broadcaster was unable to locate it in its extensive archives. He then turned to All India Radio, which operated stations across the subcontinent before Partition.

"I raised the matter at international forums like the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. When I visited New Delhi in November last year, I learnt a copy of the speech was available with AIR`s international division. After that, I wrote to the Director General of AIR, seeking a copy," Solangi said.

The issue was also raised with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar during her visit to Islamabad in February while former Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik took it up with authorities in New Delhi. "I got a call from the Director General of AIR last week and he told me they were trying to locate the speech in their archives," Solangi said.

During the speech, Jinnah had famously remarked: "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or 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".

The reason why Jinnah`s speech is in AIR`s archives is because radio stations in what is now Pakistan did not possess proper recording facilities in the era before Partition. "In those days, only Lahore and Peshawar had what were known as `Class B` radio stations and these had no recording facilities," Solangi said.

"So a team was sent from Delhi to record Jinnah`s speech to the Constituent Assembly and the team took the recording back to Delhi," he said.

Since taking over Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Solangi has overseen efforts to digitise Radio Pakistan archives comprising 3.5 million minutes of recorded materials, including historic speeches by figures like Jinnah and President Ayub Khan. "So far, we have digitised about 300,000 minutes," he said.

Solangi has also gathered interesting facts about the history of Radio Pakistan`s stations. For instance, he said, the first programme broadcast by the first station in Peshawar in 1936 – a programme on agriculture featured the voice of Bollywood legend Prithviraj Kapoor.