By Lt Col Zafar Iqbal Malik (R), 40 PMA
In the passing events of one’s personal life, there come some extraordinary moments where one can proudly acclaim; “I was there when history was being made.” Such a moment did cross my life on the midnight of 14 Aug 1947 at 12 am, when Pakistan was made and in the Combined Military Hospital, Bareilly Cantonment, India, my mother from Ludhaina, a wife of a young army Capt from Jhelum (Rohtas), gave birth to her first son at 2 am on the same day. Hence I can rightfully claim that, Pakistan and I were born together, free and independent. My father, Capt Muhammad Iqbal Malik,of RIEME was amongst the very few Muslim Punjabi officers of the British Indian Army, to be posted at Bareilly in 1947. He was Officer Commanding of Indian Station Workshop Bareilly, a small unit consisting of army personnel both Muslim and Hindu. All the unit personnel, irrespective of their religion, celebrated 14th Aug 1947, with double pleasure of independence and birth of their OC’s, son who was born on the same day.
It was the best of the times and it was the worst of the times. Pakistan was born and so was India. There were jubilant celebrations all over, but in some parts of India and Pakistan, people in towns and cities on both sides were being hacked, burnt, tortured, molested and raped and put to death, looting and massacre was at its limit. The worst in cities of Pakistan was in Lahore, Montgomery (now Sahiwal), Layllpur (now Faisalabad) and Rawalpindi. On Indian side the worst was seen in Punjab, in the cities of Ludhiana, Amritsarُ and Jalandhar and the other cities were Delhi, Bareilly and Lucknow.
All roads leading to these cities were littered with human flesh, dead bodies and their blood spilling all over. In such a scenario, it was not possible for anyone to travel on these highways, alone or even in a small group of families, which meant certain death.Thus some Hindu and Sikh personnel of my father’s small Unit, decided to accompany in the train their OC and his family and with other families of the Muslim personnel of the unit up to the Wagah border.
We were safely escorted by these men fully armed up to the Check Point and as I was told by my parents, that there at the Wagah Check Point, the parting which was witnessed was very emotional and dramatic. The men embraced each other with tears in their eyes. My father told me that irrespective of caste or creed, there was no eye, which was not wet with tears. These men had been together in the past at the Burma Front, so close and so near, but now time had come for permanent separation. With heavy hearts they embraced and bid farewell to each other. My father, the OC of Station Workshop Bareilly and his family were presented the final salute by these small group of Indians of the unit. They then turned and walked away with sadness. No body had the heart to turn around and look back at each other. Thus they separated in the afternoon of the first week of Oct 1947 and as fate would be destined, they will in near future, turn into bitter enemies of each other’s blood and life forever!
I entered the City of Lahore, in the arms of my mother as two-month old baby who would always rightly acclaim himself, to have been; BORN FREE ON 14th AUGUST 1947.
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