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"Mr Jinnah's actions were secular"

Published in Nov-Dec 2013
Murtaza Solangi, former DG, Radio Pakistan, speaks about Mr Jinnah’s tapes and his vision for Pakistan.

MAMUN M. ADIL: How did you become involved with the Jinnah tapes?

MURTAZA SOLANGI: I joined Radio Pakistan as Director General in June 2008 and while there, I started going through the archived tapes. Mr Jinnah was a subject of interest to me and I went through most of the analogue tapes of his speeches. Very few were digitised, and I was told that since there was no recording facility in Karachi in 1947, a team of engineers from All India Radio in Delhi had been sent to Karachi to record the June 3, August 11 and 14 speeches. However, I only found the June 3 and August 14 speeches, which dealt with the Partition Plan and Transfer of Power respectively. I initiated the digitisation of the analogue tapes, and had the speeches uploaded on Radio Pakistan’s YouTube channel in 2011, along with about 300 other recordings.

MMA: Given that the June 3 and August 14 speeches were made public two years ago, why have they been in the news recently?

MS: Because All India Radio released the master copies of the tapes recently. The quality of their tapes is better than the ones we had.

MMA: What do you think is the impact of the June 3 speech?

MS: Not too much; the June 3 speech gives clues regarding Mr Jinnah’s central thinking of not creating a theocratic state; the August 14 speech says it better.

It is important because Mr Jinnah talks about Akbar the Great and the Prophet (PBUH) during whose time Jews and Christians were accorded the same status and respect as Muslims. However, the August 11 speech is the most important of them all.

MMA: What attempts did you make to retrieve the August 11 speech?

MS: I emailed the BBC in London and they replied that they did not have it, but it is still possible that there is a copy somewhere; All India Radio may have a copy. I am still making an effort to recover it. My suspicion is that somebody destroyed the tape in Pakistan.


In this speech Mr Jinnah said, “You are free to go to your temples…” and that religion has nothing to do with the state. I spoke to many people who worked under Zia-ul-Haq and according to them, as well as several books and reports, the tapes had been taken from the Radio Pakistan archives and destroyed.


MMA: Why would they do that?

MS: Because of the content. In this speech Mr Jinnah said, “You are free to go to your temples…” and that religion has nothing to do with the state. I spoke to many people who worked under Zia-ul-Haq and according to them, as well as several books and reports, the tapes had been taken from the Radio Pakistan archives and destroyed. Mr Jinnah was a secular person. The original speech that he was supposed to read on August 14, during the transfer of power, had religious phrases such as “so help me God” but Mr Jinnah chose not to read out these phrases. His actions were also secular. For example, just before the creation of Pakistan, Mr Jogindernath Mandal, a scheduled cast Hindu from East Pakistan, was inducted into the Constituent Assembly and was given the important portfolio of Minister of Law.

If Pakistan was going to be an Islamic, theocratic state how could the ministry of law be headed by a Hindu? That is why I feel that the tape was destroyed – because of its content.

MMA: What would the impact of the August 11 recording be if it was found?

MS: To be honest, even if Mr Jinnah rose from his grave and made the speech it would probably not make much difference today. The powerful religious lobbies and those that have militant wings and the power to coerce people would probably lynch Mr Jinnah today if he was alive. That said, the speech is important because of its historic significance – it would refute the lies by some politicians and historians who project that he wanted a theocratic state. The speech also has historic value. The other day, Geo did an enactment of it in Urdu – and someone asked me if it was authentic and I told them it was originally in English. The speech would definitely help people who believe in Mr Jinnah’s vision of a pluralist and democratic Pakistani state. It would be an important tool for people who believe the founder of their country did not want a theocratic state but one where every citizen is treated equally. I am still searching for it by contacting people in Pakistan and India, and I am also fighting for that vision by raising my voice on various forums.

MMA: Did you come across any other tapes during the digitisation process at Radio Pakistan?

MS: We found Liaquat Ali Khan’s last speech which was made on October 16, 1951. It is a few minutes in length and ends with gunshots being fired. I also found a speech made by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on April 27, 1972, when he laid the foundation stone of the National Broadcasting House of Radio Pakistan in Islamabad. Someone who worked as a technician gave it to us, so miracles do happen. It was very well written and powerful.

Mr Bhutto said that radio, as the cheapest and most portable medium, has the capacity to disseminate information, education and empowerment to people and that Radio Pakistan must do so.

MMA: Do you think Radio Pakistan has fulfilled that vision?

MS: No, because consecutive governments have used it as a government rather than a public broadcaster. To an extent, during Mr Bhutto’s time a lot of good public interest programming was developed including Taleem-e-Balighaan. But to turn Radio Pakistan into an institution like the BBC, you need educated people, who are given independence. This was never done. Radio Pakistan was used as a source of government propaganda. People listened to Radio Pakistan because it was the only station at the time; this changed in 2004 when private radio stations started coming up. Now, nobody cares about Radio Pakistan or PTV.

MMA: Why did you leave Radio Pakistan?

MS: On May 3, 2013, I was told that the management was pleased to cancel my contract.

MMA: What plans did you have for the digitised speeches?

MS: I had initiated a project with the help of the US Government to digitise 3.5 million minutes of historical speeches made by several political leaders including Mr Jinnah, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Mujibur Rahman, Feroz Khan Noon and Zia-ul-Haq. I was planning to create a portal that could be accessed by the general public for free, but would be charged for other broadcasters.

MMA: Why were these digitised archives not publicised?

MS: When I was at Radio Pakistan I didn’t do much on the publicity front. I was running from pillar to post to managing salaries, launching a website (the first bilingual one for a government organisation) and setting up social media accounts for Radio Pakistan. When I left, Radio Pakistan had over 30,000 followers on Twitter (All India Radio had 500). Today All India Radio has more; the babus who came after me drove everything into the ground.

Mamun M. Adil is Manager, BD&R, DAWN. mamun.adil@gmail.com