At sporting grounds and arenas all over the world, the sight of hundreds of green-and-white, crescent-and-star Pakistani flags, raised with enthusiastic slogans of Pakistan Zindabad fills every Pakistani with a sense of pride and patriotism.
The beautiful flag of Pakistan is the symbol of our independence and national glory. In all the international events, festivals and conferences as well as at important national occasions, it’s our flag and national anthem which represent us, make us stand proudly and blow respectfully as a free nation. It’s the same flag which gives identity to Pakistani people, products and embassies abroad. But in reward, we ignore those who gave us such a remarkable emblem of identity. Does anyone of us ever bother to think about who was the creator of the Pakistani flag?
It was late Hakeem Muhammad Saeed who first raised this question in 1975, twenty-eight years after independence, and started search of the creator of the first Pakistani flag when he found no historical details about it in any of the national museums.
In response to his statement which appeared in a local newspaper, he met the great national hero, Master Afzal Hussain, a refined tailor and sherwani-expert of Qarole-Bagh, Delhi, who sewed the first flag of Pakistan,. Recalling the pre-partition days in an interview, he said that he had a tailoring shop in Delhi, famous as Hussain Brothers, where leading political and literary figures used to come. He was also an active member of Pakistan Movement and a national security guard of the Muslim League. In June 1947, Dr. Abdul Ghani Qureshi and other Muslim League’s members came to his shop, accompanied by a few foreign journalists, They provided a sketch, cloth and some measurements and asked him to prepare a flag for Pakistan. He and his brother, Master Afzal Hussain, stitched two flags instantly. The foreign journalists took several photographs of the process, which were later also printed in an American magazine life.
Talking about his feelings at that moment, he said that his heart was pounding with the idea that he was sewing the first flag of an independent Muslim State and his hands were shaking with excitement and joy. His work was appreciated and some journalists tried to give him money, but he refused it, saying it was his honour to tailor the Pakistani flag. Later, the first prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan presented the same flag in the Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947, which unanimously approved it as the national flag of the new-born country.
But the father of the flag was left to live a faceless and distressed life in the free Muslim land for which he sacrificed everything at the time of partition. He worked hard to feed his family until lost his sight and defeated by backbone cancer. He had no house or shop of his own and the only plot which was allotted to him by the government of Pakistan was confiscated by land mafia. Master Afzal got a little recognition when he was invited in the Tariq Aziz Show. Some radio producers and journalists also focused/featured him in the national media. But the breakthrough came to him when he met General Zia in 1979. Ziaul Haq humbly listened to his plea and acknowledged his services for Pakistan. More than that, he presented him a check of Rs 5000 and announced the Pride of Performance Award for him in a public meeting.
Master Afzal kept on waiting for the presidential invitation to receive his award throughout his life, which never came. He approached the concerned authorities to remind them their promises, but in vain. In an utter state of disappointment, he breathed his last on 15th July 1987. Even on his death bed, he wished nothing except for the acceptance of his name as the tailor of the first Pakistani flag in history. But while the Zia government financially supported him during his ailment, it denied the due honour and award to him for unknown reasons. His name remains missing from the history books, the new generation is kept ignorant of his services and his family has been continuously suffering from poverty.
After the death of Master Afzal, his daughter Qamar Sultana, second among the four sisters, decided to continue the battle of his father. She believes that it is her right to get justice not only for her late father but for all those freedom fighters who have suffered at the hands of callous authorities. For this purpose, she formed the Master Afzal Hussain Foundation with the cooperation of like-minded people.
But uptil now she was got nothing except failure, discouragement and loss of thousands of rupees, which she spent on telephone calls, fax and mail to approach the authorities – from president and prime minister to provincial leaders and from local bodies to human rights organizations. She knocked on every door, turned every stone in the hope of justice, but failed.
It is not a matter of shame that we forget our national heroes? Will history forgive us for this inhuman attitude towards our mohsins? Do our authorities have no time to stop making false, high-sounding claims and compensate for injustices to Master Afzal Hussain and many like him. Can’t they take some substantial steps such as incorporating his name in history books as the creator of the first Pakistani flag, name a road, park or library after him, give posthumously the already declared Pride of Performance Award to his family and more importantly provide a job to his daughter so that she can respectably support her paralyzed husband and four children.
Perhaps, it would be rather a greater achievement of the prime minister to provide food, shelter and justice to the common man of the country than experimenting with the atomic bomb or firing a Ghauri into space.