Every year on March 23, Pakistan Day is commemorated with great reverence in Pakistan and in dozens of countries around the globe by Pakistani expatriate communities.
On this day in 1940, the idea of a separate homeland was formally adopted by the representatives of Muslims of the subcontinent as their ultimate political goal.
This idea was rooted in the distinct historical, religious and cultural identity of Muslims of the subcontinent, and was first articulated as a political ideal by great poet-philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal in 1930.
However, March 23, 1940 signaled the political rejuvenation of the freedom movement by Muslims in South Asia that culminated in the creation of Pakistan on Aug. 14, 1947, under the charismatic leadership of Quaid-e-Azam (the Great Leader) Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
The ideas, ideals and influences that inspired Pakistan's birth were inextricably intertwined not only with the historical events unfolding in South Asia, but also with developments elsewhere during the beginning of the 20th century, particularly in Turkey.
Iqbal, whose intellectual and philosophical legacy left a lasting impact on the history of South Asia and continues to connect Pakistan and Turkey to this day, looked toward Anatolia for spiritual guidance, including from the great mystic poet Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, whom he called his great master.
He was an ardent admirer of the historical intellectual and cultural achievements of the people of Turkey, and passionately followed the ebb and flow of the political situation in the country in the beginning of the 20th century. Some of his greatest poetic masterpieces were inspired by political events taking place in Turkey.
This sentiment was not only confined to the political or intellectual elite in South Asia, but seeped down to the common folks in the towns and villages who viewed themselves as connected with the political upheavals thousands of miles away, based on a sense of common cultural and religious identity with the people of Turkey.
This sentiment motivated thousands of Muslims in South Asia – both rich and poor – to donate their belongings in support of their Turkish brothers and sisters, during the war of occupation by colonial aggressors. The revolutionary spirit of that age was epitomized by hundreds of South Asian Muslims like Abdur Rehman Peshawari who abandoned their homes to spend the rest of their lives for the defense of the Turkish people and their land.
These events in the two regions helped crystallize the amorphous political ideas of universal solidarity, sense of unique historical identity, anti-colonial resistance and a desire for political revival into a concrete conception of Muslim nationalism in South Asia culminating in the creation of Pakistan several decades later.
This great tradition of mutual love and admiration was bequeathed to the newly independent Pakistan at its independence and continues to dwell in the hearts of the two countries to this day. In the annals of diplomacy and people-to-people relations, Pakistan and Turkey enjoy a relationship that has no parallels. The history of modern diplomatic relations between the two countries is a testimony to the inviolable bonds between them, and the people and governments of both have time and again proved that they stand by one another in the most challenging of times. After the heinous coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, the people and government of Pakistan were among the first to express unwavering support against any attempt to undermine Turkey's peace and stability. Both houses of Pakistan's parliament passed unanimous resolutions to express their solidarity and a Parliamentary Solidarity Delegation with representatives from all political parties visited Turkey to pay tribute to the martyrs. Dozens of rallies were held across Pakistan in support of Turkey.
Pakistan and Turkey also share a remarkable convergence of interests and perspectives on issues of regional and international importance. Both countries face the scourge of terrorism and have made tremendous sacrifices in the fight against this menace. Sadly, there is little international recognition of these sacrifices.
Turkey and Pakistan are also home to the two largest refugee populations in the world. They continue to shoulder this onerous humanitarian responsibility with their own resources and in the absence of a meaningful response from the international community.
The rising tide of Islamophobia, religious discrimination and hate crimes against Muslims around the globe is also a matter of grave concern for the two countries. With millions of expatriates abroad and many experiencing this alarming phenomenon, the two countries share the resolve to take common initiatives to address the issue.
In the bilateral sphere, the countries are taking strides to transform their historic and unparalleled ties into an ever-stronger strategic relationship in the economic, cultural and military spheres.
While the fraternal bonds between the two countries are perennial, this sense of overwhelming affinity is felt all the most profoundly in the month of March owing to certain seminal events in the histories of the two countries that shaped their futures and resonate to this day in their common consciousness.
The strong sentiment of pride and jubilation among the Turkish people on the great victory at the Battle of Çanakkale on March 18 resonates beyond the country's borders and is shared equally by the people of Pakistan.
Likewise, the commemorative celebrations of March 23 are deeply steeped in the sense of historical undercurrents that bind the political consciousness in the two countries.
It is with deep sense of pride that noted Turkish academician and former parliamentarian Prof. Dr. Oya Akgönenç has been awarded "Tamgha-e-Imtiaz" by the President of Pakistan in recognition of her services for further promoting Pakistan-Turkey relations.
On the eve of Pakistan Day today, we are truly grateful for the participation of the Turkish Armed Forces' T-129 ATAK helicopters that will participate in the fly-past ceremony at Pakistan Day Parade in Islamabad. Our heartfelt thanks to the Government of Turkey for its unique gesture to light the Bosphorus bridges in the colors of Pakistani flag on the eve of March 23.
These are but a few illustrations among many that characterize this unique relationship, with many more to come on our joint journey through time as friends and brothers.
* Ambassador of Pakistan to Turkey.
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