Aiwan-i-Sadr opened its doors to the public for two days this weekend to showcase Pakistan’s history, from the Pakistan Movement to the difficulties facing migrants in the subcontinent, through rare photographs and documents.
The historical exhibition was organised by the National Archives of Pakistan, and highlighted the personality and work of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the struggle for a separate country for Muslims.
Documents exhibited included rare texts in Arabic, Persian, Punjabi and Pashto, magazines published in the subcontinent, the deed of Kashmir between Dogra Raja Gulab Singh and the British from 1846 and royal orders issued by Mughal emperors Shahjehan and Mohammad Shah.
Personal documents belonging to Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah were also displayed, including their original passports, vehicle registration books, diaries and accounts books.
The exhibition was held at President House on Friday and Saturday, and saw crowds of visitors who came to enjoy the rare glimpse into history as well as the Presidency. Visitors were allowed to visit the gardens and the Darbar Hall.
The exhibition tried to tell the story of Pakistan under Jinnah’s leadership. It started with Jinnah’s arrival in India from England and culminated in the experiences of migrants who travelled to Pakistan during partition.
Rare photographs of Fatima Jinnah and Dina Jinnah were also displayed, as well as photos of Jinnah’s residence in London and his friends.
One photograph showed Jinnah, Fatima Jinnah being received by Ayub Khan, then major general, at a visit to Kurmitola Parade Ground in what was then East Pakistan. East Pakistan’s governor and area commander Sir Frederick Bourne could also be seen.
Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain, an Arabic text published in 1509, a Punjabi book by Mohammad Qasim from 1277, Pashto text written in 1256 and handwritten copies of Futwa-i-Alamgiri and Sharah-i-Hindi in Persian from 1272 were displated.
Among old newspapers and magazines was the original Paisa Akhbar newspaper from 1930s Lahore, Al-Hilal from Culcutta from 1927, Chitaan from Lahore dated 1950, the Hamdard newspaper from Delhi dated 1928 and Oudh Punch from Lucknow from 1924.
Speaking to visitors, President Dr Arif Alvi said work needs to be done to identify Jinnah’s friends and others who were part of history, as younger generations do not recognise them.
He said the public has been given access to rare photographs for the first time so they can see the original documents available with the government.
He said students and researchers would also benefit from these documents.
“It’s a great opportunity for people, especially students of history, to feel real moments captured in photographs; these are the windows to the past that show how our great leaders went through the freedom struggle,” said Mohammad Awais, a visitor at the exhibition.
Fiza Ahmed, who came from Rawalpindi, said that her family came to see the President House as well as the exhibition. She said she had also learned that more rare documents were available at the National Archives.
“But, seeing the rare photographs of the founder of the nation and the documents in President House was the best experience. There should museums in such buildings that are open to the general public,” she added.
Originally published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019