In the old Minto Park grounds, which are now known as the Iqbal Park grounds, is a towering spire of about 60 metres in height that just about every Pakistani knows by sight. It is the Minar-e-Pakistan, formerly the Yadgar-e-Pakistan, a tower that is said to be the symbol of Pakistan’s independence.
This is because the Minar-e-Pakistan stands on the spot where the All-India Muslim League, a group organising for the promotion of a distinct nation that would be composed primarily of Muslims, passed what is now often referred to as the Pakistan Resolution on the 23rd of March in 1940. The resolution (which, by the way, is also referred to on occasion as the Lahore Resolution) was the political resolution that eventually saw the birth of the independent Muslim state of Pakistan, whose name was taken upon the recommendation of the Muslim nationalist Choudhry Rahmat Ali. The original proposition was actually PAKSTAN (sans the “I”), with the characters taken from the first letters of the different regions supposed to be in the new state: Punjab, the Afghan Province (the Frontiers of the North-West), Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan. The “I” was added later to make it friendlier to the tongue.
But those who think the Minar-e-Pakistan is a place of significance only to Pakistanis could not be more wrong. When Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India once it gained independence, got together with the Indian National Congress to declare the goal of “Poorna Swaraj” (total independence, in particular from the British), they came to Lahore and to the very site of the Minar.
With such a history, one may well expect the site to continue to attract people with political axes to grind, and such is the case. One cannot call it overly common, but one cannot call it rare either to hear of some political meeting being held in the park where the monument stands. Only in the latter part of 2011, a host people estimated to be around half a million strong gathered here to hear the Imran Khan, leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf, make a speech that held a number of threatening words to the Pakistani government officials. Even for the location, the numbers of the crowd that day were an exception, however. Iqbal Park is usually quite sparse of visitors-or appears to be so due to its immense size and spacious design. On most days, a visit to the park should be relatively peaceful.
There is a bit of a dark side to Naseer-ud-Din Mira’at Khan’s (the architect of the Minar-e-Pakistan) tower, though. As mentioned earlier, the park is generally a serene place, one of wide-open spaces, well-trimmed grass, a modest tomb for Hafeez Jullundhri (the writer of the Pakistani national anthem), soothing fountains, and a man-made lake. But every now and then, suicides have been recorded as taking place in the park. Most of them were made by “jumpers”, people leaping from the top of the tower, which is why the authorities have decided to close the top to the public, to be safe.