As the nation celebrates the 137th anniversary of the birth of Sir Muhammad Iqbal today, it provides a peculiarly appropriate occasion to see how far the nation he conceived actually measures up to his conception. Iqbal may have passed away nearly eight years before Pakistan came into being, but even before that, he laid the groundwork for it. It was perhaps appropriate that the groundwork he carried out was for a political movement, the Pakistan Movement, for while Iqbal was a poet par excellence, he was also a philosopher and an eminently practical politician.

First, in his famous Allahabad Address, he gave shape to the concept of Pakistan as a separate homeland in India for its Muslims. Once conceived, the homeland needed a movement to wrest it from both the British colonialist and the Hindu Congress-ites pressing for a united India. Iqbal provided that movement a leader, in the shape of the Quaid-e-Azam, when he sent Liaquat Ali Khan to bring him back from the UK.

It is almost as if the nation is stuttering when it notes that it still wants what the Allama wanted –an Islamic democratic welfare state. It seems that none of the goals he set have been achieved. By ‘state’, he meant one which was independent, and able to serve its people and protect the sanctity of their homes and lives. Democracy remains at the disposal of a few, and while the system is presently democratic, it can be overthrown at any time, as it has been on four previous occasions. Islam has come to be synonymous with terrorism and violence, instead of being seen as the religion of peace. The state has taken such poor care of the welfare of ordinary citizens, that far from guaranteeing their health and education, it cannot avoid job-destroying electricity loadshedding, nor backbreaking inflation, while it is about to launch yet more gas loadshedding. The vision may not have been at fault, however, the implementation has been.

The inescapable conclusion is that the nation’s leaders have deviated from the vision of Iqbal, which was identical with that of the Quaid, and which they imbued in their party, which is in office today. That party only pays lip-service to the Allama, even though the ideals he stood for are a guide to practical politics today, and which still encapsulate the wishes of the people. The party leadership should realize that the previous government ignored the Allama’s ideas, and was duly punished at the hustings only this summer. If it wishes to avoid the same fate at the next electoral test, coming in the shape of local body polls in a matter of weeks, it must take practical measures to implement the Allama’s vision.