City Notes

At the time of reading, the country will not be on holiday, even though today is Iqbal Day , the birth anniversary of the Founding Father of Pakistan, the man who conceived it. It is also worth remembering that he conceived it, but never saw it, dying eight years before its creation. It is something of a pity, then, that this holiday should only have been denotified by the government, though the shambolic way it went about the whole business was typical. It was something of a coincidence that it was to have been the first Iqbal Day without the Allama’s son, Mr Justice Javed Iqbal, who died recently. Surely, the holiday was not just for him alone? It was also something of a scurvy trick to have been played by governments when both, national and provincial, were headed by brothers as Kashmiri as the Allama. The Allama, was from Sialkot, unlike the Sharif brothers, whose family is from Amritsar, but like Khwaja Asif, the current lord of darkness.

There have been quite a few great poets, if you cast your net over all languages, but none of them conceived a nation. Except Iqbal. Yet it must be remembered that he first expressed the idea in a very political forum, the presidential address to the Allahabad session of the All—India Muslim League in 1934. As a matter of fact, politicians have generally taken a dim view of poets, and Pakistan has the unique distinction of having been conceived by a poet. So it was perhaps not a bad thing to have been one of the few countries with a holiday for a poet. We also decided to work on the Quaid’s death anniversary, so why waste Independence Day? Or Republic Day? Quaid Day would be next, but that would mean cancelling Christmas too.

Imran Khan has told KP to have the holiday. Well, his first Iqbal Day after his second divorce. At this rate, he’ll forget how many divorces he went through, and maybe he’ll stop divorcing, and just stage sit-ins. Still, no one seems to be asking why a man over 60 cannot settle down his personal life. Or do PTI diehards claim he is still sowing his oats?

Still, I doubt if the Allama, in his wildest imaginings, could have conceived of the Sundar factory collapse. It was owing to the earthquake last week, which had seemed to have left Lahore alone. However, this factory cracked. And no one stopped the building work that was going on. The factory collapsed, and workers were trapped by the debris. 23 were confirmed dead by Friday, with the toll expected to double. The survival of a teenager, recovered alive 50 hours after the collapse, showed how true it is that only if the Almighty wills, can anyone die.

Well, I don’t think he wanted this kind of country, but I don’t think that he wanted the kind of country that India has become either. India is heading towards being the kind of country which the Allama grew up in, and then practiced law, poetry and politics in; one in which hatemongers like Lala Lajpat Rai became leaders, in which pigs’ heads were thrown into mosques during Friday prayers, or else were disturbed by Hindu processions blaring their music outside. It’s all heading towards that. The cow–slaughter and beef-eating controversy currently raging in India makes one go back to the post-World War I era, when the Allama was most politically active. The conversions of poor Christians and Muslims reminds one of the Shudhi and Sangathan movements.

At that time, the line seems to have been drawn between Hindus and Muslims. Now the factory collapses are of places where garments are being made for exports to the West. Though the exporters are selling abroad because they make good money that way, they throw their weight about as exporters. The Western appetite for cheap garments is costing us lives. Does anyone remember the fire in a garments factory in Karachi, three years back? The compensation battle with the German importer is still continuing.

So Arundathi Roy joining the crowd of those returning their awards is not sufficient compensation. The USA had better watch out. They have a lot of Hindus there too, and they are hardcore BJP supporters. Wait for Hindus to declare the Mississippi as holy as the Ganges, or at least some sort of substitute. Wait for Bobby Jindal, the Indian-origin Republican Governor of Louisiana who is running for President, to take a dip in it. Or have his ashes thrown in it. Indian Muslim celebrities are voicing their protest, not returning their awards. I mean, they have to be careful. And maybe they don’t eat beef While Muslims might be willing to eat beef in theory, it is supposed to be a poor substitute for eating mutton. The BJP portrayal of Muslims as pro-Pakistanis with beef in their mouths seems more meant for vegetarian supporters than for reality.

It seems as if the response has come in the shape of further radicalization. Like in Turkey, where Erdogan’s AKP won last week’s election, even though he is, as the Western media portrays him, a fundamentalist bent on a neo-Ottoman policy. He has tried hard, joining the fight against the militants, persisting with Turkey’s application for EU membership, and so on, to prove his credentials, but he is still shown as a fundamentalist. It seems Turks are as untrustworthy as ever.