Amidst the confusion that reigns supreme on ways to tackle the massive Djinn like problems that the country faces, it is a pity that Iqbal is not referred to more often for ‘way forward’ - to use modern presentation parlance! On his birthday on November 9, Chaai Khaana, a more current version of Lahore’s famous Tea House in the heart of Islamabad’s hoi polloi sector, organized a lecture on Iqbal on their premises. The invitees included a select group of literati (select only because of the space issues, let me hasten to add). The attendance during the brunch hours on weekends at Chaai Khaana is very large so those who were there merely for omelettes and toast on a Saturday morning also got the additional benefit of being able to listen in.

The talk was delivered by Salim Nawaz Gandapur, formerly of the Foreign Service, who among the many things he does, is also founder of a Jinnah Iqbal Forum. He was so wonderfully able to project and convey the understanding that Iqbal had of the Quran, its static yet dynamic status, the growth of an individual as a seamless part of society and the concept of universal brotherhood. He linked passages of the Quran with Iqbal’s poetry and the poetry of our Sufi Saints and the inherent message of enlightenment that they all have in common. The key to anything and everything is the pursuit of truth. When you seek it you can find it and the soul that can retain its integrity achieves immortality, as Baba Bulleh Shah expressed ‘Goar peya koi hoar’.

I think Iqbal and his work like ‘The reconstruction of religious thought in Islam’ ought to be taught at our colleges and his poetry an essential part of our curriculum across the board. He has made so many things so easy to comprehend and absorb while showing the way to evolving to higher planes of understanding and knowledge. It is a path so clearly laid out that by all accounts, if we had taught and understood Iqbal as he had deserved to be done, there would have been very little room for the kind of confusion that prevails in Pakistan.

The news of Fazlullah becoming head of TTP is once again a déjà vous. Much like the polio virus that we can’t lick (thanks in a large part to Fazlulah himself who had led the anti-polio drive in Swat) his personal rise too is similar to that of the virus. We thought we had seen the last of him after the Swat operation, after having done the rounds of appeasements and trying out the entire pendulum of peace options. But our luck has not held out. As in his previous hold on the valley of Swat, when all he gave were stabs in the back at every opportunity, he has announced his intentions of pursuing the same path all over again. As it is now very much a ‘been there, done that’ scene, it may allow those who have the responsibility of our safety and security to cut the confusion and arrive quickly at action plans hopefully. And we hope that there will also be plans B and C in place along with all the plan A’s. Plus it also gives the entire country the chance to rally behind the government and the Armed Forces as they make collective policies about the situation in response to Fazlullah’s declared intention on Pakistan. We do not have an option but to rise to the challenge. John Elia, another wonderful poet of Pakistan, had written something that I am compelled to share with you as it appears to have been written for us as we live in the present:

Guzishta ahed guzarney mai hi

nahi aata

Ye haadisa bhi likho maujozon

kai khaaney mai

Jo rud huay thai jahan mai kai

sadi pehley

Wo log hum pai mussalat hain

iss zamaney mai.

(Even though it is an aberration, but times long gone have managed to stand still for us. Those who were rejected several centuries ago, somehow, continue to prevail.)

Post Script: As if there are not enough dramas for us to watch on our daily talk shows and the dreaded breaking news syndrome, we were also exposed to watching real life theatrics via the Senate proceedings last week. The opposition parties in the Senate were so angry with the Interior Minister’s attitude and refusal to acknowledge that he had provided wrong figures to the Parliament about casualties in terrorist attacks and drone strikes, that they convened a parallel Senate in a tent in front of the Parliament building. In my opinion the opposition should have tackled this inside the Parliament by censuring the minister while remaining within the norms of parliamentary procedure. This hue and cry coming from parties who were in power for all of five years as recently as until March this year seems a bit hypocritical, because in their tenure drone strikes were the norm. Anyway, one thing about the Interior Minister though. He seems to be operating quite independently and appears to have no boss at all. He sits with arms folded as can be seen whenever the camera focuses on him. And as anybody who has read body language will vouch, the folded arms clearly signal, ‘Do not mess with me – I’m not open to it”!

n    The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.