Through a Ministry of Interior circular dated 4 Nov 2015, Section Officer (Public) Qalandar Khan announced the cancellation of this year’s Iqbal Day holiday. Like all self-respecting circulars, the circular does not deign to mention the reason behind the cancellation. Furthermore, to date, no government rep has shed any light on the mystery despite repeated enquiries on the part of the major stakeholders (mostly journalists).

If ever there’s ripe ground for breakthrough investigative journalism, this surely is it. Never one to shirk a challenge, and in true Iqbalian spirit of exploring the next frontier, this scribe took up his pen to try and get to the bottom of this riddle. Unfortunately, he was not able to narrow down the list of probable explanations to one. A firm believer in the better judgment of his readers, he has decided to present his findings, in no particular order, here:

1.      You don’t become an Asian tiger by treating yourself to superfluous holidays

The goal of turning Pakistan into an Asian tiger has been the hallmark of all previous Nawaz administrations. By October 1999, when Nawaz’s second stint was abruptly cut short, Pakistan was already a bona fide Asian pussycat well on its way to metamorphosing into a full-fledged tiger. Now Nawaz is nothing if not persistent, so in his third stint Project Asian Tiger was back to the front burner where it belonged. When it comes to holidays, we are not just talking about the $82 bn loss per national holiday; we are talking about the damage to the cultivation of that invaluable mindset that is cognizant of the dignity of work and that gives priority to work under all circumstances. Let’s face it: If it comes down to Iqbal’s memory vs. Jinnah’s work, work, and more work, there can only be one winner, really.

 

2.      Acting on the maxim “Actions speak louder than words,” the government has given a very subtle definition of Iqbal’s qalandar:

Mehr o mah o anjum ka mahaasib hai qalandar

Ayyaam ka markab naheen, rakib hai qalandar

The Ministry of Interior has no less than 33 section officers, but by shrewdly selecting Qalandar Khan to announce the cancellation of Iqbal Day’s holiday, the government has subtly demonstrated the ease with which Iqbal’s qalandar, even if he is a lowly grade 17, can control the days - as Mr. Khan has so effortlessly done with the Iqbal Day – a far cry from being manipulated by them.

 

3.      Iqbal’s message is no more in sync with the ground realities of today

With all due respect to Iqbal - who is a decent enough poet - it is high time his relevance was reexamined for the challenges of today.

Guzar auqaat kar leta hai ye koh o bayaabaan mein

Ke shaaheen ke liye zillat hai kaar e aashiyaan bandi, does not send the right message to the exuberant youths of a rising economy.

Jis khet se dehqaan ko muyassar naheen rozi

Us khet ke har khosha e gandum ko jala do, is outright criminal and bloody seditious. I mean, let’s get real.

 

4.      The government has inadvertently played in the hands of the Zionist lobby 

Our enemies have never accepted Pakistan and will stop at nothing to ensure its undoing. But they are also aware of the fact that as long as Iqbal’s message and the two-nation-theory are alive in the hearts and minds of Pakistanis, they can hardly bring their nefarious designs to life. The scheming, two-faced Indians may even have led our officials to believe that the cancellation might, in the long run, result in a more conducive environment for brotherly economic relations with India.

 

5.      Would have been detrimental to the supremacy of the parliament

In addition to being born and bred in Punjab, Iqbal was a practicing Punjabi - dhoti, banyan and all - as well. Too much emphasis on him as a national poet goes against the finer sentiments of the smaller provinces. And since the parliament is representative of all provinces, it also goes against the supremacy of the parliament.