People perturbed by cancellation of Iqbal Day holiday

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  • KP govt announces to observe holiday despite federal govt’s directive cancelling public holiday on Nov 9

There was a time when national poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s birth anniversary on November 9 was a gazetted public holiday to acknowledge the services rendered by the poet in paving the way for an independent country for Muslims of Subcontinent, however this year the federal government has taken the nation by surprise by cancelling the holiday.

A circular issued by the Interior Ministry on November 4 stated that there would be no holiday on November 9 on account of Iqbal Day. It did not cite any reason for the cancellation of this important public holiday though.

Prof Dr Khawaja Muhammad Zakariya, a recipient of the presidential award in literature and an authority on Iqbal, told Pakistan Today that the government’s decision was incomprehensible. He opined that the government must organise conferences and lectures to mark Iqbal Day in order to spread his message since Iqbal was a world known personality and his services to the nation were commendable.

Iqbal Sallahudin, the grandson of Iqbal, said that the government was trying to erase Iqbal from history just like it had removed Sir Syed Ahmad Khan from the national horizon. He lamented that Iqbal was being added to the list of Pakistan’s forgotten national heroes. He also remarked that the message of Iqbal had challenged the status-quo, but the government wanted to keep it intact for the sake of their own benefits.

Another grandson of Iqbal, Yousaf Salahuddin, said he was going to release a unique conversation between Iqbal’s son and daughter on this Iqbal Day under the caption “aata hay yaad mujh ko guzra huwa zamana” in which they both shared the memories of their father.

Prof Dr Saadat Saeed, former head of the Government College University’s Urdu Department, said that Iqbal was the man who gave the idea of Pakistan and it was unfair to cancel the national holiday on his birth anniversary. He maintained that the business-oriented leaders of this country did not want the businesses to be closed for one day.

Aiwan-e-Iqbal Chairman and Pakistan Today Editor Arif Nizami said that the decision of cancelling the national holiday on Iqbal Day was condemnable since Iqbal was the one who had coined the idea of Pakistan. He was of the view that forgetting national heroes was not a good omen for the country.

Spokesperson for the Punjab government, Zaeem Qadri, was not available for comments despite repeated attempts.

When contacted, the parliamentary secretary for S&GAD in Punjab, Ali Asghar Manda sexpressed ignorance about the issue. It may be mentioned that any notification about holidays in Punjab is issued by the S&GAD. However, Manda said he would endorse the government’s decision.

Spokesperson for the City District Government Lahore, Dr Nadeemul HassanGillani told Pakistan Today that there was no holiday in Lahore on Iqbal Day. He was of the view that the federal government was the competent authority to announce any national holidays and that the district coordination officer had nothing to do with it. The DCO could announce local holidays on occasions such as the Urs of Data Ganj Bakhsh.

Like other universities in the city, there is no holiday in the GCU Lahore, the alma mater of Allama Iqbal. GCU Vice-Chancellor Dr Hassan Amir Shah said that the holiday was cancelled but a delegation from the GCU would visit the mausoleum of Iqbal to lay a floral wreath as per the set tradition.

Confusion Over Holiday:

Confusion prevailed in the country over the issue of public holiday on November 9 (Iqbal Day).

Unlike other provinces, there is a public day in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan had ‘advised’ Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to announce a public holiday on the day. Khan was of the view that although he was against observing too many holidays, Iqbal Day held great significance for both Pakistan and Pakistanis so it must be marked as a national holiday.

Nevertheless, there was confusion in Sindh, as the provincial government had earlier announced a public holiday, but later on cancelled it after a notification from the federal government.

The parents of school-going children also have no clue what to do as it was unclear whether Monday was going to be a holiday or not.