ISLAMABAD: The government's decision to cancel the public holiday on November 9, which is celebrated as birthday of Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal, has invited widespread criticism and anger from different sections of the society. The Ministry of Interior through a notification cancelled the public holiday on November 9 that has earlier been observed as Iqbal Day for the last more than two decades.

The decision has caused anger and unrest among the nationalist groups, political parties, general masses, students, intellectuals and writers. On the other hand, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) yesterday decided to observe public holiday on November 9 (Iqbal Day) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while challenging the federal government’s announcement. Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, renowned literary figure and an expert on Iqbal studies regretted the government's decision and said: "The Muslim League government cancelled the public holiday on birthday of Dr Iqbal who also remained Punjab President of the Pakistan Muslim League."

He said that the events that were earlier held in schools and universities on Iqbal Day would affect because of working day. "Iqbal was the person who gave the idea of Pakistan," he said and added that anyone can study this in the letters of Muhammad Ali Jinnah written to Dr Iqbal. An official of the Ministry of Interior said that the holiday was cancelled through a notification issued on November 4, 2015. He said that the Ministry of Interior had the authority to announce or cancel public holidays and decision was taken on the directions of interior minister.

The decision was taken in general to decrease the working load on the government offices, as there would be a long weekend with the holiday of Monday (November 9), he added. Under the government rules of business, the Ministry of Interior notifies the public holiday for the whole year and vice versa. Chairman Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan through his consecutive tweets showed his anger on the government's decision and said nations without ideology simply die. He tweeted: "Both military and ‘democratic’ dictators have suppressed Iqbal's message of freedom of the body and soul." 

Meanwhile, Imran Khan asked Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak to declare Iqbal Day as a public holiday in the province. Imran Khan in a statement said: "While he disapproves of the excessive number of holidays that we have in Pakistan, Iqbal Day is an exceptionally special day for Pakistan. Iqbal's thought embodies the ideology (the Nazriya) of Pakistan." It is extremely important, Imran Khan felt, for coming generations to remember and follow the message of Iqbal so that Pakistan's ideological moorings keep strengthening.

Spokesman to PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Senator Farhatullah Babar said: "Instead of talking about the merits and demerits of holiday, this shows the indecisiveness of the government that kept on changing the decision and indicates that the government is confused while making decision on simple matters." Munawwar Ali, a student of Allama Iqbal Open University, said that the nations who forget their founding fathers cannot move forward and requested the government to withdraw the decision.