Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pakistan's Valentine’s Day - Banning love

In a country plagued by a range of serious issues, from terrorism to economic problems, it is bizarre that we have to write about Valentine’s Day.

On Monday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) barred the celebration of Valentine’s Day in government offices and public spaces across the country. The court extended the ban to coverage on the media as well. Pemra was told to ensure that television channels stop all Valentine’s Day promotions. The orders were issued without a detailed explanation for why such a ban was felt necessary. Reactionary social forces have continued to oppose any celebration of Valentine’s Day in Pakistan but they have barely been dominant enough to make a dent. With the IHC order, though, these forces may have been able to score a strange win. Valentine’s Day is mostly a non-event across Pakistan – restricted to small and mostly affluent parts of big cities. The objection against the event is not that it ‘spreads love’ but that it promotes ‘immorality, indecency and nudity’ – without any proof having been offered of the said immorality. Is it now enough to just say that something is against the culture of our country in order to have it banned?
Instead of letting a non-event continue to ass us by in all its uneventful non-glory, it is decisions such as this that force a confrontation in society over what should essentially not be an issue. Last year, it was President Mamnoon Hussain who had decided to take on Valentine’s Day. Such decisions can only charm the social cohesion of the country at a time when the threat of terrorism and fundamentalism is by no means over. It is also rather strange to see such cases make it to the top of the case load in a judicial system that remains burdened by what most people would argue are much more serious cases. This is yet another example of a society and legal system whose priorities have become so misplaced that they end up seeing balloon-sellers and flower vendors as the biggest threat to Pakistan today.

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