Lahore: The President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain requested the nation not to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14 this year because of its un-Islamic contours. Hardly a few months ago, the president had asked the Ulemas (Islamic Scholars) to legalize Riba to foster a better business environment in the country. Riba is forbidden in Islam.

Experts in public policy believe that such contradictory statements from the president show that the leadership of the country is utterly confused about its policies on Islamic laws and values and that it is pedaling to the whims of the religious elements when it comes to banning things like Valentine’s Day, Basant or YouTube.

Valentine’s Day celebrations had been banned in Islamabad and Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Islamabad government had later termed the news about the ban on Valentine’s Day in Islamabad as false.

The district government in Kohat, however, had issued notifications to the police to enforce the prohibition. The Kohat district government is ruled by the Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious, political party of Pakistan.

While vast swathes of the population followed the government’s line and shunned Valentine’s Day, a considerable part disdained state’s interventions into their personal affairs and enjoyed the festival.

The Secretary General Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, I.A Rehman, told News Lens Pakistan that the state had no right to interfere in the private affair of its citizens. The state would not decide if people would celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. He said that by banning Basant and Valentine’s Day, the government was strengthening the hands of the conservative elements. These elements, he elaborated, in fact, were a shield behind which the government hid its vulnerabilities and incompetence.

“Majority of the people in this country are okay with government’s intervention into their private and religious affairs. The solution lies in all the political parties coming together and saying no to the religious elements.” He says the irony is that every political party has thrown in the towel because of corruption, incompetence and inability to deliver to the people. We have not a single left of center party in the parliament.

“In crux the correctness of the situation lies in the reformation of the politicians,” said Rehman.

Within a few years of its inception, efforts were afoot to make Pakistan a theocratic state because of which the country lost the spirit to accept diversity and live in peace with dissenting voices.

Saroop Ijaz, a prominent lawyer, and a human rights activist told News Lens Pakistan in an email from the US that The Objectives Resolution was part of the problem.

Ijaz further said, “Pakistani leaders have for too long now abdicated their powers to govern to the religious right and hence to make them powerful and mainstream. An overhaul of not only the legal system but also political gimmickry based on religion needs to be undertaken.”

Another festival banned in Lahore is Basant, the kite flying festival. This centuries old festival held annually was about jubilation, food, music, clothing and fashion. The kite-cutting contest with all its chuckling, chanting, teasing and giggling would define and revive Lahore.

Some of the Laborites made kite cutting a dangerous competition by introducing metal cords, which would turn into sharp-edged knives when whipped into the air. In the case of falling, the wire would cut through a victim’s body in an instant. Many children, hawkers, pedestrians, and motorcyclists had been killed, disabled or injured by the cord. When tangled with the power wires the cords caused power outages and fire hazards.

Instead of finding a way out of this barbaric practice and making new laws to punish those involved in making the cords the government had completely banned Basant.

According to the government, it ‘s hard to identify the users of the stray metal cord.

When News Lens Pakistan contacted Pervaiz Rashid, the Federal Minister of Information, he chewed many arguments and stumbled upon several before revealing his utter confusion as to why the government could not lift the ban on the celebration of Basant.

“We have no mechanism to identify the culprit whose wire cuts the throat or any other organ of a passerby during the Basant festival,” said Rasheed.

When asked as to why the government did not ban the production of metal cords. The minister first said that since the manufacturers of the originally rice-coated cotton thread were made by the same people who manufactured the metal cord, therefore, clamping any ban would result in business closures affecting many poor households or resulting in more unemployment.

However, when News Lens Pakistan emphasized on regulatory measures, the minister blurted that in countries like Pakistan, it was difficult to implement laws, therefore, it was better to ban things then putting lives at risk. He further said that we had plenty of rules but because of poor implementation, desired results could not be produced.

He said, “We have become animals, and it would take years before we learn how to respect the lives of the people.”

When reminded that it was the responsibility of the government to provide its citizens the opportunity to become civilized the minister flipped from the previous version and said, “These wires are made by rich people inside their farm houses and just like we could not barge into other’s home to check their conducts we could not stop these people from making metal cords.”

News Lens Pakistan found the leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Sirajul Haq, equally unequivocal in his reply regarding the ban on Valentine’s Day in Kohat.

While condemning Valentine’s Day, he said in a jest, “We can tolerate festivals celebrated by Hindus or Jews but Valentine’s Day is not acceptable.”

In another strange answer, Sirajul Haq said that the Jamaat was concerned with immoralities displayed in public but whatever people do in their private lives is none of their business.

At the end of the day, the question arises, if the government has banned Basant to prevent accidents from metal wire then why is it arresting innocuous kite flyers in different parts of Punjab, as was witnessed recently in Faisalabad.


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