Pakistanis will neither be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Tuesday nor participate in Basant festivities over the weekend as both these events have been banned across the country.
On Monday, the Islamabad high court prohibited Valentine’s Day celebrations after hearing a petition which argued the event was not part of Muslim traditions.
According to the order issued by Justice Shaukat Aziz, Valentine’s Day festivities were banned in public spaces and at an official level. The court also directed the print and electronic media not to cover “any promotion of the day celebrating love”.
The judge also directed the information ministry and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to submit replies regarding the immediate execution of the court’s order.
Last week, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif tweeted there would be a “complete ban” on Basant, the kite flying festival that marks the advent of spring.
Complete BAN on Basant.. No one can b allowed to play with the lives of ppl.. concerned DPO will b responsible for any violation of ban -ss— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) February 7, 2017
The ban was first imposed more than a decade ago, largely because of accidents involving the glass-coated string used to fly kites, but many religious groups have contended Basant is an “un-Islamic” festival.
Observers said it was not clear whether an order issued by the Islamabad high court could be enforced across the country. They also questioned how practical it would be to implement the ban on Valentine’s Day.
Last year, President Mamnoon Hussain had asked the people not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, saying it “has no connection with our culture and it should be avoided”.
However, most Pakistanis are not listening. Online food portal SWOT reported record bookings for lunches and dinners in most major cities on Tuesday. The prices of flowers have increased manifold in anticipation of higher sales on Tuesday.
The ban on the traditional Basant festival too has irked many. Basant will not be observed in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, or in other parts of the province, according to a statement issued by chief minister Sharif.
Sharif said a committee was formed to look for plausible solutions for a safe Basant but as in previous years, the government failed to find a workable solution and ended up continuing the ban. In his tweet, Sharif warned police to enforce the ban or face the music.
In 2005, the Supreme Court banned the festival after several deaths caused by glass-coated strings. The ban impacted many people who made their living by making kites and associated paraphernalia.
The Express Tribune newspaper said in an editorial it is widely believed Basant was banned because of pressure from extremist religious groups opposed to what they see as an “un-Islamic” event.
“Taking away Basant from Lahore is to take away a treasured part of a centuries-old culture. It is most unfortunate how successfully successive governments have snatched away these festivities and reduced the much-awaited Basant to archival photos and accounts of the past,” the editorial said.