It seems that Valentine’s Day faces a ban in Pakistan. It broke news yesterday that the Pakistani high courts banned loved up celebrations and social media use that endorsed the holiday. This followed a petition that argued that it was an un-Islamic practice.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain has declared to the people of Pakistan that “We should avoid Valentine’s Day as it has no connection with our culture.”
The Ministry of Information, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), and chief commissioner Islamabad were nominated to ensure that ban was carried out in letter and spirit.
We look at our liberal views in the so called Western World. Ten billion matches are made on Tinder each day, series such as Naked Attraction now exist where people pick their partner based on their genitals and don’t even start on the likes of websites such as Sugardaddies.com
Malik is a thirty-year-old Pakistani man who has lived in Cork, Ireland for thirteen years now. His family and friends remain in the Islamic country and when asked about the ban on Valentine’s Day he states in a thick Cork City accent “Sure that’s not banned at all.”
Malik believes that the main issue with Valentine’s Day existing in Pakistan is a hyper religiousness.
“Our religion doesn’t believe in a girlfriend like, they believe in a wife.” Now nearly thirty, he continues to celebrate with his wife. He is baffled by the idea of the ban actually occurring because he says that there are maybe two or three old fashioned “scholars” per thousands of those who are indifferent to the holiday.
It’s the religion, the culture and the “scholars” that are apparently responsible for any hub bub. I ask him about the higher sales of condoms and chocolates on the day and the government’s belief that this will lead to promiscuity amongst teenagers. To which he replies “They don’t see a relationship between a woman and man without marriage.” Having lived in Pakistan for seventeen years, there is a tone of apathy towards his former government that associates love with sex and indecency.
Valentine’s Day is a celebration of Saint Valentine. Connotations of romantic love have built over centuries to make it a celebration of such. The holiday’s roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility and commemorated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
This ban is said to prohibit the display of adverts on electronic and print media forbiding the sale of associated merchandise and declares that the day cannot be celebrated in any public space or government building.
Ali, 32 works in Ambala, a restaurant serving Pakistani cuisine on Kevin Street in Dublin. When I ask him of the ban, he simply states “There is no ban”. Ali is originally from Karachi, the largest city and capital of Pakistan.
“This is the first I have heard about it.” And what about the news, it’s everywhere? “I’m back in Karachi quite often and I am always in contact with home. It was always celebrated where I am from.”
Okay, I need to rephrase as the news really hasn’t hit everyone yet. If the ban was to come to Pakistan, why do you think this would be?
“I think it’s the hyper religious people or those that lack an education that may find reason to have an issue with Valentine’s Day traditions.”
Ambala on Kevin street is set to be decked to the nines with Valentines decorations and to reach full capacity. Once the night is over, the Pakistani people who work in the restaurant will go about their own romantic plans.
Ali who is in contact with many restaurant and café owners in Pakistan states that it will be a similar story at home including decorations and bookings through the roof. Perhaps the power of love is too strong for the implemented ban, perhaps the situation has been exaggerated. Ali reminds us, however of what the 14th of February is all about.
“Valentine’s Day is all about sharing love with the person that is most special to you, nothing more and nothing less.”